Grief is an unavoidable part of life. If you’re a living, breathing human being, you’re bound to lose something or someone important to you eventually. You may experience it when a loved one dies, or when you have to part ways with a place or possession that was special to you. A romantic partner might decide they prefer life better alone or with someone else, leaving you feeling lost and empty. Grief shows up in our lives in countless ways, but it’s only a matter of time before we experience it. But as songwriters, we have a unique opportunity to process and accept loss through music creation. This is a very real benefit, and it’s an outlet that many living in the non-musical world don’t have. If you’re experiencing major grief in your life, here are three ways music-making can help you through it:
Writing and recording songs is one of the most hopeful things I can think of. Every new song is another opportunity to make your mark on the world, to express something completely unique about yourself and improve someone else’s life by doing something you love. If you’re reading this I’m sure you feel the same way. We all want to make the best music we can, and this desire can easily turn into an obsession.
It’s the dream of countless music-makers to spend their days writing music and earning a living. For many developing artists, songwriting seems like the opposite of working at a conventional job, and in some ways they’re correct. When you create music, you are your own boss and what you say goes. It’s a creative pursuit that allows you to express yourself exactly how you want to. Compare the experience of creating a new song to sitting in an office all day, and the two experiences couldn’t be any more different.
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.
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 a songwriter or professional performer, the thought of learning a new instrument might sound fun but not worth your time. You might figure there’s more than enough new ground to cover on your current instrument or instruments, so why take the time to learn something completely new? Learning a new instrument gets you out of the musical mindset you’re currently in, and this is essential for creativity and growth as an artist. You don’t need to master a new instrument in order to get the benefits of learning it. Instead, tackling a few basics will give you a new creative perspective and countless musical directions to work with. Here are a few important reasons why you might want to consider learning a new instrument as a serious musician:
Whether it’s a talkative roommate or the constant desire to be on your phone, distractions can be one of the most significant barriers standing between you and your full potential as a songwriter. If you’re serious about making the best music you can and sharing it with the world, you’re going to need to identify what distracts you the most when you write. Then comes the hard work of consciously removing distractions from your writing practice. While this gets easier the more we work at it, it’s a job we’re never finished doing. Distractions will always make writing music harder than it has to be unless we do the constant work of addressing and removing them.
Whether you make folk music or EDM, technology is now an unavoidable part of your daily life as a musician. From DAWs and sophisticated recording equipment to smartphones and computers being ever-present while we write, it’s now virtually impossible to separate technology during the music creation process.