We’ve all heard it: “Set goals to achieve success.”

But, for many of use, songwriting is one of many things in our lives, and often something that comes behind work, health and family needs.

Setting goals for your songwriting can be a challenge, because it’s usually just another category that’s part of a larger set of things you want to achieve, like your personal or professional goals.

I’m going to argue that breaking down your objectives and goals into groups like (1) Personal, (2) Work, and (3) Songwriting will serve you better each year.

The below is specific to songwriting: not your music career or business. However, you can apply the same process to any objectives and goals category.

Switcheroo: Objectives vs Goals

At this juncture I’m going to suggest you no longer use the word “goals” to describe the general “WHAT” you’re trying to achieve.

Instead, we’re going to work from a “destination” perspective.

In general, where are you headed, what are you trying to ultimately achieve? We’ll call this your Objective. In order to reach your destination, you’ll need some mile markers along the way so you can measure your progress. These are your Goals.

To keep it simple, we’ll go with Objectives as our general “WHAT” and Goals as the specifics of the “WHAT” and we’ll define our mile markers by writing them as S.M.A.R.T. Goals.


Define Your Objectives And Goals By Looking At Your Strengths


The trick to finding beneficial Objectives and Goals is to give yourself a line to cross for a skill that you are currently lacking. So how do you find those things?


What Do You Think You Do Well?

Write down at least 3 items and be as specific as possible.

  • Are lyrics your strength?

If so, what specifically?

Is it your imagery or how you use metaphors?  Is it the way you pull your personality into the song through your wit or humor? Maybe you tell stories in an interesting and unique way.

  • Is melody your comfort zone and what is easiest for you to create?
  • Do you have a strong sense of other grooves/rhythms and bring that to your songs?
  • Are your themes diverse and you illustrate them in a unique way?

The goal here is for you to self identify what you do well in a song now.


What Do Others Think You Do Well?

If you’re getting feedback on your songs from peers or groups with a solid songwriting skills foundation, you will likely be hearing some positives at the beginning and end of critiques (if not, find a group that offers critique vs. criticism).

What do you consistently hear?

Write down at least 3 items and be as specific as possible.

  • Your rhyme patterns are always strong and unique
  • You often have unique ways of describing common things
  • Your story telling takes a common idea and makes it unique
  • Your choruses are always very strong


What Do You Keep Repeating & Want To Stop Doing?

Write down at least 5 items and be as specific as possible.

  • You’re writing the same chord structure and melody line every song
  • You’re writing about the same themes with the same rhythms
  • Your choruses don’t really sum up the idea and seem to de-emphasize the hook
  • Your verses don’t really move into new territory after you’ve written verse one
  • There are usually no major contrasts between your song parts
  • Your song structures are always the same – Verse | Chorus | Verse |Chorus | Bridge | Chorus
  • Your catalogue is full of 4/4 songs – no waltzes, no 6/8 and they’re all mid-tempo 75 BPM


Set Your Baseline Objectives

Your Objectives are best defined as “WHAT” you’re going to achieve with your songwriting plan at a high, general level.  Your Goals are the specific measures of success.

Strategies and Tactics are “HOW” you’re going to achieve your plan.  Find out more about Strategies  Tactics in Easy Guide To Goal Setting Completion.

Of the above items, if you were to elevate them to the next level, which 3 would have the greatest immediate impact?

List at least 3 items – more if you feel you can provide the focus on them needed without being overwhelming.

Example Objectives:

  1. Create more variety in my melodies
  2. Chorus needs to serve its role in the song better and clearly be the chorus to a listener’s ear (contrast/dynamics)
  3. Create a variety of song structures across different time signatures


Create Your Objectives + S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Build your success measures around each of the three items in the prior step, with a deadline date associated with each action.


Objective: Create more variety in my melodies


– Choose 2 songs in a different genre and write a song from each using the Ghost Song Exercise [DUE: 3/31]

– Create song maps for 3 of my songs to find melody patterns I’m consistently using [DUE: 2/15]

– Map 2 songs I admire melodically and understand how those songs are “moving” [DUE: 3/15]

Objective:  Chorus needs to serve its role in the song and clearly be the chorus to a listener’s ear (contrast)


– Identify a songwriting coach or class that focuses on chorus writing.  [DUE: 1/30]

– Set up meeting or join group and complete first coaching/class exercise.  [DUE: 2/28]

– Find and complete 2 songwriting exercises for chorus development [DUE: 3/30]

Objective: Create a variety of song structures across different time signatures


– Find one song a month with an interesting structure and write a new song with that structure

– Identify 2 new grooves (e.g., samba, R&B, waltz) and complete a song for each [DUE: 4/30]


OVER-ARCHING GOAL across these objectives:

Total songs completed by 4/30 from the above actions = 7


Why Such Short Due Dates?


You’ve probably noticed that the due dates don’t take an entire year.

I’m big on incremental steps. If you can’t take one, taking a leap of ten probably seems daunting or worse, won’t happen at all.

Give yourself success milestones by setting actions that keep you focused for a 90 or 120 day time frame.

And, keep your list handy. Check items off as you complete them.

Seeing movement is a key part of keeping your momentum going.

Good luck and keep the momentum going!


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