The festive season will inspire you as a songwriter, but what do you do during the non-festive months?
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There’s an 80-20 rule that applies to songwriting. Well, who knows the exact percentages, but suffice it to say: 20% of the music you write comes from inspiration, and 80% of it comes from your knowledge of how to properly structure music. This is a combination of good news and bad news. The good news is that it doesn’t take much inspiration to create great music. The bad news is that you can come up with some great ideas, but it usually takes experience and understanding of how good music works to meld those ideas into a great song.
I mention this because many of you are just finishing up what I hope has been a restful and pleasant holiday time with family and friends. Christmas, Hanukah, and other religious celebrations can stimulate the creative mind within each of us, making it seem easier than usual to generate songwriting ideas.
But now we head into January and February. What are you going to do to keep the songwriting stamina strong?
Here are some ideas that will help:
- Read all you can about songwriting. The January – March period is a great time to study the topic of musical composition. Since your greatest successes as a songwriter will come from your ability to structure music properly, consider doing a bit more studying of the topic than you normally do.
- Involve yourself in other artistic activities. It’s easy to get a bit near-sighted as a songwriter, and forget that there are many other artistic things you could be doing. So January might be a good time to take your artistic abilities in a new and different direction. Perhaps try painting, sculpture, dance, wood-carving… anything that allows you to express yourself in a different way. You’ll likely find that your songwriting will improve because of it.
- Try some songwriting “games.” Instead of always trying to write complete songs, take the pressure off and distract yourself with some songwriting games. Read this article for some fun examples.
- Take lessons on a musical instrument. Many of the musical ideas you generate start with the instrument you play. But if your performance abilities are a bit weak, you could be unwittingly diminishing your chances of writing great tunes. So why not take those guitar, voice or piano lessons you’ve been talking about? As your performance abilities improve, so will your songwriting ideas.
- Volunteer at a local school. Music teachers in public schools are often challenged to serve the complete musical needs of all their students. Many would appreciate the help of another good musician every once in a while. Some ideas: i- volunteer to play in the pit orchestra for the school’s musical; ii- Give a songwriting workshop; iii- give a clinic for your instrument.