Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Challenge With Songwriting

I've never wanted to be just a singer.
I feel like I have so much more to give than just sing other people's song or be a performance artist only. I've always had the vision that I would one day create my own music. Little did I know it was going to be so difficult!
In my past I tried to focus on which instrument was best for me and to master that instrument until I felt comfortable enough to move on to creating music. As I experimented with different instruments (guitar, piano, and voice) I decided that singing was the best one for me.

The reason why I chose singing is because it came pretty naturally to me. Although I studied music theory for many years in school as well as on my own, the mathematical nature of it never really made sense to me outside of the textbook I was studying from. I understood it, but I didn't understand how to apply it. I still feel this to a certain extent, today. A big part of music theory is telling you what music sounds "good" - as in, arranging musical notes into patterns like chords, scales, and chord progressions. Music theory kind of tells you which notes go with which chords... and even when it encourages you to be experimental with your chord progressions, it always puts a label on it: "diminished chords", "augmented chords", "diatonic chords". It really never clicked in my brain in terms of application -- too many words, terms, definitions... and at the end of the day, music was just about feel for me.

For example, in music theory we have "scales" or a collection/pattern of notes that make a certain sound. There is a Blues' scale which makes songs more blue-sy. There is a minor blues' scale, which allows you to make music that sounds like sad blues.

When you play piano or guitar, you need to actually locate these notes on the keyboard/strings. For some people, this comes naturally (as in they don't even need to learn music theory) or they learn it really easily. Not for me, though. No matter how much music theory I learned and tried to apply go guitar/piano, I couldn't do it without feeling so mathematical and systematic about it. End result? I couldn't enjoy myself, feel the music or master the instrument.

However, I (and most singers) was fortunate enough with singing that I never had to memorize different scales or chords... It always came naturally to me. If I wanted to improvise and sing to any chord progression, I can do that pretty easily -- it might not sound like a catchy melody, but it would be at least something like scatting or a not-so-catchy melody. I can also harmonize melodies very easily (in fact I think that is one of my biggest strengths) which makes it easy for me to double vocals on a chorus or do background vocals. I thought it would be easy for me to write melodies, lyrics and songs -- especially that I also write not entirely terrible poetry.

I was so wrong!

  • Making a melody is easy, but making a catchy melody is not easy. Sometimes I have to improvise for hours and over several sessions to come up with something semi-acceptable... and I always end up being unsatisfied with it anyway
  • Even if you DO make a catchy melody, putting words to it is sooo difficult. If you already have words written down, it's going to be really hard to force them into a melody that you like. Sometimes people come up with melodies and then write the lyrics, which I've tried, but I feel like it decreases the quality of my lyrics as I know I could have written something much more interesting/better/complex.
  • Sometimes I just get thunderstruck with inspiration and confidence and I write the best song/hook and I love it! But at the times I really need to write (when other people are depending on me or waiting to collaborate with me, or if I'm just trying to push myself to write something new) almost nothing ever comes out :( I know there is a creative process for stimulating and channeling inspiration at any given time, but I have not figured that out yet.
  • The worst part is that I'm so shy to even show anyone songs that I've written because I feel like everything I write is shit! I feel like I can't really show anyone because its not "acceptable" yet. I can only show someone a song I've written if its has the "semi-acceptable-for-humanity's-listening" stamp... and getting there is a very frustrating concept.
I really hope that I find my own personal formula for managing creativity in songwriting because I really want to release a free mixtape or something by the end of this year -- some songs with my own beats, some songs with other people's beats, but all original songwriting and arrangement. 

If you have any comments/questions/advice, make sure you comment on this entry, or share your thoughts on my Twitter page! :)

1 comment:

  1. i think all artists with no exceptions face challenges when they are trying to write or make music, only because they always set higher standards for themselves but i think there should always be a comfortable foundation to land back on, to be comfortable with ones self is important..and it seems you have that since not alot would be open about it..i personally find that admirable. This is a great post and i hope you find the process to your sound soon. :)