A music producer is the creative leader of a recording project. This is the person who envisions what the finished song should sound like since hearing the demo for the first time. In the traditional music industry, the role of the music producer would usually start and end during the production stage of a song. Nowadays, with the rise of bedroom music producers to the mainstream stage, it is very common that the music producer is also the songwriter, guitarist, singer, and sometimes even mixing engineer and mastering engineer.
Songwriting is a creative pursuit where it’s easy to get tricked into thinking that more is better––more production, more vocals, more complexity, etc. And, on the other end of the spectrum, it’s also tempting to leave ideas undeveloped and lacking direction by trying to keep things simple and straightforward. Before DAWs became an integral songwriting tool, deciding how much or how little to add to a song wasn’t nearly as challenging. Much of the time those choices were made for songwriters depending on the size of an artist’s band and their budget. But now that anyone making music has a virtually endless array of digital instrumental and production possibilities at their fingertips at any given moment, the minimalist vs. extreme dilemma is something many of us have to grapple with as modern music-makers.
This feels weird to say, but if you live a life that’s completely revolved around making music, the songs you write might not end up being very good. We’re taught that to be truly good at something, the complete devotion of our time, thoughts, money, and energy is the only way to succeed. In many cases, this is accurate whether your sights are set on being a doctor or professional athlete, or politician. But things are infinitely more complicated when it comes to creating music.
This is a question that every songwriter has asked themselves at some point. We tool around on our instruments, come up with some sort of chord progression, riff, or lyric, and ask whether what we’ve created is promising or not. Or, we write entire songs that we start to question after being excited during the writing process. How can we know whether or not what we write is good before we share it? And how can we tell the difference between a bad or mediocre idea and a profound one?
Songwriting delivers musicians some huge benefits that have nothing to do with money or critical acclaim. It’s a pursuit that is endless because we can always write better and better music, and it’s an incredible resource for helping us to understand ourselves and others. We often hear about the idea of songwriting being good therapy a lot in music, but it’s helpful to get to the bottom of what that really means. Here are five ways writing music can be therapeutic for musicians:
When we think about the kind of music that makes a real impact on people, we’re not just talking about emotionally deep songs written by tortured artists, though “serious” songs certainly are meaningful to a lot of listeners. Tracks that blow out speakers in clubs and music that’s heard by thousands of spectators at sporting events have an effect on audiences as well, though in a completely different way than someone playing the same song over and over again to get through a breakup.
Storytelling is the art of building a narrative around your music and your artist persona.
In the streaming age, your music will be exposed to a lot of people. This is a great opportunity by itself, but it’s also a big challenge. In fact, in 2021, the biggest challenge for independent artists is to convert their listeners into fans. This is easier said than done. Storytelling is a great way to show people who you are not just as an artist, but also as a person. It is what makes people care about your music and it’s what makes an artist likable, perhaps more than anything.
For most of us, falling into predictable songwriting habits is more and more an inevitability the longer we make music. It’s natural to favor certain ways of doing things, whether it’s a specific genre, DAW, or instrument. But even if cohesion is one of your top priorities as a creator, your fans probably don’t want to hear you make the same songs over and over again.