Internalizing Songwriting Tools and Techniques

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Internalizing Songwriting Tools and Techniques

The slug line for my Songwriting Theory blog posts is “No Rules Only Tools”.  This is somewhat tongue in cheek but actually is something I feel very strongly about.  Theory or technique taught as a set of rules to follow is firstly annoying to anyone who is creative.  And secondly promotes concept that creating a work of art is just a matter of following a set of rules.
If you think of theory or techniques as sets of tools that once mastered and more importantly internalized provide you a larger pallet of ideas to bring to the creative process, then you have a very good reason to learn new tools.  In this post I want to explore a bit more of the concept of internalizing tools and techniques.
So what in the heck am I talking about “internalizing” a tool or technique anyway?  Internalizing a tool or technique means that you study it and work with it until it becomes second nature.  And it becomes another part of your creative process.  They are meaningless in and of themselves.  But become powerful when internalized.
An excellent example of internalizing a technique is what we do every day when we speak.  When we speak our native tongue we have mastered over many years an amazingly complicated set of skills using our tongue, lips, larynx, and breath to form words.  And on top of that we form words into sentences, and sentences into larger constructs.  We do this with very little conscious thought.  We don’t have to think about how to form the words and what order to put them in.  We simply express our thoughts through spoken language.
Another example is when a musician practices scales and arpeggios. The reason for doing this isn’t so you can play scales and arpeggios.  It is so you can play musical lines without thinking of the mechanics of the instruments and the musical constructs that make up the melody.  A really great teacher of mine told me something in a trumpet lesson when I was in high school that has always stuck with me.
“The reason to practice technique is so the trumpet disappears and you are no longer playing the trumpet you are only playing music.”
So when I talk about “internalizing” theory and songwriting techniques that’s what I’m talking about.  You study a technique, work with it, master it, and make it part of your writing process.  So when you write a song all these things are just part of the act of writing a song.  Getting caught up in techniques for the sake of themselves produces very poor art.  Having the mechanics of songwriting disappear and only the act of songwriting remain — that’s the goal.
Hope this little article helps you think a little differently about creativity and the reason to study new techniques.  The goal is to make all those techniques and theory disappear and what you are left with is a wider range of ideas at your fingertips as you write a great song.
And as always, let’s go out there and make some music!!!!
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