#1
I am curious about your opinions on when someone should start trying to create their own music rather than learning other people's songs. I know there's nothing wrong with continuing to learn other artist's songs and covering them for eternity, but I think there must have been a point in most the famous musician's career when they started focussing on making their own music rather than learning their favourite band's songs.

This is, of course, for aspiring musicians only. People who just want to learn guitar for fun can happily just learn covers of their favourite songs for ever. But for people who want to make their own music, I am curious as to what stage you guys think you should focus more on creating rather than learning. I know you could technically write songs after one week of learning guitar, but all you'd be doing is strumming D and G chords. It makes sense that, at first, you'd want to learn new skills and develop your technique, but I am curious as to what point you should say to yourself, "I think I'm skilled enough now to write good music."
#2
I think most musicians never stop learning other peoples songs. If you need more time for writing your own stuff just take it. No reason to stop the one for the other.
#3
I wasn't aware that there was a specific point where you have to stop learning other people's songs. For me, learning other people's stuff is how I get inspiration for my own stuff, both lyrically and musically. There's no reason you can't do both. Yeah, there comes a stage where you are able to create competent songs, but you can always learn something from what other people do. Though when you do get serious about creating your own, then that should become more of your focus, but you can still keep learning new songs. But that's just my opinion.
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#5
Write when you want to write and play songs when you want to play songs. There's no other answer. No-one but yourself can dictate what you choose to play.
Last edited by vayne92 at Jul 25, 2014,
#7
THis is something ive recently changed my opinion on. I started guitar learning songs/riffs like most people and after some time I started learning about keys, scales and techniques and did a lot of improvisation in my playing. Ive written quite a few songs and pieces during that time but Ive recently realised that I have quite a formulaic style of song writing that Im starting to get bored of and cant seem to get out of. I think I'm going to start to learn a lot more songs by other people to learn different structures and ideas and adapt them all to my own style.

In science they say "standing on the shoulders of giants", which basically means build on what the people that have come before you have done.
#10
I think you should start both right at the beginning. As you get better, it gets really fast to learn new songs.

You might not be that good at writing songs at the beginning but that will improve, and go faster as you get better.

I've always mostly written my own stuff. I also had a somewhat consistent sprinkle of other songs I'd learn in between as well.
#11
Quote by lodgi
THis is something ive recently changed my opinion on. I started guitar learning songs/riffs like most people and after some time I started learning about keys, scales and techniques and did a lot of improvisation in my playing. Ive written quite a few songs and pieces during that time but Ive recently realised that I have quite a formulaic style of song writing that Im starting to get bored of and cant seem to get out of. I think I'm going to start to learn a lot more songs by other people to learn different structures and ideas and adapt them all to my own style.

In science they say "standing on the shoulders of giants", which basically means build on what the people that have come before you have done.



It was Isaac Newton that said " If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.."
#13
Do you think making music is for serious musicians only?

It seems you're holding music composure on way too high a pedestal. There is never a "time" to "start making music". Hell, I've barely learned any songs in 8 years, I started off making music. Didn't have a clue to theory, just whatever sounded good. Surprisingly, this isn't a foreign practice to quite a few musicians.

Now, there's nothing wrong with learning someone else's songs, or covering a song - it can be easier or harder. Tell a violinist who has mastered Transcendental Etude No. 2 in A minor that learning another's music isn't worthy of praise :P. Just because some musicians only transcribe and perform prearranged music and never make their own doesn't mean they're less serious than you.

Only advice I can give you:

Stop being so pedantic, do what you want to do. Further, stop creating prejudices you don't understand.
Last edited by johnturner9 at Jul 26, 2014,
#14
Quote by johnturner9
Do you think making music is for serious musicians only?

It seems you're holding music composure on way too high a pedestal. There is never a "time" to "start making music". Hell, I've barely learned any songs in 8 years, I started off making music. Didn't have a clue to theory, just whatever sounded good. Surprisingly, this isn't a foreign practice to quite a few musicians.

Now, there's nothing wrong with learning someone else's songs, or covering a song - it can be easier or harder. Tell a violinist who has mastered Transcendental Etude No. 2 in A minor that learning another's music isn't worthy of praise :P. Just because some musicians only transcribe and perform prearranged music and never make their own doesn't mean they're less serious than you.

