Writing a song that you think is perfect and that you’re completely happy with can sometimes feel like a one-in-a-million chance. It feels disheartening to put your best effort in over and over again, only to come out with something you don’t feel proud of. But refrain from labeling your work as garbage! There may be something worth salvaging. Try some of these tips to get your mind out of the gutter – and get your songwriting practice back on track.
1. Take your audio playback with a grain of salt
If you do your songwriting with notation software or MIDI sounds, don’t assume the finished product will sound the same. Computer-generated sounds are just that – not real! It takes an incredible amount of sound design from experienced producers to be able to use the sounds gifted to you with a notation or production program. They are meant to be basic, so don’t let that cloud your judgment.
2. Step away from the song for a while
Don’t sit in your writing lair for hours berating yourself. If you begin to stress about the piece, take a break. It’s important to experience your work with fresh ears, and dangerous to become desensitized during the struggle with creativity. Once you feel like you’ve accomplished something with your work – whether it be finishing a section of lyrics, adding an instrument, etc. – take a minute to admire your accomplishments instead of overworking it.
3. Show it to someone you trust
This would be a great opportunity to use your co-writing connections! When you’re struggling with a near-finished piece, show it to someone whose opinion you trust for advice. This person doesn’t necessarily have to be a musician – in fact, it may help to reveal it to your average listener. This way, the level of musicianship is less relevant, and the story and emotion conveyed moves to the forefront.
4. Try to finish writing a song before starting a new one
It’s true that sometimes, the piece you start may never come to fruition, but when you constantly begin projects that you end up tossing, you fail to see the merit in those works. The most important life lesson is to learn from your mistakes, so go back through those older pieces and look for the inspiration that started them. Recycle your ideas and practice completing the project, instead of just aimlessly starting (and not finishing) new songs out of frustration.
5. Put what you have into a more produced format
This will help immensely when you need to see what’s coming next. Live work is necessary during the writing process, but programming your song, recording a demo, or even adding virtual instruments can give you a clearer image of what your song could become. Putting in the details will deliver new inspiration, and could change your perception of the work.
6. Change some elements
Still don’t like it? Now it’s time to rework something. Try changing up the chord progression in your verse or bridge to give the song a different flavor or create tension. You could add a key change, switch up the tempo, or change the form around… the possibilities are endless!
Every song you write is an experiment. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and most importantly, don’t judge yourself too harshly. You are your own worst critic, and nothing is as bad as it seems. Keep writing!