Songwriting With An Open Mind

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer, author of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6-eBook Bundle.
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String section from a symphony orchestraThis fall I’ll be conducting Symphony Nova Scotia in some school-based concerts, and I’ll start the first ones tomorrow. The idea is to present the orchestra to young people, right in their own schools, with the aim to stimulate their creative minds with music they may not often get to hear elsewhere.

Most of the gigs are in elementary schools, in front of students aged 5-11, in which the aim of the concert is to show them how all the various instruments make their sounds. A few will take place in senior high schools, where the objective is to give them a history lesson of how instruments and orchestras have evolved over the centuries.

I love doing these concerts because there is nothing like seeing wide-eyed enthusiasm by young people for Classical music. We often think that in order to get a young person’s attention in the music world, the only music that will affect them and get their attention is pop music. But the truth is, there’s probably no one quite as open-minded as a child, and we could learn a lot from them. They love pop music, obviously, but they have absolutely no prejudices against music of any genre. They are eager listeners.

It’s a favourite point that I like to make frequently, that curiosity is a songwriter’s most valuable asset. And if your curiosity for music never expands beyond your favourite genre, you are seriously compromising the potential quality of your music.

When young people listen to pop music, you don’t have to tell them to move to the music; they do so naturally. But did you know that they also move in the same way to Mozart, Handel, Rossini and Beethoven? When we’ve done these orchestra concerts for children in the past, they instinctively bob, move, toss their heads from side-to-side, “air conduct”, and otherwise gyrate (even head-bang) to the music. Music is something they instinctively “get.”

You don’t have to tell a child how to understand Mozart. Their minds are so open that they accept it and love it. If you have children in your life, either your own or a family member’s, you know this. They accept good Classical music and good pop music as all belonging to one big genre they call “music.”

You might think the lesson I’m trying to get to with this blog post is to play lots of different music for your kids. But it’s not.

The message is for you: play lots of different kinds of music for yourself. Open your mind. Don’t be so judgemental. Find out who country music lovers are listening to these days, and give it a listen. Do the same for jazz, blue-grass, Classical, metal, and the many, many subgenres of folk.

You don’t have to love everything you listen to. At your stage, particularly if you’ve been writing music for several years or more, you have the right to know which genres you love, and which you don’t. But even with music that doesn’t turn your crank, you’ll find your musical mind expands and benefits from exposing yourself to it.

If you’re interested, here’s the music that Symphony Nova Scotia will be playing in their concert tomorrow for young children aged 5 – 11. Click on each title to access a YouTube video.:

  1. Rigaudon” (Maurice Ravel). This movement is the final one from “Tombeau de Couperin”, a work he originally wrote for piano and later orchestrated.
  2. Ode to Joy” theme from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The YouTube video shows a wonderful flash-mob from Spain.
  3. The Marriage of Figaro Overture” (Mozart)
  4. La Réjouissance” (Handel)
  5. William Tell Overture” (Rossini)

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  1. music in all genres is uplifting to the heart and soul.You are so right,we can learn so much from children by throwing away our prejudices accepting change learning to get along.The child and the senior when together we see life at each end of the spectrum.What we learn from both makes the journey rewarding

  2. Excellent post and so true, the benefit of listening and writing in many genres is immense
    as you say, and can only increase ones knowledge and musical horizons. making you a better all round song writer.

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