Lets take a look inside the songwriters toolbox...
Just like any other profession a songwriter has certain songwriting tools which they use to help craft their songs.
Some songwriters don't need much. Maybe just a gee-tar, a pen, some paper (and a bottle of bourbon!). While other songwriters may be "more with the times" and prefer writing songs with the aid of more "technical" tools such as a computer with songwriting software or maybe a songwriting app on their iPhone or iPad.
Although personally I'm more a fan of the former, more "traditional" way, I do recognise the benefits of modern technology and how it can be used to aid in your songwriting. So whatever songwriting tools you choose to use it doesn't really matter as long as it works for you and gets the job done.
Below we'll take a look at the different types of songwriting tools you might come across and you can decide for yourself which ones will benefit you the most.
Songwriting Tools for the "Traditional" Songwriter...
Pen & Paper
This is probably the most important tool. Copybooks, note pads, hardbacks, A4 jotters, beer mats, napkins etc... Whatever you chose to write on doesn't really matter; the most important thing is that you get your songwriting ideas down on paper before you forget them. I have boxes in my attic full of paper scraps with lyrics and ideas on them. Great for inspiration when writers block rears its ugly head! And if your looking for a cool, hard wearing notebook I strongly suggest getting a leather writing journal. They are very, very cool. Old school, high quality and I absolutely love all mine!
Musical Instrument (commonly guitar or piano)
As a songwriter I strongly suggest gaining a basic familiarity in as many instruments as possible as it will only help improve your songwriting. However, most songwriters tend to only write their songs with the aid of a piano or a guitar. Mainly because they are the best instruments for chordal accompaniment. But if you want to write a song using a saxophone, go for it! The only limitation is your imagination. And If you are going down the producer/songwriter route then the piano is definitely the most important instrument for you to learn as keyboards have many functions within the recording studio environment.
As a songwriter it's not essential that you have an amazing voice like Aretha Franklin or Frank Sinatra! After all, a songwriters job is to create great songs, not sing them. Unless your goal is to be a singer/songwriter, performing as well as writing. But even then it's not essential you have a great set of lungs, just look at one of the greatest singer/songwriters of all time, Bob Dylan. Anyway, my point is, everyone has a voice, be it good or bad, so use it! It's too vital a tool not to.
When it comes to writing lyrics it doesn't hurt to have a dictionary, rhyming dictionary and/or thesaurus nearby. After all, crafting great lyrics is all about the language and words you use so having an inexhaustible collection of words, rhymes, synonyms and antonyms at your reach only helps improve your writing.
Songwriting Tools for the "Tech Savvy" Songwriter...
A tape or digital recorder of some sort is a priceless piece of equipment. As a songwriter you will constantly be coming up with ideas and if you don't record them, you could lose them forever. Trust me, I've lost a countless amount of potential number 1 singles because I've neglected to get my song idea down! :) Alternatively, you could just use your mobile phone as most phones these days have some sort of audio recording application on them. Perfect for recording ideas on the go.
Online Dictionary/Rhyming Dictionary/Thesaurus
As mentioned above, a dictionary, rhyming dictionary and thesaurus are all songwriting tools you should have in your songwriters toolbox. And for those of you who don't wish to splash out on a physical copy of each, your in luck. They can all be found online for free. I suggest you bookmark the following websites so you can access them easily when you need to.
If you feel more comfortable using a computer than a pen and paper then you really should get yourself some songwriting software. When I say songwriting software I am referring to programs such as Masterwriter, Lyricist and Tunesmith. These are all products that allow you to record and edit your songs in a word processor type of interface that is specifically designed for songwriters.
Now a days we all either use or at least know about apps. And lets be honest, there is a fair amount that are rubbish. You might download them because they look good only to delete them a few days later when reality sinks in. Sadly the same goes for music production/songwriting apps. Some are terrible! The decent ones would be GarageBand and Amplitube. Although these aren't free, they are worth every penny. But if you want to know the best free songwriting apps then I suggest you read my article "Best Free Apps For Music Production".