"Strivin" is the name of one of my first songs and when I started with it I barely had any skills. I couldn't keep a rhythm and never played to a metronome. I didn't know that using the V chord could be a powerful chord to change to and would also distinguish the key I'm in. I didn't even know, care, or start figuring out what key I was in until I had written many songs, many years later. Hell, they weren't even finished, they weren't even in time with each other. I put a bunch of riffs together and just made it work. Although I know now that you can change time and tempo, I didn't know it then, which led to insecurity in my ideas.
The same thing happened with changing keys. A lot of my songs change keys but I didn't know Jack
! I had a very vague idea of what I was doing and what I was capable of doing had I known some music theory. I knew the basics and I just went with what sounded good. This both helped me and hurt me in different ways. It helped me because it forced me to use my ear. Some would say it is absolutely necessary to have this skill.
Whatever the case, I was forced to use it because I didn't know any better and for this reason my ear got better. It hurt me because my ear and my songwriting abilities could have been much better had I known some very basic things. Whether you have a good ear or a bad one, it can be improved.
The main point I am trying to convey here is to get started. You have to make do with what you got. You can't sit around waiting for the day when you will be better. Frankly, the competition will kick your a-s and leave you in the dust if you let it. You can counter this simply by getting started. Write the first measure, or the first couple of notes, or just pick a drum groove or tempo that you feel you want to play over. Little baby steps go a long way. I've been at this a long time now and I haven't given up and I don't think that I will. What I've learned is that the piece you don't get started on will be forgotten tomorrow. That idea that you have will go into thin air and you may or may not retrieve it if you don't write it down somewhere or record it.
This can be done on a device such as your phone or portable recorder, or for that matter, your DAW. Even if you don't have your instrument you can hum the tune or simply speak into the recorder and try to explain the idea to yourself so that when you get home and have access to your instrument you know what to do. I can't stress enough how crucial this is to remembering the idea in your head. It's not only hard to play what's in your head but it's even harder to play something that was in your head a few minutes ago or even yesterday. The more you wait the harder it will be to retrieve with accuracy what you really had in mind.
15 Years Later
15 years later my songwriting has improved but more than that my desire and my ideas are still flourishing and its because I keep studying it. I love this stuff. Its interesting to me and it's a never-ending process. Every day I keep learning. I treat myself to guitar lessons, videos and books as well as study with a teacher. I do the same with my voice. I do it because it satisfies me. It satisfies me to keep writing and keep practicing. At a high level, training is a must. You need it. The competition is fierce and it keeps getting better and better. Just think about athletes and how they train all the time. You might not need to take this so seriously if music is a hobby to you but if you are of the serious kind then you need to do everything you can to better yourself. Get your a-s in gear. You need to get yourself around people who know what they're doing and what they are talking about. Athletes have mentors and coaches all around them and so do entrepreneurs and these guys are at the highest level. We as musicians need to be doing the same thing. We need help too, so get some, and keep strivin.
To see what I'm talking about visit my band site for a free e-book on progressions entitled "Progression Progress," Scroll down to the right and enter your email address on this site - Get It Here. It will improve your knowledge about what chords you can use in every given key, all 24 of them, 12 Major and 12 Minor.
About me: I am a guitarist, songwriter, lyricist and guitar teacher. I teach guitar lessons in Miami, Fl area and if you would like to know more about music and playing guitar you can visit these links for more songwriting information.