How to Dust off Your Old Songs and Give Them New Life


Sarah Spencer

Dust off your old songs and give them new life. | Writing Songs | Songwriting Tips

Hey babes! Today we’re gonna talk about what you can do with that big back-log of songs you wrote ages ago. The stuff that you kinda think has potential, but you’re really unsure what to do with it.

Honestly that is such a good problem to have. That pile of older songs you’re sitting on is a goldmine of possibilities. Chances are, all they need is some dusting off, a little freshening up, and you might be able to crank up your output. Here’s a workflow you can follow to give those old tunes new life:


1. First – what’s your goal for these songs?

Ask yourself why you want to pick up all this old material and revamp it. Are you looking to build your catalog quickly? Are you looking for inspiration for your next EP or album? Or do you hope that one day an artist would record these songs for their album? Knowing why you’re doing this in the first place will help you know what to do with your new old songs once they’re all shined up.

2. Get your messy old catalog organized!

I know you got like, a brazillion cute notebooks laying around full of lyrics and ideas and songs. And probably miles of notes on your computer or phone. Take all those scattered papers and notes and digitize them in one place, baby!

Really. Like, one single place. That you will use from now on.

I highly recommend Google Drive for this. You can put it all in the Drive, then download copies to your local machine for backups. It’s a great way to make sure you don’t lose all your songs when your hard drive inevitably dies (been there. No bueno).

Put headers on your lyric sheets and other documents that include the song’s title, your name, your cowriters name, and any publishing and PRO information you may have. You might also put your contact info on these headers, too. This is critical if you’re gonna be pitching these songs to someone else. If they love it, they’ll need a way to get in touch with you! And you literally can’t have your contact info in too many places.

3. Poke around and see if there are any changes you want to make now

If you see a tune that you want to re-write right this second, go for it! See what you can come up with. Refine the hook. Move verses around. Do whatever you think needs to be done if you think it will help you accomplish what you figured out from step 1. If you can tweak a few songs right off the bat, then you’re golden.

4. Make worktapes of all the songs you think are worth a heck

Bust out your guitar and your iphone and start making some worktapes! These are going to be clear, lo-fi recordings that simply get the idea out there. No big productions, just a voice and an instrument will do. They’re meant for you to remember what the song sounds like, and also for you to share your songs with others for feedback or pitching.  You want to make sure your worktape is:

  • Clear – you can hear every word you’re singing
  • Without distracting noises in the background – Turn off the dryer and the TV and maybe put your hubby in his mancave for a little bit cause you got work to do.
  • At an even tempo – Play to a click if you need to!
  • Without any obvious mistakes or fumbles – You may need to spend some time practicing your old tunes to get them down real quick.

You don’t need to worry about being a great singer or player. As long as you follow the bullet notes above, your worktape should be clear enough to communicate your song to someone who’s never heard it before.

5. Get some professional and not-so-professional feedback!

Phew! That was a lot of work. But you’re through the admin part of it all. Next, you want to take all those worktapes and lyrics and start sending them to different folks for feedback. This part might be a little scary, since you know these are you older and not necessarily your best songs. But trust me, getting constructive criticism is a great way to whip these tunes into shape!

Email a couple worktapes and lyric sheets to some folks you trust to give you qualified feedback on your songs. Those people could be:

  • Good friends who are also songwriters
  • Any industry contacts who have given your permission to send them songs – Critical note! Only send songs to these people when they’ve given you explicit permission to do so.
  • A mentor or advocate
  • Your mom – really!
  • Your bff’s who aren’t musically inclined but listen to a looooot of music

Ask the politely if they would give your songs a listen and write you back with their thoughts. Be sure to let them know in the opening of your email what your goal is for these songs. That will help them give you relevant feedback.

You want a good mixture of professional feedback and listener feedback. This will give you a lot to work with when it comes to our next step: re-writing!

6. Get to re-writing!

Emails have been dripping in, and you now have more opinions that you probably ever wanted. That’s ok! Now it’s time to weight all these opinions and determine which ones you think are great ideas and which may not serve the song or your goals.

Your professional friends who are out there writing songs or working in the industry will have the more informed criticisms. They’ve got experience on their side.

Your other bff’s and family will be able to give you their opinions based on their experiences as a music consumer. A listener. These criticisms are best taken with a grain of salt, but can provide valuable insight into the perspective of music fans.

Now use all these great new old tunes to start conquering the world! Your catalog just got a chunk of relevant tunes added to it. Use them as you see fit!

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Sarah Spencer

Sarah Spencer is an award winning singer/songwriter based in Nashville, TN.

Born in the Sunshine State, Sarah Spencer writes vibrant, shining americana/pop music. She works in Nashville TN as a singer/songwriter, as well as a UX designer for a marketing firm.

Follow Sarah on Spotify to get her latest releases.

You can jump on her email list at or purchase her debut EP, "Freshman Year" on iTunes.