[Read all about songwriting, and become a better songwriter at: “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting“]
I work with music students as a daily feature of my working life at Dalhousie University. It’s a rewarding job most of the time. Because a major part of my job involves teaching ear training, I work with each and every student that enrolls in music, no matter what their area of expertise is. Some are very strong, obviously heading toward a career in music. Others… well, I don’t really know why they’re there. They started off with promise, but now are struggling to maintain their marks, and just seem to be, for lack of a better word, stuck.No matter what their specialty, the successful students share a quality that seems to be lacking in those students who are failing: they are curious.
The good students just seem to be curious about everything. They seem to find a real joy in everything to do with music. You see them learning to play several different instruments, writing music, talking about music, reading about music, going to concerts, talking some more… These are the students that find excitement especially in the areas of music that are not their own specialty.Curiosity is a vital part of being a successful musician. Whether you’re a songwriter, a performer, or a musician of some other type, curiosity is what keeps you listening and keeps you thinking. The best songwriters in the world are the ones who seem to have this insatiable desire to know what interests other musicians.If you’re a songwriter and you never listen to music outside of the genre you normally write in, your songs will suffer for it. If you write pop songs, but aren’t even a bit curious about jazz or country or classical music, you’re missing out.If you aren’t curious, get curious. How? Here’s a list of some musical activities that can get the ball rolling for you, things you should determine to do within 30 days of reading this article:
- Think of the genre of music you hate the most, and make a plan to see a concert or buy a CD that features music from that genre.
- Go to a bookshelf in your house or local library. Find the 15th book from the left, open it to page 145, find the 27th word on the page, then find the first noun after that word. Write a song that features that word. (If you stop because you don’t know what a noun is, you aren’t curious enough).
- See how many different musical instruments you can find, borrow or buy within the next month, and play a major scale on each one.
- Memorize a poem, and find someone to recite it to.
- Prepare a meal that uses food you’ve never tried before, and invite a friend to eat it with you.
My opinion? If you’re really a curious musician, you’ll take the challenge.