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!
I 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!
prove 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 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.
songwriter 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!
course, 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.
second 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 the best!
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!