In an era where the promise of instant gratification seems to penetrate most aspects of our daily lives, it can be tempting to look to technology and branding for ways to help us create better music. But in truth, the only thing that will improve your songwriting is practice. Yes, there’s a ton of non-musical work that’s involved in sustaining a meaningful career in music, but when it comes down to the sheer art of creating new music out of nothing, the time spent experimenting and honing in your craft is the only thing that will help you get better at what you do.
Separating the work of a modern musician
There’s two types of work you’ll have to do in music if you want to be successful, and that’s songwriting and everything else. The everything else category includes stuff like booking shows, sharing your music with press and media outlets, and coordinating rehearsals. The songwriting side of things is the simple act of a person sitting down and actually producing new music. For some reason, people get the two categories confused, and this can lead to big problems. Surprisingly, this is a problem that impacts new bands as much as seasoned ones.
Whether you’re a seasoned music veteran or are working on your first couple of demos, time spent writing, experimenting, failing, and succeeding is the only thing that’s going to help you write good music. All the other stuff is hugely important, but what’s it all for if your music––the very core of your project––isn’t solid and engaging?
Getting back to making music after a break
The catch about finding some success in music is being too busy to write songs. If you’re lucky enough to be at the point in your career where you’re touring regularly, the time needed to make music simply might be non-existent. But in today’s music industry of expediency and a seemingly bottomless well of terrific music being constantly released, waiting too long to put out new music could be a serious detriment for your project.
No matter what stage you’re at in your career in music, constantly returning to the basics of songwriting is becoming more of a necessity than ever. There’s often a great deal of pressure linked with making new music––this goes for songwriters at every level. But if you really want to find and engage audiences, you’ll have to make a habit of putting hours of songwriting practice in as often as possible.
Discouragement and distraction
Anyone who’s written music seriously knows how much of a challenge creating a great song can be. It can often take a long time to get to the point where a writer is able to create something of merit, and that can be hugely discouraging for some people. Pair this problem with the constant barrage of distractions we all face on any given day, and you begin to see why putting the time into making music can be so difficult. But without real practice and dedicated work, great songwriting simply can’t happen.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.