Just like nature vs. nurture, the chicken vs. the egg, and all other great debates that came before it, songwriters have long wondered:
“What is the better approach to my songwriting? Quality or quantity?”
Should you shoot for the highest quality songs you can, regardless of how many days, weeks, or years it takes to complete a single song?
Or should you work on writing as many songs as possible and let them be what they will be?
Let’s talk about the pros and cons to each approach, and help get to the bottom of this age old controversy.
Quality vs Quantity in Songwriting: Which is better?
The argument for Quality
PROS: Writing with high standards is always a great practice. It allows you to really keep yourself in check and not make excuses as you go along. Always aiming high with your songwriting is definitely something every songwriter should practice. Your catalog will begin to amass a collection of songs that are written at the highest level you can write them.
Writing quality songs takes time. And effort. And many many rewrites and critiques. This is all fine and good. There’s nothing wrong with making a song better through re-writes and getting good feedback from outside ears. These are 2 proven ways to whip your songs into tip top shape.
CONS: However, reaching for the highest quality songs every time you sit down to write can lead some songwriters on an obsessive pursuit of perfection. It can take songwriters months, years, even, to get a single song to a place where a songwriter feels ok about it. Often times, this quest can generate a lot of fear around sharing the song. Songwriters can get stuck in the loop of, “What if this song isn’t well received when I play it out? It’s not ready. I Just need to tweak the second verse a bit more and we’ll be good. But wait, will people like the chorus? I should spend some more time on it. Get some more opinions. Then it will be ready.”
That kind of circular thinking will ensure that a songwriter will finish only a small amount of songs – if any.
The argument for Quantity
PROS: When you aim for quantity, you wind up with a lot of songs. When you’re writing every day, or at least as often as you possibly can, you gain momentum and start to make some really great habits. It’s kind of the equivalent of taking yourself to the gym – if you keep flexing those songwriting muscles, you make big gains and it becomes easier and easier to write. And you’ll find yourself writing better songs the more you write.
You will also find yourself making a regular routine of your songwriting. This is another great habit to have. When you write regularly, you diminish a lot of fear that can sometimes surround the process of making art. Procrastination and comparison become a thing of the past.
CONS: When you write quickly, it can become very easy to make excuses for any cliches and awkward moments. It becomes tempting to just “get it down” and continue on to the next song – leaving a lot of songs sitting as abandoned first drafts.
Songwriters who write quickly and often need to make sure that they’re keeping the quality of their songs in check. If a songwriter keeps doing the same thing over and over again every time she writes, she’ll never grow – she’ll only dig those ruts deeper.
Know your goals, and write toward them
When figuring out if your next season of songwriting should be all about quality or quantity, ask yourself: what are my goals for songwriting?
Are you writing for an album? Then you should consider writing the most songs you can, and picking the best of the best. That means you’ll want to make sure that you do have time to creatively pour over your favorite songs and make them the best they can be.
Are you stuck in a rut and haven’t written anything new for a long time because you’re still juggling a handful of unfinished songs? Consider making your next writing season a sprint and finish every song you write.
Are you looking to grow quickly and amass a large catalog? Try writing every day and see where the music takes you.
Do you have professional aspirations, and want to pitch your songs to artists? Learn how to write a damn good song and spend the time on it. But also learn the good habits that it takes to write quickly.
Like most things in life, both quality and quantity in moderation are key
Ok, so there isn’t any big winner here in this showdown, but I don’t think you’re surprised. Both quality and quantity are important!
Learn how to write well and write fast. Spend the time that it takes to write a great song, but don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of perfectionism.
Establish a writing routine and really let yourself get into it. Finish songs frequently and share them with friends, family, listeners, and professionals.
If you struggle with self-confidence when it comes to your songs, watch this:
Sometimes, there can be a lot of fear attached to making art. “What if it’s no good?” or “What if everyone I love doesn’t like this and thinks I’m a terrible songwriter?” are some of the most common negative thoughts that run through our heads. It’s inner dialog like this that can keep us from sharing our art and ultimately cripple us into fearful, frustrated songwriters.
If you feel a lot of anxiety and fear when it comes to sharing your songs, I encourage you to sign up for SongFancy’s Stay At Home Songwriting Retreat. It’s a 5 day video series, totally free, and walks you through some of the big, soul-searching conversations that we songwriters need to have with ourselves.
You’ll come out on the other side feeling empowered, inspired, and ready to write. Check it out! Enroll below or get more details on this page.
Sign up for the Stay At Home Songwriting Retreat: