If you’re like most songwriters, you don’t feel the glow of success until you’ve completed a song. While that song is being written, you’re in the midst of what might be called a creative struggle. You’re trying to get all the small bits to cooperate.
The struggle is called songwriting. When you win the battle, you’ve got a completed song to show for it.
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What that means, though, is that you spend most of your time in a state of struggle. Sure, that struggle is supposed to be, at least on some level, fun. But there’s a notion that sits around in the back of your mind that reminds you that struggling is not really all that much fun.
That’s why, when a song comes together in a few minutes, you feel elation and relief: you’ve written a song and managed to avoid the struggle!
So here’s another way to look at songwriting that helps to avoid the negative feelings that come from creative struggles: Think of songwriting as the creation of small bits of music as well as the assembling of those bits.
Working On the Smaller Bits
Improvisation plays an important role particularly with songwriting in the pop genres. When we improvise, we love when things just seem to work. No struggling, no feeling of getting lost: it all seems to come together naturally.
But let’s say, instead of today’s task being the writing of a song… what if the task were:
- to write a great chorus melody; or
- to write two good lines of lyric; or
- to write a line of melody to start a verse, with any number of possible answering lines?
- …and so on.
In other words, what if you shrink the task before you, and work on something small? Why shouldn’t that be satisfying?
It will be satisfying if you remember that good songs start with good components. A song cannot succeed unless all the components are top quality ones.
Improvising your way to a great song in 20 minutes means that you had this wonderful circumstance: you were able to improvise top-quality bits of music, and then you assembled them in a beautifully satisfying way.
Working on the smaller bits has the benefit of removing the pressure to feel you must come up with a completed song every time you sit down to write. It also means that when you’ve finished writing for the day, you may have completed exactly what you set out to do: write a good chorus melody; or write two good lines of lyric.
And that’s satisfying!
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
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