You should assume that with every song you write, some will love it and some won’t. What you hope for is that the vast majority will be in the righthand side of that bell curve, where most people will either like or love it, and hopefully a small minority will dislike or hate it.
And that’s called normal. It’s unrealistic to assume that everyone will love your songs. You will always have people who dislike what you’ve written, people who find that it doesn’t happen to resonate on any level with them. And in fact, they might hate it.
And again I’ll say, that’s normal.
That, by the way, is why it can be a bit of a useless exercise to go on public forums and ask people if they like your latest song. Assuming the world is behaving normally, some will say they like it, and some will say they won’t. So you haven’t really learned anything.
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The most important person to please is yourself: Do YOU like what you’ve written? That’s all that really matters. If you like your song, that probably means you’ve largely adhered to some basic principles of good songwriting.
What If You Can’t Tell?
Have you ever had this circumstance: Sometimes you can’t tell? You listen to your own song, and you start to worry that because you’re so familiar with it, you can’t tell if it’s actually any good. The song becomes like a pair of warm mittens you’ve had for years: you like them so much that you don’t even notice the holes anymore.
The best songwriters have developed an ability to listen objectively, which is to disassociate themselves from the creation of the song, and listen to it as if it were written by someone else.
The best way to develop that aspect of objectivity is to:
- Record your song, even in some sort of bare-bones kind of version.
- Put your song away for a couple of weeks.
- Take your recording out and listen to it in its entirety.
That space of time offers you your best chance to hear your song from a less passionate point of view. And once you’ve listened again, conduct a little interview with yourself as if Rolling Stone magazine showed up at your door, and ask yourself some key questions:
- What songwriting process did you use when writing this song?
- What’s your favourite part of the song?
- What do you think is the best line of lyric?
- What are you hoping people discover about you, or about the way you think?
- Does this song depart in any significant way from songs you’ve written in the past? How?
There are probably many other questions you could ask yourself, and hopefully you get the point. If you find that there are questions that you can’t answer, you’ve got to assume that listeners won’t know the answer either, and that’s not usually a good thing.
Objectivity and confidence are vital parts of songwriting success. If you lack either, your ability to advance as a songwriter will be limited.
By the way, if you do feel that you need to ask someone if they like your song, that question is always best answered by someone whose musicianship you trust — a fellow songwriter, a good performer — someone with musical experience. That’s because they’re the ones who can actually give you an opinion based on years of valuable experience.
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