Songwriting Techniques 2: Songwriting and Composition Challenges

For the second article in this series the theme is ‘Songwriting and Composition Challenges’. Sometimes its hard to know where to start, particularly when embarking on a new project, but one way to get started on a new project is to set yourself a brief and guidelines. Refering back to these can help you stay on track and keep you focussed on the end goal. With that in mind here are 5 challenges for you to try:

1. Triangle of influence - start this challenge by pick 3 songs by 3 different artists. For each of the songs, write down one of the characteristics of the track, this may be something like 'use of only 3 chords' or 'lots of repetition'. Once you have done this you can set out to compose a new track that incorporates the 3 characteristics you have identified. To challenge yourself and your songwriting, pick artists and styles that you are not familiar with, and the more contrasting the 3 tracks are the better. As an alternative way to select your 3 tracks try putting the media player on your computer on random and use the first 3 songs it selects.

2. TV Themes – set yourself the challenge of writing 3 different theme tunes for different types of television programme. You can choose anything you like, but here are 3 examples to get you started: 1. Quiz Show 2. News Bulletin 3. Police Drama. If you want to be more specific you could choose an existing programme or even select a scene or clips to compose to from YouTube or iPlayer.

3. Limited Technology – if you are composing in a software program such as Logic, Ableton or Protools with lots of different instruments and effects, why not limit yourself to composing an EP using just the sounds from one or 2 instrument plugins. This encourages you to be creative with these limitations, it pushes you to master the plugins, how to generate and edit the sounds they create, and to rely less on pre-set sounds from vast libraries.

4. Places – choose 3 of your favourite places to visit, this could be anywhere from a coffee shop to a coastal or mountain walk. Your challenge is to write a song or piece of music inspired by each of these locations. Think about what each place means to you, why is it important to you, what historically significance does the location have to you personally and what moods, feelings and imagery does it conjure that you could reflect musically.

5. Commute Soundtrack – why not compose a piece of music to soundtrack your daily commute. Think about the places you pass through, the station your train stops at, the people that take the same bus as you and how long the journey takes.

Songwriting Techniques is a weekly article on The Audio Tapes where I share songwriting and composition tips, techniques and ideas for you to try. Each week will have a different theme and will include 5 ideas for you to consider. If you would like to get in touch and share any tips of your own you can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or email