a. Listen actively, with an analytical ear
b. Listen to what is current in your particular genre.
c. Listen to as many different styles as possible. In this day and age, more and more composers are borrowing elements from other musical styles.
2. Transcribe – This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to transcribe to paper; simply learning to play songs helps to expand your musical vocabulary.
3. Maintain your performance chops – Even if you consider yourself more of a composer than a performer, it is a good idea to look for opportunities to perform once in a while. As with listening, it is also a good idea to perform as many different styles as possible. Many of the best composers are also performers.
4. Carry a small recorder with you – You never know when you might have an inspiration. It may come to you in the car, or in the middle of the night.
5. Schedule time every day for composing – Even if it is an hour each day, having a steady time set aside for composing is a good idea. There may be days when you accomplish nothing, but in general, you will find a daily schedule to be fruitful.
6. Don’t be afraid to tinker or revise – Very few of us can get it perfect the first time. On the other hand, be careful not to second-guess yourself too much. At some point, you have to move on to other songs!
7. Try not to be thin-skinned – Our compositions are our “babies.” Don’t be devastated if your friends don’t like your songs. Be open to criticism, but remember that any critique is just one person’s opinion. Furthermore, don’t be disappointed if you are not happy with your songs. Sometimes it’s a good idea to distance yourself from a song for a few weeks, then listen again with “fresh ears.” Above all, don’t be overly self-critical; it’s just music, not brain surgery! And one more word about writer’s block: It happens to the best of them. Don’t give up on your writing just because you go through a dry spell.