Performing Your Songs: Part of the Songwriting Process

Getting your songs out there and in front of people is not just entertainment. It’s a vital part of being a songwriter.


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SongwritersI remember being struck by a statistic I came across years ago when I was a student of music education. There’s probably no way to get hard-and-fast data on this, but here’s the basic idea: People tend to remember about 20% of what they’re taught, and 80% of what they teach. The numbers may not be exact, but I really believe the idea is correct, and I’ve experienced it in my own teaching career. Nothing solidifies your understanding of a concept like communicating it to others. And in the very same way, nothing solidifies your songwriting skill like singing your songs for others.

The greatest part of what you learn as a songwriter comes from hearing your music. Just as teaching will organize your thoughts and help you understand a concept more fully, performing organizes your musical brain and helps you understand songwriting more fully.

Getting your songs out there in front of people is the final and most important step in the songwriting process. It’s your one opportunity to present those musical ideas the way in which they were intended to be heard. Admittedly, it can be a very humbling experience.

If you’re the kind of songwriter who likes to put songs away when they’re done and get going on the next one, you’re missing out on this tremendous opportunity to improve your songwriting skills. In particular, it’s extremely beneficial to sing for other songwriters, people who are trying to do the same thing you are: create great musical experiences.

You may already be singing your songs for friends and family, but other songwriters will usually provide the most relevant opinions of your efforts.

So here are some ideas for performing your songs for others:

  1. Take part in songwriters’ circles. You can find lots of them online, but I’d encourage you to do a search for a real event in your area. Most songwriters’ circles include well-known songwriters from your area, and it’s an amazing opportunity to have good people listening to your stuff and making constructive comments. You’ll find the mutual respect and helpfulness to be extremely uplifting and beneficial.
  2. Post your music online. This gives others a chance to hear what you’ve been creating. It can be a very humbling experience, particularly if you solicit opinions. It’s really important not to take harsh criticism to heart. Some people, especially when they’re online, will say things in a very insensitive way. But there’s nothing like that kind of honesty to let you know exactly what others think. And always remember: just because someone doesn’t like your music doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong. Bob Dylan has lots of haters, and he’s done pretty well.
  3. Search out cafés, restaurants and other intimate locations. This won’t suit you if your band is large or noisy, but if your music is guitar- or piano-based, it’ll be ideal. Record yourself, and listen to the results.
  4. Don’t send your music around unsolicited. Some songwriters think that the best way to get noticed is to send an MP3 to a producer, A&R person, manager or other industry official. It doesn’t work, and you’ll be ignored. Worse, you’ll simply irritate the people you’re trying to impress. There are ways into the business, but it starts with writing good songs. Do your research, and find the companies that are looking for new talent. Make sure that any music you post or send has its copyright registered.


Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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