One of the many challenges we songwriters face is that we’re tasked not only with creating something from nothing, but our “somethings” need to be unique – and not only compared to what others have written but also compared to what we’ve written before. This is no small feat, and the moment you think you’ve “figured it out” as a songwriter is exactly when you need to leave your creative safe place and shake things up again. To help you along the way, I’ve listed a few “whys” and “hows” to get you out of your songwriting comfort zone.
1. You’ll demonstrate your versatility to music industry decision makers.
By showing you’re not afraid to experiment and explore new musical and lyrical territory and be a bit left of center, you’ll show those in the industry - whether publishers, record label execs or music supervisors - that they can consider you and your music for a wide variety of projects. This can be essential when one area dries up and the industry is looking for something new.
2. You’ll broaden your opportunities for collaboration.
Quite simply, the more styles and approaches that you’re comfortable writing in, the more collaborations you’ll be suited for. The flexibility that you’ll develop by not writing the same style of song in the same way will help you step into a variety of co-writing situations. This concept of new and different collaborators is also a fundamental part of the “how” to leave your songwriting comfort zone.
3. You’ll keep yourself - and the people who listen to your songs - from getting bored.
Songwriting is difficult enough, but heaven help you if your motivation to write starts to fade. By challenging yourself with new songwriting approaches, you’ll stay engaged in the process. And, better yet, your core group of listeners and industry contacts will also stay interested in what you’re doing. It’s just as dangerous to have those folks lose interest due to the sameness of your songs as it is for you to lose your motivation.
1. Put down your instrument.
We’re often limited in our songwriting by how well or in what style we play an instrument. Work on the melody (and the lyric) without your trusty guitar or piano, and you’ll be amazed at the new places your songwriting will go.
2. Vary your rhyming approach.
A typical songwriting mistake is to use rhymes that are so predictable that the listener knows exactly how the line will end before you get there. Look for unpredictable rhymes, which not only tell a more unique story but surprise the listener when they arrive. You can also deviate from your normal rhyming patterns and make use of internal rhymes to add an interesting touch both lyrically and vocally. Little variations like these can open up brand new areas in your writing with very little effort.
3. Write with new collaborators.
As I discussed earlier, varied collaborations are an excellent way of keeping your songwriting fresh. Even if your idea is unique, going to the same collaborator over and over will most likely result in a similar sounding song, no matter how new the idea. As much as possible, resist the temptation to fall back on the familiar. There’s also the fabulously motiving element of fear. It’s always a little nerve-wracking to go to a new co-write, but it’s that same nervous energy that creates great art!
It’s almost unfair - after you’ve spent all that time learning your craft and honing your songwriting approach to a fine point - to tell you to change it all up again. However, the benefits mentioned above, which come from stepping outside of your comfort zone, will far outweigh the extra work and mental gymnastics required. As I’m fond of reminding myself (when I’m resisting what I know will be good for me), fortune favors the bold.
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars. Go to http://www.educatedsongwriter.com/webinar/ for the latest schedule.
Cliff’s company, http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.
You can download a FREE sample of Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” by going to http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/ebook.