Should you rewrite your songs? Without a doubt. You should definitely consider rewriting your music – sometimes after a long time has passed, other times after only a few days.
Songwriters are the creative souls of the bunch, and they can feel very sensitive when it comes to their songs. For some, the idea of changing a lyric or a note after it’s recorded or written down on paper is almost unheard of. Yet, it probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that many good songs we hear everyday came from a rewrite.
This doesn’t mean that all of your songs should be rewritten, but there are always a couple here or there that could use a little more work. And you never know, you could end up with an entirely new song you wouldn’t have discovered if you hadn’t decided to rewrite a song you’d already written.
Make an Old Song Better
One of the most obvious reasons for rewriting a song would be to make an old one better. We all have those songs we wrote a long time ago, when our songwriting skills were first getting sorted out. As a songwriter writes more and more songs, his or her knowledge grows as well. So the songs that were once “okay” are now the ones we quietly move to the bottom of the pile when asked about songs we’ve written.
"There’s always one or two lines of a song that can be strengthened," Corey Stewart had written at AllAboutSongwriting.com. “When I read through an old song and notice myself cringing at a line, that’s the time to change it for something better.”
Newer songs aren’t off the hook from the occasional rewrite, either. A song that has already been recorded at home can be re-recorded. Even if it’s written out in sheet music or if others have heard it, it can still be “tweaked.” When a song needs more work, it’s like needing to tighten the lug nuts on a tire. If you don’t tighten the nuts and bolts of your song, it could roll all over the place – until it eventually falls flat.
Reduce Songwriter’s Block
Another reason to try rewriting a song is when you’re suffering from writer’s block. Sometimes all you need is a little push to break free of a slump in writing, and rewriting could be that push. When you think about it, with one of your old songs, you don’t have to come up with a new idea. That part is done. You might not even need to come up with a new song title.
Writer’s block, or in this case songwriter’s block, affects all writers at one time or another. The problem, however, isn’t so much the blocked feeling. It’s more about one’s reaction to it. When your writing feels blocked, if your reaction is to stress over it and to give up, it will be really hard to come up with a solution. But if you take a break and get right back to it, you are more likely to find your rhythm again.
Working on an old song could be exactly what you need for a fresh start.
Find New Songs
Rewriting an old song can also help in coming up with new song ideas. Like rewriting to overcome songwriter’s block, when you’re working on changing and rearranging old lyrics or chord choices, it triggers that area inside of a songwriter that is always looking for the next song.
It could be a new song on the same topic or something different altogether. Whatever it is, you will know when it clicks.
With a new song as the goal, you could actually rewrite any of your songs, even the ones that don’t really need it. Grab one of your best songs and try to write a new title that means either the same or the opposite of the original version, and see where you end up. With a new title, you will have new places to go. New lyrics, new music…new song.
Exercise Your Songwriting Skill
Someone once said, “Sometimes a song just isn’t meant to be.” There are times when a songwriter will write a complete dud. No one wants to sing it, not even you. When that happens, there might not be too much you could do to improve it. It is what it is.
What you can do with it, though, is to use it for practice. Old songs/duds are great for rewriting when you want to use it as a writing exercise for your songwriting muscles. When you haven’t written anything in a while, working on some of your past files can help to get you back in the swing of things.
As with any skill, songwriting needs to be exercised as regularly as possible. If not everyday, then at least a few times a week. When other things get in the way and you stop writing, it becomes difficult to find your voice again. Then when you think you’re ready to write a new song, too much of your time will instead be spent trying to get back into the groove. This is wasted time that can easily be prevented by simply writing a line or two more frequently.
When you’re stumped in this way, rewriting an old song can help to keep you in the songwriting mode.
Become a Better Songwriter
Christian singer and songwriter, Dave Byers, shared this quote on WritingSongs.com, “Great songs are not written, they’re rewritten.”
When you are willing to accept this truth in songwriting, you are certain to become a better songwriter. Not only because you are exercising your music writing skills by rewriting a song, but because it isn’t easy to admit that one of your songs might not be the best that it can be. And that alone makes you a better songwriter than you were when you first began writing.
To rewrite one or more of your old songs is a good thing that could lead to even better things. But if you need another reason to try it, it’s fun, too.