Practice for Greatness: 3 Techniques to Write Great Songs

This happens to just about everybody. You're working, or just hanging around the home when out of nowhere, you get an idea. This is the best song that's come to you yet...

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Practice for Greatness: 3 Techniques to Write Great Songs
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This happens to just about everybody. You're working, or just hanging around the home when out of nowhere, you get an idea. This is the best song that's come to you yet. So you pick up a guitar, and start strumming the chord progression you hear in your head. And poof, it leaves as quick as it came. That inspiration train came to the station, but you got stuck in traffic.

How can you be prepared for the next time that moment comes?

Just hoping it works next time isn't the way to go here - unless you like the idea of building a personal library of useless, half-written pieces. Let's get real for a moment; nobody is impressed by half-written ideas.

Before you can prepare for the inspiration to strike, you need to learn what held you back last time. There are two elements that make a songwriter, and if you've found yourself in this situation, then you've probably only learned one of these:

Inspiration. This one is something you can't always control: everyone has a certain amount of inspiration they will come across in their lifetime, and since you're here, I'll assume that you've been inspired at one point or another (if not, why aren't you reading an article about learning about sweep-picking arpeggios?)

The next piece of the puzzle is "compositional technique." This is the part that you are really in control over, and will need to get a handle on for those fleeting moments when you get inspired. To finish those songs on your shelf, you'll need to practice so when that train comes, you'll actually be at the station instead of stuck in traffic.

If that sounded odd, yes, you do actually have to practice your songwriting technique. Did you think that was something that just came naturally to the pros? It's not like the pros made a pact with a dark wizard when they were babies and just instinctively do it now - the inspiration will come naturally, the songwriting can't.

And it's not as daunting of practice as you might think; all you need is to know what to do next. So here's a short video that I made for everyone, from beginning musicians to even professionals, to learn three unique ways to practice songwriting.

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Now all you have to do is grab your guitar and start strumming using these exercises today. And very soon you'll start to see progress in your songwriting ability - especially the next time that inspiration hits! If this has helped you, I'd love to hear about some of your successes in the comments section today!

About the Author:
Tommaso Zillio is a prog rock guitarist and composer with a passion for teaching songwriting.

1 comment sorted by best / new / date

    MetallicAnut
    I consider myself intermediate. I have great working knowledge of theory and technique. Putting these exercises together sounds like a really good test and challenge for my song writing abilities...of which I haven't practiced at all!  If I'm lacking in anything, it's actually composing a piece of music, and not just improvising over a jam track with the g minor scale haha.