I’m only about a third of the way through reading Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison but I’m already sure it’s worth it’s purchase price because it’s really opened up my mind as far as how to approach writing lyrics.
It’s given me a sort of framework that I believe I can use to write lyrics that are both meaningful (to me and to others) and that work in a song (this is important, poems are not lyrics – we always have to remember that lyrics are to be sung.)
… And The Rant Begins …
Too often I think people have this crazy idea that should just know how to do something. That real talent comes “naturally.” That’s such bullshit. Everyone who is good at anything has studied it in one way or another. This attitude gives people an easy excuse to quit.
“Oh, my lyrics aren’t as good as Bob Dylan’s on my first try, I might as well give up.”
“My music sounds like crap compared to Mozart, I’m done with this.”
If you really want to do something, you have to put in the time to learn how to do it. And it’s not all just about “being creative.” Creativity doesn’t mean that much without having some clue about what you’re doing. Not to say that you have to be a total expert of all things music theory to make great music, I don’t think that’s true. But knowing some technical stuff definitely helps.
And even if someone doesn’t know the names for something, that doesn’t mean that they don’t know it on another level. For example people often make a big deal about Lennon & McCartney not knowing how to read music and not knowing technical music theory stuff. Sure, that’s true. But they definitely knew a ton about how to construct great songs from their many years learning how to play hundreds of other people’s songs before they wrote their first hit.
And while I think it’s true that creativity without some clue as to what you’re doing doesn’t mean much, I also think it’s true that knowing the technical stuff on it’s own doesn’t mean anything either. You have to have the spark of creativity too to make something that’s truly special. That’s the thing, you can’t have just one or the other. You need to learn how to do something, and then you’ve got the ability to let your creativity take over (if you’ve got any.)
I know this has turned into a bit of a rant, and it echoes some of the ideas from an earlier rant “What People Call Talent…” but I really think it’s important. So many people have this crazy idea that if they aren’t born knowing how to do something that they shouldn’t bother. Nobody is born knowing how to do anything. Nobody.
“People make a great mistake who think that my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to compositions as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not studied over and over” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.