Too much analyzing can get you stuck in a creative rut. Here’s how to make it work for you.
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An important part of improving your songwriting skills is analyzing music. Analyzing, at least in a songwriter’s context, means listening to your music with a critical ear, and applying what you know about great songs to make improvements.
It’s something that should be done carefully, however. It’s happened many times that I’ve heard songs that defy the odds, sounding great even though they break away from the common principles of popular songwriting.
I like using an expression when it comes to this sort of thing, which is this:
Analyze other people’s successes, and your own failures.
Sticking to that simple directive means, in the first instance, that you’ll spend your time focusing in on the music you love, and discovering why you love it so much, and then applying what you learn to your own music.
Secondly, it helps you avoid the problem of over-analyzing — and possibly destroying — music you’ve written that might go against common principles. For example, you may have written a chorus melody that sits below your verse melody — not a common thing, but Genesis did it in “No Reply At All” — and you start to worry if you’ve done something wrong.
The indication in songwriting that you’ve done something wrong is that it sounds wrong. And that’s it. If you’ve written music that goes against all conventional norms, but you love it, don’t analyze it. Just enjoy it, move on.
And some day, when you’re far enough removed from having written it, you might go back and figure out why you love it. But for now, the only music you write that you should be spending any amount of time analyzing and applying the principles of music should be songs you’ve written that aren’t working.
By sticking to that simple prescription, songwriting becomes a very positive activity, where songs that aren’t working are an occasion to improve, and songs that are working are an opportunity to celebrate.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
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