Whether you’re a copywriter at a content writing agency or a songwriter at a world-famous label, you’re a storyteller. All writers have the same goal in front of them – to transmit their feelings with words.
Any aspiring writer will get the same advice at the beginning of their career – “just write”. I know I did! While it’s true that practice makes perfect, it’s rarely enough. The difference between good and great writers is that the latter always seek ways to hone their skills.
One way to improve your writing is to get acquainted with different songwriting techniques. While there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to write Beyonce’s next hit, it will certainly expand your skillset.
Here are 8 things that songwriters do, which you can use for your writing.
#1. Understand That Time Isn’t on Your Side
You Have Only a Handful of Minutes to Tell Your Story
Whether you’re writing a blog or a song, you have on average 4 minutes to tell your story. Any longer and you may lose your audience, any shorter and you may never earn their interest. This is due to the human’s limited attention span. Not everybody can listen to an entire music album from one go or read a 20+ minute study without taking a break. That is why you must understand that time isn’t your friend.
I often give 2pac’s song “Brenda Got a Baby” as an example for flawless storytelling in a short amount of time. Released in 1991, the rapper tackles various social subjects, most of which are relevant to this day, in less than 4 minutes. The lyrics are powerful, captivating, and engage the listener from start to finish.
#2. Use All Your Senses
Master Object Writing
Pick an item, put it in front of you, and write down everything that you can about it. Use more than your vision to describe it. Investigate how it feels, smells, sounds, and tastes. Engage all your senses to notice things that you normally wouldn’t.
This simple songwriting exercise will train you to articulate intricate details and better express your thoughts – it will take your writing from good to great.
#3. Understand the Strongest Components of Storytelling
Structure Is Everything in Writing
Songwriters have been using the same storytelling structure for decades to bring concepts to life. They understand that exposition, conflict, and resolution are the foundations for a strong story.
Choosing the right structure for your blog will allow you to better express your emotions and thoughts, and transmit them to your readers.
#4. Make Prosody Your Most Valuable Tool
Learn How the Brain Works
Songwriting is different from other forms of writing, as songwriters must find a way to blend their lyrics with the melody of the song to create enjoyable prosody.
The first sound that we hear is our mother’s heartbeat. That is why the brain has a natural delight towards rhythm and repetition. When written words mimic a rhythm that makes readers happy.
But how can you achieve correct prosody in your writing when there is no melody?
- Read everything out loud: Reading your content out loud will help you understand whether you’re on the right track or not. I, personally, dictate to myself so I can hear the rhythm of my words. If the flow doesn’t sound right, I momentarily know what to correct.
- Combine short and long sentences: Write short phrases between long sentences to vary the flow of your writing. A monotonous rhythm can be as bad as poor prosody.
#5. Deconstruct the Texts You Like
Discover What Resonates With You
Have you ever wondered why you love some books and dislike others? Why are some songs more appealing to you than others? I know I have. To answer my curiosity, I used a songwriting technique known as deconstruction.
Both aspiring and experienced songwriters often analyze chords and lyrics of songs that they love. They strip everything to the bare bone until they find out what makes them feel that way about a particular song.
Understanding what resonates with you will enable you to write about your emotions more easily. It has certainly allowed me to improve my skills.
#6. Unlike Time, Silence Is Your Friend
Give Your Brain a Break
Writers fall in a creative rabbit hole more often than they care to admit. Help yourself, by taking a temporary oath of silence. Your brain will thank you.
Many studies have proven that silence can be healthy. Even as little as 60 minutes is more than enough to reset your brain.
You may not know it, but talking is a huge task for your brain to perform. Take a break from chatting, and use the silent time to find a path towards your deepest thoughts and feelings. This will put you in the right place to write.
After all, it’s no fluke that great songwriters are often found alone in a room in the company of their thoughts and nothing else.
#7. Copy a Text From Memory
Trust Your Instincts
It can be anything. Lyrics from a song, a poem, a paragraph from a book, a blog you have read recently.
Making an imperfect copy of something that inspires you is a great and effective creative strategy. Dave Longstreth from Dirty Projectors used this method for his band’s 2007 LP “Rise Above”, which is a full-length cover of Black Flag’s legendary debut album “Damaged”.
#8. Ask for Feedback
Get Stronger Through Collaboration
It’s scary how easy it’s to lose sight of how good or bad your work is after hours of writing. Show your content to someone you trust, and ask for their honest opinion. Working with others will give you new insight and allow you to learn from their experience.
Songwriters and musicians collaborate all the time, as they understand that working together makes them stronger.
We, writers, are a rare breed and our egos can be overwhelming at times. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t borrow techniques from one another. I would be happy to share my knowledge with songwriters who wish to learn more about content writing because, at the end of the day, we all simply want to tell our stories!
“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”
– Isaac Asimov
Talk to you soon!