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Are musicians better composers?

This is something I briefly mentioned in a previous newsletter: … again and again I am asked “will I write better songs if I am a musician”?

Which is the answer?

Yes and no.


Let me explain. For the sake of simplicity, here I will talk about the “musical” aspect of songwriting.

First, I will tell you that I am a musician, songwriter, and vocal coach. And I’ve worked with both composers who play instruments and composers who don’t. Which group is best to work with?

Says so. Those who play an instrument (up to a point) are more likely to understand time, tempo, and perhaps some syncopation. Sometimes musicians will also understand melody creation a little more than non-musicians. They will understand the structure of harmony and some musical theory that goes with it.

Due to the various “pieces” or “songs” that they have played on their instruments, these musical and rhythmic elements are more or less naturally embedded in their brain, in practice and in theory.

Of course, this is GOOD. It is an advantage. Now yes, there are non-musicians who are also gifted with these elements, but I am only speaking in general terms here. For the most part, more musicians will have these elements than non-musicians.

Now here’s the twist. It is for this very reason that many musicians find it difficult to write great songs. How? Well, because there are musicians who are pre-programmed to think that maybe a melody should flow in a certain way, or maybe a sequence of chords shouldn’t fall into that pattern, etc., BECAUSE they get caught up in the theory that indirectly tells them “this not well”.

You see, composers who don’t know anything about music theory or playing an instrument will write freely. Which means they won’t think about whether something is ‘musically correct’ or not. Of course, you can’t write a song of pure non-musicality and expect a welcome reception. You would be crazy to do it.

But it’s nice when you don’t think too much about something that feels good musically in the song. Why bother? Is a song. If the second verse has 10 bars and the first verse has 8, so what? It is not a big thing.

On the other hand, there are non-musical composers who just need that little push to learn some very basic chords on a piano or guitar … just to give them that edge and sometimes even to supercharge their creativity. So ….

…. here is my conclusion. If you play an instrument and want to be a composer, don’t overthink what is musically correct. Let the chords and melody carry you. Don’t overthink it. Yes, respect the rules of music, but don’t get caught up in them.

If you are not a musician and write songs, then a great idea would be to learn some basic chords on the keyboard. This is not completely mandatory, but it will definitely give your composition a flair. Only the basic chords will do. You will be amazed at the kind of music you can make by learning the basics.

And why did I say the keyboard and not the guitar? Well, I think keyboard is fundamentally easier to learn than guitar, since you can blatantly see the notes of the intervals that you are playing head-on.

But please don’t let it stop you from learning to play guitar if that’s up to you to do it. It is a wonderful and natural composition accompaniment instrument.

If you decide to learn an instrument and when you do, I won’t get too sucked into the theory, unless I really want to learn about it …

…… and if you wish, try to draw a firm line between your musical ego and your ability to write songs. As much as they fight each other, they * can * work together, if you consciously try to find a balance.

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