Songwriting is a tricky and elusive art to pursue and sharpen. It's an individual process, and there's no right or wrong way to compose...
Oftentimes, songwriters will find a process or writing style that works for them and stick to it. However, many musicians have found that over the years their songwriting will start to plateau if they do not actively seek to improve and hone some of the skills behind it.
With that in mind, here are some challenges and tips that you can try to help avoid stagnation in your songwriting sessions.
1. Always maintain a specific writing direction
Many songwriters commonly start out with too many fragmented ideas and try to fit everything into one song, but that just makes your audience confused as to what you're really trying to say. Sometimes, musicians will lose track of what they're trying to convey if there isn't one precise focus.
Once you have a primary direction, any lyric or melodic line that doesn't point to the direction should be taken out or modified. Try to ask yourself: Does this contribute to my main idea, or is it starting to stray? This will keep your writing more focused, intentional, and clear to both you and to your audience.
2. Say what you need to say in the chorus
If your listener can read your chorus and know what the whole song is about, you're solid. The chorus is the most important section of your song, and it's what people will be singing along to and if its catchy it will get stuck in their heads. If you read over your chorus and your main idea isn't in plain black and white, tweak it. You don't want to be ambiguous here.
3. Make every section of the song as catchy as possible
Often, we think of the chorus as the only hook in the song, but the most successful songs will often have hooks in the verse, chorus, and bridge. Songwriter and producer Max Martin (Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift) treats every section of his hit songs as an individual hook. So one thing you can do to challenge yourself is to write something like a chorus, turn it into a verse, and beat it with a better chorus. Then turn that into a bridge and beat it with a better chorus. Even though this can be quite difficult, it really kicks up your songwriting process to another level.
4. Don't allow bad stream of consciousness to stand
We're all guilty of stream-of-consciousness songwriting. It's not inherently a bad thing – some of the most amazing emotions and lyrics come out this way. It's also a good way to start getting ideas out, but more often than not, you won't come up with the most creative or descriptive images this way.
Challenge yourself to go back and edit your stream of consciousness, and try to see if something could be said better or described more vividly. It's almost a guarantee that there's a better way to say something.
5. Leave space between writing sessions
How many times have you finished writing a song, thought it was great, and then woke up the next morning wondering why it sounded far less pleasing than you had imagined. A lot of times, we get so deep into the writing of a song, that we spend way too much time on it in one sitting and we start losing objectivity and perspective.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your song is to step back and leave space before you come back and edit it. Chances are good that your opinion or perspective for the song will change after taking some time away from it.
Always challenge yourself as a songwriter. Don't be afraid to edit your songs because there's always room for improvement, and try to implement whatever challenges will best suit your songwriting needs.Even if this happens way later on in the process, like when you're recording it in the studio. Always be open to change throughout the entire process.