Part of being a songwriter is being able to objectively critique your own songs. That term, objectively critique, means all of the following:
- You can listen to your own songs as if someone else actually wrote them.
- You can focus in on exactly where problems may lie.
- You can make radical changes to your songs if necessary.
Bad songs don’t usually start out bad; they typically start with a great idea, one that serves as a hook or other important part of the song. From there, things start to go bad. You find that nothing you write supports your initial idea, and then you sense things spiralling down a bit.
Lyrics become all the more powerful when they’re properly paired with a good melody. That’s what Chapter 5 is all about in the eBook “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting.” Polish your songwriting technique with the 10-eBook Bundle.
By the time you notice that the song really isn’t working, you don’t know where to begin to fix it. And in fact, you wonder if it might be best to scrap the whole song and start again.
Most of the time a bad song can be fixed. But it requires commitment to the three statements listed above.
First, you’ll never fix a song that you can’t picture as being written by someone else. That kind of distance — of arm’s-length detachment — is a crucial part of being able to assess a song’s strengths and weaknesses.
Next, it’s not enough to say “My new song sucks.” You need to have the ability to look at each component separately and assess each one for their strengths and weaknesses. This is important because since all songs represent a partnership of musical elements, you need to be able to test each element on its own before seeing how they work in partnership with other song components.
And finally, once you know what’s wrong, you need to have the courage and determination to throw out what doesn’t work and create something new that does. Sometimes that means tossing your original idea, or at least reshaping it so that it works well with other ideas.
Remember that in a good song, it’s that partnership of ideas that makes songs great. It’s not just that it has a great melody, let’s say, but that the melody is supported by the perfect chord choices, with a great lyric, all reinforced by a great musical performance.
But when a song isn’t working, you need to have the ability to dig down into a song’s separate parts to find out what’s going wrong. That’s something that typical audiences can’t do. They simply say, “That song sucks.”
You need to be able to do more than make a judgment like that. Part of being a good songwriter is being able to take a bad song apart to find the weak components.
When you do that, you’ll soon discover that most bad songs may actually be great once you apply one or two small fixes.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
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