Why Making Playlists Can Help You Write New Songs

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Whether you hate or love song playlists, whether you make them actively or just tune in to them passively, they are an extremely useful tool for generating ideas and concepts to help write new songs.

I never used to set out to use playlists per se, but as I’ve been writing, co-writing, and encountering new challenges in recent years, I’ve found several different ways to make them an important component of my process.

Here’s why, and how, you can use playlists to write new songs.

Writing in a New Genre

There are many reasons to branch out into a new genre. You could be bored of what you’re writing, wanting to experiment for a song or two with a new collaborator, or even looking to change up your sound completely.

Make a playlist of the songs in the new genre you want to write in, and listen to it consistently. Try to immerse yourself and take notes about what elements stand out and recur. Incorporate those elements in your new genre experiments.

+ Read more on Flypaper: “What You Can Do to Get Your Songs on Spotify’s Official Playlists.”

Writing “Happy” or Uplifting Songs

I don’t know about you, but it’s not always easy to “bring the energy” when you sit down to write songs. For me, at least, they always start out pretty mellow. And yet my jogging playlist is filled with anthems to pump me up and get me flying!

So, I often turn to those very same playlists when planning to sink my teeth into a positive or uplifting song writing session. The tracks I want to hear on a road trip with friends or a high-intensity gym session, can help put some fresh ideas in my head when I tend to get lost in the minutiae of my writing.

Exploring Your Influences

When you’re pitching your music to other people, the first question they’ll probably ask is, “Who do you sound like?”

While you don’t need to sound entirely like any another artist, making a playlist of your influences and references in order to better understand and articulate where your sound comes from, can be immensely helpful; especially when it comes time to market your songs to new audiences. 

Creating a New Sound Altogether

Similarly, playlists can be really helpful in creating a new sound to write in. After you understand your influences, you can add flavours courtesy of other genres to create a new sound. You can innovate in the same way your favourite musicians might do.

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Twisting Song Topics and Titles

Here’s a funky idea.

Make a playlist of random songs with a variety of words in their titles or songs that touch on unique topics, and refer back to these songs when you’re looking for new song ideas or just need to put words together in fun ways.

Similarly, you can listen to each song and figure out how they manipulate and execute those titular ideas throughout the song, and maybe twist those topics into your own songwriting in unexpected ways.

+ Read more on Flypaper: “5 Different Ways You Can Outline Your Song.”

Inspiring Yourself

Listening to music is honestly one of the most underrated ways of dealing with writer’s block. When you make a playlist with intentions to inspire yourself, you could go in a couple of directions:

  1. Add new music you’ve been meaning to listen to, but haven’t gotten around to yet. Listen to these songs without distractions and really take them in.
  2. Add songs you wish you wrote, songs that really move you. Study these songs and do a deep dive to understand what you love about them and what makes them so good.

Now that you have some ideas, go forth and make your playlists! Don’t forget to label them so that they make sense to you and you can refer back to them at any time.

Don’t stop here! 

Continue learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, recording and production, composing, beat making, and more on Soundfly, with in-depth artist-led courses by Com TruiseJlinKiefer, Ryan Lott, and of course, Kimbra: Vocal Creativity, Arranging, & Production.

Ryan Lott: Designing Sample-Based Instruments

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