You’re writing a song and you’ve been staring at the ceiling for 1 hour without a single inch of progress. You don’t know what to do, you’re hoping the inspiration gods will look down at your sad sad face, take pity and throw you a trickle of an idea. You’re questioning whether you even know how to write songs at all. My dude, I feel you. We’ve all been there and you are not alone. I’d go as far as to say that if you’ve never been there then you may not be trying to write songs often enough.

There are a few ways to make songs easier to write. Some of these are:

  • Find a similar song that inspires you
  • Create the Chorus first
  • When stuck, write the other instruments’ parts
  • Get feedback from another musician
  • Imagine the live performance

These are some of the things I found have helped to make songwriting less difficult. This is not an exhaustive list though, different people have different tricks to make their songwriting process a smoother ride. It’s important not only to be creative about how you write songs, but being creative about how you create.

Anyway, let’s go a bit deeper into each one.

Find a similar song that inspires you

Have you ever heard a song and thought “I wish I had a song like that”. Of course you have. Me too.

It can really help you write songs when you have a specific song or a section in a song that you really like, and inspires you to write something similar. What you like about it could be any of the following things:

  • A really catchy drum groove
  • A melodic harmony between two instruments
  • A buildup
  • An unusual rhythmic accent
  • An instrumental or vocal hook

So I ask you, is there any song similar to yours that you can reference and take inspiration from?

Sometimes the hard part of making your song is imagining what the end result could sound like. Which is why taking a specific song or section that inspires you to write your own song can make things easier. It helps to see what a finished piece looks like and how you would do it differently in your own unique way.

Create the chorus first

Many experienced songwriters lead with this approach. By making the chorus first it can really help write the rest of the song because you have the main idea down. The rest of the song can become about expanding on that idea and contrasting to it.

By writing the rest of the song in relation to the chorus, it helps it shine above the rest of the song, which is what a chorus is supposed to do. Oftentimes, songwriters can bury their best ideas because they are trying to put in too many awesome ideas into one song. Less is more. Focus on your chorus first and go from there.

When stuck, write the other instruments’ parts

Many songwriters play guitar or piano and write their songs mainly on those instruments. However when you’re running out of creative juice, you can also try to write the parts for the other instruments in what you have so far.

What you will find most of the time is that another idea may pop up on another instrument. Like maybe you are writing the bass for your song and stumble across a really cool bass fill or hook that you can develop and use in the bridge of the song. Or maybe writing the keyboard pads for your song inspires you to go in another direction in the next section of the song.

Essentially it becomes like a jam session and one instrument you are writing inspires ideas in another instrument and the song continues to write itself. Try it out!

Get feedback from another musician

I wanted to be specific about the musician part. When you ask for feedback it helps when the other person is also a musician because they can likely see what you are trying to do and give you tips on how to do it better, whereas a casual listener won’t be able to tell you what’s wrong, they just know something is.

It’s best if the person you ask is also familiar with your genre. Some really good musicians don’t have to know the genre to know what sounds good or not, but if they know your genre they will be able to give deeper insights and real world examples.

Imagine the live performance

This is a really great tip and I encourage you to always keep this in mind when you are writing songs.

If you are writing songs in your bedroom on your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), you might write a song a certain way, and then try to play it with your musicians in a live setting only to find out your song does not translate well from recording to live.

This could mean something like realizing that the bass line you wrote doesn’t actually groove with the drums as well as you thought, or maybe your tempos seem robotic and lifeless, or maybe you relied too heavily on automation, EQ or effects programming on the recording and when played live the song sounds thin, messy, or cheesy.

So imagining the live performance is very important to your songwriting because not only does it help make sure it translates, but you can also write in those cool arena concert type of moments. You know the ones. It’s the ones that make your set a show.

It’s the ones where there’s a pause and the crowd screams, then the band lands on the chorus and fire bursts from the stage, bra’s are flying in the air. Ok that last one doesn’t always happen.

Asking yourself what the song needs next for a great live performance will give you ideas and make writing songs easier.

Why is writing a song so difficult?

Writing a song is difficult because there are a lot of moving parts. It requires knowledge in at least basic music theory, understanding the role of each part of a song, understanding how all the instruments come together in a cohesive way, and being able to connect emotionally with the audience.

It also requires perseverance to get through mindset hurdles like writer’s block, feelings of frustration, procrastination, doubt, overanalysis and perfectionism.

Does writing songs get easier?

Songwriting is a skill, and like any other, it gets easier through learning and practicing its principles and best practices. There will always be some level of challenge, but they can be overcome with the proper knowledge and experience.

Keep in mind that writing songs is an art form and not a science, and as such there is a side to it that is practical and a side to it that is subjective. Just as in other art forms, in music the goal is to learn the rules and theory so we can break the rules and ignore the theory TASTEFULLY.

What is the hardest part of songwriting?

The hardest part of songwriting is overcoming the mental barriers that come up. At times you will feel doubt in yourself and your songs, overanalyze your songwriting decisions, and worry that your music is not good. So be patient with yourself and learn about the process of songwriting so you can build confidence in your abilities.

To Wrap it Up

Writing songs is hard at first, but it does get easier the more you learn about it and do it. It also helps to use your own awareness and imagination to see how you can improve at it. There is a quote that says

“If you are not your own doctor, you are a fool.”

– Hippocrates

I truly believe everyone should apply this to all areas of their life, and if you are teaching yourself songwriting it applies all the same. You know where you are at, you know what you need to do to improve, you know what you need to learn, so be your own doctor and prescribe yourself a kick in the butt and get to work.