Before I begin to describe my process of songwriting I should be very up front about something. Writing music for me is easier than breathing. I have never struggled to write music or songs. I don’t say this to sound arrogant or conceited, but to explain that I have never really related to anyone who says they have trouble writing music. I have never been able to understand why anyone would find it hard. That said, I do understand that some people do find it difficult to write music and my hope is that by sharing my process of writing, I might help others out there. Another thing I should say before I begin is that I’m not claiming to be an expert or even all that talented at writing. I’ve written hundreds of songs over my life to lesser or greater degrees, some with lyrics, some without,  some of which I’ve finished and some that I have not. While it is easy for me to write, it is not always easy for me to write good material, at least relative to my own expectations (which are constantly shifting upwards as I learn and get better). One last thing to understand is that there is plenty of advice out there in regards to how to write music (by people who are probably much more qualified to teach it than me) and I’m probably not telling you anything you haven’t heard before but it has been said that it is sometimes better to be reminded than taught and so maybe I can offer a fresh perspective on some tried and true processes.


  • Find your inspiration:

Inspiration can come from anywhere. A sound such as a guitar or bass tone, a cool synth patch or drum sample. It could come from a drum groove or a cool rhythm. You might find it in a poem, story or a phrase, chord progression or melody. Simply listening to different genres or era’s of music is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Finding this initial spark will light the fire of creativity and get your mind working to write. Writer’s block is common to everyone, so don’t get discouraged if it happens to you. Even if it doesn’t happen immediately (which is immensely frustrating to me), I’ve found that if you keep plugging away and searching for that inspiration, you will eventually find it. One last bonus trick is to form a writing group especially if you can keep your ego in check. Remember that no one of us is better than all of us and you may find your inspiration much faster working with others.


  • Give yourself limitations:


This may seem counterintuitive but setting arbitrary limits can actually help you to narrow down your options and make writing much easier. If you’re anything like me, having endless choices may seem like a great thing until you have to make a decision, in which case you may find yourself having a severe case of analysis paralysis. By setting limits, you allow yourself to focus on a direction and take action. You can always change your mind later if it doesn’t seem to be working out. Some examples of the limits you might set could be things like lyrical content, a song key, how long the song should be or what type of instrumentation you want. You may even consider giving yourself a time limit to write the song which will force you to come up with whatever you can in the set time. You can always refine or tweak it later but at least you will have made some progress instead of having nothing at all. A bad song is better than no song as you can at least learn from your mistakes and perhaps make it better over time through revisions.


  • Take action


It’s been said that “you can’t steer a parked car.” Take action and get moving. Just play around or jam, throw mud on a wall and see what sticks. Even if you’re going in the wrong direction, you can always make course corrections along the way. Too many people (including myself at times) refuse to get going because they think they need to have it all figured out before they start. The real truth is that you mostly figure it out as you go. Nothing is set in stone so don’t be afraid to make a mistake. You can always change it later. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve started a song, gotten half way through and then realized that I needed to start all over again because I finally figured out what the song should actually sound like and I never felt as though I wasted my time because I never would have figured it out in the first place if I hadn’t started the process. Yes, I know that was one heck of a run on sentence so let me see if I can restate it better: sometimes you have to go in the wrong direction to find the right direction. It all starts with action.


  • Don’t be afraid to make a bad song


I’ve already touched on this but I think it deserves its own heading. I’ve found that generally speaking I have to write nine bad songs to get to one good one. You may have a better or worse track record than me but I usually hate 90% of what I write, and that’s actually very encouraging to me. That means it’s a simple numbers game. All I have to do is write ten songs and at least one of them is going to be good (at least to my own ears). Well I can write a bad song like nobody’s business so I just need to pump them out to get to the good ones. With those odds you can write a hit album in 100 days if you write a song a day even if it’s a terrible song. You just have to be willing to do it. Don’t feel as though every song you write needs to be a masterpiece (and believe me I know that a lot of musicians tend to be perfectionists, just do your best to get over that)  because in all reality, they just won’t be. Instead focus on writing regardless of how good or bad and eventually you will stumble across your next hit.


I know that some of you were probably looking for more specific techniques to writing songs and if you are, I highly encourage you to look those techniques up, but this is the process I use to write music and it works for me. I think it will work for you as well, especially if you use it alongside some of the more specific techniques out there which I may cover in future blogs. If there is an art and science to writing music, then the above list is more the science side of things and the art is learned along the way (and exponentially harder to teach as art tends to be highly individualistic while the science is something that can be applied to anyone). If you ever find yourself in need of help writing music then feel free to come to RCR Recording Studios and I’ll be happy to help you through the process.


Cary Crichlow – Senior engineer and producer