Professional songwriter Ben Cooper has posted a brief, but insightful article on Songwriting Tips. Usually, my students’ introduction into songwriting comes in the way of The Psalms Project that we put together each spring. I can definitely see the truth of Ben’s statement that, “When creating, we learn by doing, and we improve by repeating the process.” Students who started years ago by contributing a melody that was almost unsingable are now creating lovely pieces that are a joy to sing! Here’s another perspective that I really appreciated:
“Instead of over-analyzing each and every song I write, I’ve learned to figure out what I could do better in the process. Sometimes a song deserves to be re-written, but honestly, sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s OK.”
I can relate to this as an author, too. Eventually you get to a point when you have to finish and leave an article or book “as-is” and learn from it (and the critiques you receive) so that the next writing project is better. Or, as a filmmaking friend of mine put it, “You can’t make your third movie first.” There has to be room to grow. Most of us would probably never let our first songs or compositions see the light of day, but if it weren’t for those, we wouldn’t be where we are today with our writing. The same goes for our students.
I love Ben’s closing sentiments:
“When it comes to this craft, there is no conventional path to becoming a professional (I know plenty of signed writers who never went to college, and plenty of unsigned writers who have a degree). In songwriting, every writer earns his or her diploma through experience.”
Some great thoughts to keep in mind as we work with composing students – helping them learn skills and strive toward excellence, but giving them room to grow as they write songs that are “stepping-stone[s] on the path to the next.”