Ray Charles

The Importance of Silencing Your Inner Critic

You can learn as much about songwriting by listening to bad songs as you can by listening to good ones. And that applies to your own songwriting efforts. In the pop genres, there is something to be said for getting something written as quickly as possible, and then try to figure out if it’s any good.

How can a bad song be such a good instructor? Quite simply, you get to hear what’s bad, then you figure out why it’s bad, and then you get nudged in a new and hopefully better direction.

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This is a long-winded way of saying: turn your inner critic off for a while, and then just let your musical instincts guide you.

There are some songs that probably came about by lots and lots of working, editing, fixing, and manipulating. “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Freddie Mercury), most prog rock songs, including a song like Dennis DeYoung’s “Come Sail Away“, and any song that has several ad hoc sections.

But then you hear the songs that just have the sound of something that came together quickly, either as the result of a group improv session, like “What’d I Say” – (Ray Charles), or “Low Rider” (War, Jerry Goldstein).

The benefit of songs that are written quickly is that your inner critic doesn’t have a chance to kick into action. You don’t get to edit anything; you just get the feel of the song, and you go with it.

When you’re finished a song that’s been quickly written stream-of-consciousness style, you have the benefit of the excitement and spontaneity of music-on-the-fly, but you still get the chance to fix things and make it even better… after you’ve written the song.

You can also toss out a song that ends up being a piece of garbage.

If you consider yourself to be a very careful writer, moving slowly, thinking deeply, don’t ignore the benefits that come from working quickly in the pop music genres. And the biggest benefit of all is what it does to temporarily silence your inner critic.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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