Probably the most undervalued factor in becoming a professional songwriter is speed. Being able to write a song in a day or two dramatically increases your output and therefore possibilities.

  • The more songs you write, the more artists you can write for.
  • The more songs you write, the more you can upload for your fans.
  • The more songs you write, the more you can sell (hey, we all gotta make a living, right?)
  • It simply feels great to be able to write a song quickly.
  • There’s no overthinking things, you have to rely on your intuition, meaning your songs don’t mutate
  • You are always the first to be heard in pitches if you can send in your songs first.

All in all, being an efficient writer is something to aspire to, and here are my 7 pro tips for becoming one:

1. Turn Off The Internet

Let’s start with the big one. This may sound obvious, but then why aren’t you doing it?

I can guarantee you that it’s one of your main distractions when you’re trying to work. Having your computer go *blop* and *oh-oh* (yes, this is an outdated ICQ reference) every 15 seconds will KILL your workflow, so stop!

For example, I know my biggest enemies in productivity are Youtube and Facebook, and its newsfeed in particular.

So what I do is I use a combination of a plugin called LeechBlock (to completely block any site whenever I want) and another called Facebook Purity to just block the Newsfeed.

My productivity has tripled since I did this – I recommend you do the same.

2. Turn Off Your Phone

I don’t even HAVE a phone. I use Skype to call people, but they don’t call me. If someone wants to talk to me they leave me a message on Facebook and I get back to them when I have time.

If you NEED a phone (do you really?), turn it off while you’re working. Introduce fixed work hours to your day and make sure all your clients & friends know about this. Let them know when you’re available for a chat and when you’re not.

Not being available all the time might seem like a scary thing at first but you get used to it very quickly, and your productivity will thank you later.

3. Use Shortcuts

Yes, another obvious one, and you’re probably rolling your eyes, but again: Are you really doing this?

Do you know the shortcut for everything you do inside your DAW?

I used to think I did, but then I worked with Jeff Rona (God of War III, Traffic) and I have since learned about 40 new shortcuts.

Every DAW has a huge array of shortcuts that is WORTH LEARNING! Learn at least 40. Think about every move you make inside your DAW and how you could replace it with a shortcut. Open mixer, quantise, open Kontakt, skip to next bar, cut at locator, set locators, … you need to know the shortcut for all of these and more.

It is well worth spending a day or two just learning new shortcuts. Write the important ones on a piece of paper and try to write a song while barely using your mouse.

Next, learn all the Mac/Windows shortcuts. Navigating around your computer is just as useful as knowing your DAW. Just google “Useful shortcuts for Mac/Windows”.

4. Use Templates

…and I mean use templates for EVERYTHING.


I have several different templates that all do slightly different things for me. For example, I have one that is set to 48KHz, that hides all of the Icons I don’t need (due to my knowledge of shortcuts), has selected the right tools and has enabled certain custom key commands.

Some templates have already some instruments and plug-ins preloaded. This is extremely useful if you need to jot down an idea quickly. You don’t want to waste time searching through bass drums. Just have a session that has all the basic instruments and a finished drum groove that you just need to edit slightly to get what you want.

Channel Strips…

I always use the same basic vocal chain for my own voice, so why not make that a channel strip? Saves me huge amounts of time I would otherwise spend on opening and tweaking plugins. I also have channel strip presets for clean guitar, rock guitar, voice-overs, etc.


Did you know that you can change the default preset of your plugins? For example, my EQ has a default low-cut at 80Hz and a little 3db dip at 300-500Hz. This saves me a couple of seconds every time I use it.


I have a couple of different instrument stacks that I can open at the click of a button.

So for instance, my “Legato Strings” preset opens up 5 instances of Kontakt, all named correctly with the correct library already loaded. I have another that’s called “Funky Keys”, which includes everything from Rhodes to Organs.

Get creative: Which instruments do you always use together anyways?

5. Automate Everything Part 1

Next time you work on a song try to make out parts of the process that are always the same. Maybe you always start with the drums, then you wonder what to do next and try out a couple of different things but always end up recording some piano.

If you can find those inevitable things you do every single time, become aware of them!

If you KNOW that you will end up using the same plugin every time, then don’t waste time thinking about other plugins – get going!

I had this realization with vocal processing. I used to think that it’s better to start a new vocal chain from scratch every single time. But after thinking about what I could do more efficiently in my workflow I realized that I’m actually always using the same plugins, in the same order.

Yes, I might tweak them differently and add different effects, but the basic vocal chain is always the same.

When I realized this, I created a custom channel strip just for my vocals. Now I save about 20 minutes each time I process vocals.

Now you: Which parts of your workflow could you strip down to its essentials? What could you do to cut down on YOUR er-I-don’t-know-I-guess-let’s-try-this time (yes, this is the medical term)?

6. Automate Everything Part 2

Once you’ve used your DAW for a long time you will realize that you basically do the same things over and over.

For example, I use Logic’s MIDI Transformer ALL THE TIME to quantize note lengths, set velocities, make crescendos, etc.

