Passion Over Perfection

Do you sit down and attempt to write a song and find your self feeling like your trapped, lost or everything you've learned on any instrument didn't help you at all? Well take a moment and read this, It is probably the number 1 lesson any musician should know.

Ultimate Guitar
Passion Over Perfection
Now I've been playing guitar for quite a few years now, I've also played piano, banjo, bass, and other instruments but to a lesser extent. I've never seen myself as a "great" musician but I know I have all of the necessary skills to write a song but it seems like when I try to nothing works. I would have a nice chord progression and a few lead fills, chorus and everything and I would not reach satisfaction with it.

I was reading through a guitar magazine not too long ago and flipping through the pages I saw KISS. Now I've never been a big KISS fan but next to their picture the words "When you seek perfection, You give up passion" were printed out. The words struck a chord in me (pardon the pun). I thought about every piece I've ever written and thrown out and realized there was never anything wrong with the music. There was something wrong with me, I was looking at writing music as this complex art instead of something that comes from the heart.

When Jimmy Page was showing his guitar pieces to the rest of the band, for the song that would be "Stairway To Heaven" (check complete guide at UG Wiki), Robert Plant sat in a corner writing and suddenly stood up and started singing the words we all know by heart now. Jimmy said he must've had 80% of the words then and there. Now only great passion can do something like that, it isn't luck or science, it's passion.

I know this wasn't really what you would call a lesson in music but ever since I saw those words, my writing and creativity have flourished. No amount of learning, practice, or luck will ever beat passion.

Never try to be technical just for the sake of being technical.

If it sounds too simple but it sounds good, leave it. Look at Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" It's not complex at all but the song has become legendary.

I hope this helped anyone who has this problem as much as it helped me.


