Updated: Sep 30, 2019
I can’t tell you how many times I have recorded “voice memos” with random two-second chord progressions recordings on my phone thinking that they would become songs someday. Up until recently, calling myself a musician was a dubious brag that I wasn’t able to really back up.
This summer, Greg, a friend of mine, who I met through the coaching world told me he was offering a songwriting course. He went to Berklee College of Music and has played in bands for the last couple of decades.
When he invited me to attend the course, my immediate thought was, “I am not a songwriter.” My second thought was “I don’t know guitar well enough” and besides... I am more of a drummer and I can’t write songs with drums.
Patiently, after my retorted defensive replies, Greg then asked me if I knew how to play the “C” chord on guitar? I said “yes.” He replied, “Do you know the “D” chord? I already started to see where this was going... I said “yes” again. “Okay, Do you know the F chord?” A bit frustrated I said “Yes!” to this too. He already had me busted. There are tons of popular songs out there that were written using the simple guitar skills I already had.
If I could play these chords fluently enough then why couldn’t I be a songwriter? I signed up for the course.
The first couple of lessons on music theory went over my head. I already had weekly commitments on Thursdays and a class on Monday nights. I thought that maybe this song writing thing wasn’t for me after all. I considered quitting.
Then a magical thing happened. I actually did the first assignment. I guess not so magical after all... I just set aside time to do it. I picked up one of the random ideas I had written down in an old notebook and started writing. After playing around with a couple of different ideas, I had a solid chorus for a song and it naturally led to the first verse.
The first time I performed it for the group, my voice wavered and the melody was all over the place. The second time, I surprised myself, and my singing locked into the structure of the song. I actually sounded kind of good!
Over the next couple of months, I took steps to move the song forward. I committed to small things like writing two new lyric lines each week. I shared my updates in our facebook group and everyone helped celebrate my small accomplishments. In turn, I also encouraged others as they slowly moved their songs forward too.
My biggest breakthrough from this songwriting boot camp aptly named “Get Your Song Out” was that finishing a song was much simpler than I had ever thought. The definition of a finished song is a song with all of the lyrics and guitar parts completed. Period! In the beginning, I thought that a song wasn’t fully written until it sounded exactly the way I wanted it to. A finished song actually had nothing to do with performing it perfectly or recording it exactly the way I wanted it to sound. If I passed my song off to a master musician, would they be able to perform it? Yes!
I have since finished a second song and third song before the end of the course. The lessons from the songwriting have carried over into other parts of my life. I have a better sense of what taking small progressive steps feels like. I have applied this approach to reading books, writing blogs, and preparing meals.
I invite you to share what you are working on. What small sweet steps are you taking to get there?