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Tools For Songwriters

Picture of Liane Bonin Starr
3 minute read

The tools needed to write a song can be as simple as what many songwriters have used throughout the centuries: a piece of paper, a pen, and an instrument. But in the 21st century, a songwriters are much more high-tech, and the business of songwriting has become complex (but cool), too. 

The silver lining in this complexity is that today’s songwriter has so many tools – some no further than their smartphone – to make the task easier, and give them new ways to network, stay organized, and write songs. Here are a few. 

Keep Ideas Handy

When you have a great song idea, scribbling on a piece of paper isn’t always the easiest way to capture lyrics, a hook, or chord changes before they are forgotten, especially when you’re in the middle of something else when inspiration strikes. 

Fortunately, there are tablet and smartphone apps that allow you to record whatever comes to mind, even if you’re just singing into your phone while on the road. FourTrack, SoundCloud, and Evernote are just three of the apps that allow you to record sound quickly and easily. Voice Memos (on iPhones) and Voice Recorder (on Androids) are also built into your phone and are free. You should also consider bookmarking RhymeZone if you get stuck on rhyming a lyric. 

While a piece of paper or journal is always a fail-safe, fallback solution, having one of these resources on your phone will ensure that spur-of-the-moment idea is captured. And it’s less likely to be accidentally thrown away or fly out the window.

Stay Organized 

Maybe you have a dizzying number of ideas, hooks, and songs in various states of completion. While you can set up a file cabinet, it’s probably easier to keep everything on your computer. Set up a folder system so that you can find songs in one place, legal documents in another, and finished demos in a third. Make sure every folder follows the same naming system, and you should always be able to find what you need, when you need it.

Make Connections

One way to learn more about the craft of songwriting is to connect with songwriters who may be able to give you feedback, inspire you, or simply offer support and ideas when you need them. While it’s possible to find connections organically at gigs, consider utilizing your computer for additional resources. Google songwriting circles or collectives, look through meet-up listings, and consider classes at your local college. By finding people who write outside of your genre, you can get fresh perspectives and ideas that will add an unexpected layer to your writing, too.


In addition to meeting other songwriters and musicians, music conferences serve two purposes: you can learn more about what’s happening in the industry, and potentially meet other people who might be helpful to your career. ASCAP’s “I Create Music” Expo, the Durango Songwriters Conference, and A3C are just a few of the festivals worth considering. 

Conferences can be expensive (you’ll save money if you plan in advance), and it’s important to manage your expectations. While you may meet people who can make a difference in your career, you’re unlikely to walk away with a publishing deal. Think of conferences as a useful tool that will boost your profile, instead — one that’s actually fun to attend, too.

Get Heard

When you finish writing a song, you may want friends or collaborators to hear it so you can get early feedback. WeTransfer and DropBox are easy ways to send music to other people without crashing their email accounts.

Keep Track of Your Business

As a songwriter, it’s not enough to just keep track of your music and lyrics. You’re also a businessperson, and if you sell any of your music, you can soon be awash in contracts, legal documents, and chasing down royalties. While Songtrust can help by making sure you’re paid any domestic or international publishing royalties, you also need to keep an eye on expenses, invoices, and bills. Consider Expensify, QuickBooks Self Employed, or even an Excel or Google spreadsheet to make sure you’re on top of your business and personal expenses.

Don’t forget that your publishing is part of your music career’s business responsibilities – so don’t put it on the back burner for another day. Make sure you're collecting all of your mechanical and performance royalties globally, and register for Songtrust as your publishing administrator today. 


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