3 Concepts That Made Me A Better Songwriter  

Composition and Songwriting Advice and Philosophies

Over 15 years of writing music, I've developed and borrowed a few philosophies on composing that have helped make my music more enjoyable and less frustrating. I find these principles to be more helpful, in sum, than music theory itself. This is way outside of my normal kind of video and I was very apprehensive about posting it. I'm sure many will disagree with my opinions here but I don't see any harm in sharing what has helped me get to this point. Maybe one day I'll outgrow all these opinions and find they're flawed but for now I still consider them to be among several guiding tenets to songwriting, composing, art... 


Please note, this transcription was computer generated and has not been checked for errors. However, I do hope you find it helpful. Be sure to check out The Ultimate Modal Poster!

Writing good music and making good art isn't always about having the Right theory or even the proper technique.

There are some bigger picture ideas some Concepts and philosophies that I've learned over the years that have really influenced me and helped me grow as a musician and help me make better music and I want to share some of those ideas here with you today. Now some of these ideas I've developed on my own but more of them. I have borrowed and stolen from very very experienced creative experts people like authors filmmakers and musicians one place. I've been learning a lot from lately is David Bruce's composition.

No, he's a British composer here on YouTube and his videos are filled with Rich insight into musical compositions and musical ideas. It goes way past just building up Triads and scales and pretty much every one of his videos is left me with something to chew on and think about and something that I know will be influencing my art as I go forward. So if you like my videos, I strongly recommend you check out his channel. I've been learning so much from there and I'm sure you will too. So I've linked to it in the description now in this video what I really want to discuss these three ideas as they relate to writing music so firstly I want to talk about The importance of Music Theory and where does it fit into my compositions and how I suggest that it fit into yours music theory is a great tool. It's a device that allows me to examine music. I can understand it better and it also allows me to discover music easier. I compare this to the role of the microscope. If you're a biologist a microscopes going to allow you to see things you couldn't see before it's going to allow you to understand things and it will help you discover new ideas all on your own, but if you're a biologist whose only studying your microscope and not really looking at what's under the microscope, you're kind of losing sight of Of the bigger picture and a lot of students can get lost in just learning and not applying now some people our way into just studying the microscope and these would be music theoreticians people that just study the theory but don't spend a lot of time composing and I think that's fantastic. I think that really helps Propel things forward and music theory additions help me understand complicated ideas that I didn't understand before so I'm not saying you shouldn't obsess about music theory, but for me personally, I'm more interested in writing music that I am just studying it. I study music to help me write it.

Easier but really the first primary goal is to write it. So when I think about practicing music, I don't think about studying music theory I think about making more music and then if I get in trouble or if I want to, you know, go into some new territory, I can study music theory to help me get into some new areas and find something new.

Secondly, I want to talk about this idea of writing something and then making it better one frequent question. I get asked a lot is how do I make my right riff sound better and a thing I want to share with you here is that it's really not about what you wrote. It's about what you do with what you wrote. I can give you a lot of really lame riffs that sound great in the people love just because they're surrounded by the right things. The only example, I'll give you here today. Is this imagine if I just came up to you with these two chords A D5 and a G5 and if I said, hey check out my new song What do you And if I just play these two chords for the next three and a half minutes probably be pretty bored and you probably say that it's not that good of a song and if I wrote that and thought here's my song. I might start thinking. Hey, I didn't write anything that interesting but that's missing the point. The song is not the two chords to courts are just part of that song If I had the right things to those two chords If I Had lyrics to those two chords something like through the rise into the street and I had a nice sample drumbeat attic. Guitar solo that every teenager wants to learn lyrics that everybody wants to scream at a party and a really catchy chorus You've Got What I Got by Sublime and even though that might not be your favorite style of music. That's a really successful great enjoyable song. I Wish I wrote that song and if I had just stopped at two chords, if whoever wrote that song wrote those two chords and just stopped and said, oh it's boring. It's only two chords you'd never have that song. So the point here is that you can take something that might be boring might be mundane and mediocre.

And you can turn it into gold just by surrounding it with the right elements. I also think of the Riff for Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones. That's a pretty lame riff all on its own in my opinion. I don't think that's very interesting and it's something that if I had written on my own I might just Cast Away had I not learned this idea that like, hey, maybe that is gold and I just don't see it yet. Maybe it just needs a little bit more polishing.

Maybe it needs to be in the right context and maybe that riff could really really shine. Now the last topic I want to talk about here is this idea that composers don't really write good music. But instead they hear good music.

I really like to think of the fact that I could make a computer program that encodes every single possible three-minute MP3 and you'd have every single possible song that fits into a 3-minute MP3 file right now. We don't have the computer power for that. But I mean knowing that all this stuff is theoretically out there the role for me as a composer isn't really to write music. It's to just find the music it's to find which one of these that already exists Somewhere In The Ether and to pluck out the good ones because a lot of those are going to A bad a lot of options and a lot of possibilities are not that enjoyable, but there are really gems in there.

So to me, it kind of removes the ego from the entire writing process. I no longer have to think about writing music and making something a certain way I get to just instead be like an Explorer I get to discover things and I get to find new things and help develop them. I'm a huge fan of David Lynch. He's a filmmaker and a director and he talks about finding ideas and like like a little piece of a puzzle and you hold on to that piece of the puzzle and then maybe later on you find. Another piece of that puzzle and you get to put it together and you know later on there's another piece but but the puzzles already there. It's not like you're building these pieces. You're just finding them I get ideas in fragments. I always say it's as if in the other room, there's a puzzle.

All the pieces are together.

But in my room I did they just flip one piece at a time into me. I also remember reading a quote from horror author Stephen King. He mentioned that the stories he's telling Art stories that he's written. These are just stories that he's retelling these are stories that already exists and he's just passing them along and they were already there before he got to him. So I really like this idea in this this method of thinking about writing. I find it very freeing and sometimes you do have to inject your intent into things. Sometimes it might be for a job or a commission and you don't get the luxury of discovering music. You have to write a disco beat. That sounds like a Michael Jackson song because it's going to be played on a Michael Jackson slot machine, you know composing a sometimes about doing stuff like That and that's when we go back to you know, using our music theory and and having knowledge and experience but when it comes to writing for fun writing for art, I like to think of it as a discovery process and not so much of as a composition process. So I hope this gave you something to think about to me. These are really important ideas that are even more important to me than the music theory itself the music theory helps me get like, you know, the nitty-gritty out of the way, but, you know, you can have great knowledge of theory and still right really bad music trust me. I've seen it plenty of times before I'm sure you Have to so once you've got the basics down a theory and it really any level of Music Theory. You can start taking and making music off of it. These concepts are the ones that I feel have taken my songwriting to a more enjoyable level a more creative level and a more artistic level to be honest with you. So if you like this video and you want to see more videos like this, you can consider supporting my patreon page these videos really wouldn't exist if it weren't for my supporters, so thanks to them. And if you can't do that, that's fine. You can just like subscribe share these videos with your friends and I'll see you next time.


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