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How To Co-Write Songs: 3 Indispensable Tips

Sep 04, 2021

You might be a part of a band. You might be interested in co-writing a song with another songwriter. Whatever your situation, here are 3 indispensable tips on how to co-write songs.


Tip 1: Be Open And Positive About Different Ideas

When you’re co-writing a song, it isn’t your song.

It’s the group’s song. 

And everyone has different thoughts and emotions. No two people will even process the same event the exact same way. 

Basically, you’re not going to write a song with someone who thinks exactly the same as you.

Because of that, you have to accept that your solo vision isn’t the only one for this song.

Most of us write most of our songs by ourselves. We are the judge, jury, and executioner of every single detail of it. We write the lyrics, melody, chords, and arrangement. We might even record, mix, master, and release the songs ourselves.

But, for co-writing, we need to be a team player. 

I think the single most important rule to being a team player is to be open and positive about different ideas.

You want to promote an environment where everyone feels comfortable bouncing ideas off of each other without fearing ridicule or rejection.

You should even be accepting of ideas that you think are bad. We all have bad ideas sometimes. And sometimes bad ideas turn into good ones when they’re developed more. 

But you wouldn’t know how good an idea can become if you reject it right away. 

Just like you need to write your own ideas down without judging them, you need to be welcoming of ideas from others. 

Be pro spit-balling. You should even try the improv rule of “Yes, and…”

I’m not saying you need to follow that strict rule of “Yes, and”- just heir on the side of agreeable and accommodating. Especially early in the process.

With everything in life, you want to be a person you would want to work with.


Tip 2: Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses and Play To Them

Let the writer write, the director direct, and the actor act. Right?

Let the person with good hands be a wide receiver and the good passer be the quarterback. Right?

Those may seem obvious, but we often throw this logic out the window in other areas of life.

If your spouse is better at drying the dishes and you’re better at washing, then they should dry and you should wash. Right?

Similarly, it’s important to know your songwriting strengths and weaknesses and play to them. 

When you’re writing a song on your own, you should do your best to write in a way that accentuates your strengths and makes your weaknesses matter less. 

But, when you’re writing in a group, you get the benefit of others having strengths where you have weaknesses and you having strengths where they might have weaknesses.

If you’re in a co-writing session with people who are better at writing rhythms, bass lines, and melodies than you are, you should be happy to let them have a bigger hand in writing those parts.

If you feel that lyrics are the greatest strength you bring to the table, be sure to benefit the group with your strength as much as you can.

This doesn’t mean to be controlling or take it for yourself. You should think of it as the best gift you can offer the group.


Tip 3: Leave Your Pride At The Door

If we’re being honest, I think most creatives are a weird mix of lacking confidence and being supremely prideful of their craft. 

I know I am. 

The thought of my name being on a song that doesn’t meet my lyrical standards makes me shudder.

But I’m also really nervous about anyone hearing my music. I’ve learned to care less if people don’t like it, but I still care.

When you’re the only writer, any melody, harmony, chord, hook, or lyric reflects solely on you.

If someone hates a song that was written by Joseph Vadala, they hate something I did.

If someone hates a song that was written by Joseph Vadala, John Smith, Mary Smith, and Joe Schmo, they hate something that a group effort produced. 

None of us are specifically culpable, because we are culpable as a group.

When you co-write, the responsibility is diffused to everyone. 

So, in a sense, all of you are released from any conventions you had before. You don’t have a “sound” because you have individual sounds that will come together to form this song.

This isn’t a blame game either. 

It’s just easier to feel less pressure when you’re 1 person on an 11 player soccer squad than when you’re playing a 1 on 1 tennis match. 

This should allow you all to relax and leave your pride at the door.

And you actually do have to leave your pride at the door. 

Because, again, you’re not the only writer now. If you don’t like a simplistic melody, but everyone else does, you might have to accept that. 

Your job is about serving the group and the song

To do that, you need to leave your pride at the door.

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