Reinventing the Wheel

As innovative as The Beatles were, there wasn’t much new in their collective songwriting style. They brought ideas to pop music that had been around for years in other genres, and of course, they did it stunningly well.

Their compositional technique gave us some real beauties, but much of what they did had been happening out of the main stream, in the worlds of classical (both traditional and abstract), jazz, country, and many other genres.


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In so doing, they dressed up pop music and showed everyone else how respectable it could be. Pop music as an art form: that was possibly The Beatle’s most important contribution.

Of course, it takes more than simply borrowing the ideas from other genres to be good at what you do. But the songwriter/performers who dig into other styles of musical performance to find their own voice are the ones that truly succeed.

The best songwriters out there are not reinventing the wheel, and you shouldn’t be trying to, either. We’ve got the wheel; now we just need songwriters who can dress it up in an innovative, creative way.

When you write well, though, you succeed at giving the impression that you’ve done just that… reinvented the wheel. You make it sound like no one else could have written something like this.

In a way, it’s true: no one else is writing like you. Everything you do is unique. But it’s important to remember that part of your improvement as a creator of music is your ability to — not just borrow — but to meld the many ideas from the hopefully hundreds of songs you listen to every year.

Those who purposely try to reinvent the wheel usually come up with something that sounds too weird to be enjoyed, too abstract to truly touch the heart of the listener.

If today you’re stuck for songwriting ideas, and everything you try to write just sounds muddled and unpleasant, your time will be better spent listening to good music. The more you listen, the more you’ll absorb into your own personal songwriting style.

There are days when the best songwriting exercise you can do is to listen objectively to songs you like. If today is that day, sit back and listen. You’ll be a better songwriter for it.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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2 Comments

  1. lets remember that when The Beatles found Fame , there were no

    books on songwriter and the ones that were out were usually nonsense,

    The Beatles learned the art by studying the Hits of the day What the

    Beatles did have was was common sense and playing together

    as a Band they developed their vocal harmony style John and Paul’s

    voices complimented each others and helped to sell their early songs

    George Martin helped them hone their song writing and they were

    quick learners; in fact as many have stated before he was like the

    fifth Beatle They also kept their Chorus’s very short and in general replaced

    really long chorus’s with what is known as Short Refrains

    They also matched their lyrics with emotional music that fitted what each song

    was stating almost to perfection.

    Today we can say that some of their early songs used Cliché Rhymes but

    lets remember that many of those songs were written over Fifty Years

    ago

    • Thanks very much for those great thoughts, Peter. I think both Lennon and McCartney had a very keen understanding and experience with music from other genres, music that didn’t often make its way into the mainstream of pop music. I love the songwriters who have this knowledge of other styles of music, and are able to enhance their own abilities with it.

      Thanks again, as always, for your very good insights. I always appreciate you taking the time to write.

      -Gary

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