by Metal Mastermind

August 29, 2021

5 Principles of Metal Songwriting

One of the greatest challenges of being a metal musician is writing your own original songs. Of course, this isn’t limited to just metal music.

What we’re going to share with you can be applied across all genres of music and songwriting.

You’re going to learn some simple yet effective strategies that you can use for songwriting. These principles are going to help the process of songwriting flow more smoothly for you.

They will also help you break through writer’s block.

Here are Metal Mastermind’s 5 Principles of Songwriting:

  1. Focus on developing your own style and sound
  2. Believe in yourself and your unique talent
  3. Don’t compare your songwriting to other artists or bands
  4. Good enough is perfection
  5. Find your balance

***Again, these concepts can be applied for any genre, but we’re talking about metal because after all, we are Metal Mastermind!

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1 – Develop Your Own Style and Sound

The first and most important thing you need to focus on is developing your own style and sound. Even within your preferred subgenre of metal, you want (and need) to create music that’s authentic and original.

A great example is a guitarist chasing Killswitch Engage’s guitar tone. Or a vocalist that aspires to sound like Sebastian Bach, or Dani Filth, or Floor Jansen.

This flows into writing lyrics, guitar riffs, and composing music.

Sure, we all have influences that inspire us. But you have to think about it from this perspective; what they’re doing has already been done. In other words, you don’t want to replicate what’s already out there.

Here are some ways to make sure that you’re focusing on your own style:

  • When you’re playing a riff from another song, branch out and start adding your own notes and flavor to it.
  • Try playing riffs in a different and unique key.
  • When writing lyrics, start talking to yourself as if you’re telling yourself a story; record yourself talking and then go back and write down key points as you listen.

The last thing you want is for someone to tell you that your song sounds exactly like another band or artist’s song. And the best way to avoid that is by coming up with something that’s completely different and unique to your band’s combined talents (or your talents as a solo artist).

Always focus on developing your own style and sound.

2 – Believe In Yourself and Your Unique Talent

All of us metal musicians (and musicians, in general) can be hard on ourselves. We’re a bit more emotional than the average person and sensitive about our art.

The thing you must realize is that you have a unique and special talent within you. And you need to believe in yourself and let that talent shine.

Here are some things that can help you in this area in regards to writing songs:

  • Understand that no one can do what you do exactly the way you do it, including writing music and songs.
  • Realize that your music and lyrics are coming from deep within you and they are part of who you are.
  • Because you have this talent, it’s your duty to write songs and get them out there.

Also, realize that there’s no right or wrong way when it comes to songwriting. Let it come from within you.

When you sit down to write, whether it’s lyrics or music, or both, remember to go into it with confidence. You have a gift. Use it.

3 – Don’t Compare Your Songwriting to Other Artists or Bands

One of the worst things you can do as a songwriter is to compare your music to other artists or bands. And this may be one of the things that songwriters and musicians struggle with the most.

In today’s era, we’re constantly seeing amazing talent all over the internet. But you have to revert back to #2 – you have a special and unique gift within yourself.

Here are some things to think about when you’re tempted to compare yourself to other musicians:

  • Their music and songs are not yours. Nor are yours theirs.
  • Music and songwriting are not a competition. Rather, it’s about originality and authenticity.
  • If you stay busy focused on your own craft and developing your own style (writing your own songs), you won’t have time or the desire to compare yourself to anyone else.

Remember that your goal is to write songs that stand on their own. You essentially want to use your talent to create your own subgenre of metal.

And you have that talent within you. So don’t compare your writing skills or music or talent to anyone else’s. Simply focus on what you have in front of you; you!

4 – Good Enough is Perfection

At some point in your songwriting, you have to put the pencil down, so to speak. At some point, it has to be completed.

But many songwriters and musicians get hung up on perfection. And this could very well be the number-one thing that holds musicians back from making progress with their song or album.

Here are two myths about perfection that we’re going to debunk:

  1. Perfection doesn’t exist! Music is subjective. There is no ‘perfect.’
  2. The concept of perfection is often used as an excuse to not take that next step forward into the scary and unknown (which is usually releasing your song to the world).

Now, this doesn’t mean that you release below-par music. You need to stay on top of practicing your instruments, vocals, writing skills, etc.

But you have to get to the point where good enough is perfection. If you continue to nit-pick everything, you’ll never take that next step.

Don’t let the myth of reaching perfection keep you from moving forward. You’ve music to write and release. Make a plan, execute that plan, and stick with it.

5 – Find Your Balance

There’s no doubt that songwriting takes effort and perseverance. But it also takes patience to write good music.

You have to find that balance between putting in the necessary effort and knowing when you need to walk away.

Putting in the effort:

  • Don’t wait for inspiration. Relying solely on those ‘magical moments’ will prevent you from writing songs.
  • Like everything else, songwriting takes practice. Even though this may go against your grain, it’s not a bad idea to schedule songwriting sessions.

Does this mean you’ll write a hit every time? No.

But you’ll give yourself more opportunities to write amazing songs this way and you may find that inspiration meets you more often!

Knowing when to walk away:

  • When you’re trying to write music or lyrics but start getting anxious and frustrated, it’s time to walk away.
  • Go take a break, or maybe come in a day or so. But at that point, you don’t want to force it.

End the day knowing that you gave 100% and were productive. But also realize that there will be those times when you need to step away and regroup.

Write Better Original Songs that You Can Be Proud Of

First and foremost, it should be about writing original songs. You want to showcase your talent and also get that message out that’s deep within you.

The worst thing you can do is not move forward. So you’ve got to make sure you’re putting forth effort and not making the mistake of only writing when you’re inspired. Our free songwriter’s guide talks more about that (there will be a link below).

The second-worst thing you can do is make a conscious attempt to sound or write like someone else, whether it be another band or artist. Many bands and songwriters get caught in this trap of trying to make their songs fit a particular sound or genre.

Sure, you all have our sub-genre of metal and if you’re an established artist or band, your fans will expect certain things from you. Yet at the same time, you need to make sure that you’re not trying to push that sound at the expense of hindering something new and creative.

All bands and artists evolve. So leave room for that to happen naturally as you grow.

For more tips in writing your original songs, be sure to grab our free guide 10 Secrets to Writing Original Metal Songs.

Horns up,

Jason Stallworth & Ken Candelas
at Metal Mastermind

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