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I love when someone says something that gives me a “Wow, I never thought of it that way” moment. Back when I was a college music student, I remember a violin professor talking about the notion of playing “out-of-tune”, and he said something along these lines:
You really have to change your way of thinking of out-of-tune playing. Those notes aren’t out-of-tune… they’re wrong. For every note you play, there are hundreds of notes that are close, but not the right one for that moment. They aren’t out-of-tune: they’re wrong.
That may seem like simply playing around with words, but it really changed my way of thinking on that issue.
There’s another issue that songwriters encounter all the time, and it’s finding the courage to experiment and try something new. It’s hard because experiments can fail, and we don’t like to hear our music sounding bad.
So the option becomes to not experiment, and to keep giving your fan base the music that they’ve come to expect from you. Safe, yes. Innovative and fresh, not so much.
For that circumstance there’s a great quote by inventor Thomas Edison you’ve likely seen many times:
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
As a songwriter you simply have to ensure that you’ve got a way to experiment musically such that your audience doesn’t necessarily hear those experiments. And if you want to be a cutting-edge songwriter, where your music takes your fans on an interesting journey, you really must experiment a bit and move outside your comfort zone.
Do you have songs that you consider to be failures? If so, you really have to adopt Thomas Edison’s view that you simply found a way to put music together that isn’t what you want. They’re not failures, they’re simply steps along the way to finding songs that do represent the musician you are.
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