So, you’ve decided on pursuing the path to becoming a professional songwriter and wondering "now what?" Maybe you have taken up a songwriting career for some time, but still trying to find your footing. Whatever the case, songwriting is not like other jobs where you only perform within a set timeframe sitting at stationary desk all day. It's more about ensuring you are able to document your thoughts as often as possible.
Of course, you can have your special writing space, and even your inspirational chair and lucky pen, but you can agree that not all ideas flow to you in a controlled manner. In fact, the inspiration for a hit song can come to you in any setting A strong song concept can wash over you while diving into the sea during your vacation in the Caribbean or even while scaling Mount Everest. Heck, an infectious hook might become lodged in your head during an early morning dream. Do you let such opportunities simply pass you by because you are not prepared?
As a songwriter, it is not only about how talented and dedicated you are. Your success also depends on having the right tools at your disposal. We are talking about aids that allow you to notate, manage and organize your ideas according to your lifestyle. At least, that’s if you take your craft seriously and want to consistently churn out songs that have the potential to become hits. Here are our suggestions for must-have tools for songwriters.
Have you ever been in a situation where a nice tune keeps playing in your head all day, or find yourself humming a melody, and think to yourself, "I’ll jot it down later." Then later comes along and you cannot remember the tune for dear life! This is probably one of the most frustrating things to happen to any songwriter, because there is a high certainty it would stick in the memory, only to be let down by your own brain. There are also those instances when the idea for a hook comes and then goes almost as quickly.
In both cases, a voice recorder is a great tool to have close by. This tool allows you to document your thoughts on the spot and revisit that new motif before it’s gone. Most cellphones already have voice recording features and apps, so you don't have to look too far to get this done. But you can also invest in dedicated audio recorders that you can slip in your pocket or travel bag. For a home recording setup, you can also invest in an audio interface that allows you to record clear and crisp clips. Since your recording is for reference purposes and not a final professional cut, you can get a simple one or two input audio interfaces to achieve clear recordings with a good enough mic. Your cellphone recording will usually not suffice when you need to share your song with a producer or singer/musician for collaboration.
If you’re a songwriter that not only creates the lyrics of the song, having music or beat notation software is essential to your process. You should be able to make a note of the chord progressions or write the tune or create the beat with your notation software. If you can find software that offers you all of these to suit your lifestyle, that’s great. But, you may need to look for different software for each. In any case, if you choose to go cross-platform, make sure that the file outputs can sync seamlessly when you’re working on your final product.
If you’re an advanced songwriter who has skills in combining your tunes and beats, you will need reliable mixing software. You might think this is obvious but not everyone understands how intricate it can be when putting a song idea together. With your mixing software, you should be able to electronically record, edit and produce clear raw audio for reference purposes. In this case, you will also need a good mic, a laptop with lots of hardware memory, a digital audio workstation (DAW), and your audio interface. If you plan to write and perform your own songs, you will be off to a great start with this tool.
Yes, this is the lowest of tech when it comes on to recording anything, but good old-fashioned pen and paper never fail. Whether you want to carry around a notepad with a clipboard or a small journal or little black book, this is a handy option that will definitely get the job done, especially for song lyrics. These tools are easy to access on-the-go and they are also perfect for jotting down rough ideas that you plan to alter, develop, or modify later on. Finally, they have the advantage of not relying on things such as Wi-Fi or electricity. If you’re camping in the woods without any connection to the world and inspiration strikes, this old-fashioned songwriting combo will definitely come in handy.
It should go without saying but it is important to have a computer/laptop that can handle your songwriting software and editing needs. Not only should it have good storage but your PC needs enough RAM to run all your music-related programs smoothly. A laptop also enables communication such as Zoom/Skype calls during online collaboration with other songwriters and musicians, as well as for using file-sharing apps such as Dropbox or Google Docs. A good smartphone can perform some of these functions, of course, but a laptop is a necessity if you are into the songwriting business for the long haul.
Other tools that are useful but not necessarily must-haves include:
- Dictionary and thesaurus to increase your vocabulary, word prowess, and rhyming skills.
- Rhyming dictionary to help you move on when you are stuck trying to find a word that rhymes with orange.
- Note-taking app for those of you who can't be bothered with walking around with pen and paper.
The list for songwriting tools is not easily exhausted. Whatever else you may want to add depends on your skills, lifestyle, and creative process. But knowing what the must-have tools for songwriters are ensures you are always able to create. Be sure to alsp keep up to date with new technologies that can make your life easier as a songwriter.