BACK > Day 5

Picking which songs to finish, and how to attack the re-write

The most professional skill a songwriter can learn: The patience and craft of re-writing! You may come by it naturally, or you may be totally new to the editing phase. Today, you'll learn how to have the most effective re-write, and how to pick which ideas to work on.

Watch the video below, and download today's Lesson Materials below the video player. 

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Lesson Materials:

Re-Writing Cheat Sheet

This cheat sheet will help you edit your songs better and faster.

Download it, print it out, and place it beside you while you work on finishing and editing your challenge songs.


Got some half finished songs from the 5/5? A bunch of song starts?


You're writing!

Having many sketches and ideas is always a win.

In today’s lesson, we’ll talk about how to finish those songs (and how to decide if they’re the songs you actually should finish).

We’ll also dig into some nuts and bolts of re-writing. So you can make informed song craft decisions on how your song will take shape.

1. Step away.

Come back to it in a week. Just don’t come back to it later in the day. Give your mind time to separate from the song so you can come back to it with fresh ears.

If you’re feeling particularly burnt out after the 5/5, take yourself out for some fun!

You don’t have to spend any money, just simply spend your time investing in doing some thing that you really enjoy.

A hike, fishing, window shopping, painting, trying a new recipe, chalk art on your driveway, a new work out.

Simply spend some time doing some thing that you enjoy doing.

This will take some of the heat off the writing/editing process. Give yourself a breather!

2. Schedule time to rewrite.

It’s just a weird brain hack that always seems to work.

Set a time on your calendar for editing, like you would set any appointment.

Give it a start time and an end time.

You’re much more likely to do the task if you set aside time for it in your schedule.

(this is a super helpful hack for doing any task you may not want to do!)

Ok, let’s fast forward in time a bit.

Let’s say that you’ve finished you’re song. You have a draft, an now you want to make it even better.

Got a finished song in front of you that you want to polish?

Here’s how to shine it up!

Print a copy of your lyrics.

Grab two highlighters of different colors.

Listen down to your song, from top to bottom.

From a place of grace and objectivity, use one highlighter to highlight any moments that make you think:

  • Huh, that’s awkward.
  • Any lines that you just don’t like.
  • Any lines that just make you feel that you’re uncomfortable about.
  • Any moments that you feel you added filler or a temporary melody just to get through the writing phase.

Then, listen down again. And use the second highlighter to highlight moments that:

  • You LOVE.
  • Things that make you say “Damn, I wrote that!”
  • The parts of the song that make worthwhile to make better.

Now look at everything you now know about the song: all the parts you love, all the parts that need work.

You have a choice here.

With all that you know above, do you have a choice to determine if you want to finish this song or leave it on the wayside I was just out of a song that helped you write the next one.

But I’m not asking you to do is to be ashamed of your work, I think that you can never do better, or to take the easy way out and start over with something sparkly new.

Assess this song for what it is, all it’s bumps and blemishes and all it’s beauty.

Does it make you wanna make it better?

if you’ve decided to keep working on this song, great!

Let’s continue on with ways to actually dig in and do the polishing and finalizing.

Polishing your song


Contrast is an essential element of songwriting, and it shows up in a lot of different ways. (we’ll mention it a few more times throughout this lesson)

In terms of songwriting, contrast is how we ensure the different parts of the song or recognizable, just by listening.

Most people will hear your music without the lyrics in front of them, so they need to have all of the cues in the song already to tell them if they’re in the verse, if they’re in the chorus, if somethings going to repeat, if there’s going to be dropping energy, lift, etc.

Look for opportunities to create contrast in your song:

  • Melody - make the chorus lift in Melody. Have the verses live lower than the chorus Melody.
  • Line length - have super wordy verses? Make your chorus have you were words and more repetition.
  • Rhythm - maybe you’re super wordy courses have a feeling of choppiness or stuttering quickness. Aim to make your chorus have longer held out notes.
  • Chord progression - if your song has the same chord progression throughout, mix it up for the chorus. If your song has a lot of different chords and different cord progressions for each section, give the verses one simple chord progression, and your courses a different simple chord production.


Here are two common tones that lyrics take, and some trappings of each.


We love poetic lyrics! But does the floweryness of the lyric distract from the content?

Does it require an interpreter to really understand what this song is about?

Overly poetic language can also make a song sound dated.

See if you can pair it down and sprinkle in some conversational lines to keep things clear.

Remember, a listener to your song will likely only hear your song one time in any instance. A song has to be understandable in one lesson.


This is a tone in your lyrics that has a “Tell it like it is” kind of vibe.

Very casual, the kind of tone that makes you feel like you’re listening to your friend telling you a story.

It’s often very direct.

It feels natural, and contemporary.

Showing Vs. Telling

Coined by songwriting professor Pat Pattison, this phrase helps writers to get descriptive in your music in an interesting way.

Telling - states how the writer felt without much detail. “The sky is blue.”

Showing - uses sensory language (sight, sound, touch, smell, hearing, and others) to depict how the writer felt. “The sky is indigo blue, like indigo pigment on watercolor paper.”

Showing in your writing will bring listeners in.

Using sensory language will make your song so much more impactful, because listeners will feel the song in their own bodies.

Congratulations on making it to the final day of the challenge!

You’ll seem be receiving instructions on how to submit your 2 songs for song coaching.

In the meantime, take the weekend to rest, and look at finishing your songs next week and submitting them.

Happy re-writing!

You made it all the way down here? Wow! Surprise! Here's a lil gift :)

Enjoy 7 days of Song Club, for free! Song Coaching, Live Write-Ins, you can dive right on in.