Getting into the creative mindset of a professional songwriter can be a massive challenge for some, while others just seem to fall into the role naturally. There are songwriters in the industry that spend 8+ hours a day doing nothing more than writing new music either on their own or in co-write sessions. These people are the ones coming up with 90% of the music you hear on the radio today.
This article isn’t going to get into the intricacies of a professional full-time songwriter’s career, but we are going to talk about how they manage to stay productive while spending that much time constantly churning out songs.
While the best songwriters still struggle with writers’ block just like you or I might, they know how to force themselves back on track when those blocks come up. As a result, they can maintain a fast-paced workflow of song after song with many of the hit-makers in the industry producing gold records one after another as if it were nothing.
These are the habits of highly successful songwriters.
Songwriters Put Themselves In Creative Spaces
One of the biggest things you can do when writing music is putting yourself in an environment that encourages creativity. What does this mean for different people?
For some artists, a creative environment just simply needs to be a space they’re comfortable in. Nobody wants to go to a studio where they’re going to feel judged by the people in the room or where they’re feeling overwhelmed by the equipment in front of them.
Once you’re working in a space you’re comfortable with, focus on accessibility. Surround yourself with instruments that you can easily pick up and play a melody on. Keep plenty of pencils and paper nearby and a DAW with plenty of software synths if you’re more of a producer type. Synth patches are a great resource to go through when writers’ block hits and you need some quick inspiration.
A writing room should have all of the things you need to write music and few of the things that don’t. If you’re in a home studio space, this means shutting off the TV and closing the web browser – at least the tabs like Facebook that are distracting you from your goal. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb and allow yourself to get in the zone.
Being a highly successful songwriter requires actively eliminating these distractions whenever possible. It’s the only way to consistently create great music.
They Feel Like Their Audience Does
Songwriting doesn’t work without an emotional connection.
Whether it’s the lyrics or the music, you need to be able to relate to it in some way for it to work. Everyone associates emotion with music and the stronger the emotion, the more relatable it is. Themes like anger, heartbreak & excitement are common, but if you don’t feel them as you’re writing, your audience won’t feel them when they listen.
So how is it possible that songwriters are able to write music for other artists without breaking the emotional connection? Empathy.
By writing from another person’s perspective, songwriters are truly able to put themselves in a different mindset than their own limited views of the world. They’ve trained themselves to associate certain musical themes, keys & scales with different emotions, and the best ones can draw on that knowledge to get to a particular sound faster.
Even for those without formal training, simple listening exercises can help you pick up on common techniques. A great songwriter can listen to any artist or album and mimic their style through empathy.
They Learn From Other Successful Songwriters
One of the most underrated ways that songwriters stay at their peak performance is by keeping up with other songwriters and the techniques they use. Just like a mixer can learn a new technique for EQ or compression by watching another mixer, a songwriter can learn from their peers.
Even if a songwriter isn’t sharing their techniques as they go, simply watching them work can sometimes be enough to spark a bit of inspiration in your songwriting efforts. Just check out this video of Nikki Simmons sharing her writing process and try not to feel the urge to write something of your own:
Nikki’s candid demeanor makes the whole songwriting process seem effortless – one of the biggest signs that she’s operating at her full potential as a songwriter.
Recording’s Role In Writing
Many songwriters are finding that recording plays a bigger role in the songwriting process than it used to. Labels don’t just want a rough demo of a song anymore – songwriters and producers need a high quality recording to highlight their writing skills. This means that DAW literacy is a must.
Knowing your way around your DAW takes a bit of time, but there are plenty of shortcuts to get you up to speed quickly. We offer resources like our Virtual Signal Chain Secrets eBook for that exact reason.