Diane Warren’s 7 Secrets for Successful Songwriting

by | Aug 22, 2014 | Music Licensing

There’s no denying that making it in the music industry is hard. It’s harder than hard. But it’s not impossible. What if we told you that legendary songwriter Diane Warren – responsible for such classics as “If I Could Turn Back Time,” “Rhythm of the Night,” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” – was considered tone deaf at the age of 5, yet still went on to win a Grammy, a Golden Globe, and her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? What was her secret to success? While she doesn’t believe that there’s a go-to formula for successful songwriting, she’s offered up some advice over the years…

1. Practice, practice, practice. (Then, practice some more.)

According to Diane Warren, she’s no savant. It took years and years of writing daily for hours on end to develop her skill. In fact, she says that as a 14-year-old, she was writing about three songs every day, but “they all sucked.” But just because her skills have now flourished doesn’t mean she slacks off when it comes to practicing. On the contrary, Warren spends more time in her studio than she does in her home. The only difference is that now she gets to “practice” her songwriting skills on some of the most influential musicians alive, including Cher, Beyoncé, Aerosmith, Jennifer Lopez, and many others. Oh, and she gets paid the big bucks to do so.

2. Don’t take NO for an answer.

“There’s a lot of rejection in the music industry,” she explains. Warren came to know it well, bouncing around from publisher to publisher at the young age of 15. While none of them ever told her to stop writing, they weren’t ready to work with her. They’d tell her she had “potential,” a term she grew to hate. For Warren, perseverance is key: it took her a decade to publish her first hit. She could have given up, spent less time writing and found other ways to spend her youth. But instead, she said, “I’m going to show you. I’m going to be the biggest songwriter ever and you’re going to wish you signed me.”

3. Find value in both your supporters and adversaries.

Warren was lucky enough to have a very supportive father who bought her her first guitar and always encouraged her to pursue music. (So much so, in fact, that she went on to write the hit made famous by Celine Dion, “Because You Loved Me,” to thank him.) Her mother, however, was not supportive and urged Warren to stop writing music and become a secretary. Warren says that having someone tell her she couldn’t do it was just as important to her success as those who supported her. “It doesn’t matter. Everybody could have been doubtful. There was never a Plan B for me. This was it.”

4. Dissect hit songs to find what made them successful.

“You should listen to songs and listen to what works. Listen to why a song is a hit. Check it out–not to imitate it, but there are certain things that work–hooks and melodies. Hear what works through the ages.”

5. Don’t be afraid of the unknown.

If there’s one thing about Diane Warren that is undeniable, it’s that she writes brilliant love songs. In fact, some of the most iconic love songs in history are hers, including “Un-Break My Heart,” “How Do I Live,” and Aerosmith’s first #1 hit “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” among countless others. (Seriously.Check out her Wikipedia page.) So, you might be surprised to find out that not only does she not know how to read music, but she’s never been in love. Or rather, she says she has loved, but “maybe not the way other people do.”

6. “Crank it out.”

There’s a saying, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Warren seems to have taken this advice to the extreme, clocking in roughly 12- to 16-hour days, 6 days a week at her studio, RealSongs. In fact, she works so hard that she’s only taken one vacation in her entire career – “a 2 ½-day trip to Hawaii. Even then, she admits, she had a keyboard in her room.” Every day, she wears a bracelet with the words “crank it out” – words that she clearly lives by.

7. Always be thinking about what’s next.

Hard as it may be to believe, Warren says she has never felt like she had a hit record. Of course, she has. But she believes it’s important to stay driven and always strive for the next hit song. “It’s hard to look back on songs. Once I’m proud of them, I’m like ‘what’s next, what’s next?’” With an extraordinary talent like hers, we too can’t wait to hear what’s next! What’s next for you?Disclaimer: We did not interview Diane Warren. Information and quotes were pulled from various interviews and articles from ABCTaxi, and KCET.

This article originally appeared on GigSalad.com – reprinted here with permission.Gig Salad is an online entertainment marketplace with over 50,000 entertainers and performers for hire across the U.S. and Canada.