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When I was just finishing university back in the 80s, I got a dream project: A local choreographer approached me to see if I would write a short ballet based on poetry by a local writer. When the music was written, rehearsals began. I needed some parts written out quickly for some extra musicians we added to the group. I asked one of the players who was a music copyist to help, and his response was, “Why don’t you do it yourself… You’re the author of this catastrophe.”
You’d think that comment would have really hit me hard, but for some reason it didn’t. Even at that early stage of my music career, I understood that anytime you write something, some will like it, some will hate it, and that’s normal.
The one who made the comment wasn’t someone I knew personally, so it was easy to process that negativity and keep going.
But what do you do if the people closest to you tell you that they don’t like what you do. You may not think that that’s common, but it happens. In a 2019 interview, singer-songwriter Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) fame, commented that his own parents were not supporters of his music, and in particular his group’s performance style:
INTERVIEWER: What did your dad think of your music.
Lynne: Not a lot, really. And my mum wasn’t keen at all.
Lynne: Not really, no. She didn’t like the way I sung, either. And she hated the falsetto bit.
You normally look to those closest to you for moral support when it comes to songwriting and musical performance because it takes a lot of courage to put your music out there. Every time you sing, you’re baring your soul. And you like to know that there’s somebody out there who loves what you do. And for most of us, family is important.
If members of your family find it hard to be supportive, remember this:
- Someone disliking your songs is not a sign that you’ve written something bad or wrong. Music elicits opinions, and listeners have the right to have an opinion.
- A family member disliking your music doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.
- You shouldn’t change your writing or performing style to satisfy someone else’s tastes.
- If your music is at all innovative or unique, you should expect that some — perhaps many — just won’t get it. That’s normal.
As you write, you’ll become aware that you’re building a fan base that has certain expectations regarding your own personal writing style. It’s more important to target those fans than it is to target family members, regardless of how difficult that may be.
And even though members of your own family may not get your music, most of them can and will at least be supportive of your efforts on some level.
In the end, even though the seeming disapproval of family can hit hard, remember why you’re doing all this in the first place. And a disapproving family member can help build character and courage. And it usually serves as a good reminder that someone can be a good person and not like their own son’s or daughter’s music.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.
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