I have rebelled against RULES most of my life. And I know that you, being a creative songwriter, are probably not so big on rules either. When I am teaching the sometimes elusive craft of songwriting, I generally like to teach more in terms of flexible guidelines, and helpful suggestions, than to ever use the term “rule.” However, this is one songwriting guideline that I suggest ALL songwriters commit to memory as a RULE.
Rule #1 of Great Songwriting: Your new song is only a “ROUGH DRAFT!”
I have seen way too many songwriters spend merely a few hours writing a new song, start rehearsing it with their band, and then perform it live a month or two later, having never altered, edited, modified, or improved a single word, note, chord, or rhythm! And when asking why I will often get some pretty funny responses, such as: “The song was ‘inspired’ in the moment, therefore I cannot change anything.” But the reality usually has more to do with the songwriter knowing very little about songwriting as a craft, and the techniques that could transform their songs from mediocre drafts into magnificent masterpieces!
There are three problems with this. One, if you ever get the chance to work with a professional producer, it could cost you a fortune in the amount of time he will want to spend editing your song before it will be ready to be recorded. Two, your songs will probably never make it to a professional producer, publisher, or record label, due to the fact that the songs will retain an unfinished quality to them. And three, it will be difficult to keep fans interested in your songs when they could be ten times better with a little editing.
Occasionally you will get lucky and write an amazing and complete song in one sitting, if you do a lot of writing. But occasionally people who buy lottery tickets on a regular basis will win some money as well. They will be certain to make money if they work for it though, just as you will be certain to write better and better songs if you put in the work learning the craft of songwriting rather than relying only on inspiration.
I don’t mean to imply that anyone reading this is an amateur, you are probably a great writer, but if you normally skip the most important part of the songwriting process, the editing, then you are missing the fullest potential of your songs.
Professional Songwriters will sometimes spend the same amount of time as amateurs with the initial writing phase, but they will think of it as a Rough Draft. Then, over the next few weeks or months, they will continually come back to the songs that had potential and build them into marketable songs, using the techniques of the trade.
Which brings us to the real issue here. One of the main reasons why so many songwriters just fly by the seat of their pants, and never take time to learn the techniques that professional songwriters use on a daily basis is that it can be very difficult information to find. Most songwriters are not even aware that songwriting can be taught and learned. And in actuality, the secrets of great songwriting have been closely guarded among music industry insiders ever since the industry became such a big money maker.
That is one of the main reasons why I have created Songwriting Planet and developed online songwriting courses, to level the playing field, and give you the tools and techniques necessary to weave your rough drafts into the best songs they can be.
So from now on, think of every a new song you complete as only a rough draft, and take some time to learn songwriting techniques, so that you will know what to look for when editing your song to take it to a much higher level. You will be AMAZED at the difference it will make.
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