Frustration, uncertainty, and disappointment are unavoidable for someone who pursues music as a career. With so much out of our control as songwriters, producers, and performers, it can be tempting to think that we don’t have any say over what happens to our music. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. When you focus on the things you have direct control of in music, you put yourself on a path towards fulfilling your creative potential and reaching your goals.
Serious musicians hate failure. This disdain was bred in most of us back when we learned how to play an instrument for the first time. There are only a few ways to correctly hold drum sticks, finger guitar chords, or belt out vocal exercises; and there are countless ways of getting things wrong. When we master our instruments and start writing songs and playing shows, failure shows up for us in a myriad of new and painful ways, like when your local alt-weekly magazine trashes your album or when no one shows up to the show you’ve been promoting for months. Failure can be excruciating. But it can also deliver huge benefits to your music career if you let it.
For most artists, touring is essential for earning an income and building an audience. But being on the road all the time comes with costs, especially with not being able to easily write and record new songs in a music culture that demands more music more often than ever before. Songwriting and touring aren’t exactly compatible, but it is possible to write while you tour. Here are a couple of tips for how to do it:
Sticking to the same script when it comes to how you think about things like writing songs or connecting with audiences on stage as a musician is easy. But, unfortunately, limiting your perspective hurts your music and shrinks down your musical world as a musician. Reaching your true potential as a musician requires you to step back from the natural and comfortable ways you do things and ask if there are alternative paths for seeing, hearing, and approaching music-making. It’s not easy to do, but it’s something that can vastly improve your life as a musician if you put the work in.
If you’re an active songwriter, it’s safe to assume you have a lot of unfinished ideas rolling around inside your brain taking up space on your hard drives. We think if we write a ton of music, we’ll eventually stumble on a couple ideas that are really good, and this is true. However, there’s one important caveat that often gets left out of this conversation. Without transforming your ideas into finished songs, you’ll make it harder to write your best music and reach your full potential as a songwriter.
If you’ve always wanted to write music but have never tried it, you might be wondering if you need to master a musical instrument first before you give it a shot. From a non-musical perspective, there are big costs of entry to learning how to write music, and this is true to a degree. From the price of recording equipment or studio time to not knowing where to start, it isn’t always easy to get into songwriting if you have no experience. Luckily, when it comes to experience using an instrument needed for songwriting, you probably need a lot less than you might think.
If you’re new to songwriting or even if you have plenty of experience, you might find it hard to write lyrics. Many talented songwriters are perfectly fine with bearing their souls through every musical aspect of their songs but struggle when it comes to matching music with words. If this sounds like you, it could be because you simply have no clue what to write about. Or, you may think lyrics are like windows to the soul and have no interest in revealing yours through your music. But the truth is that at any point in time, there’s an endless list of topics to write music about. And there’s no rule saying the lyrics in your music need to be emotionally deep or revealing. The important thing to focus on is creating work that feels unique and authentic to you. For songwriters struggling to do this through the lyrics in their music, here are four tips to help.