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What Makes A Good Songwriter?

Sep 04, 2021

Trait 1: Understands And Plays To Strengths And Weaknesses 

We all have strengths and weaknesses. 

This applies to both songwriting and musical performance strengths and weaknesses.

A good songwriter understands their strengths and plays to them.

If you have a great vocal range, use it to full effect. If you are a great guitarist and can write memorable guitar hooks, utilize that.

If you’re a great guitarist and a poor pianist, why would you write most of your songs on the piano?

If your songwriting strength is melodies and ballads, play to that strength. If you’re better at writing catchy rhythms and sassy lyrics, play to that.

This doesn’t mean that you should write all the same type of music. Because you also need to eradicate weaknesses. So, even if you’re not great at writing catchy music, you should still try to do it. 

You probably just don’t want to release as many songs that are working on weaknesses as you do songs that play to your strengths.

You need to understand what your bread and butter is. Play to your strengths. 


Trait 2: Not Complacent

When you stop swimming, you drown. When you stop trying to get better at songwriting, you might as well be getting worse.

Complacency is the biggest enemy of greatness.

A complacent person doesn’t improve. A person who doesn’t improve won’t be (or stay) very good at something.

It’s great that you just wrote your new best song. That doesn’t mean it’s time to relax. 

You shouldn’t try to top every song you write, but you also should be focused on getting better and better as a songwriter.

You should never be complacent with your musical skills or your songwriting skills. The better you are at the guitar, the more interesting music you can write. The better singer you are, the better you can deliver a performance of your song.

Sure, you might be a good melody writer, but can’t that still be improved? We can always and should always strive to get progressively better at our craft. 

If we aren’t trying to get better, what are we even doing?

Trait 3: Consistency

The older I get, the more I’m convinced that consistency is at the heart of all success and all greatness.

You’re not considered a great movie director if you have a few great films. You are a great director when you consistently pump out quality movies. 

Sure, they probably won’t all be great. No one can be great every day. But, overall, when you’ve proven yourself a reliable source of quality cinema, you’ll be considered a great director.

Even in relationships, consistency is everything. A good spouse is only a good spouse for as long as they’re faithful.

40 years of good marriage is reduced to rubbish if you fail to be faithful for even one single day.

An athlete will never be great if they can’t be consistently great. If you can never put together 3 straight races of greatness, how would you ever get to the olympic finals and win?

Michael Phelps couldn’t decide to not be great in the quarterfinals. He never would have even reached the semi-finals, much less won a gold medal if he failed to win consistently on his way to the finals. 

So write consistently. Don’t write only when you feel like it. Don’t write once every couple months.

And write quality consistently. This doesn’t mean every word you write needs to be great. But it means that you expect your final song to be of great quality.

If you put out a full album, is a great album one with 2 great songs and 10 pieces of garbage? No.

The closer you can get to an album where every song is great, the better.

Maybe your last album had only 3 great songs.

It’s time to consistently work on getting better.

Next album, you want to have 4 great songs. 

Consistently write.

Consistently write quality.

Consistently keep getting better.

And trust the process.

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