Over the last few weeks we’ve spent a lot of time talking about songwriting. From simply helping you to improve your skills, to getting your material heard, writing with a piano or guitar, and even a few tips for those songwriters out there who can’t play an instrument. This week we are going to continue with this rich vein of a topic, by bringing our subject into the 21st century.
Songwriting has remained largely unchanged for centuries. Sure, the genres have evolved and spawned new styles of music, but the essential practice of putting music to paper hasn’t changed all that much over the years. Until recently, that is.
For many songwriters, the music seems to appear in their heads, fully formed. Others may sit, staring at a blank page for hours on end, trying to will inspiration into existence. Songwriting can be fun, but no one claims it’s always easy. If you find yourself relating more to the second individual there, there are a number of new technologically advanced tools the modern songwriter can use to help in the creative process. Regardless of whether you have writer’s block only occasionally, or it’s an issue you struggle with regularly, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best digital songwriting tools to help you find your missing muse.
There are countless songwriting websites out there are you to review, but there is one that stands out above the crowd thanks to the high quality of the content it routinely produces. The aptly named Songwriter101 is the perfect study guide for everything related to songwriting.
The site is home to an active forum where users discuss everything about creating music, making it a great sounding board to bounce new ideas off people, and find new ways of tackling obstacles. That being said, the biggest draw to this site is its extensive collection of articles. Songwriter101 organizes its informational articles in eight different categories, covering each dimension of the songwriting process: Artists, Technology, Songwriting, Publishing, The Band, Copyrights, and Finance. Regardless of your experience or the level of effort you want to put into your songwriting, this site has something useful for you.
This one is somewhat more generic than the other tools on this list, but it should be considered an essential nonetheless. Evernote is an excellent all around app for storing text, photos, audio, and really any other kind of notes you want to take, in an organized fashion. At it’s core it is a classy, easy to use notepad with a lot of added functionality, including automatic syncing over the internet with all Mac and PC devices. While this app was not designed with musicians specifically in mind, it is a perfect tool for storing all your passing lyric ideas, half conceived melodies, and hummed bass lines.
Unfortunately only available for Apple products, Garageband is an extremely useful songwriting tool nonetheless. Though there are both computer and mobile versions of the app, the mobile version is probably the superior of the two. The application allows you to build a song from the ground up, utilizing realistic-sounding drums, keys, guitars, and basses. It also allows you to arrange and mix your composition with up to 32 tracks, using touch instruments, audio recordings, and the ever-popular loop. The music is about half of your songwriting efforts, and Garageband gives you the freedom of a full recording studio on any of your iOS devices, for free.
This app is an older bit of technology, yet it remains as useful as the day it was written. For the Microsoft users out there, 4 Chord Songs is a simple application that allows you to select a 4 chord progression, choose one of over 50 available musical styles, and hit play. The app plays the selected progression with drums, bass, guitar, and piano parts.
This tool is especially useful if you ever feel like you’re falling into a rut with your music. The ideal tool for experimentation and improvisation, 4 Chord Songs can expand your inspiration even further as a great starting off point.
Soundcloud is an amazing community for both aspiring songwriters and people who just love music. The platform allows users to upload rough demo cuts and works in progress. The app allows seamless music sharing while also allowing you to edit your work, reference where you started, and shows you how far your music has developed. And thanks to its simple integration with social media, you can easily reach a massive audience, who can give you constructive criticisms and feedback.
Soundcloud is a wonderful place to explore the collaborative potential of songwriting, giving you a massive community to draw on for advice and inspiration. The only real downside is that the free version limits your uploaded content to a measly 2 hours. That being said, they do offer a few different levels of services at different prices.
The creators of RoadWriter have marketed it as the “premier songwriting app” for the creative-on-the-go. Combining a lyrics writing app with music playback for inspiration, this mobile app features three unique modes:
- Rehearsal Mode: allows you to create songs by selecting instrumental tracks, writing lyrics, and structuring bridges, hooks, codas, etc.
- Performance Mode: plays back your songs with full screen lyrics.
- Ad Lib Mode: allows you to record a song over an instrumental track. Unfortunately, this feature is only available on the full, paid version.
This is not a recording app, but rather it is a tool that you can use to splice together pre-recorded chunks to create a new, complete result, making it a somewhat unique app.
Technology is finally catching up with the modern songwriter. There are now so many digital tools for you to use that no single article could even come close to covering them all. If none of the things we have listen here are quite what you are looking for, please, by all means, do your own research and let us know what works best for you in the comments!