Only advice I can give you:

Stop being so pedantic, do what you want to do. Further, stop creating prejudices you don't understand.



I wouldn't say less serious, but playing pieces and writing pieces, or improvising, and of good quality, are completely different things. Like tracing a drawing or devising one. Copying down a book, or writing one. Following a recipe or inventing new ones.

They are very different. To do well.

But, even if you're writing something simple, that's not all that interesting, I think that's worth it, and part of the fun of music. But lots of people enjoy different facets of different things, and they are all good as long as they make you happy.

I guess, if you want to compose or write, then compose or write. But also learn what other people are doing and what it sounds like. Learning their songs is a good way to do that.

But you're right, if you don't want to write, then don't and that's fair, and you can be serious doing that, and make a living doing that, and be very good at it, and it demands great skill as well.

But it is very different from creating. One is sort of like you train to be a human record player, and the other is creating new music, making it exist whereas it did not exist before. But I agree with you that "serious" is not the word to make the distinction.
#15
I think you should allow your creative juices to flow right from the beginning. Obviously you won't be able to write a full song after playing guitar for a week, but if you come up with a cool riff or something, you really need to embrace that experience and fall in love with the whole creative process. Improvising and songwriting are skills that truly take a lifetime to get good at, much less master, so you better get started as soon as possible if you ever want to come close to fulfilling your creative goals.
#16
I believe people should start writing their own music early on. Songwriting ability will improve along with playing ability.

Learning other people's songs is overrated. You absorb as much by just listening; and of course it's much faster to listen to a song than learn one! I only ever learned songs that I especially liked. Would never have had the patience to learn any unless I was enthused by them.
#17
Quote by Jehannum
I believe people should start writing their own music early on. Songwriting ability will improve along with playing ability.

Learning other people's songs is overrated. You absorb as much by just listening; and of course it's much faster to listen to a song than learn one! I only ever learned songs that I especially liked. Would never have had the patience to learn any unless I was enthused by them.


I totally agree, that just listening to music will be able to give you ideas and get inspiration etc... But learning them does give you an extra level of benefit than just listening to them.

If you learn the roman numerals, I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-viio, and you learn songs relative to that, then you start to notice how the V gets used, and the IV, and stuff like that. You sort of link what you hear, to how to produce that on the fretboard.

Sure, you could imagine whatever you hear, but, you might have to hunt around for it a bit. I personally really hate that, because I will lose my train of thought, or play something that isn't what I was looking for, but kind of gives me a different idea, or takes me in a different direction, and sometimes that can be a happy accident, and sometimes it isn't, you just forget what you were originally looking for.

It's like you said, you can just listen to music, and that gives you a wealth of ideas, and inspirations, and that is easy. I mean mozart was a musical genius but he wasn't coming up with ideas like michael jackson. That was just impossible to imagine at the time.

But learning guitar is more than that. Imagining music, is just music. The guitar is the tool or means by which to take those ideas in your mind, the music you hear, or think of, and turn it into music other people can hear. It's like the guitar is the speaker for your mind.

Learning guitar, is learning how to do that. Just listening to music doesn't really help with that. It helps with your ideas, and stuff like that, but it doesn't help with turning them into music on your guitar.

Writing your own music does, but that can be a little slow, more so at first. But learning songs is really fast for that. If you use the roman numerals, because you learn a bunch and quickly you will recognize that certain chords have common roles just because of how they sound, and then writing songs gets a lot faster as well, and learning gets a lot faster. So, you can hear music, and know what the chords are in terms of roman numerals just by listening to it. I still can't do that flawlessly with every song, but to me, that's what you should aim for.

Most songs are real fast for me to ear out the chords for though. A lot of the time it is as fast as listening to the song once.
#18
Quote by fingrpikingood
I wouldn't say less serious, but playing pieces and writing pieces, or improvising, and of good quality, are completely different things. Like tracing a drawing or devising one. Copying down a book, or writing one. Following a recipe or inventing new ones.

They are very different. To do well.

But, even if you're writing something simple, that's not all that interesting, I think that's worth it, and part of the fun of music. But lots of people enjoy different facets of different things, and they are all good as long as they make you happy.