Problem is: Logic only has a shortcut for opening the transformer, not for quantising the note lengths.

So I use a program called Keyboard Maestro that is worth its weight in gold. This is easily the best 40 bucks I’ve ever spent.

KM is a program that allows you to assign shortcuts to ANYTHING and – here’s the kicker – it even allows you to assign shortcuts to entire SERIES of actions.

So for example, I could tell KM to “Open up Midi Transformer”, “Select Quantize Note Lengths”, “Select Value = 1 eighth note”, “Press ‘Process’” just by hitting ctrl – L.

I use KM to open up websites, folders, tell it to export documents as PDFs, let it convert or rename samples for me…

All in all, KM has saved me A TON of time. Highly recommended.

7. Stop Multitasking

Yes, it is scientifically proven: Multitasking is a myth.

It is literally impossible for your brain to do more than one thing at once, so when you’re “multitasking”, you’re actually just switching between different tasks very quickly.

Thing is: The brain isn’t made for this. The truth is:

You don’t save time! There have been studies showing that people who multitask effectively lower their IQ more than if they were to smoke pot (no kidding!) – a 40% LOSS IN PRODUCTIVITY!

Says Guy Winch, PhD: “What tends to save the most time is to do things in batches. Pay your bills all at once, then send your emails all at once. Each task requires a specific mindset, and once you get in a groove you should stay there and finish.”

Other reasons not to do this are getting stressed, missing out on life, your error rate increasing dramatically and dampening your creativity.

Make a decision to stop multitasking NOW.

So here they are, my 7 productivity secrets. Enjoy!

About the Author Friedemann Findeisen

I’m Friedemann Findeisen, a creative weirdo from the middle of nowhere. I love making things, learning things and helping people. If I don’t make, I get restless. If I don’t learn, I feel empty. If I don’t help, I feel ungrateful. Good things have happened when I managed to balance all three.

In the past, I’ve been a magician, public speaker, music video director, songwriter, producer, board game designer, author, publisher, YouTuber, music profiler, illustrator, musician and film composer.

The best things I've ever made are Holistic Songwriting Academy, my book The Addiction Formula, the YouTube show The Artists Series, my Grunge album Canohead and my board game Cantaloop.

  • A good list Friedemann, templates have saved me so much time…

    Why redo when you can pull up a customized template?

    I have recently started using a template for my song writing… some of the most common decisions in every song… reminds me to make choices now instead of putting them off until later.

    • Great! Here’s what I sometimes do: If I know what kind of sound I want and I know I’ve already created something similar in an older song, I open up my old session, save it under a new title and just work from this old mix. Makes you much quicker in getting the sound that you want. Thanks for the comment, Trevor!

  • Some great practical advice. Reminds me of the time I did a four-week “news fast”. Which means, I didn’t look at the news for a month. I felt so much lighter, because the news is a load of negativity you’re drinking in. It was kind of robbing me of my positivity somewhat.
    Thanks for reminding me Friedmann. I might go on another news blackout.
    Amazing statistic on 40% drop through multitasking. Wow.

    • Hey Bansaw,

      Thanks for your comment! I’ve done a couple of news fasts myself and have to agree that they are great in freeing up someone’s mind and schedule. Unfortunately, it sucks not to be in the loop about what’s happening in the world, so what I do now is this:

      I have the BBC news as my starting page and skim through just the headlines every day. Teaches me enough about what’s going on without taking up too much space.

      And yeah, the 40% drop study is unbelievable. You can find out more about it here:

      All the best,

  • Thanks for the tips! I was just trying to work on a song this morning when someone called me, LOL! I didn’t even think of the “turn off the phone and internet” ones before, but I will be applying those from now on.

  • Awesome article! I can always count on getting valuable knowledge from you.
    One thing I always do as well is I just get ideas for drums, chord progressions, or melodies some days. They just come , here and there. So what I do is save those ideas as Midi and I keep everything in separate folders. So on another day as I’m working out some songwriting ideas, I just skim through the Midi ideas until I find one that catches my attention, and I can mix and match the drum loops and chord progressions until I find a cool combination.

  • Thanks man ! I’m going to use it right away since I found a voice for my songs!(just a friend of mine).
    Moreover, your producing skills given on the Q&A about each instrument sounding full on its own helped me !

  • I’m not sure if I’m misquoting you, but it seems like maybe I read something about you saying something like how modern songwriting has changed. I honestly don’t know what you mean by that statement. But what I do know is that one of my main reasons for becoming a songwriter myself is (this is just my opinion, you don’t have to agree) the lack of emotional pull that I personally get from today’s singer songwriters. 99 percent of the songs I hear these days evokes absolutely no emotion from me whatsoever. I often find myself all BUT staring at a clock wondering when that piece of shit song is going to finally be over already! I love mostly the songs of the 1950s & 60s era. My songs probably don’t sound exactly like they came from that era, however, I’ll do my best to be heavily
    inspired and influenced by that music. Hopefully ensuring that there will always be a few new songs that I actually do like. Even if that does mean that I’ll have to write those songs myself.

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