By Michael Anderson

One aspect of songwriting that cannot be over emphasized is that it should be fun. You should enjoy writing songs – if you don't enjoy the writing process, how can the listener enjoy the final product? You can't transmit something that isn't there.

Sometimes we can forget that business pressures, outside criticism, and even our own ego can get in the way. But to a true songwriter, writing a song is how you feel right with the world.

Find your joy in the process. You may write some very gratifying songs. You may enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction when they are finished. But it is the process, the excitement of doing it, that you can enjoy the most. When you enjoy what you are doing it shows in the finished work.

Appreciate your gift. Concentrate on where you are and the next step, and your final destination will be getting closer. You may never get there. You may get there and not like it, you may get there and it will be everything you dreamed of. Or you may be there now.

Art is an expression of that part of our nature that seeks to rise above the mundane, the physical, to reach for something more — the understanding of life, love, and purpose. Everyone has within them talents and gifts to express their own unique perspective on life.

An analogy I have heard is we are like different prisms taking in the source of life, one white light, and putting out different colors and patterns. I like that.

The music business exists to remind us that temptation, corruption, and evil exist also. I'm kidding of course. Sort of.

Now we are social creatures too. Our nature is to seek answers to the big questions of life, death, and love, as well as to live, work, interact, and help each other through this difficult journey of life holding each other up, encouraging each other, and contributing to the betterment of our community and the common quality of life.

Everybody has a natural, healthy desire for self-expression, an entirely individual way of communicating a personal vision of the world.

C.S. Lewis said we read in order to know we are not alone.

We create in order to communicate on that level.

Songwriting is one way of fulfilling that need. Writing a song is an expression by the writer, and hopefully an appreciation by the audience, of an otherwise inexpressible feeling. Great songs express that feeling in a way that nothing else can. Through your song, others see and hear things through your perspective.

Life is hard. But it can be fun.

Structure as fun

Part of the fun in songwriting is working within a structure. You may wonder how a restriction like structure can be fun. I am not referring to formulaic music that uses paint-by-numbers processes in order to achieve a predetermined reaction. However, there is a vital distinction between a formula and a structure.

There are fundamental song forms that represent the essentials of song structure. I encourage your experience with form to be liberating in possibility, and not limiting in imitation.

The basic Pop song form is similar in discipline to haiku poetry, three chord blues, or the sonnet. These are all seemingly rigid forms that have endless variation and possibilities within the structure. A structure of possibilities rather than limits.

Within those structures are substructures and forms, conventions, and expectations for the trained or untrained ear.

The beauty of a great song is bringing all of the elements, consciously or unconsciously, to fruition through the process of writing and crafting; to deliver an emotionally satisfying experience to the listener the way a great film, book, short story, painting, or performance does. Unlike those art forms, a Pop song does it in about three minutes. That takes focus, structure, and a plan.

Form is a very involved topic, and many good books and courses go into far greater of detail on its intricacies than I can here. This article is intended as a very basic guideline on one of the elements of songwriting.

No one can teach you how to write a song. You either already do that or you don't. It is your gift or it is not. If it is, then others can give you guidelines that will help you write songs in ways that more effectively communicate your inspired ideas.

My purpose in these articles is to lay down a basic foundation and perhaps a philosophy about the art of songwriting so that when you express "what is in you that has to come out," the results are clear and compelling.

I don't write how to "get rich quick writing songs for fun and profit" articles. I write "how to recognize essential song elements and use them more effectively to craft your ideas in a way that other people will understand them within the structure of a song" articles. That was too long for a title though. And probably not as interesting as having fun.

Many books speak in depth about the business and craftsmanship side of this equation. My recommendation on that score is John Braheny's "The Craft and Business of Songwriting."



This article is excerpted from "Michael Anderson's Little Black Book of Songwriting" available at michaelanderson.com. Michael Anderson is an award-winning Artist/Songwriter who wrote the #1 Country hit, "Maybe It Was Memphis," for Pam Tillis. Michael also has cuts with John Fogerty, Juice Newton, and many more. As an artist, he released two albums on A&M, and has five #1 Contemporary Christian singles. He is also a valuable member of TAXI's A&R staff.

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