I guess, if you want to compose or write, then compose or write. But also learn what other people are doing and what it sounds like. Learning their songs is a good way to do that.

But you're right, if you don't want to write, then don't and that's fair, and you can be serious doing that, and make a living doing that, and be very good at it, and it demands great skill as well.

But it is very different from creating. One is sort of like you train to be a human record player, and the other is creating new music, making it exist whereas it did not exist before. But I agree with you that "serious" is not the word to make the distinction.



Do you mind if I make a (friendly) counterpoint?


Using your example of painting - emulating the work of a master can be very near or surpass the effort of creating from scratch. See, I always avoided learning songs. When I was younger, I told myself it was because I was original, "special". Basically, I was a douchebag. Later into my playing I realized, what I didn't want to deal with was the different learning curve.

If you strive for accuracy, correct timing, dynamics, everything that goes into a song, well that's pretty hard! In a different way, for sure, but a very valid way! As with everything, it's all subjective. You seem experienced, so I'm sure I'm not telling you anything new.

But I genuinely want our friend up there, OP, to realize that putting people in boxes based on what they do or believe isn't fair. If you master a song, while not yours, you should be proud of it! Ultimate-guitar has grown to this tremendous size based on tabalature alone, so I feel that those who do covers/learn other's music should be validated!

Anyways, I'm off my box now, just thought I'd chime in


edit: Aside from difficulty, emulating others music can be exponentially creative. There is always room for individuality and sometimes limits stress the imagination more than if it were without.
Last edited by johnturner9 at Jul 26, 2014,
#19
Quote by johnturner9
Do you mind if I make a (friendly) counterpoint?


Using your example of painting - emulating the work of a master can be very near or surpass the effort of creating from scratch. See, I always avoided learning songs. When I was younger, I told myself it was because I was original, "special". Basically, I was a douchebag. Later into my playing I realized, what I didn't want to deal with was the different learning curve.

If you strive for accuracy, correct timing, dynamics, everything that goes into a song, well that's pretty hard! In a different way, for sure, but a very valid way! As with everything, it's all subjective. You seem experienced, so I'm sure I'm not telling you anything new.

But I genuinely want our friend up there, OP, to realize that putting people in boxes based on what they do or believe isn't fair. If you master a song, while not yours, you should be proud of it! Ultimate-guitar has grown to this tremendous size based on tabalature alone, so I feel that those who do covers/learn other's music should be validated!

Anyways, I'm off my box now, just thought I'd chime in


edit: Aside from difficulty, emulating others music can be exponentially creative. There is always room for individuality and sometimes limits stress the imagination more than if it were without.


I totally agree with you. I guess I didn't express myself really well. Learning songs, and just becoming a skilled musician that doesn't compose is fine. People who do that for a living, or for a hobby love it, and that's what matters most. It is also not a simple thing. It demands a lot of hard work, and it is no small feat. I think I would compare it similarly to gymnastics in a way, or dancing choreographies. It takes practise and skill, and flexibility and power and grace and technique and all that.

That is nothing to scoff at, at all.

But it is not the same skill set as people that improvise, or compose great pieces. It just isn't. Some people might be incredibly skilled at playing instruments but cannot compose well at all. Nothing wrong with that, they are not less valuable, but it is just that way.

Mozart composed the pieces (he played piano, or clavichord whatever it was as well, but not bass and violin and cello and all that.) And musicians performed them. The violinists and cellists did not compose the masterpieces.

It's a different thing. We could argue the semantics about creativity all day and whether or not one can be considered more creative than the other. For me, in how I define creativity, creating something new that didn't exist before, in its entirety all from yourself, is more creative than interpreting a piece. Writing the lyrics and melody of a song is more creative than taking existing lyrics already, and writing your own melody with it. What's more, is that the more you control, the more you do from scratch, the more it being good depends entirely on you.

