Strivin

How I started with nothing and how I got to where I am now: with songwriting improved, desire and my ideas flourishing.

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"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.

Getting Started

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.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    pushingthrough
    Some might moan, but this was just what i needed. Been playing for over 20 yrs. I can play almost anything, rhythm that is with, a little work depending how hard. Ive played in many bands, mostly covers, some original metal, but i always wanted to write and understand the things i did get right and why. Writing has been frustrating the hell out of me and at times i feel like i dont have a creative bone in my body. I started taking lessons a year ago to learn lead and theory better, also to rip apart my technique and tighten it up. Best thing I've ever done, wish i did it much sooner. Your right. If I could waiting to get better, and keep being dissapointed on what I CAN do I will never write anything. Tons of starts, few finished ideas. Thanks again, just what I needed to here. I'm gonna check ur site while i'm at it. Sorry that was a book I just wrote!
    mikesocarras
    no problem. thanks for your response. im glad to help..and anything i write i hope to inspire others Yeah i always wanted know what it is that i was doing it so rewarding now and my options are tenfold! I can relate to tons of starts and few finished ideas..lol getting better everday. I like longer posts sometimes dont worry about it. get that stuff done and send me something in the future so i can get reinspired myself
    kenk-lgs
    Great advice. I've lost way too many ideas by not catching them while they were fresh. Solid suggestions!
    NathanDashnaw
    Great article. Your associates definitely make a big difference on your progress too. Great suggestion to be around those who are "better" than you.
    tirtha2chester
    Hi! I have been playing guitar for almost two years now. I'm almost 18 at this moment. I bought an electric guitar a little less than a year back and have been practising since then. I have never had a guitar tutor till date and been heavily relied on the internet and DVDs. I'm right now trying to learn and improve techniques and fretwork. Lately, I'm not fiding much time to sit and practise with my guitar due to pressure of studies. I have a few questions for you... - How long do I clock up on guitar at my level? Will things be problematic if I don't touch a guitar throught certain days? - Should I go for a guitar tutor? - How long will it take me to develop songwriting skills? I know most of the questions don't pertain to the topic, but I still like to take advice from an experienced guitarist who used to be like me at a point of time...
    BobBlunn
    Nice article Mike. It's important to start somewhere, and seek guidance when you don't really know where to start! Baby steps...
    gypsyblues7373
    Hi! I have been playing guitar for almost two years now. I'm almost 18 at this moment. I bought an electric guitar a little less than a year back and have been practising since then. I have never had a guitar tutor till date and been heavily relied on the internet and DVDs. I'm right now trying to learn and improve techniques and fretwork. Lately, I'm not fiding much time to sit and practise with my guitar due to pressure of studies. I have a few questions for you... - How long do I clock up on guitar at my level? Will things be problematic if I don't touch a guitar throught certain days? - Should I go for a guitar tutor? - How long will it take me to develop songwriting skills? I know most of the questions don't pertain to the topic, but I still like to take advice from an experienced guitarist who used to be like me at a point of time...
    Not touching your guitar for days will be problematic for the obvious reason: you won't improve! It's much better to practice for 15 minutes a day than to go for days without touching it and try to go through a weekend marathon practice session to make up for lost time. Most people retain stuff better in small "snippets" anyway, of no more than an hour. As far as developing your songwriting skills, that's really up to you. My advice would be to listen to a lot of diverse music, and study the elements of the songs: the chord progressions, the song structures, mimic the rhythms, take note of the use of rests and space, etc. And I would say yes, absolutely get a good teacher, if you can! Learning from websites and youtube is better than nothing, but there's so much random stuff out there it's practically impossible to put together a good practice routine out of all of the bits and pieces of things on the 'net.
    mikesocarras
    - How long do I clock up on guitar at my level? Will things be problematic if I don't touch a guitar throught certain days? - Should I go for a guitar tutor? - How long will it take me to develop songwriting skills? I know most of the questions don't pertain to the topic, but I still like to take advice from an experienced guitarist who used to be like me at a point of time... ...gypsyblues has very good points. Sign up to my newsletter to get a FREE ebook of progressions in EVERY key. This will help get you started with your songwriting skills. Yes, things will become problematic. Yes, get a tutor. It depends on how much time you put it in...the free ebook (if you know your chords- will improve your songwriting skills right away by giving you chords you can use in a song. From there its learning song structure - a simple, basic structure i verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus twice
    bocciaalex
    Good stuff Michael! The simplistic but still important advice of "just get started" is so under practiced.
    Marcus_Carlzon
    what he says is VERY important, always record small ideas so you remember them!!!! I small idea that you might not think is so good could be evolved to something GREAT just because you had it down. Also - get started writing songs, you aint gonna get any better by practice just your instrument and your skills. you have to practctive your songwriting skills! Basicly now I am just repeating what Mike just said, awesome article. Gets my fire going!