Why You Should Make Terrible Music

Yes, I’m saying we musicians should make crappy music.

Let me explain.

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How To Get Better At Songwriting

For those of us who love songwriting, we find it frustrating. Sometimes it’s just the worst.

Songwriting
How songwriting feels sometimes

It’s difficult, but practice is what makes us better at spitting rhymes and stringing together melodies.

Professional lyric and songwriters didn’t start there — they, like a lot of us, started as amateurs. So with that in mind, here are four tips on how to become a pro at writing song lyrics.

Study The Pros

Songwriting
Leonard Cohen

The greats learned from the greats, and so should you. Study the best of the best, print off their lyrics, break down their phrasing, rhyming, imagery, and storytelling. Use their techniques.

Some pros you could start studying are Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and John Lennon — these guys knew how to put words together in a beautiful way.

It’s time to become a student again and stay one until you’re done writing songs (which should be never).

Copy The Pros

Songwriting
Bob Dylan

Austin Kleon is an artist and author who wrote a book called Steal Like An Artist. The whole idea of the book is to take ideas from others (i.e. the pros), add your own spice, and create something of your own.

For example, if you, just for fun, rewrite “Like A Rolling Stone” by Dylan, you’ll get a better feel for how he structures his words, how he describes things, and his storytelling process.

Then jot down what you’ve learned and try using the same methods on your own song.

Be Consistent Like The Pros

Songwriting
Paul Simon

Malcolm Gladwell, a best-selling, deep-thinking author who does meticulous journalistic research, writes in his book Outliers  that “ten thousand hours [of practice] is the magic number of greatness.”

He cites Bill Gates, who started coding as a teenager, and The Beatles, who played an extremely high number of gigs before becoming stars in the States.

The point is, practice songwriting like heck. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. You’re not born amazing, you have to earn it.

RELATED: How To Write A Song In 5 Simple Steps

Re-write

Songwriting
Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway writes in his book A Moveable Feast, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” And, boy, that’s true.

The first thing you put down on paper is not always the best. The first draft is almost never the last. Rewriting your lyrics is part of the songwriting process.


I first wrote a version of this article for iSing Magazine

Book Review: David And Goliath

In classic Malcolm Gladwell prose and observation, the author of Outliers and Blink gives us David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. 

It’s a fascinating book. The basic idea is this: things that seem like disadvantages are not, and so-called advantages can actually be crippling and backfire on us. I broke it down below.

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Part One: The Advantages of Disadvantages (and the Disadvantages of Advantages)

Gladwell first talks about David not as a little shepherd boy, but as a slinger. He shows that B.C. slingers were able to sling a stone equal to the power of a .45-gauge pistol. David’s size and lack of weaponry looked like an apparent disadvantage that was actually advantageous.

Then he writes about the giant Goliath, who seems to have no disadvantages. Gladwell writes that Goliath possibly had physical issues, including bad eyesight and poor agility, both apparently symptoms of acromegaly.

Thus, leading to the giant’s defeat.

Part Two: The Theory of Desirable Difficulty

Beginning this section with 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Gladwell presents the ideas that “disabilities” like dyslexia, the loss of a parent at a young age, and mediocre universities are all good for you. Difficulty can lead to determination, success, and character that could change the world.

Part Three: The Limits of Power

Here, Gladwell basically says that too much power, too firm a fist, or too strict of laws can backfire and do the opposite of their purpose.

This book fits in the bookshelf beside his other works with ease, and with ease, I read it. I recommend.

RELATED: Books On Creativity