I mean, anyone can draw, right? I can draw, you can draw, it might not be that good, but we can draw, right? Is that being creative? Well, it is, but I think real creativity is even more than that. I think it is making new things and making them I guess, "good" for lack of a better word. Good and different. Fresh. It doesn't have to be complex or anything. There is no way you can define it objectively.

that's a bit difficult about art. Sometimes someone might make a painting, and you think to yourself "no big deal" and then they explain to you why they painted in that style, and why they painted those things, and the symbolism of it, and then you might think it was awesome, and it becomes real creative. Painting a still life, requires a tremendous amount of skill, and you are making a painting, but it is not the same as conjuring a new thing. I say new, but in reality the human mind can never imagine anything completely new, like if I ask you to imagine a brand new color you've never seen, your mind can't do it, but something fresh.

Like just another sports movie, has a director and actors, and all that. But it's a common recipe. It is not creative like a script like inception or something. The script, anyway. The directing and acting could be the same.

So, I think it is fair to say, that if you play in an orchestra, you are less creative than someone like John Lennon. It doesn't mean you are worse or less valuable. However, the genetic qualities that are required in order to let one master playing an instrument, if they put the tremendous effort into it, are more common than those that also allow to be a great writer or composer. You may disagree, and we could go through a whole "-yes it is. -No it isn't" forever. But I think that's accurate.

That's why people like Oscar Peterson, and Joe Pass are so rare. Because they have this rare genetic predisposition, and also have that creative spark.

There are comparatively very many masters of instruments. It is not too tough to find pianists that can play note for note recordings Oscar Peterson made. It's real tough to get that good, there are way more pianists that can't play that well, but there are a lot more pianists that can physically play what Oscar Peterson did, than there are that can play like that, and come up with off the top of their head like that.

They are different skills. If you want to do both, then practise both. If you want to do one or the other, both are great, and both will require a lot of work if you want to be elite in the field.

But if you don't want to compose, I don't think it is that necessary that you practise composing. If you want to compose though, I think learning songs is very helpful for that, if you pay attention to how the song is built relative to the key. It's still helpful if you don't, but it's way more helpful if you do.
#20
it all comes down to learning. You can learn by copying others songs and u can learn by composing. They are really 2 different skillsets.

Some famous guitar players are known for their cover song knowledge, others arent.

Yngwie---probably learned every Deep Purple song. Said he could play every solo off of "Made in Japan" when he was 11. Obviously he studied Bach, Vivaldi, Paganini etc

VanHalen---he was said to have earned a reputation as the guy who could play any Clapton solo note for note. Which is weird because he doesnt really sound anything like Clapton (except for the solo to "When its Love"

Paul Gilbert---has obviously spent a lot of time learning others songs

Alex Lifeson of Rush---he said Rush wasnt a cover band, so its doubtful he spent much time learning others songs.

"The Edge." --- In one of the movies about U2 he couldnt even figure out the chords to "All Along the Watchtower." I think he said when they were young, they were learning to play their instruments while jamming and writing songs

Johnny Ramone---said he was already gigging and learning to play onstage. Obviously didnt learn many peoples songs lol.


are u going to be in a cover band? in that case u have to learn others stuff lol. The good thing about learning other peoples stuff is u get exposed to various techniques etc. For example if u only learn power chords, and then u start composing, u wont have much to work with.

I say to go ahead and start composing but also learn other peoples stuff, especially stuff that catches your ear. And IMO you dont HAVE to spend a year on someone elses song to get it perfect. As long as u learn something new and useful then u are progressing.

Also work on learning all practical music theory. Learn all the various chords and inversions---major, minor, altered, suspended blah blah all over the neck. Learn all the rhythm subdivisions. Learn scales/modes and how to derive all of the chords from those scales and modes.

I will say that I dont understand the people who go the total clone route. You see that with Yngwie a lot. Someone gets an Yngwie strat, Yngwie pedals, Yngwie strap and cord lol. I guess they practice the Yngwie poses in front of the mirror. Then when Yngwie changed from Dimarzios to Seymour Duncans all of his clones had to change too.
Last edited by JohnProphet at Jul 28, 2014,
#21
I mainly focused on learning other peoples songs for like the first 6 months I was learning guitar. After that I started to get bored and so I started trying to write my own stuff... now I mainly focus on the stuff for my band but I still learn other songs. So pretty much do whatever you want but make sure you do both because other peoples songs can inspire you to make your songs a lot better.