by Marty Dodson
Oct 28, 2018
I’ve been a professional songwriter for more than 20 years. In that time, I’ve learned a lot by making lots of mistakes. Here are some tips that can help you learn to write better songs WITHOUT making the same mistakes I made.
Write From Your Heart – Edit With Your Head
If you try to write from your head, you’ll have a song that feels stiff and doesn’t make your listener FEEL anything. The key to connection with an audience is to make them feel something. Feelings cause us to take actions like purchasing a CD, playing a song on Spotify, or downloading from iTunes. They also cause us to dance, laugh and cry. When a song moves people, they can’t help but respond. That’s what you are ultimately after as a writer. So, write from your heart and THEN, edit with your head to make sure things make sense and that you are communicating with clarity. And, don’t make the mistake of editing with your heart. That tends to result in songs that are emotional but don’t communicate clearly.
Use Every Tool At Your Disposal
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard songwriters say “I’m not using a rhyming dictionary – that’s cheating.” That’s silly. Finding the best possible word for your song is the most important thing. How you find it is irrelevant. I wrote a #1 song in which we had been stuck for a long time and I found a rhyme in my online MasterWriter rhyming dictionary that made the song KILLER. The checks were the same as they would have been had we spent four hours trying to come up with the rhyme on our own. There is no shame in using every tool available to make your song great!
Write About Things That Matter To You
Songs are always going to be better when the writer cares about the topic. I’m a pescatarian, so writing a song about Barbecue is not going to work for me. I don’t eat it and I don’t care to talk about it. On the other hand, I am in love with my wife and I’m crazy about my children. I can write passionately about those topics. It’s great to stretch yourself as a writer and not write the same three topics over and over, but don’t drift off into areas you don’t care about. That won’t likely work.
Listen To Feedback
Don’t be that writer that thinks “I write songs better than the ones on the radio” and won’t listen to feedback that tells them otherwise. You can only grow if you find trusted mentors and you take their advice to heart. If you ever reach the point where you think you have it all figured out, you are in trouble. Look at songwriting as a life-long learning experience and you’ll always have room to improve.
Try those tips and see if it improves your songwriting. And, check out SongTown online when you get a chance!
Write on! Marty
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