Top 10 Songwriting Rules of 2020

Top 10 Songwriting Rules of 2020

Today, we’re going to give you the top ten songwriting rules for the year 2020. These songwriting tips are designed to help you turbocharge your creative abilities as an artist!

I know it’s only half way through 2019, but we think it’s always best to not only be cutting edge with your songwriting… 

…But truly ahead of the curve. 

So sit back, relax, and enjoy these ten songwriting tips to have YOU be the writer of the next MAJOR hit in 2020. 

Our YouTube training “Top 10 Songwriting Rules of 2020”

Songwriting Rule #1: Start With An Effect-Driven “Riff”

The first songwriting tip is look for a beat (or write a song yourself) with a very identifiable set of notes to set it off. 

Some of the most major hits of last year began with VERY unique 10 second riffs that defined the song almost as much as the actual vocals.

Take a second and “hear in your mind” the first few notes of Post Malone’s “Rockstar”… Drake’s “God’s Plan”… XXXTentacion’s “Sad” or even more recently…

DaBaby’s “Suge”.

All of those beats started with a very identifiable set of notes made even more noticeable.

Songwriting Rule #2: Strip Down Rather Than Build Up

In the early part of this decade, music seemed to be pretty “lush” with widespread use of epic instrumentation, massive soundscapes, and an overall BIG feel with the production.

Albums like Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, M.A.A.D city”, and Drake’s “Take Care” put the audience into what felt like a symphony hall every time we heard a new song.

On the other hand, the second half of this decade has been marked by simpler and simpler production, rhyme choice, and melodies. 

Compare the work on those past albums to the simplicity of more recent hits like Migos “Bad and Boujee”, DJ Khaled’s “I’m The One”, or Billie Eilish’s “Bury A Friend”.

Stripped down production, melodies, and rhyme choices are currently the way to do it, partially because the technology used for things like drums and melodies has advanced SO much in the last five years.

Songwriting Tips Da Baby
Stripped down production, like that of DaBaby, is the new wave

Songwriting Rule #3: Don’t Be Afraid of Technology 

Which brings us to an important point about technology: don’t be afraid, it’s not going anywhere.

If anything, music is getting MORE experimental. Think of the overt song breaks and tempo changes of “Sicko Mode”, only possible with modern technology. 

Think of the eerie notes of rather simplistic songs, at least note-wise in the work of Billie Eilish

I myself saw this in action when I recently did a track in under an hour with Purps On Tha Beat, producer of recent hits such as “Hear Me Callin’” by JuiceWrld.

He made a very simple beat and then had me go into the booth and just blurt out some melodies.

After about five minutes of this, he took the melodies he liked, chopped them up, reordered them, and the added effects to them.

Within seconds (it seemed like), the entire melody of the beat was based on what was original just singing… 

…And it DIDN’T sound like vocals. 

Modern producers are all about plugins and technological “tricks”, so roll with the tide.

Don’t be afraid of how much more “technological” music is getting. It’s only going to increase more and more, I can tell you that.

Songwriting Tip #4: Collaboration Is King

Part of the reason music feels so futuristic and “technological” these days is because more and more artists are collaborating. 

While it goes without saying that major musical “institutions” like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Drake, and Kanye West all have a whole army of collaborators…

…Even up-coming or newly minted acts have people doing a lot of the leg work for them. 

Whether it’s Billie Eilish’s brother basically writing and producing an entire album for her…

…Or it’s Lil’ Nas X’s unorthodox collab with rocker Billy Ray Cyrus to catapult his viral hit “Old Town Road” to one of the most successful #1 runs in Billboard history… 

Working with others is the new way to not only make music, but do business.

Songwriting Rules X
XXXTentacion shows us the power of genre bending

Songwriting Rule #5: Genre Bending Is Here To Stay

Which relates to our fourth rule. It should go without saying that genre-bending is the new wave of the future.

Generation Z is finally rolling into maturity, and they are the second generation to grow up with access to every type of song in the book.

While the Lil’ Nas X example is so common it’s cliche now, I would look more towards the career of the late XXXTentacion as a great example of the possibilities of genre bending as a songwriting rule.

XXXTentacion is essentially dropped an entirely different genre on each album – one alternative rock, one rap, one atmospheric R&B-pop… and much more.

The Latin takeover has already begun, as we know…

Chance The Rapper dropped what felt like a gospel-rap album a couple years back.

Beyonce was rapping ALL OVER the ill-fated Carters album. 

There’s negro spiritual vibes in “This is America”.

