Guitarist - Songwriter

Problem Solving in a Songwriter’s World

What a world we live in. At the touch of a smartphone button, we can get the answer to anything we want to know. Tomorrow’s weather? Stock prices? What’s the migration path of the red-shouldered hawk? It’s our 21st-century world, and, leaving social media aside for the moment, there’s practically nothing bad to be said about it.

That ability to get answer to questions quickly and easily extends to the songwriting world as well. With online forums and other social media, a songwriter can get quick answers to “what’s wrong with my song?”

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A lot of songwriters are using computers to create music, but if you’re still doing it old-school — sitting on the edge of your bed with your guitar to figure out your next tune — songwriting today is pretty much the same as it’s always been.

Except even old-school writing allows you to go online to get an opinion on how your latest song is going. And if you’re stuck, you’ll find dozens or even hundreds of other songwriters willing to help you with your problem.

The Best Answer

We’re uncomfortable with not knowing the answer to something. Immediate help is something we’ve become used to in our century. Thirty years ago, if you really wanted to know the migration path of a red-shouldered hawk, you’d put on your coat and walk down to the library. But that might take an hour or more… And then that walking… *gasp*!

I’d like to make the case that leaping to your computer to get the help of songwriting friends is not always the best answer. You may wind up with several good solutions to try, and I certainly don’t want to say that all advice you might get online is bad. Much of it is good.

But I truly believe that the best answer to being stuck in a song is: let the song sit in your mind, and wait. You won’t get an immediate solution. It may take days or weeks before you figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it.

But the solution will be your solution. And because no one knows your song like you do, the fixes that you come up with will, more often than not, be the best ones for your song.

My recommendations for the next time you get stuck with your song, where you can’t seem to find solutions, are:

  1. Put the song away for a short period of time — a couple of days, or perhaps a week.
  2. Take the song out again and play what you’ve got.
  3. Work on the problem section one element at a time. In other words, try changing a chord (even if you don’t think the chords are the problem), or change a melody note here or there.
  4. Keep modifying bits of your song at the problem area, putting the song away, taking it out again and listening with fresh ears.

With this method you won’t necessarily come up with the quickest solution to a snag, but you will often come up with something that works better than one an outsider to the song might suggest.

And it takes patience. In our 21st century world, we’re used to quick answers. Sometimes the best way forward is the slow way forward.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

Writing a Song From a Chord ProgressionLike starting the songwriting process by working out the chords first? There are benefits and dangers. Read “Writing a Song From a Chord Progression” to get this process working properly for you.

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