How To Be An Original Songwriter

Know how to write good songs? But everytime you play it in front of someone they say "Oh I think I've heard that before" or "Oh you're just ripping of that one song", well here are some tips to being an original songwriter.

Ultimate Guitar
Let me just start off by saying that if the reason you play guitar and write songs and started a band is because you saw Good Charlotte, or Sum 41 play and you thought, "Oh I wanna be just like them", then this article is not for you. It's shocking how many Sum 41 or Good Charlotte bands there are around today. Usually a few teenagers that just started playing guitar. Soon after they write their songs and they sound okay and well put together and everything and hey people may even enjoy hearing them. But they aren't original at all? Now is this a bad thing? No its not, you don't have to be original if thats not what your going for. However if you truly wanna touch other people with your music or make a big impact with it you have to be doing and saying something new. Don't follow anyone else, but yourself. Here are some tips I think are useful for getting that original sound. 1. Listen to a wide variety of bands. Go out and look for other music and for the love of God don't go to a Walmart and just buy every popular cd off the rack. Go to a local rare record shop that has pretty much any indie band that has ever exsisted or take a look at All Music Guide and look for some highly rated influencial indie bands of the past. Buy them! Listen to them! Whatever. Buy some records that maybe have barely sold at all. Some of them are quite good. Just because a band isn't popular doesn't mean they aren't good. Branch out on what you listen to and widen the music catalog that you own. 2. This is going to sound weird but, don't learn a lot of covers. This one is probably going to be conterversial for some who read this but the more cover songs you know the less original your own work is going to be. If you just learned a song from a band you like more often then not the next song you write is gonna try and sound like or close to that song. Hendrix, Lennon, Cobain, none of these people were self taught and had very few if not none lessons from professionals. Play the guitar and learn it the way you want to. Don't ever let another guitar player tell you, "thats not the way I do it, you're suppose to do it this way." 3. Forget about rules. Since when did rock n roll have rules anyway? If you don't wanna learn chords, then don't. If you don't wanna have the typical bass, guitar, drums, singer in your band then don't. Have a keyboard player, or a cello, anything you can think of. These are just examples you don't have to do any of this because then you would be following what I told you to do. Just forget about it all. Play how you wanna play and don't care about what other bands or people think. 4. Experience life. This I find to be the most important one for me, especially in the lyrical department. Go out and do stuff, experience life, get into trouble if you need to, anything that tickles your funny bone. If you don't experience life then what do you have to write about? Nothing, because you weren't there. Lyrics and songs in general are so much more emotional if the artist or artists actually experienced some of it in some form or another. If something painful happens in your life, write about it. Everyone can relate to songs about pain. Although it may hurt sometimes in the long run consider it a blessing if you get a good song from it. 5. Play around with all your instruments. This one is for the music. If you have written song after song in normal standard tuning, then change it up. Or have an acoustic song, or maybe a block of noise. Black Flag was pure noise at times, but were they influencial? Yes. 6. Less is more. The most influencial bands and artists of all time realized this. Don't try and be Eddie Van Halen none of us are. Be yourself and keep it simple, you don't need to have a million changes in your songs. Ramones, Nirvana, The Sex Pistols, The Beatles (early stuff anyway) all had simple songs and then some evolved from there. Let the songs get more complex as your skill level improves, and once you are a master at your guitar don't be afraid to go back to the basics. When it all comes down to it melody is everything, no matter how the song is structured or if it is complex or not. People are always drawn to a good melody. 7. "No one I think is in my tree/ I mean it must be high or low", are lyrics from the Beatles "Strawberry Fields" which is a perfect example of #7. Don't feel you have to make sense with any of your lyrics. Don't even feel you have to rhyme. Just do what you want. And change it up, use different rhyme schemes and never try to repeat yourself, keep evolving and trying something new. Lyrics are an afterthought, if it has a great melody they don't matter. Trust what you write and always try and rewrite lyrics or shift theses lyrics to this song if you think that would work better but don't tell a story. Every song it seems tries to tell a story. Forget telling a story. Sing us a song your the Piano Man, just your tune and make up words to get some original and out of the blue thoughts. Remember the music always comes first anyway so don't even spend a lot of time on lyrics if you don't wanna. Be spacey, be ironic, be whimsical, and so on. Just don't be cliche. I hate that word by the way. All I here on the radio today is songs about the same thing. How original! Thats why people think Cobain is a God. Because he was original and new and fresh and exactly what we all needed. Keep in mind most original and influencial artists and bands don't recieve credit or become popular while they are around usually. But being respected later on by followers is just as sweet! Every concert the Ramones played, a couple of kids went home and started a band.

