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And Songwriting By Mary Dawson
© 1998-2000, CQK Music. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.
are getting in touch with your emotions and you are beginning to educate
yourself in the craft of songwriting . You are now ready to wow the
world with your songs, right? Maybe not quite!
have mentioned before, the Music Business can be an extremely difficult
business to break into -- especially if you don't live in one of the
major music cities and you don't have "inside connections."
Even if you don't intend to compete in the national Music Industry,
you may find some pretty fragile egos in whatever artistic community
you intend to join. A gifted but over-confident newcomer may not be
as eagerly received by other artists as he/she might hope. Believe
me, I am not being cynical -- that's just the way things are!
that I am really an optimist at heart, I will tell you that I truly
believe it is possible for ANYONE to achieve whatever their musical
goals may be -- if they are determined to become a Master at
their craft. For the writer or artist with lots of talent but limited
funds and no inside connections -- there is one narrow, rocky road
to success and it's called Excellence.
tell my songwriting seminars that writing a great song is a lot like
putting up a chain-link fence. First the workers put up the posts
around the perimeter. Then they sort of stand the chain-link up around
the posts. At first, the chain-link is just barely standing -- it
bends and sags and wobbles. But then the workers start to tighten
that chain-link around the posts. The tighter it gets, the more erect
the fence becomes. The workers keep tightening and tightening and
tightening until it can't be tightened any more -- and then they keep
tightening. When they are finished, that once wobbly, saggy fence
can support the weight of a man without the slightest tremble. A well-erected
chain-link fence will "stand on its own" (excuse the pun)
against any other chain-link fence in the world. The same is true
of songwriting. If you are unwilling to stop tightening and tweaking
your song until it is the best it can possibly be, it will stand on
its own -- no matter what the competition or standard of evaluation.
of Excellence starts with humility! You have to be so eager to improve
that you are willing to accept criticism with grace and even gratitude.
If your goal is to have your ego stroked, you can play your songs
only for your Grandma and your Mom. They will love whatever you write.
But if you really want to improve, you must open yourself up
to objective criticism. You may want to join a songwriters organization
in your community where you can bring your songs to critiquing sessions
and hear other writers make comments and suggestions about your work.
Or you can seek out an experienced consultant who can evaluate your
songs and find those areas where the "chain link" still
needs tightening. You may have to pay a few dollars for this service,
but it is far better to tweak and improve your song before
you go to the trouble and expense of a demo. Be sure that your song
is the best you can make it before you consider it done. Of course,
you don't have to make every change that is suggested -- it is your
song, after all. You can "take what you like and leave the rest."
For myself, however, I am eternally grateful to an early mentor of
mine who believed I was capable of A+ songs and would not let me get
by with B+ or even A-. He convinced me that great songs are not
written -- they are re-written.
I correspond with was so eager to have her song heard and evaluated
objectively that she took a tape recorder out to the mall and did
a survey of 100 people. She stopped complete strangers and asked them
to listen to her song and fill out an evaluation sheet. Now that's
what I call striving for excellence!
criticism can sting! But, as far as I can see, there are only two
ways to separate yourself from that sting. The first is to remain
in a small enough pond where you can always be the biggest and the
prettiest fish. To change the analogy, you can separate yourself by
building walls around a comfort zone where you can do your music without
being stretched or challenged. You will be protected from criticism,
but chances are that 20 years from now you will still be writing at
your present level.
option is to separate yourself by excellence. On July 18, 1976,
a young gymnast named Nadia Comenci separated herself from
a field of the world's best competitors in the Uneven Parallel Bars
by scoring the first "Perfect Ten" ever recorded in Olympic
Competition. In other words, all the judges agreed there was nothing
that could be improved about her performance. She was beyond criticism
because she was the best a gymnast could be. She had started out much
like other young gymnasts -- attempting, failing, improving, and attempting
again. She had been criticized many times by earlier panels of professionals
who could see areas in her performance that needed improvement. But
she refused quit. She kept learning and practicing until it made absolutely
no difference what kind of competition she faced. Nadia never had
to tell people how good she was. She was obviously and unquestionably
up on a dairy farm and I learned early that after you milk the cows
and put the milk in the cooler, the cream ALWAYS rises to the top.
Excellence quietly and eloquently ALWAYS speaks for itself!