Posts tagged Music
Posts tagged Music
Songwriting is easy—just write what you feel and let it come to you.
Anyone who says that songwriting is writing your emotions is either a liar or Taylor Swift. I like to think that there are two components in writing music: the music itself and the emotion that it conveys. I don’t like to think of lyrics as a writing component but rather a subject that falls under emotion, since not all music has lyrics but all music has sounds and can convey the almost same things lyrics do.
What a lot of people fail to realize regarding the musical component, is that music is a science. While for some people it’s easy to catch on to without much study, you need a lot of developed, innate senses and instincts to understand how to organize sound. Songwriting is not just a right-brained creative task, but a left-brained puzzle. Not everything works in music, and if it does work, that does not necessarily mean that it’s good. It probably means your idea is a basic pattern or mediocre chord progression that came to you because you figured out the simple rules of the foundation of music.
But from that springs creativity. It’s understanding what’s common and what’s basic that gets you to create something new and exciting. That’s why people like music with 7 chords and accidentals: they aren’t supposed to be chords. They are mistakes that ended up sounding beautiful somehow.
However, this comes from discovery. Not necessarily “playing what you feel.” While creating music through your emotional episodes may produce a great piece of music eventually, you have to discover through a slightly painful, tedious experience with a lot patience what that sounds like.
Besides the musical component, there is the lyrical one. This is mostly where people think this misconception will carry them to success.
Writing lyrics is not about people hearing your lyrics and understanding you.
It’s about you understanding people, hearing their words, and turning them into lyrics.
Music is useless without relatability. It’s the power that takes you from just appreciating a piece of music to falling in love with it. It has to have something that strikes a chord in people and makes them think. And since human beings are innately selfish, one of the sure fire ways to get people to think are to get them thinking about themselves.
The infamous Taylor Swift is a great example for how relatability successes and fails. For groups of people like me, who don’t admire her as a musician, it has a lot to do with her biggest flaw but in a way, her greatest attribute: how personal she makes her music. I have never been a girl crying whilst playing my guitar on a Tuesday night in the rain because my boyfriend left me for a cheerleader and called my best redheaded friend Abigail who lost her virginity freshman year to comfort me. The amount of specificity Taylor Swift writes her songs turns some people off because she pointedly describes how terribly mediocre her teenage experience was. Because I don’t care for her experience her music doesn’t speak to me. It doesn’t make me care for her and it doesn’t make me feel anything. (Also musically, she’s just a mess, but we’re talking solely about the lyrical component and so that’s not a really big deal at the moment.)
I don’t want to relate to her music. But her target audience does and that’s why she’s become so popular. Millions of teenage girls across the globe listen to her for the same reason I listen to Mumford and Sons to convince myself that I’m a deep, introspective, philosophical blue-grass British hipster. Swift convinces them that their typical experiences were heartbreaking and important to their growth and will make them independent, empowered young women (although, let’s face it, life isn’t that hard when you’re a blonde, skinny, pretty teenage girl with enough boyfriends to write albums about until you’re 22.) They like the fact that they can hear the names “Drew” and “Abigail” or say “she” and “he” and try to replace them with people in their personal lives. In “Fifteen”, she writes the entire song in second person to throw that personal feeling onto the listener: this is happening to you, I know what it feels like. It also helps that she’s not the most sophisticated writer either. The lack of complexity and the same phrases she uses repeatedly are what a 14 to 17 year old girl would write.
But another key in writing good music, that Taylor lacks at times, is universality. Her popularity and recognition and reputation is what earns her awards, not necessarily her talent or writing ability. While you certainly cannot satisfy everyone, you can attempt to be appealing to more than a restricted age and gender demographic.
All in all, writing what you feel is a bad idea. Well, it’s not as much of a bad idea as it is one, minuscule step. Try writing what you feel and then see what comes. It’s going to be a jumbled mix of sounds and words and just…noises that you are going to love but no one else cares for. It’s taking that and finding a way to tweak it and really make it want you want to portray, what other people are going to like hearing, and something unique.
Emotions are messy and broken and indescribable and difficult and it’s not a musician’s task to copy them exactly as they are. It’s a musician’s task to find what messy and broken and indescribable and difficult sounds like. And then make it just a little more beautiful.
Again, not mine (obviously), but enjoy!