Songwriting Exercise: Write For An Artist

This songwriting exercise focuses on writing for an artist. You’ll work through some simple steps to: (1) find an artist that works with your style of writing, and (2) write a song for that artist targeting the concept and lyrics as much as possible.

The intention here is to embrace the challenge of trying to write for someone else. You’ll find new ways of approaching a song, and start developing an ear for what sets an artist apart from others.

There’s also the additional challenge of writing for an artist that doesn’t fit your style!

Pick An Artist

You’ll need to be able to write in a style for the artist you’re selecting, so select a few that are in your wheel house.

How do you do that?

Do your songs sound similar to songs being sung by a particular artist?  When you write for an artist, this will be your best first stop.

  • Run through your song catalogue and pick 7 – 10 songs. To the right, on the worksheet write down who you could hear singing the song.
  • Who pops?  Is there a swim lane you’re in already? If so, write down the artist’s name and similar artists.
  • A secondary approach (or second exercise if you’re up for it) is, who would you like to record one of your songs? Write down those names.
  • Move on to the research step.

Do The Research

Write down the artist’s name and start listening to their catalogue and reading interviews.  You’ll use this information to start filling out a song information and artist profile.

Do this twice if you’ve decided to challenge yourself and select an artist outside of your comfort zone. To write for an artist who is outside your genre or is very up-tempo if you’re traditionally mid-tempo or slower, is a great way to expand your skills.

Song Information

Go through the songs and listen for patterns or common themes you might hear.

  • Note the keys the artist sings in, and their vocal range.
  • Are there certain words, images or phrases they use consistently?
  • Do you hear any common theme (e.g., Kenny Chesney likes singing about kicking back and the beach, he likes quirky sounding rhythms)?
  • Is there a song length or structure they seem to favor?
  • Are there common songwriters on their hit songs?  On any songs?
  • What are the common traits of the songwriters they use most?

 Artist Profile

Read any interviews out there about their song selections or personal experiences.

Look for clues:

  • What are they drawn to in a song?
  • Are there themes they feel represent them from a brand perspective?
  • Are there any personal stories that might tie to a larger song idea?
  • Do they write on their songs or just choose songs written by other people?

Writing For An Artist: It’s Song Time!

Note the elements you feel should be included to give you the best opportunity to resonate with the artist.

And more importantly, the items that would result in an immediate “no”?

Having trouble getting started on a song? Use the Songwriting Worksheets to kick-start your ideas.

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