18 Awesome Song Writing Tips you Need to Know
If you Google songwriting tips, it will give you about 2 million results in 0.42 seconds. That’s a lot of tips. And y’know what? There’s a good chance a lot of them won’t work. So, we’ve chosen few of them which are really relevant and works all the time. Here you go!
1 How to arrange a Track and stop making Loops
Tip 1: get started with the “all faders down approach”
Before taking your loop, copying it 20 times and start to deactivate random clips and samples, start with your project as it is and put ALL faders down.
With this technique you force yourself to start arranging, by substracting everything and slowly adding clip after clip or track after track in different combinations - maybe you start with the hihat loop and then let the synth simmer and gradually increase in volume until kick and bass enter, to bring all four to the floor, where the plucks are bedded in a cozy blanket of radiating pads.
Tip 2: be neutral towards your ideas
The first ideas you recorded are not necessarily the clips or tracks you should start with! Try to identify the “carriers” of your song - which motif, melody or sound does hold the whole song together? Use that to build tension by adding it and leaving it out - if one sound or melody gets played on the full length of the song, it will tend to get boring and monotonous. Unless that is what you are going for.
Tip 4: contrast is king
Create dynamic! Mute the kick after a full blown drop or filter the bass for more tension in a build up. Try to see the final wave form already in front of you while you are composing and paint in some ditches and peaks. Detract very prominent instruments for a C-part.
Tip 5: practice with old songs
Unearth all your old “2 bar loops” and lay them out to arrange a full song. You might not be that emotionally attached to the old ideas, so you can learn substracting and letting go of unnecessary parts or sounds.
Tip 6: spread your ideas
You used tip 1 and still love every part, every sound and every piece of melody? Great! But maybe try putting them in 2 or 3 different songs - unless you are composing an opera of course!
2 Learn about Compression - it gives you more Power!
Tip 7: mixing - always start with adjusting levels and panning first!
There are so many mistakes that can be done, while applying a compressor to a track, because you are not satisfied with the sound or you just need more volume. Use a compressor when you really need one.
Check our videos or any other video on compression, to get a better understanding of the concept.
This is a good starting point: https://bit.ly/2IgWqzJ
Tip 8: bus Compression
You are about to apply a compressor to multiple tracks with similar adjustments?
Try routing them to a bus and compress only that channel. That way you not only save CPU and resources, but also get a more even sound.
Tip 9: EQ first
You want a certain sound to stand out in the mix? Did you really do everything you can with your EQ? Let´s assume you want your vocals to pop, did you substract the frequencies needed for that from pads, leads, guitars or synths? From all of them? You did? Good, then maybe this helps you to get what you want, before applying a compressor.
Tip 10: panning
Same example, your vocals need to shine more. Main vocals are usually not panned at all, to hit you right in the middle at point zero. But maybe you forgot to get the other instruments layed out in the panorama? Doubled guitars are usually panned all the way left and right, pads and layers between 45 and 60, leads also in the middle, when they do not play at the same time as the vocals. If they do, substract unnecessary frequencies and pan them to 15. THat way you have a lot more space in your mix and maybe don´t even need compression. If you still do, you will hear the differences a lot better now.
The list of tips for compression is endless and this is not the “Ultimate guide to compression”. But to get started, you need to know what each knob in your compressor does and how it can enhance your sounds.
3 Use not too much reverb - Do not get lost in space
Tip 11: add reverb slowly
Turn your reverb down until you do not recognize it anymore, but you see that it still reacts. Now bypass it and hear or better feel the difference. That is how you want to approach supportive reverb in the beginning. If it fits the mix and you want to get more creative, try applying reverb VSTs to only 1 track, instrument or sound first. That way you learn hearing what really matters.
Tip 12: use bus tracks
Your lead is played by a layer of 5 synths? As always, do not push open up separate reverbs for all of them individually, but route them to a bus and spoil that with some ‘verbs. The other possibility is to use send effects of course.
Tip 13: Rule of thumb
Apply these rules to other effects, like delay, compression or chorus, too. Too many (or much of each) effect tend to sound unprofessional. Reduce and use only 1 real creative effect per song. That way you will focus on what is important to make a mix pop!
4 Create Contrast - BREAK your song structure
Tip 14: surprise, surprise
Use a low pass filter on the master or on a group with almost every track routed to. Dial it down and leave the listener with a strange sound, that was only in the background before - maybe some white noise or a metallic sample. Or introduce a new sound or sample, to create a different kind of feeling and atmosphere. BUT, do not stray too far away from where you came from and leave some breadcrumbs to find your way out of the woods again after 16 or 32 bars. To lead back into the known sounds or parts, gives the listener the biggest feeling of reward - you can decide if you want to grant them their sugar or if you want to leave them out there.
Tip 15: create space
Leave the listener with vocals and pads only. Or better take away everything they could hold on to like a kick, a bass, a hihat loop or rhythmic figure. Go for layered synths, pads or long chords and strip from drums - you reintroduce them in the buildup.
Tip 16: beatus interruptus
Foreshadow your break by interrupting the drum pattern here and there. That way you even await a break and people can “get ready” for it.
Tip 17: spoken words
Producing techno or house? Introduce a spoken word passage, that fits the vibe of your song. Maybe pitch it down and give it a known flavor, so the listener can always relate what is happening.
Tip 18: additional bars
You do not want you listener to feel safe and/in sound? Vary the length of your breaks and the moments when the kick sets in again. Do 17 bars instead of 16. Pause the bass 2 bars longer than the kick. Build up without the offbeat hihat and let the groove get back to the song after the break seems to be over.
Now take a break or make a break.
Let us know what is your experience with these tips.
Music is a magic connection
This blog post is the part of a series of Nuggets of Wisdom our team collects from the best in the music industry. If you find it useful please consider sharing it with like minded people and your fellow artists.
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