10 Songwriting Tips from Famous Songwriters

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We’ve all been there – staring at a blank page or an empty DAW, waiting for inspiration to strike.

But fret not, fellow songwriters! Some of the world’s most famous and successful musicians have left a breadcrumb trail of wisdom for us to follow.

Here are ten songwriting tips straight from the masters themselves.

1. Bob Dylan – Write quickly and trust your instincts

Photograph by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The legendary Bob Dylan believes that the best songs are written quickly, without overthinking. As Dylan himself puts it, you risk losing sight of your original intention when you obsess over perfecting every single word or note.

The takeaway? Trust your instincts and allow the creative process to flow naturally.

2. Stevie Wonder – Don’t rush the songwriting process

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Art of Elysium

On the flip side, Stevie Wonder insists that songwriting should never be hurried. Like fine wine, great songs often require time to reach their full potential.

Allowing the chords, melodies, and lyrics to emerge instinctively is essential to Wonder’s songwriting process. So, if a song doesn’t come together in one sitting, don’t panic – it’s all part of the process.

3. Billy Joel – Start with the music

Billy Joel typically starts with the music, believing that every piece of music inherently contains a lyrical aspect waiting to be discovered.

If you’re stuck on the lyrics, try starting with the music instead and see where it takes you. It could lead to some unexpected and delightful surprises!

4. Leonard Cohen – Embrace the mystery

Leonard Cohen equated songwriting with being married to a mystery. According to him, songwriting is about perseverance, following an idea through to the end, even when it’s challenging.

Don’t shy away from the unknown; instead, embrace it, dive into it, and see where it leads you.

5. Neil Young – Prioritize songwriting

Neil Young has a straightforward approach to songwriting: when a song comes to you, drop everything else and focus on it.

So, when that creative lightning bolt strikes, be ready to capture it – postpone the laundry, forget the dishes, just write!

6. Paul McCartney – Collaborate with others

As one-half of the most successful songwriting duo in history, Paul McCartney has found immense success through collaboration.

Working with others can bring a fresh perspective, push your creative boundaries, and spark new ideas that you might not have thought of on your own.

Collaboration is indeed a powerful tool for creativity.

7. Joni Mitchell – Be honest and vulnerable


Joni Mitchell’s music resonates deeply with listeners due to her honest and introspective lyrics. She’s not afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve, and neither should you.

Authenticity in songwriting is a powerful magnet that draws listeners in and keeps them coming back for more.

8. Elton John – Focus on melody

Elton John’s songs are known for their strong, engaging melodies. Memorable melodies can turn a good song into a great one.

So, while lyrics are important, remember to give your melodies the attention they deserve.

9. Carole King – Keep it simple

Gijsbert Hanekroot

Carole King’s timeless songs often center around simple, relatable themes and lyrics.

Remember, you don’t need to overcomplicate things to create an impactful song. Sometimes, simplicity is the key to resonance.

10. David Bowie – Experiment with different styles

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Last but not least, David Bowie, the king of reinvention, encourages us to experiment with different styles. Don’t limit yourself to a single genre or style. Be bold, be brave, and step outside your comfort zone.

In conclusion, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to songwriting. It’s an incredibly personal and individual process.

But hopefully, these tips from the greats will provide some guidance and inspire you to explore new ways of crafting your songs.

Remember, every song you write is a step forward on your creative journey, so keep going, keep experimenting, and most importantly, keep writing!


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