Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How I got started in Songwriting: 50/90

Songwriting is something that I wanted to do. Many years ago, I asked a friend of mine, a former concert pianist who also composes, for advice. His advice was to listen to music that moves me, that has meaning for me.

When I started I had no formal music training, zero training in theory, only basic skills on a melody only instrument. For many years, I wrote about a song a year. Like so many beginners, I wrote when I felt inspired. After many years in the wilderness, so to speak, I stumbled upon an Internet group 50 songs in 90 days.
I didn't believe that kind of output was possible. I became curious and at that time a person had to register to read what others were posting. So I joined the group.

After I joined 50/90, songs began to come to me. My mind shifted. One day, maybe a week in, three songs or parts of songs came to me! This is for someone that wrote one song a year. Later that year, a startling conclusion came to me: that the ratio of what I consider my better songs to the so-so songs remains near constant, no matter how many songs I wrote.

While there is some bare minimum amount of time to write a song, or sketch out a song, it is a lot lower than many beginners believe. Another friend, writes a song at his live gigs, using a title voted on by the audience. It is an amazing process to watch, even tougher to try to do. This friend is an accomplished professional songwriter with over 100 songs released with his name in the writer credits. Many pro songwriters that aren't big time performers have this ability to work very fast. This person can sketch out a reasonable song in five minutes that is better than my stuff after five weeks and a dozen revisions.

For any beginners, I encourage you to join 50/90 even if it well past the July 4th start date. I started late my first year and still got a lot done. The 50 is just a number, and most years I fell short. What I tried to do and always tell people is to spend time on songwriting every day. Hopefully at least an hour a day. Some turn off the TV, or cut back on their computer time to make room for songwriting.

Songwriting has been a life changing experience. My original music has gotten me through some very difficult and dark times in my life. There are few things more satisfying than writing a new song, perhaps recording it, or performing it live.

More than a few beginners seem to be looking for a pill to take or a magic hat. What they don't understand that for most of us, the ability to write original music has been acquired like many other music skills. By good methods, repetition, and a lot of time and effort. Yes, there are some gifted songwriters, just as their are those that have an aptitude for sight reading or a natural ear for music. That said, most everyone can write music, if they make the effort, if they have some passion. Like beginner musicians, beginners songwriters may not sound very good. Most of us, write a lot of so-so songs, as part of the learning process.

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