Co-writing is the perfect solution for many songwriting setbacks: writer’s block, getting started, getting finished, finding inspiration, overcoming self-doubt and much more. But co-writing can be intimidating, too—what if the session doesn’t go well? What if I don’t contribute to the song? I didn’t try co-writing for years because of these fears. Here is what I learned about having successful co-writing sessions.
It’s okay if you’re nervous
I mainly started writing with people I didn’t know, and even with the ones I did know, I was pretty nervous. Songwriting can be a personal part of your life, and opening up that part of your life with someone else is daunting. It’s okay if you’re nervous, but don’t let that stop you!
Try to bring a few song ideas to your session. Know your strengths in writing and bring that forward: a lyric idea, a riff, a chord progression or two, a melody, etc. Even if you don’t end up using them, they are good icebreakers to get to what you really want to write about.
Know the intentions up front
If you’re all artists, get to an understanding of who might be releasing that song, or what the song(s) might be used for. Get in writing (Auddly has that function) what your splits will be.
Get to know your co-writer(s)
This may not apply for people with deadlines, but for me, the most important thing is getting in the swing of writing good music. That can take time. It’s a great idea to start sessions by catching up on each other’s lives, what music or podcasts you’re both listening to, what book you’re reading or any tv series or movies you might be obsessed with.
It’s okay if you don’t contribute to every little aspect of the song
Many times, co-writers write together over and over. It’s okay if one person takes the lead on a song while you might not have as much to offer. You might offer more in the next song. Everyone in the room contributes in their own way, and sometimes that purpose is being the sounding board or accountability partner.
Don’t be rude
A lot of ideas are thrown into a songwriting session and many of them might be fillers. If someone writes a line you don’t agree with, don’t say, “I hate it,” or “That’s stupid.” Instead say, “I’m not sure about that,” and explain why. Offer a better idea in place of the old one.
It’s okay if you’re not having the most productive session
What I realized about co-writing is that if you don’t have a deadline, we don’t have to finish the song in the hour or two of the session. I prefer this; more often than not, one session might be a little slow, but the next is easy and quick. It gives us a chance to keep coming back to the song and working on it, so the pressure is off to have productive sessions every single time.
Above all, understand each other
Each song can feel pretty special, but we’re always going to write another one. Sometimes, the best part of the session is to enjoy the process and appreciate the craft of songwriting in itself. It is important to understand each other, our patterns and our rhythms. It all contributes to better songs.