Holy shit, I realized these were all numbered wrong and way less than 12 tips. Edited accordingly.
1. Writing music first
Sometimes this is a good idea (and usually how I write, honestly)…. but often, you should be writing the lyrics/melody WHILE you’re writing the music. Or, sing the melody/random words first and choose chords to fit. I write TONS of instrumentals. Tons. And I never finish the vocals, and/or I can’t seem to find singers who want to sing on my stuff. Well, I know some people, but… it’s just been an ordeal in one way or another.
Try to write everything together and at least, come up with two parts for your song.
2. Not having a song outline or plot
Don’t just write one part. Change the chords for your second part. Change the feel… make a basic structure. Sing early, and keep singing. And then arrange it in detail later on.
Where do I go from here? I need to take the dog out. Ooh, it’s the latest Marvel Superhero movie. I’m hungry.
NOPE. Keep it moving. And make sure you set aside at least 6 hours with no distractions.
4. Your stuff isn’t plugged in and at-the-ready
This is my biggest obstacle. I always clean up wires and keyboards and mics and mic stands after a session. LEAVE THEM CONNECTED. It might be a little more messy but FUCK IT. Leave your recording software open ALL THE TIME. Keep your guitars on a stand or several stands. PLAY THEM every day. Mic/record yourself noodling and fucking around. Stop recording voice memos and make FULL SHIT. Keep things plugged in.
5. Your recording desk is messy and there’s too much crap on it
This is another one of my obstacles. I have a LOT OF GEAR. Tons of midi controllers, synths, pedals, the whole nine. I like to have it all within arms’ reach. But this isn’t always ideal.
Keep a big desk, with one display. One audio interface. One midi keyboard. Your guitar on a stand to your left or right. Your mic and mic stand right there.
Or, have two areas… one, your main spaceship/space station. The other, your Zen habitat…. with simple shit… a plant in the corner. Inspiring posters, and a damn-near empty room (if you’re able). This shit helps.
6. Only listening to music/styles you write
Don’t do this. You can listen to and be inspired by your favorite sounds… but, listen to other shit. For me, classical/slow piano, and hip-hop get me going and inspired. But a lot of what I write comes out dreamy/sad/slow, and heavily guitar-focused. Sometimes I listen to synthpop and want to write acoustic folk. Or vice-versa. It’s kind of amazing. Keep an open mind, ALWAYS.
7. Cutting-room Floor
Stop editing. Just write. Let the ideas FLOW. The cutting room floor is when you’ve got 75% of the song written, and recorded. Then you can arrange and fuck with shit. But do not edit before your writing is done!
8. Rejecting formulas
Don’t be so hipster that you need to make the weirdest shit, ever. People like predictable, and catchy. And simple. Music is magic, but it’s also not rocket science. Use that 1 4 5, or 6 4 1 5 chord sequence, and ride it all the way to the bank. Fuck ’em. It’s your song. Do what you want. Don’t stray too far from accessible. Always strive for that “pop sensibility” (critics love that word). It’s a good thing.
9. Never finishing a shitty song
Finish a shitty song. If you REALLY want that awesome instrumental part for something else… then, keep it for something else that may be better. But, finish your shitty song(s). You have to. Just get them done and out there. They don’t all have to sit on your hard drive (like me). Hell, if you look at Bandcamp and all the hipster college-age shit that is constantly released… a lot of it is god-awful terrible. And forgettable. But a lot of it is awesome, too. You never know what someone will connect with. I have a song that says over and over “All I do is watch movies and feel sorry for myself.” And it’s catchy and pretty. And it’s over one chord. And I don’t give a fuck, because I love it. I’m releasing it soon. *middle finger*
GET SONGS DONE! Release them!
James Cuartero from That Dream Was Our Life (one of my favorite singer/songwriters EVER) told me in 2017…. “Chris…. the stakes are both low and high, so you might as well do whatever.” I will never forget that quote as long as I live. He was telling me “just put your stuff out. Who cares? If you like it, others will. Or maybe they won’t. But then, other different people will. You’ve got nothing to lose.” Thanks, James.