Setting goals can shift your songwriting into high gear and help you achieve your dreams. But it’s important to choose your goals carefully.
Pick goals that are achievable. Make sure they’re something YOU have control over. Avoid vague goals like “I’m going to write a hit song.” Instead, make them specific, break them down into small steps and create a timeline.
Don’t try to do too much – that’s a set up for failure. Instead, pick three or four things you really want to accomplish. Write them down then keep that list where you can see it.
Here are four goals that can get you started.
1. GIVE YOURSELF TIME AND A PLACE TO BE A SONGWRITER
PLACE: You don’t need a studio or even an entire room, but you do need somewhere you can sit down at a keyboard or with your guitar to work out ideas and make rough recordings as you go. Sure, you can get ideas anywhere, at any time, but developing those ideas into a song structure, then rewriting to make it compelling for listeners, takes focus and energy. Give yourself a space – even a small one – that supports your effort.
TIME: We all have this fantasy of long, uninterrupted hours spent writing our songs. But not only are large chunks of time hard to come by, this might not even be such a good idea. Truth is, if you spend four or five hours working on a song, you’re likely to lose touch with your original inspiration and emotion. Ideas you loved when you started become stale, causing you to make changes just to stay interested. Stop! Record a rough of your latest idea and take a break. Here are some suggestions:
- Work in short bursts of 30 minutes to an hour.
- Record your ideas every 15 minutes or so.
- Take plenty of breaks. Walk around the block. Wash dishes. Whatever!
- Come back to where you left off. Listen with fresh ears.
- If you don’t like where you ended up, hit the UNDO button.
If you have a full-time job or carry a heavy class load, try laying down some quick ideas in 10 to 15 minutes before you go to work or school, then continue after you get home in the evening. It will give you something to look forward to and integrate your songwriting into your everyday schedule.
My eBook The 30-Minute Songwriter will give you 79 ways to start and develop your songs in 30 minutes a day.
2. STUDY SUCCESS TO BE SUCCESSFUL
Pro songwriters don’t spend all their time writing songs! They take the time to research what’s happening in their field by listening to and learning from the competition.
It’s essential that you spend some time studying hit songs you like. You’ll learn new song craft techniques, stay current with today’s styles, and get creative ideas you can adapt to your own sound. Count this time as part of your songwriting! Don’t postpone it by telling yourself it’s not as important as working on your original songs. It is important and it’s a crucial part of your songwriting life.
There’s a whole list of great reasons to co-write songs! A collaborator can keep you focused, add energy, give you a reason to write, double the creative ideas going into a song, bring some much-needed perspective, share the costs of a demo, and much, much more.
4. CHALLENGE OLD HABITS
Don’t get stuck in a rut; you’ll lose interest in songwriting. One of our greatest challenges as songwriters is to keep growing, stay inspired, and always remain true to our vision. If you find you’re writing the same type of melody or lyric over and over, then it’s time to open up some new doors and let some fresh ideas in!
-> Write on a new instrument. You don’t have to play it well; in fact, your limitations will force you to come up with creative solutions that can lead to new ideas. Try using a karaoke track and write a new song to it. Use a website like Ujam.com to write chords and melody.
-> Use a technique you hear in a hit song that you haven’t used before. Change the pace of your melody. Start the chorus phrases on the upbeat. Push your lyric images over the top. Even if it feels uncomfortable at first. You can always hit the UNDO button.
-> Use the “Do It Now” exercises in my books and articles. Many of my online posts and all of my books feature exercises and ideas to get you writing. Follow the directions, even if you feel your song isn’t going in a direction that’s familiar to you. Stick a sign on your wall that says “TRY IT!” Don’t wait for the right moment, or a burst of inspiration. Write right now!
Once you’ve mastered these goals, you’re ready to start getting your songs out into the world. Set new goals that have to do with networking, learning what the music industry needs from you, and getting familiar with the business of music. Here’s an article that will get you started.
by Robin Frederick
This post is based on my songwriting books: Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting, Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV, Study the Hits, and The 30-Minute Songwriter. Find out more about all of my print and eBooks on my Author page at Amazon. In each book you’ll find dozens of useful, real-world shortcuts that will show you how to craft songs that work for today’s music market, plus dozens of hands-on exercises to get your creative ideas flowing.