In Activities in Music Industry, we talked about the importance of knowing yourself. How do you work best? If you’re an avid procrastinator, don’t work without time frames; nothing will get done. Knowing that you need deadlines to stay on track doesn’t mean you’re a bad musician. It means you need structure to be productive and learning that can help you improve. If you’re not a people person, you probably don’t want a job where you have to interact with people all the time, and that’s okay. It’s all about knowing how you work best.
This week in Songwriting 1, we talked about lyric writing. We were given a spectrum between narrative and abstract. Narrative lyrics give context, tell a story, and are very clear. Examples of songs that are more on the narrative side are “Speed Trap Town” by Jason Isbel, and “This Year” by the Mountain Goats. Abstract lyrics capture the essence of something, but without the context they are so open as to be meaningless. Songs that lean towards the abstract are “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, and “Four Out of Five” by the Arctic Monkeys. Non-narrative abstraction is a story represented using a variety of images. More interpretation is necessary than with a narrative and the meaning is less defined, but it’s clearer than an abstract piece. Different people can have different ideas of what a song means and it’s open for discussion.
Songs usually fall somewhere between two points on the chart rather than on just one. For instance, I’m usually between narrative and non-narrative abstraction.
Why does this matter? It’s important to know what you’re trying to accomplish while writing. It’s pretty easy to write a song, reference this chart, and mark a spot on it, but thinking about this stuff can help us notice trends. Now that I’ve realized where I’ve been doing, I can decide if it’s what want. For my next song, I want to try writing more of a narrative and see how I like it. If I hadn’t stopped to think about lyrics, I never would have thought to challenge myself in this way.
So, how does one find their musical identity? You try a lot of stuff and fail. You see what works and what doesn’t. You write tons of songs and along the way you discover your voice. I’m still working on it, but I’m always getting closer.