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How to learn songwriting

You are probably here because you want to know a few things about how to develop your songwriting skills. I will share some of my advice I usually teach to beginner songwriters.

These tips are really for everyone, regardless what genre of music you are doing.

1. Learn the basics

First of all, you need to learn the basics: music theory. I’m talking about scales, intervals, chords, keys, rhythm values.

These are the building blocks of ANY music, therefore it’s inevitable to learn them.

If you don’t know anything about music theory, it might be frightening, but everything is scary until we learn it. Music theory is really REALLY simple.

If you feel like it’s too much, keep in mind that you don’t have to learn everything in one day. Make small steps, BUT make those steps on a regular basis!

2. Transcribe songs

People think that songwriting and generally music is all about listening, and intuition and inner ear… but the truth is, humans are 80% visual creatures… even if it comes to music.

Seeing music visually can help us understand it in a much better way.

We transcribe other people’s songs to understand why they are so successful, what makes them work so well.

I was in music school from the age 8 until I was 21. I was studying classical music and then jazz. Of course those gave me a strong foundation, but they gave me nothing else. I couldn’t compose music until I started to write down and analyze songs.

I transcribed more than 2000 songs for the past 10 years, and I learned everything about songwriting from those transcriptions.

By the way, if you want to skip 10 years of transcribing and analyzing songs, I collected everything in the Songwriting Essentials course.

The more songs you analyze, the more you will learn about the common characteristics of great songs.

3. Write songs every day

Songwriting is not like playing music. It requires different skills. This is why there are many great musicians who can’t create good songs. And usually the best songwriters are not the best instrument virtuosos.

So you need to practice songwriting the same way you would practice playing an instrument.

Many successful songwriters said that sometimes they write a song every single day! That kind of work will always create good results.

So in order to get better at songwriting, you need to keep practicing regularly.

4. Listen to more music – consciously

You don’t need to listen to music all the time, BUT when you are listening, you REALLY need to listen. Consciously!

Many people are “listening” to music on the bus, or while they are cooking… but they are not really listening.

Listening is when you listen to the vocal melody, the bass rhythm, the chord progression, the song structure…

If you like the song, write it down! If you like the bass line, write it down!

5. Make visual maps

It’s much easier to arrive at a destination, if we (literally) see where we are going.

You can write down the structure of your song, the chord progression, the number of bars etc. This way you will have a PLAN about what parts you need to work on.

If you have created a chorus, then you can SEE that what else you need… intro, verse, post-chorus etc.

I always write visual maps when I write songs, and it helps me a tremendous way!

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.