by Karen Randle
Another year is in the books—finally. For songwriters, the turn of the calendar is a great time to lay down some new goals to hone your skills and level up your songwriting game. Leave the dreadful 2020 in the past and make 2021 the best year yet with these eight new year’s resolutions for songwriters.
1. Set a Number of Songs to Complete – And a Timeline to Complete Them
If you wait for inspiration to strike, you’ll never finish a song. The best thing you can do to become a better song writer is to keep writing, even when you’re not “feeling it.” Simply putting lyrics to paper—no matter how terrible they might seem—will help you up your game and might even spark some inspiration when you didn’t think you had any.
Set a songwriting schedule for yourself over the next year. Pick a number of songs you want to write and a timeline to complete them. The timeline is important to hold you accountable. If you say you want to write 12 songs by the end of the year but don’t include a timeline, you’re going to have a very busy December and likely won’t accomplish your goal.
Instead, set a goal to complete one song every month. If the end of the month comes around and you haven’t written anything, it’ll force you to put pen to paper, whether there’s inspiration or not. Not every monthly song will be a winner, but that’s okay! At least you wrote something, which will make you a better songwriter.
2. Write Down a Song Title Every Day
It takes only a tiny spark of inspiration to launch a songwriting session. That tiny spark can come from something as simple as an awesome song title.
Keep a notebook by your bed and write down a new song title every morning when you wake up. It doesn’t have to be a great idea, just as long as you get something down. By the end of the year, you’ll have 365 song ideas to work with. Plus, even if a title doesn’t seem inspiring now, it might trigger something when you look back on it, helping with future songwriting escapades.
3. Devote More Time to Practice
Practice makes perfect. Every musician has heard those words a thousand times in their lives. Unfortunately, it’s true. The more time you spend working on your instrument, the better you’ll get.
Make it your new year’s resolution to spend more time practicing your instrument. Even if you increase your practice time by only 15 minutes per day, it’ll still give you more time to work on warm-ups and hone your technique.
Over time, you’ll be able to incorporate more complicated musical phrases into your songs, making them even more exciting for your audiences. If you know only four chords now, imagine how great your songs will be when you know six!
4. Take Music Lessons
While practicing alone is great, taking lessons from someone more experienced than yourself can help you increase your skills at a much faster rate. Take the new year as an opportunity to finally take music lessons or start them back up.
Finding a music teacher provides songwriters with many benefits to help them become better writers:
Provide personalized lessons and suggestions for improvement.
Show new musical ideas.
When you’re accountable only to yourself, it’s easy to slack off. But when you have a teacher, you don’t want to let them down, which will help you push forward and become a better musician and songwriter.
Finding a music teacher will also expose you to new musical ideas you might not have known existed! You can create unique melodies and chord progressions to add new dimensions to your songs. “Music theory” might be considered a bad word for many musicians, but there’s no doubt it can help you write better songs.
5. Find a Writing Partner
Songwriting doesn’t have to be a solo sport. If you’ve never written with another musician, perhaps 2021 is the year to make it happen. Or, if you already have a group of co-writers you like to work with, go find someone new for a fresh perspective in the new year.
Working with a writing partner provides songwriters with a different perspective. They might have ideas you hadn’t thought of or provide helpful insights into how to make your songs better.
It’s not always easy to find a partner with whom you work well. Songwriting is a very personal activity, and it’s difficult for many people to open up that much to someone else. But once you finally find the right person, you’ll definitely be glad you did, and your songs will benefit.
6. Write in a New Genre
If you never venture outside of your comfort zone, you’ll never know what else is out there! Make a songwriting new year’s resolution to write a song in an unfamiliar genre.
Are you a country writer? Write a jazz song. Into rock? Try R&B. Writing in a different genre opens your mind to new styles and ideas. Even if the song itself doesn’t turn out as the masterpiece you expected, you’ll head back to your own genre with a different perspective on the musical world, which will help you create exciting, unique songs in the future.
7. Share Your Songs
Songs are meant to be shared, so don’t keep your creations all to yourself! If you’re a private songwriter, perhaps 2021 is the year to show people your songwriting skills.
Make a new year’s resolution to finally sign up for that open mic night at the local coffee shop or enter a songwriting contest. Your creation might be someone’s favorite song, but you’ll never know unless you share it. Get your songs out there and get some feedback. If you know what audiences like and don’t like, you can use that knowledge to write better songs in the future.
8. Don’t Give Up
“Don’t give up” may sound cliche but is more than just a new year’s resolution; it should be your daily life resolution. Songwriting is hard, and it’s easy to get frustrated and throw in the towel. The difference between non-songwriters and great songwriters isn’t knowledge, musicianship, or skill; it’s dedication and persistence.
If you choose to adopt any new year’s resolution from this list, make it this one. The key to successful songwriting is to never, ever, ever give up. No matter how hard it might seem, keep pushing forward and force yourself to keep writing. Set your 2021 resolutions and stick with them. You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve with a little bit of persistence.
For information on the 26th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, go to: https://www.songwriting.net