5 Tools for Better Songwriting

With so many different tools and techniques being recommended to us, it’s difficult to know which ones will actually be useful and which will prove to be nothing more than a distraction. It’s been my experience over the years that less is most definitely more when it comes to the creative process, but I have found a number of tools that have been enormously helpful, and I wanted to share them in the hopes that they work for you too.

I know it may sound obvious (and archaic), but this was such a huge game changer for me. A few months ago I started carrying a pocket-sized notebook around with me and I’m amazed at how something so simplistic has opened up my creativity in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Instead of reaching for my phone and looking at aimless videos on the socials, I now grab my notebook and write down anything and everything. It not only helped get my creative juices flowing, but I am much more focused and organized every day. Try it, I promise it will make more of a difference than you might think.

Organizing Your Work
There are lots of wonderful tools out there to help you organize your ideas, but one I have found very useful is an app called Hum. It’s a great place to store lyrics, notes and audio recordings which you can be backed up to a Dropbox account. You can also share these ideas with co-writers and friends via email or iMessage. It’s super simple and very easy to use.

Daily Challenges / Exercises
There’s no better way to hone your skills than getting into a daily writing routine. There are a couple of tools I’ve found incredibly useful, one of which is a book called Composing Music by William Russo. I managed to find an older version in a secondhand bookstore but there are revised editions available. The book is filled with unique challenges that really force you to not only think differently but write outside of your comfort zone. I learnt so much from the exercises in this book and I think you’ll find it useful too.

Speed Writing
I’ve also found speed writing to be enormously helpful.
Pick a time of day that works for you (shortly after I’ve woken up is my preference) and decide on a prompt. This can be anything from an object in the room, to a line of text from a book, a word, or simply how you’re feeling. Then set a timer for either 1, 5 or 10 minutes and write as much as you can without worrying about the need for any of it to make sense. I found this regular writing routine enabled me to express myself freely and gave me permission to be creative without having to be ‘perfect’.

Mobile Apps
There are three apps in particular I use all the time for songwriting.
Pro Metronome is an invaluable tool for not only practice but finding out the bpm of a particular song with the Tap Tempo feature. It can do a multitude of amazing things (which quite honestly, I don’t use!) and it’s my go-to metronome app.
FunkBox is my favorite drum machine app. You can choose from various vintage drum machines (808, 909, 606, CR78 and many more) as well 12 pre-set beats, each with 3 variations. There’s also a step sequencer, mix window and a whole lot more. I use it all the time to record ideas, rehearse or to get my creative juices flowing.
RhymeZone is an invaluable tool, the app version is $2.99 but the website version is free. I constantly use it to look up rhymes and it’s simple, quick and easy to use.

Getting Away from a Screen
If you want to have a writing experience that feels more organic and doesn’t involve a phone or laptop screen, trust me, I totally get it. For many of us, phones and laptops can be a total distraction and stifle our creativity.
There are standalone recording units available. I myself use a Tascam Model24 (there are smaller models available such as the Model12 and Model16) and it’s been a wonderful distraction-free writing tool for getting ideas down without having to switch on a computer.
I can also highly recommend the Tascam DP-008EX, which is a portable unit with 2 built-in microphones (that sound insanely good).
Zoom also have an array of easy-to-use devices that are also portable, such as the R4 which is also a great sounding unit at a very affordable price.

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