Do you ever get writers block?
Of course, every artist does at some point. You are not the only one, writers block happens to all artists worldwide, famous or not famous.
Whether you are producing your next deep house song, techno song, or writing 4 bars of lyrics for your next pop/EDM song this article will help inspire you to produce better music or write better song lyrics.
Believe it or not, professionals can have just as much of a hard time at writing and producing a great hit song just like amateur producers, writers and singers.
Other than experience, there is not much difference between a professional EDM artist/DJ/producer and the amateur EDM artist/DJ/producer. Both are human. Humans are not perfect.
So if they both have an equal opportunity what makes one better than the other? Well, it mostly comes down to who is more hungry? Which means, how bad do you want it? other things such as your attitude, motivation, and the way you get inspired also are a big part of producing and writing great music.
These are some of the things we will mention in our 6 steps to writing and producing a great song.
First off, if you are an electronic music producer/DJ you will want to get very familiar with a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and make sure you feel very comfortable with your DAW.
The following article was first covered on Music Think Tank.
- Inspiration (Motivation)
- Creative Drama
- Words first of music first?
- Writers room
Please note that there has been some editing and paraphrasing liberties from the original quotes in order to avoid the inevitable meandering on the subject by the creative artists.
1) Before the writing can begin, there’s got to be a certain amount of PREPARATION, which can vary wildly:
Don Henley – “I’m always jotting things down on pieces of paper. I’ve got pieces of paper all over my house.”
David Byrne – “I don’t have any agenda or plan when I start writing stuff.”
Lucinda Williams – “I write first for myself as a therapeutic process, to get stuff out and to deal with it.”
Jackson Browne – “I used to write extra verses to other people’s songs that I liked. That led to writing my own songs.”
Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park) – “At first we were waiting for a new sound. Then we got tired of waiting, so we did it ourselves.”
Bruce Springsteen – “I think you have everything you need by the time you’re 18 to do interesting writing. Maybe by 12.”
2) But then, where to start? At the point of INSPIRATION, of course:
Tom Waits –“Inspiration? It’s like nature photography. You sit there watching for three days. And then it happens!”
Billy Gibbons – “Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. Keep your head on and your ears open.”
Melissa Etheridge – “My songs are inspired by my experiences. Sometimes they are more than my real life and, conversely, my life is more than just my songs.”
Mick Jagger – “A lot of times songs are very much of a moment. When they come to you, you write them down, no matter if you feel like it or not.”
Brandi Carlile – “Songwriting isn’t something that I do or command; it just happens. I can either choose to stop and acknowledge it, or put it off and hope that it won’t fade.”
Chris Martin – “I don’t expect people to understand where songs come from, because I don’t understand either. I have a song ‘A Sky Full of Stars’. I had the title for a long time. I had written seven other songs with this title but none of them were right. Then one day this song just came through in one go. I don’t know who or what inspired the song and I don’t really want to question it.”
3) Once INSPIRED, then there’s the songwriter’s emotional mood, the CREATIVE DRAMA if you will, that comes into play. By and large, it would appear from the quotes I found that being upset and depressed is a great resource, although you would have to assume that a certain amount of alcohol would be involved.
Adele – “Heartbreak can definitely give you a deeper sensibility for writing songs. I drew on a lot of heartbreak when I was writing my first album. I didn’t mean to but I just did.”
Eminem – “If there’s not drama and negativity in my life, all my songs would be really whack and boring.”
Gwen Stefani – “My songs are basically my diaries. Some of my best songwriting has come out of a time when I’ve been going through a personal nightmare.”
Joni Mitchell – “You could write a song about some kind of emotional problem you are having, but it would not be a good song, in my eyes, until it went through a period of sensitivity to a moment of clarity. Without that moment of clarity to contribute to the song, it’s just complaining.”
Taylor Swift – “I’ve only thought about songwriting as a way to help me get through love and loss and sadness and lonliness and growing up.”
Robert Smith – “I’ve always spent more time with a smile on my face than not, but the thing is, I don’t write about it.”
John Lennon – “Songwriting is about getting the demon out of me. It’s like being possessed. You try to go to sleep, but the song won’t let you. So you have to get up and make it into something, and then you’re allowed to sleep.”
4) So the INSPIRATION has struck and we’ve settled into our CREATIVE DRAMA. Now we must decide the age-old question of which comes first – THE WORDS OR THE MUSIC?
Bob Dylan – “I consider myself a poet first and a musician second.”
Hozier – “Sometimes you just kind of collect lyrical and musical ideas and don’t actually complete the song until you feel like they work together and have a home.”
Axl Rose – “I write the lyrics last, because I want to invent the music first and push the music to a level that I have to compete against it with the melody and lyric.”
Don Henley – “Sometimes songwriters and singers get a melody in their head and the notes will take precedence, so that they wind up forcing words onto a melody. It doesn’t ring true.”
Rod Stewart – “All of my songs are written with the same four chords. That says a lot about the value of musicianship in writing hit songs.”
Steven Tyler – “Great melody over great riffs is, to me, the secret of it all.”
Larry Butler – “Everybody loves a shuffle.”
5) Now it’s time to get down to the real business of songwriting – taking the inspiration and emotional largesse into the WRITERS ROOM. Here are some samples of that endeavor from those who should know:
Sheryl Crow – “The writing process for me is pretty much always the same – it’s a solitary experience.”
James Taylor – “There’ll come a writing phase where you have to spend the time, unplug the phone and put in the hours to get it done.”
Grace Potter – “Every single song I write has to feel like it has a beginning, middle, and end, like a movie or a short story.”
Paul McCartney – “The trick is to go off on your own and finish it. Separate yourself from others. Toilets are good for that.”
Alanis Morissette – “When I start writing songs and it turns into an overly belabored intellectual process, I just throw it out.”
Chrissie Hynde – “Songwriting is like working on a jigsaw puzzle, and it doesn’t make any sense until you find that last piece. It has to make sense or it doesn’t work.”
Jason Mraz – “The easiest songs to write are pure fiction. There is no limit to how you can tell the story.”
Neil Young – “I have so many opinions about everything it just comes out during my music. It’s a battle for me. I try not to be preachy. That’s a real danger.”
Sting – “I don’t write the first line of a song. I write backwards from the chorus line or hook to come up with it.”
Lady Gaga – “If it takes you longer than, like, ten to thirty minutes to write a song, it’s probably not a good song.”
Smokey Robinson – “I always try to write a song, I never just want to write a record.”
Wayne Coyne – “Sometimes the song title comes with the songs, other times you just sorta make something up afterwards.”
Van Morrison – “You take stuff from different places, and sometimes you stick a line in because it rhymes, not because it makes sense.”
Lily Allen – “I think my songs are like nursery rhymes – little ditties that I write for myself.”
Prince – “Attention to detail – like the right words and notes in the right places – that makes the difference between a good song and a great song.”
Pete Townsend – “I’m not writing songs about me; I’m writing songs about YOU.”
6) And finally, there’s the AFTERMATH. How do songwriters live with the reactions to their creativity?
Stevie Nicks – “People try to find deep, hidden meanings in my songs. Actually, they’re just songs.”
Dave Grohl – “You can sing your song to 85,000 people and they’ll sing it back to you for 85,000 different reasons.”
Banks – “I never judge my own songwriting. It’s just my heart. What’s there to judge about your own heart?”
Vince Gill – “The funny thing is, people’s perceptions of what a song is about is usually wrong a majority of the time. But they’re still going to read what they want to into it.”
Ed Sheeran – “Writing a new song, finishing a new song, is the best feeling in the world. Nothing compares to it.”
So there you have it – The Six Steps for writing and producing music.