Songwriting is a practice just like any other practice, such as scales, exercise, or writing essays. While inspiration flows easily and naturally to some people, anyone can learn the tools to access that inspiration and allow for ideas to flow in more easily.
If you've never written a song before, I have a few methods I work through you with:
Re-writing Your Favorite Songs. This method takes a song by another artist you like, and practices writing your own version of it. Some people keep the melody the same and just change lyrics, and some people change the melody in a few places and keep the same lyrical concepts. This helps you to have structure while learning to come up with your own ideas
Writing over beats or loops. This method has you find a backing track or instrumental, and you practice humming or singing over it. I suggest student go through the entire song, sometimes multiple times, to get comfortable with creating different ideas. Record yourself in a voice memo, then you can listen back and decide which melodies you like and want to keep or expand on. Sometimes students come up with random lyrics during these exercises as well which are great for inspiration later.
Free-writes & Rhyming-Dictionaries. When it comes to lyrical content, think of a story or experience that has high emotional charge in your life (love is always a good topic) OR write from the perspective of a character (someone in a movie or book). Rather than writing with a filter where you're trying to apply melodies, rhymes, and lyrical flow, begin by just writing about the subject for 5-10 minutes. Describe the overall situation, details about how you felt, details about physical things around you. Describe the sky, the smell of the movie theatre, the clothes you were wearing, etc. This allows ideas to flow through you without being filtered or edited immediately. Now that you have a page of various ideas, you can choose lines stands out to you, rephrase ideas and concepts, and then use a rhyming dictionary to find words that will fit with your chosen lyrical lines.
If you have written a song before, CONGRATULATIONS! You're already on your way.
In these scenarios you can find ways to strengthen and edit your writing, and find practices that allow you to expand your creativity.
With a teacher or mentor this would look like
Listening through your song together. The SOUND of the song is King. Beautiful lyrics and complex melodies are nice, but I'm a strong believer in "how does it feel when you listen to it?" as the editing criteria
Identifying strong melody and lyrical parts. Expanding on those
Tightening up lyrics and melodies that could use editing. With melodies, review where the range of each melody from each section is - are you just singing the same few notes and going in the same direction, or if there's variance in each section and do you move your voice to different ranges? Lyrically, is the concept you're saying being said in a way that can be understood by listeners? If it's too cliche, is there a way to make it more unique? If lyrics are too vague is there a way to describe details of the environment? Lyrical editing is super customized based on the songwriter and your personal taste, but there's always room for improvement or new ideas!
Finding approaches that allow NEW ideas to come in. How do you usually write songs? Is it always on the piano? Melodies first? With a concept in mind? Whatever you usually do, find a completely different approach. Write over instrumentals. Find a lyrical hook to write from. Write a melody with all scrap lyrics and don't focus on the quality of lyrics at all. Write with a guitar. Write as if you're pitching the song to a certain artist. All these methods help you come up with new ideas that might not usually flow through in your normal method of writing.
As a songwriter, you DON'T need to be a good singer. Not every song should be a hit song - the same way you don't sit at a piano and critique your scales when you're learning, songwriting should be viewed as a practice that you work at to allow inspiration to flow in at those "hit song" moments. If you have a desire to songwrite, then you have the ABILITY!
We review this and more in lessons. Please reach out to me with any further questions!