If you want to be good at anything, the first thing you need to do is master the craft. One of the greatest things about writing songs is that you have access to everything you need all around you in massive abundance in order to do this.
To really learn this craft you have to become a master of it. The first thing you should learn about writing songs is how to have an outer body experience.
Let me explain:
On a daily basis you should be teaching yourself to step outside of your body and start listening to all of the music around you with different ears – not YOUR discerning ears, but the ears of a songwriter. You need to accept it all. Metal, rock, pop, classical, jive, jazz, acapella, folk, hip-hop, Bollywood musicals, church music, synagogue music, boring elevator muzak, offensive grunge … everything. It is all around us all the time but we choose to tune out a lot of it.
Generally, people are quite close-minded about the music they expose themselves to, which is totally fine … for THEM. They can pick and choose what they listen to. You, as a songwriter, must not.
It’s a common mistake with musicians and bands everywhere. They tend to listen only to the music that they like and either ignore/dismiss everything that doesn’t fit in to their personal taste. These are the musicians whose music tends to lack real musical depth and where you’ll find that the songwriting is usually lacking or “same-y.” Or worse still, derivative.
If you read interviews with the great songwriters, doesn’t it always surprise you to find out what THEY are currently listening to? Paul McCartney is listening to Snoop Dogg and Marilyn Manson is listening to Nina Simone! Kurt Cobain’s favourite artists were the Bay City Rollers!
This is because they have respect for the ‘song.’ And this is one of the most important parts of developing as a songwriter. In fact, this is the single most powerful secret to becoming a great songwriter.
By learning to respect songs – and not just the songs that you like, or the artists you love, or the genre you think is cool – you can turn yourself into a true songwriter.
Every single song you listen to can teach you something about your craft. You may hate Britney Spears, but behind her is a team of the most expensive and successful songwriters in the world, so even if you don’t like the music, surely you must be able to learn something from them about writing songs, however small (or a lot!); from structure to melodies, from how chords fit together to the journey of a song, it’s all there in the open for you to study.
Never think that a song is irrelevant to your craft. Once you open your mind to this idea, your songwriting DNA will begin to soak up so many new things, not only every day, but every minute of every day. Maybe something is playing on the supermarket PA system while you are buying milk? What is it? Why does it sound like that? What are the instruments doing? What is the melody doing?
Become a sponge. Become an absorber. If you only listen to the albums that you love, you are missing out on 90% of your craft. You can be sure that whoever is writing songs that you love, was listening to a lot of other music before being able to write those songs.
Start getting angry when you hear lazy songwriting, get inspired when you hear genius songwriting, be amazed when you find how the simplest melody or the simplest line from the most unexpected artist can be so effective.
Believe it or not, if you can do this, your songwriting universe will expand exponentially and your songwriting career will have just gotten deadly serious.
Please feel free to post a comment down below! I would love to hear from you.
Until next time, good luck writing songs!