Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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When it comes down to it, a song is quite simply a communication device. It’s with your music that you want to make a connection with listeners, and tell them something about you, your life, yourself. And to do it in such a way that brings those listeners back again and again. Often when songs fail, it’s really a failure to communicate in an effective way. Here are some thoughts on that.
Music is such a powerful tool; you can tell someone something, and it may go in one ear and out the other. But sing it to them, and you’ve got their attention. Music is used in movies, TV shows, inspirational speeches and even sermons for this very reason.
But what are you actually trying to communicate with your songs? Predictably, if the Billboard Hot 100 is any indication, most of the new young writers out there are writing about love, and the accompanying social scene. And this can cause problems if you’ve been in the songwriting business for a while. A good chunk of the listening audience out there is young, age 15-25. And sad to say, if you’re a songwriter past that age, your starting to get a bit (*gasp*) dated, and you might still be writing great tunes. What can you do to keep your music from sounding dated? What can you do to keep the younger listeners from hearing you as some old fogey?
It’s complicated, because it may seem that the best way to sound current is to listen to current hits, study the instrumentation and basic beat/rhythm, and do that in your own songs. But it can backfire. Singers in their 50s singing about their love-life will find it hard to get 17-year-olds interested in their situation.
But for sure, the best thing you can do for yourself is to bring young people into your songwriting life, certainly to the production-stage of the process. And maybe even as songwriting partners. You can’t substitute the power of youth. Young people don’t need to be taught what the current sound is, or the current terminology. So especially if your plan is to market your songs for others to sing, bring young people into your songwriting world as much as possible, because they can certainly get your demo sounding like something young singers would want to listen to.
If you plan to sing your songs yourself, don’t worry so much about the danger of the dated sound. This is you we’re talking about. It’s you, your song, your message, your thoughts, and your emotions. If you’re in your 50s or 60s or older, you want to tell people what life is like from your vantage point. If you’re worried that your song is distractingly “old” sounding, one of the best things you can do is to resort to acoustic instrumentation. Acoustic instruments give you a better chance of avoiding the “dated” label.
So the message here is two-fold if you’re past the 15-24-year-old age group: 1) If you still want to shop your songs to younger singers, update your sound and your approach by bringing young people into your songwriting and production process. 2) If you’re simply wanting to write songs and sing them yourself, and have them sound true to who you are, use acoustic instruments where possible.
Gary Ewer’s songwriting e-books will show you, step-by-step, how great songs work, and how you can get your songs sounding even better. Click here to read more.