Written by Gary Ewer, Senior Instructor, Dalhousie University, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
• Follow Gary on Twitter
• Build Your Audience Base with“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6 e-book bundle – available now at a 50% savings!
I learned in my composition days at university that no music is created, in the strictest sense of the word. At least, not created from scratch. In a very real way, the music we write is a mixture of old and new ideas, pulled from our musical experiences. If you find that you aren’t listening to other songwriters, you’re depriving yourself of a crucial opportunity to improve your skills.
The biggest fear songwriters have about listening “too much” to others is that they’ll start to copy them. I remember my composition prof telling me that the music I was writing sounded like a mixture of Maurice Ravel and Charles Ives. It worried me, because I wanted to sound like me, and I told my prof this. He simply replied, “You do sound like you.”
Musical influence is not the same as plagiarism. You don’t want to plagiarize, but you must allow yourself to be influenced.
You must listen to others. If you aren’t, you are missing out on a brilliant opportunity to allow yourself to be guided by music that works.
If you’re a busy songwriter, trying to create something on a daily basis, it can be hard to remember that you’ve got to set some time aside to listen to other music. You’ll find that your own songwriting abilities will be shaped in positive ways, and you develop a maturity that can only improve your musical output.
And don’t limit yourself to the genre you prefer. If you love the blues, you’re going to find that your version of the blues develops in wonderful ways if you also listen to Country, Jazz, Classical, and other supposedly unrelated genres.
Those other genres will nudge their way into your musical world, and the result is that you’ll compose music that is uniquely you. It’s wonderful, because listeners will be hearing music that is truly singular and distinctive, a melange of many styles and genres.
Daily writing is important for anyone who wants to improve their craft. But just as important is daily listening. Make lists of the music you discover, and write down what you like and dislike about everything you hear. That kind of a journal can only improve your writing skills!
Do you have suggestions for others? What music do you find gets the creative juices flowing? Please add your comments below – I’d love to hear from you.
Download “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” for your desktop or laptop, and get back to writing great songs!