124 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Thanks for that advice. Strangely enough me and my band started writing stuff this morning and we discovered...well...we're quite shit. I'll keep your article in mind!
    Good otherwise, but I have to disagree about the cover thing. If you learn covers from different music styles you can combine them and add your own things in. The key is not to seek inspiration in one band or style. For example: My cousin is in a band that plays Blues/heavy/latin music and it sound really cool.
    that was excellent i loved it cos everything was explained in full detail and with good examples though i must admit my lyrics sometimes are not very original but i'll try to keep to originality after reading this
    Great article. I just got into writing lyrics for my originals and your advice will come in handy. I totally agree with sctblr... the handheld recorder works great for putting down ideas on the spot. Keep the good articles up!
    I think he's right... Not that im into writing songs but it sounds right! >Good article ! ! !
    Troy Simple
    OH and one more thing I swear this is my last comment if I brake that promise you can all kill me. Use Your Brain who posted above is the smartest person on this sight. Seriously he figured it out when no one else did. This was simply my guide to being original. If you guys use it then you are not. Make up your own guide. Maybe this one gave you tips but go your own way.
    Troy Simple
    I meant to say write not right at the end there. And Ravelg - thanks for what is probably one of the better compliments I will ever recieve. Cool you've been recording for 20 years - I've been recording for only about 2.
    Troy Simple
    Thank you for all the compliments. And thanks even more to the one's that hated it. The Burn in hell comment made my day and I've been wanting to respond to it for some time now. And Fatboy15 who seems to hate me most of all - thanks for the advice. I will stop writing. And maybe I'll burn in hell too. One day hopefully when you're not too busy you can teach me how to right and have an opinion that is the same as yours.
    tyler larsen
    damn.....i just got done posting about how its GOOD to do covers.....and dont get me started with the good charlet bullshit,dont even mention it.and lyrics about getting in trouble,"i got suspended today,three days" dosnt sound very good to me. fuCKYou
    also about number 3, Good Charlotte have put keyboard and cello on their new album, so yea.....
    This is just an amazing article. Excellent, and right on point. I'm an old one now (38), and I've been writing and recording since I was 17, and this article sums up very nicely what it took me almost 20 years to learn on my own.
    Excellent article, man. I'm going to give it a five because I don't really disagree on anything but a minor point.. covertunes.. You dont wanna do alot of covertunes while writing your own music, but at the same time it depends on the guitarist, I know that when I'm listening to music I'm being inspired and sometimes it peices together in my head, I get little ideas here and there... Alot of patterns/riffs/whatever you want to call it from whatever band I'm listening to. I'll have a steady thing going in and I'll want a nice fill inbetween so I'll bust out some nifty riff that I heard somewhere just in a different mode, and most of the time it sounds pretty good. You might have wanted to say... Don't listen to alot of one band/kind of music when you're writing because you'll probably develope more of a taste for that and your music might turn out that way instead of a more diverse peice like you wanted it to.. lol.
    real good article. great points all around. it helped a lot. thanks, and keep writing.
    it sure is a lot to say in just a few paragrahs..good choice of original bands..well i mean do theses bands have time to write such crap all the time. Man a song and the lyrics should come from the soul of the guitar player or the sticks of a drummer, its not what makes it a good song but how much effort is to pull such a band like no other band...This is me talking when i'm on the legal drinking it 1.4 or something or a rather...good job boy i savvy the effort and inguinety...cheers!
    Excellent, excellent, excellent. Very informative and inciteful. Bravo, well done.
    thanks for discouraging the good charlotte covers.this could turn into a hair metal of the 80s if it keeps up
    To whoever wrote this: Amen! That was a great article. Especially the beginning. Yeah too many of those bands are popping up where I live and they're all extremely popular (talk about what the hell). Bands shouldnt be like that.
    ^me(well, not all of them) I agree with widening your music vocabulary.
    i just love how you say: "if the reason you play guitar and write songs and started a band is because you saw Good Charlotte, or Sum 41 play and you thought, "Oh I wanna be just like them", then this article is not for you." but then you go and say: "Every concert the Ramones played, a couple of kids went home and started a band." what's the difference if it's Good Charlotte or the Ramones that inspires a person to play and start a band? as far as I'm concerned, if you hear a band and you like their music and you want to play like them, that's great and you should go for it! It's narrow-minded, hypocritical, and contradictory people like you that make my blood boil! it is possible to like the Ramones and Good Charlotte at the same time! people can have more influences than just Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Kirk Hammett,Randy Rhoads, etc. any idiot can shred like crazy, but it takes talent to play with another guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer. Have you ever seen those guys do an accoustic show or just play by themselves without so much production behind them? Nope! you guys are way too critical of the new bands that are coming out now. I don't know why you're criticizing punk bands and whatever else you don't like on here, but if you're into metal or classic rock, shut the *** up about punk because you don't know shit! stay where you're safe, because you're taking a step into uncharted territory! if it's not your scene, then shut up! and for your information, THE GUYS IN GOOD CHARLOTTE ARE INFLUENCED BY THE RAMONES! you should really research the shit you diss before you start spouting off about it.
    I think it's an overall good article. I definately agree with you on the covers issue. You want people to take notice of YOUR music. Not Kurt Cobain's music.
    So... if someone wants to be original, should they be trying to look for an original answer in an article? I don't think so. Originality comes from yourself.
    err... dont really agree with a lot of it. I think everybody should learn chords. Its jus good sense.
    Mr. Grunge
    Very true, most of this stuff i've already learned, but It a was a great article. 9/10
    fatboy15 wrote: your grammer is worse than a 6 year old
    What a dumbass. "Your grammer" Ur f**kn spelling is worse than a 5 year old with half a brain
    finally, someone with the stones to just say "do your own thing" I agree, the greatest innovators had almost no idea what the were doing in a classical sense, this led them to be free with their ideas and to innovate the music scene. 3 stars hard to understand
    The Beatles line taken from "Strawberry Fields Forever", actually means that John Lennon didn't think anyone else was like him(No one I think is in my tree) and tha he either is genius or insane(i mean it must be high or low).
    hey man. whoever you are, you told things anybody,even who doesn't agree, should know. That's exactly what I think of music, lyrics and songwriting. For a while I thought I had written it while sleepwalking...what you pointed out and the way you did were excellent, don't mind the flames and the "teachers" who tell you:"you made an error here, dumbass!" I mean they're right, but who cares? The bottom-line is that you get what the writer meant, and maybe since it was written by the heart rather than the brain, it might be not spelt right. Excellent job overall, two thumbs up.
    Great article, I like how you slamed good charlot and sum 41 and shit because the world has had to put up with enough of that crap, I thought id mention another category 7 article (from the beatles as well) "Hes Got Feet down below his knees" It may be a very obvious statement but in my mind its brilliant.