When you start writing songs or creating music of any kind, you’ll spend a long time working on your process.
Know it or not, every song you finish is building on a process.
The key is to finish your songs.
You may be wondering how long it should take you to finish a song – and there is no right answer, but you’ll never have any answer if you don’t finish your songs.
Some songs take 15 minutes.
Others take years.
But if they are never finished, you’ll never know!
In this guide, I’m going to offer some perspectives on how long it can take to write songs, while also giving you a few tips on finishing them!
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How Long Does It Take To Write A Song?
Bob Dylan famously asked Leonard Cohen how long it took him to write “Hallelujah,” to which Cohen replied “Three years”.
Cohen then asked how long it took Dylan to write “I and I” and Dylan replied “15 minutes”.
No one is accusing Cohen of being a worse writer just because his process takes longer.
Songwriting is a process – it doesn’t always happen in a vacuum.
Sometimes it’s more like a recipe with many ingredients comprising the whole.
That said, here are a couple examples of how long it takes different people to write songs, so let's explore.
Professional Songwriters Can Finish An Entire Song & Demo In A Day Or Two
When I’ve written with professional writers, we usually have a full song by the end of the session.
Depending on who you’re working with and their process, you may have a demo by the end of the day as well.
If you put your mind to it, you should be able to finish a song in a day.
On the other hand, if you’re writing for your own project, you may take longer.
Many Producers & Beat Makers Will Warm Up By Making A Few Beats
Many professional beat makers and producers will start their day by making three to five basic beats/ideas.
You never know what the beats might turn into.
The point is just to fire up your creative brain for the day.
This process is designed to dig for quality through quantity; the more you write, the better your chances of writing something great.
Songs Can Be Written At Any Pace
If you’re the type of person that likes to write quickly and intuitively, you may become frustrated when you don’t have enough time to finish your song ideas.
That’s why it’s important to commit to finishing them, and not worry about how long it’s taking you.
It’s easy to write fast when you’re not very busy with other things.
When you are busy, you can quickly jot down a few ideas, and then work out the rest later.
Save Ideas For Later And Keep Working On Them
While some songs come together naturally and quickly, others present themselves to you over time.
That’s why it’s important to save ideas and keep working on them.
If you like to write quickly and intuitively, but don’t have time to write a whole song, try to write as much as possible while you can.
You can even use the Voice Memos app to record the idea and improvise on made up syllables.
This can give you a way to capture the idea in its early, pure forms.
On the other hand, it’s sometimes better to record the initial idea, and then completely forget about it until you have time to work on it.
Sometimes, when you have time to write, you’ll end up stuck for an idea – this is when you dig for ideas in your Voice Memos and work on something old!
Time Spent Honing A Song Is Time Well Spent
Any amount of time you spend tweaking songs and editing them is time well-spent.
It doesn’t take away from the song to work on it over the course of a long time.
Even songs that come together rapidly may require quite a lot of editing.
It’s easy to believe that songs that happen quickly are sort of “special”, and they can certainly feel that way, but at the end of the day, they may still require lots of work and production.
Any amount of time spent getting a song to its finished stage is good quality work and you should feel good about it.
Songs Can Be Whatever You Need Them To Be
I’ve always loved shorter interlude songs on albums.
For many artists, putting interlude songs in their albums is a way to make use of ideas that never turned into full songs.
But just because they aren’t long doesn’t mean they aren’t finished.
You can call a song finished at any time if you believe it is serving its function as a song.
Sometimes a short song can fit onto an album perfectly – don’t throw it away just because it doesn’t fit your usual formula!
There Are No Rules Or Set Amount Of Hours, Days, Weeks Or Years – Just Create!
It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to make a song, as long as you are working towards a finished product that you would consider putting out.
You don’t even have to put it out – you just have to put in the work until it’s finished.
Far too many artists get caught in traps.
Working on a song for too long and then getting tired of it.
Working too quickly and never finishing things.
Getting distracted halfway through songs.
These are all traps.
You need to have the discipline required to finish the song, whatever it means to you.
Personally, a song is finished when I have a demo that I love.
Then, I can work on a making a version to a release, or continue working on the demo until it can be released.
I try to make at least one demo like this every week that I am home.
Sometimes I get two or three done, sometimes a song will take two weeks of editing and experimenting to get right.
It doesn’t matter how long it takes, because I commit to finishing them.
I have made a habit of it!
Encourage yourself to finish songs.