If you are a beginner songwriter but you’ve already written a few songs, you probably realized that it’s not that easy. It’s not like you just sit down and your first songs will be good right away. Hopefully, you also realize that you shouldn’t give up because songwriting is a skill that you can develop. And one of the keys to becoming a successful songwriter is to write more songs. The question is: how many songs do you need to write before you come up with a good song? Here is my answer.
For a perspective
First of all, just so you get a perspective and don’t feel like you are untalented, you should know that even the most successful songwriters don’t publish most of their songs. Because obviously, we only know the songs they publish. But some of these songwriters have shared their processes with us, so we get a clue about what does it really take to write successful songs.
When they asked Pharrell Williams to write the song “Happy”, he wrote nine complete songs before he wrote the one we know as “Happy”. So even an experienced songwriter like Pharrell, who write hit songs for decades now, throws out 90% of the songs he makes.
Ed Sheeran is also one of the most successful songwriters today. In the documentary “Songwriter” he said, there were times when he wrote a new song every single day, and that’s how he become better and better. That means he wrote hundreds of songs that he never published.
So keep in mind that it is completely normal to write even hundreds of bad songs before you come up with a good one, even if you are an experienced, successful songwriter. In fact, writing a lot of songs is an inevitable part of the songwriting process. So let’s see some of the most important factors that influence how many songs you need to write before you come up with a good one.
Do you know music theory?
Just to make it clear, it’s completely possible to write songs without knowing anything about music theory. In fact, many highly successful artists wrote their songs without knowing any music theory. For example, Michael Jackson is one of them. I also personally knew someone who wrote pretty good songs with zero knowledge about music theory.
But the truth is, knowing music theory helps a lot. Writing good songs, good ideas is about selecting the best ideas from many of your ideas. But when you don’t know anything about the system of tonality, like chords, scales, and keys, you need to search blindly in the dark. Sure, you will still find great ideas, but it will take more time.
Do you know songwriting tools?
Many musicians live in a delusion that they know music theory so they know everything. I know I was in the same delusion. And surely, if you don’t write songs then basic music theory, like scales, chords, keys, intervals are perfectly enough. But if you do write songs, then knowing songwriting tools can help you to write songs much faster. And it can highly determine how many songs you need to write before you come up with a good one.
This is kind of like what I mentioned about music theory. Searching and trying out different things can work, but it takes much more time to write songs that way. And you really don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are certain tools and techniques that are used by all successful songwriters, and they use these songwriting tools because they work. I realized that using these tools help me write better songs. You can learn the best songwriting tools and techniques from our songwriting course.
Do you actually improve?
They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Yet, many people are doing the same things over and over again. Writing more and more songs doesn’t necessarily result in better songs if you are not actually improving. I know people who write songs for decades now, yet their songs still sound like it was made by a beginner.
The truth is, experience is not something that just happens to us. Experience and improvement depend on what we do with what happens to us. In other words, we don’t improve if we just repeat ourselves and write the same things over and over again. You have to figure out what’s wrong with your songs, and how can you improve and write better ones. And you should always strive to make your next song better than the previous one.
How can you improve? Listen to many different kinds of music, not only songs in your favorite genre. You will realize that there are a surprisingly lot of similarities in totally different genres. Analyze and compare your songs to those songs. What are the differences? Our songwriting course is based on more than 2000 successful songs, so going through it will turbo boost your learning process.
How many songs have you written before?
Another factor that determines how many songs you need to write for a good one is how many songs you have written before. Songwriting is a skill that needs to be practiced. You probably realized this if you are a highly skilled musician but have never written songs before. Even the best instrumentalists struggle when they start to write songs the first time. Because playing a musical instrument requires completely different skills. And the more you practice songwriting, the faster you will come up with new ideas. It’s a more creative process than just playing songs that are already written by someone else and it will stimulate a different part of your brain. It requires a different mindset. Once you get on track, it will become easier and you will come up with new ideas faster.
How many songs do you know?
It’s one thing to know music theory, all the right songwriting tools, and sitting down to do the hard work. But you really need to know a lot of songs if you want to write good songs. Because many successful songwriters have already created fantastic musical ideas and you just need to listen to those songs. The more music you listen to, the more inspiration you will get, and the better songs you will write. I noticed that successful songwriters know a lot of songs. And these people come up with musical ideas much faster. Because there is much more music already inside their heads. Sure, songwriting is a highly intuitive process. But that intuition has to come from musical experiences, that come from listening to a lot of different songs from different genres.
The secret pattern behind successful songs
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About the Author
Producer, songwriter at Bánhidy András, and Barrio Latino Hungría. Author of The Rhythm Code.