Guitarist - Songwriter

4 Songwriting Myths You Need To Stop Believing

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Who knows how many myths there are in the field of songwriting, but I’m guessing that the following four would appear in most professional’s list of myths. If you find yourself believing any of the myths in this list, you’d be well advised to stop and think again.

  1. Myth: A song that takes a long time to finish means that you’ve got a problem with your songwriting process. This really isn’t true. Even with those days where little to nothing seems to be happening might just be a time when your musical brain is sorting things out. Slow output is not the indicator that you’ve got a problem with your process.
  2. Myth: Songs with boring chord progressions will sound boring. True, an interesting chord progression can add much to a song, but the opposite — that a boring chord progression will cause your song to be boring — is not true. The best thing a chord progression can do is to stay out of the way. Songs will live or die mainly on the rhythmic feel, lyric and melody. Other issues may have an impact as well — the polish of the performance, the quality of the singing, and so on. But the interest level provided by the chord progression is way down in the list.
  3. Myth: The more you write, the better you become. This is a tricky one, because regular, almost-daily writing is important. But the point here is that it’s not simply the fact that you’re writing that makes you better. In fact you might simply be reinforcing errors in your songwriting process. The quality of your songs usually comes down to whether or not you understand the fundamentals of what makes good music. Failing to properly analyze your failures usually means you’re dooming yourself to keep repeating those failures, no matter how prolific a writer you are.
  4. Myth: Music theory will stunt your sense of creativity. This myth has been around for ages, and who knows where or how it became so prevalent. A knowledge of theory offers much to those in the creative arts. It allows you to communicate your musical ideas with ease and helps you understand more clearly the music you hear from others. And because theory helps you understand the structure of music, it can help you extrapolate on musical ideas more easily. No one gets worse at songwriting because they’re studying theory!

Songs that are great will work because they’ve succeeded in making audiences want to hear what happens next. So the best songs get the balance between narrative and emotion right, provide lyrics that are casual but imaginative, and relate to the listener’s universe. The best songs make a powerful emotional connection to the audience.

And beyond lyrics, the best songs provide powerful melodies well-supported by chords, and provide a strong hook or repeating idea that the audience wants to hear again and again.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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