I used to think I was the greatest songwriter around. The truth was I was far from it, because I hadn’t learned any of the concepts that can make a song great.
I wanted to be an innovator and do whatever I wanted, but I didn’t realize that before you innovate you have to know the methods that have worked again and again. Then you can stray from them. If you just do whatever you what, whenever you want, without learning, it’s a recipe for a song that’s just messy. Believe me, I learned that the hard way. I once had a song that went from rock, to funk, to jazz all in the same song! I thought it was great because it was original, but needless to say my listeners had no idea where I was taking them with that kind of music. I was trying to innovate before I knew anything about what makes a song successful.
Then I realized that once you know the ideas that go into a successful song, you can use them to make your song great, or you can creatively stray from those same ideas to make your song innovative. Either way, you win. But you have to know what those concepts are first.
Once I realized my songs weren’t working, I decided to build a solid songwriting education for myself and make it my mission to know what makes songs listeners want to hear and own. I read books, and went to seminars and workshops given by the best and most accomplished songwriting teachers around. I learned all the best tips, tricks and techniques there are. Some of what I learned worked and some didn’t. But the stuff that worked, worked incredibly well.
As I started to learn more and more about songwriting, I developed the ability to see what made successful songs work so well, while other songs didn’t. It became almost instantaneous when I listened to a new song.
I ended up analyzing a ton of hit songs for articles on my own website and for other great songwriting websites, like USA Songwriting Competition’s Blog and CD Baby’s Do It Yourself Musician’s Blog. I’ve even had my writings appear as examples in the book Songwriting Without Boundaries, by Pat Pattison, who’s an acclaimed Lyric Writing Professor at Berklee College of Music.