As a songwriter of the 21st century, armed with an advanced home studio and a “geek of sound” attitude, I have had a tendency to produce elaborate, complex but ultimately emotionless pieces of music.

If you suffer from similar ailment, going back to basics can help…

songwriting

Why music?

Despite my years of practice, this was not entirely clear for me.
I have always known how to play music.
I have always enjoyed playing music.
But why do we do it?
What are we trying to do with those notes, harmonies, melodies, lyrics?

The best answer I have is: EMOTIONS

Emotions via the body, if the music is more rhythm-based.
Techno, Reggae, Funk, etc…

Emotions via the mental, if the music is more abstract or conceptual.
Philip Glass, John Cage, Brian Eno come to mind.

Emotions via the emotions, if the music is more lyrics-based.
Janis Joplin, Lhasa, Leonard Cohen, Jacques Brel…

In any case, it is all about EMOTIONS!

And so, as a songwriter, it can be very useful to feel (body) or know (mental) the emotions I am “playing to” and want to convey.

What do humans hear/listen?

Here is a quick test to help you come to a clear answer to that question:
play any song at a very low level on your stereo…
What remains to be heard?

In my experience, only two things:

1/ The rhythm – the thump, the percussive, the beat, the pattern

2/ The human voice – our ears are specifically conceived to hear, to pick out and distinguish the human voice. It makes sense, as this is essential to our ability to communicate, right.

human voice spectrum

All other elements fade out. Nevertheless, the song still holds it’s interest, its capacity to be heard, its capacity to generate the desired emotion in us.

How does that impact my music production?

So, if:

  1. Music is emotion
  2. Rhythm and voice are it

How does that impact my music production?

Going back to these basics is a great way to give yourself a reality check. For every piece you write, ask yourself:

  1. What emotion?
  2. Is that emotion there when I simply hum and clap it? sing and piano it? sing and strum it?

Finally, if you dare ask a third-party to give you feedback, focus on the feeling, the EMOTIONS 🙂