Genre bending is a must-have ability at the very least for each talented songwriter in 2020… 

Songwriting Rule #6: Get Political 

Much like “This Is America”, or even more recently, Taylor Swift’s “You Need To Calm Down”… 

It’s pretty obvious that politically-bent music is burgeoning. Politically bent ANYTHING is big in this generation. 

I’ve often been asked who I think will take the crown from Drake as the #1 GLOBAL rap star (let’s not get into a Kendrick-Drake thing, I’m just saying as far as the POP / RAP charts go…)

And I’ve always said it would likely be someone who was a little more political… but able to do it with pop.

Where is the next Bob Marley, you know?

Songwriting Tips Donald Glover
Political songs are “in”

2020 Songwriting Rule #7: Self-Doubt Is An Acceptable Pop Topic

Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran’s recent “I Don’t Care” is a GREAT example of how the self-doubt and awkwardness of Gen Z is creeping into pop music.

“Don’t think I fit in at this party…

Everyone’s got so much to say…

I always feel like I’m nobody”

So, if you are an artist that struggles with feeling self-worth this is actually the BEST time to put pen to pad and write that anthem. People WILL relate.

Songwriting Rule #8: Write For The Vibe

Similar to recognizing that everybody’s emotions and self-reflection are tied to the anthems they’re singing today, recognize how most people consume music.

The most common ways your average fan is listening to music is with friends at a pregame, on Spotify while doing things like going to work or school, or using it as mood music during a get-together.

Music is truly SOCIAL again, and people LOVE being able to pick a song that fits the RIGHT mood for the atmosphere.

A great trick for your songwriting habits is to write down the ENVIRONMENT you expect to have this song played in (or the beat you’re hearing as you write it)…

So that you always remember exactly HOW people are going to feel when hearing it.

2020 Songwriting Rule #9: Write For The Live Effect (Festival Culture)

Similarly to imaging the atmosphere people will be playing your music in…

REALLY think about where people are going to want to spend money to see this music played… 

And the answer is FESTIVALS.

Festival culture is absolutely MASSIVE in Generation Z and if you can hone in on a songwriter to make songs that APPEAL to thousands of people singing along…

You will be WAY a head of the game. 

One of the main reasons that songs like “Old Town Road” or going back a couple years, “Congratulations” by Post Malone are so big is because they’re…

EASY TO SING WHEN YOU’RE DRUNK SURROUNDED BY THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE.

It’s absolutely CRUCIAL that you have at least two to three songs that can scratch this itch for the fans. 

Songwriting Rules Post Malone
Post Malone’s “Congratulations” is great for drunk people at a festival

Songwriting Rule #10: The Best Songs Come Quickly 

And an EASY way to know a song is gonna be a hit…

…Is that comes quickly to you as you write it. It just kind of POURS out of you. 

  • John Lennon famously said he wrote “Across The Universe” in almost as long as it takes to sing the song after waking up from a dream. 
  • Michael Jackson wrote “Billie Jean” while stuck in traffic after it just came out of his mind and he beatboxed until he remembered the riff and arrived at the studio.
  • Eminem wrote “My Name Is” in under an hour on the VERY first day he met Dr. Dre. 

90% of the time, the song that feels like a breeze to write… 

Is the song people sing along to the easiest. If it’s easy to write, it’s often easy to listen to. 

So keep an eye out for those melodies, rhymes, and beats that come easy to you.

That might just be the one to send you to the big time.

Conclusion

Let’s look back at the top songwriting rules we discussed for the next year:

  • Songwriting Tip #1: Start A With An Effect-Driven “Riff”
  • Songwriting Tip #2: Strip Down Rather Than Build Up
  • Songwriting Tip #3: Don’t Be Afraid of Technology
  • Songwriting Tip #4: Collaboration Is King
  • Songwriting Tip #5 Genre Bending Is Here To Stay
  • Songwriting Tip #6: Get Political
  • Songwriting Tip #7: Self-Doubt Is An Acceptable Pop Topic
  • Songwriting Tip #8: Write For The Vibe
  • Songwriting Tip #9: Write For The Live Effect (Festival Culture)
  • Songwriting Tip #10: The Best Songs Come Quickly


Comment below: 

Which songwriting tip resonated with you the most?

Drew Morisey, @drewmorisey on Instagram and Twitter

4 thoughts on “Top 10 Songwriting Rules of 2020

  1. Good Tips, I see the consistency man, I think simplicity is key as an artist not overthinking it is a battle in itself.

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