OK, since we’re all artists here and open to some of the more mystical/emotional approaches to art and life, I thought I’d take a moment to emphasize the importance of being truly present in your songwriting practice. While there are whole books - and philosophies - written on the value of being in the moment and not dwelling on what’s happened in the past or what’s coming in the future, it’s equally important to apply some of those same insights to your songwriting. Here are five ways to be “present” in your life as a songwriter.
Make your listeners present in your song’s story
So often we have such a clear picture in our heads of what our song is about that we forget that our listeners don’t have all the information we do. They need to be given enough detail so that even on the first listen, they can envision your song’s story and feel like they’re connected to it in a visual and emotional way. It’s never a bad idea to remind yourself that the people hearing your song for the first time aren’t privy to what you had in mind when you wrote it until and unless you show them.
Be present when receiving a song critique
I’ve been doing song critiques for over a decade and - if I’m being totally honest - not everyone signs up for a critique to be critiqued. I think there’s a part of all of us that likes to hear what we’re doing is great and can’t be improved. While I’m not suggesting that you take every comment in a song critique to heart, I am suggesting that you sit with the comments and give them serious consideration instead of rejecting them immediately just because you don’t like what you’ve heard. Take a deep breath, consider the point of view of the person giving the critique and see if it might in some way make your song do a better job of conveying the message you’re trying to communicate.
Use present language in your lyric
Depending on what era constituted your formative years as a music fan, there might be a tendency to use phrases or expressions that could make your songwriting come off as dated or not relevant to today’s market. The best reason to stay “conversational” in your lyric writing is that your listeners won’t be distracted by older language. Instead, they’ll simply follow your story allowing you to better communicate your song’s message.
Use the present approaches to songwriting
In the same way that your song’s language should be current, it’s always a good idea to pay attention to contemporary song structure, chords and melodies. Given that your song’s music - and in particular, its melody - will be the first thing that listeners notice, you can do yourself a lot of good by making sure your musical approach is up to date. Referencing - but certainly not copying - current hits is a good way of preventing your songs from coming off as “old school” or “out of date.”
There’s no time like the present to improve your craft
It’s easy, when your songwriting career isn’t going the way you’d like, to get bogged down in either past regrets or fears about the future. But the act of songwriting is one of the few things that is entirely up to you and improving your craft comes from continuing to write. Reminding yourself that there’s no time like the present to change all that goes a long way in making your songs - and your career - better.
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, music producer and educator with recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Through his studios, Cliff provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual, live access to Nashville’s best session musicians and demo singers for their songwriting demos. To find out more go to http://www.CliffGoldmacher.com/studio.You can download Cliff’s FREE tip sheet “A Dozen Quick Fixes To Instantly Improve Your Songs” by going to https://se295.infusionsoft.com/app/form/homepage-songwriting-tip-sheet