Don't Buy Into the Myth of Instant Songwriting

Audiences are allowed to think that your music is magic. You aren’t


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Songwriting frustrationsIn every creative field, public amazement is fun. Like being a good magician, it’s enjoyable when our audience shakes their collective heads, wondering how we do what we do. For non-musicians, music is almost a magical thing.

And it’s not just music that produces that reaction. Carpenters can blush with pride when someone praises a beautiful, handmade one-of-a-kind cabinet they’ve just built. Even lawyers get the warm fuzzies when their teary-eyed client is able to wiggle out of a seemingly impossible situation because of the lawyer’s skills.

Practically every artistic field has a myth associated with it. In songwriting, the myth is that music just appears in the writer’s mind, fully-formed and ready for public consumption. No one wants to know that some music takes days, weeks, months, or maybe even years, of working and re-working.

What troubles me is the number of songwriters who also tend to buy into this myth. If your latest song just appeared in your mind, in its final form, ready for the recording studio, that is an extremely rare occurrence. The truth is that good music almost always takes time.

Taking time doesn’t necessarily mean that you are stuck for ideas, though that can be true. There are times when a good song starts with developing a good chorus, and then the rest… well, sometimes it just takes time. Sometimes, it’s best to put the song away and come back to it later with a clearer head. Good music can take a lot of time.

If you find that it generally takes you a month or more to finish a song, you must not assume that there is something wrong. Taking lots of time to finish a song is not usually an indication of writer’s block. In fact, there are seven experiences that might indicate songwriter’s block:

  1. You can’t seem to get excited at all about songwriting.
  2. The quality of your musical ideas are consistently weak.
  3. You let the negative (usually online) opinions of others regarding your music play on your mind.
  4. When things are going well, you fear that the good times are temporary, and you’re eventually going to let your fans down.
  5. The success of other songwriters saps your own confidence.
  6. Your own songs sound boring to you.
  7. Your last few songs you’ve written all sound the same.

You’ll notice that “it takes a long time to finish a song” isn’t in this list. It’s OK to take your time, work your ideas out, and allow the partnership of melody, chords and lyric all come together to produce a great song. Sometimes, greatness takes time.

The best way to deal with the fact that you take a long time to finish a song is to have several songs on the go at any one time. It’s a great idea to work on one song, then put it away and take out a different one. By juggling several songs at once, you’re able to approach each one with a sense of freshness and excitement that benefits the final product.


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One Comment

  1. So True , I have been around a pretty long time in the music business
    And I can confirm that Gary Ewer, is spot on as usual . the worst critiquing you can get is from song forums, Why ? you may say. There is a lot of nonsense talked on forums

    Most are looking for pats on the back for writing inferior rubbish , When a pro writes a song, He sleeps on the original idea, and 99 times in a hundred he will usually re write many times
    searching for the right prosody of words and music, until he either goes for a full Demo
    or scraps the whole thing. As Gary states working on several songs during one daily session is a must . I rarely finish a lyric and then write music, but I often start with a line or two, re shaping the whole thing , constantly making rough work demo’s singing, every line listening to the playback. of every 100 ideas probably around twenty songs evolve ,
    if your song is not as good as the average Staff writer it wont stand a chance.

    No one wants to take a chance on a new writer who stumbles on one good song , and thinks he’s arrived, Publishers and A and R want writers who can constantly write to a high standard.

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