75 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Wise words, wise words... What's perfection anyway? You can't control everything, there's always some (detail) imperfection, so why would you try to do that?
    Wise words indeed. But i partly disagree with this:"Now only great passion can do something like that, it isn't luck or science, it's passion. ". I think,that luck and science CAN do that as well.
    Luck, yes, sure. Science, no, not without feeling or skill or talent or practise or whatever you call it. Science alone is not enough, IMO.
    to true, they actually have to design music making computer programs so that they mess up occasionally because otherwise it doesn't sound right to people.
    "NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF WHY YOU STARTED PLAYING IN THE FIRST PLACE." To get laid? Kept that in mind for six years and it still hasn't worked. In all seriousness, yeah wise words.
    Wise words indeed, but just remember that sometimes writing doesn't come easy, and you shouldn't settle for something you're not happy with.
    That is very true. Any writer should take time with his/her self. Passion and Patience come hand in hand.
    Technique is the funnel through which passion is well, funneled. Too much technique= rigid (some shredders who are trapped in their beloved scales) Too little technique= sloppy (12yr old playing Eruption)
    I'll just leave this here to blow an unnecessary hole in your completely-valid point...
    Wish You Were Here relies mostly on Waters beautiful lyrics and Gilmour graceful leads. Without them it would have surely been another casual ballad in G.
    In this case it's a matter of amazing technical skill allowing them to express there passion effortlessly and beautifully.
    There's nothing wrong with technical music, as long as it's expressive. A lot of people seem to get lost in making music that sounds 'cool' but isn't expressive, and that's just plain boring. If simplicity is what it takes to convey an emotion, that's great. Or, it can be the third movement of the Moonlight Sonata, that works too.
    Or you run into the situation that I constantly see on the local scene: Sub-par musicians who haven't spent nearly enough time practicing attempting to show their inner selves through a performance that really lacks in the talent department. It becomes painful to sit through. They have admirable spirit and individuality, but it's completely overshadowed by their inability to perform at a consistent standard of quality.
    Well perfection is different than a bare minimum of musical adequacy. But really, the point is that those "bad" bands are up there having fun and gaining live experience and a lot of other people are hiding in their bedrooms afraid to get up on stage.
    for me imperfection is essential..... perfect songs start to bore you after a while, you need human element.... this my point of going on live shows, you hear real people not polished tracks
    I started to play in 2006 because I wanted to ;earn how to play all of the songs in the first Guitar Hero....oh, and Crazy Train, Stairway to Heaven, and Freebird. Yeah, I grew outta that shit after about 3-4 years of only wanting to play other people's stuff. Now it's all about getting back up on stage with a band, but this time playing original music.
    Passion and Free Bird are perfect together. People are always moaning about how it's a not a great solo as it uses the same few notes over and over. The main thing is that it sounds good, it sounds absolutely amazing and I wouldn't wanna change it being in that song for any other solo because it works with that music and that's what they wanted to play.
    Good article. You should only writes songs for yourself, that's my philosophy. I've had friends come up to me and play a song and ask what I think and I always say to them "What do you think?" it's your song, do it for you and nobody else, that's what makes really great music. Cause good luck trying to please everyone else!
    As a 2nd year music major in one of the most acedemically challenging programs in the country I think I really needed to read this right now.
    Well, its true. Sometimes you get the best stuff out by just sitting, completely secluded in your own mind, with an acoustic guitar, playing chords and singing. Then build a song over that. If you ask me, that's a great way to go about it.
    Thanks. This article made me thinking something i've never thought before. I mean, i've always been an perfectionist. I know how to create songs. But creating songs makes me feel like i am in somekind of factory. Song after another. Playing/practicing them few times, record them. Then i just get bored and move on to next song. "Every little detail must be perfect.", I even stopped playing for awhile 'cos i didn't enjoy it anymore. But music is my passion, always will be. And never will stop creating music. Took me about a year to get that passion, that great feeling back. And yea don't be a perfectionist be... umm something else.
    some good information, some bad information. let me clarify: "Never try to be technical just for the sake of being technical." i wouldn't say never - by that line of logic, i could say "never write music just for the sake of writing music". there's nothing wrong with being technical, nothing at all. but when other aspects of the music begin to suffer, that's when the compromise has been broken, and something needs to be reevaluated. "When you seek perfection, You give up passion" total horseshit. i mean, kiss are definitely known for their high degree of passion and/or perfection. especially passion, but that's only if you count that gene simmons screwed a thousand biddies and groupies. if you want to focus on passion and neglect perfection, go ahead. if you want to focus on perfection and neglect passion, go ahead. if you want to actually become good, you won't neglect either -- you'll accept the necessities of both (as well as other factors this article didn't mention, such as musicianship and knowledge, you won't put any one over the others, and you'll benefit from it.
    What is wrong with saying "Never write music just for the sake of writing music" I would never write something if I didnt want to, if you write something just because, I doubt it has any real feeling at all. At no point did I say neglect anything, Im saying passion is the key to writing music that means something. Perfection can make you forget what the music meant to start with. Now I know ability is needed, so is practice, its ridiculous to think you can just write a song without the skill to.. This whole lesson was about how passion is the key to writing incredible music. Now I appreciate your opinion but there is a way to state it without being an ass. From what I see, it seems like you lost your passion for it, maybe too much learning and not enough enjoyment kind of made you lose it, but I suggest you find it because the point of this lesson was to say that with all the skill and knowledge in the world you can write good music but without passion it wont have much feeling or emotion and will just be another song crafted by someone who stopped caring for their music.
    Both Caleb and Wolf have very good points. Yet, I go for a balance between technicality and passion. Both of these being essential in writing and playing music. A musician needs technicality and to truly progress in his/her craft to be able to have more and more possibilities and ways on how to express thru music. A musician also needs the passion to breathe life to the music that he/she has to express.
    IMO, if you are able to share your passion with others, helping them feel the way you felt when you made your music, then that IS perfection. You wrote your music to share something, and someone was able to understand that certain something that wasn't spoken. It's a more direct (and in my opinion, perfect) form of communication.
    Perfect example is Jack White. His songs are some of the most simple songs ever written...but he puts so much energy into them.
    Look at Modest Mouse. There's nothing perfect about their music; Isaac Brock writes very harsh guitar sections and his voice oftentimes sounds like he's a raving lunatic shouting into a microphone. But there's something about them that makes them one of my favorite bands: passion.
    I've never looked at it this way, but it makes so much sense! I've always been pedantic when it came to technicalities, but have found that my best material is created from the heart.
    as the player / writer you are your worst critic,just try not over think things.
    Dont write the song, dont write anything. Let the song create itself. Let the strings tell you what to do and where it should come."...Michael Jackson Not one of my favorite artists, but he could write songs inside his head without any instruments, which I guess elliminates any technical perfection from the music, and leaves you with whatever you are passionate about. I'm no good at it though. Anytime I try to do it I just hear other songs I know already inside my head.
    Follow your passion, and success will follow you. Perfection without passion is dreary; music without passion is horrific.
    whenever i think about writing. i fail. when i write just to write, without forcing anything out, i find i have a more enjoyable time putting music to those lyrics. so i've just kept a journal with me at all times, and i write down anything that i think deserves to be documented. and those are the thoughts unique to myself, my style and hopefully someday my inspirational music
    I have read this article far too late, thank you Caleb. Lesson or not this was absolutely fantastic, because eventually thinking about music and how we do what we do with it is 90% of our musical persona. Passion needs a strong place there, for without it music we make can never truly be passionately good.
    You are very welcome, I'm very glad that this lesson is getting the response that it has.
    Perhaps perfection isn't the act of obtaining so much as it is the act of releasing?
    The Old Guy
    I must agree with GuitarGod610. I have painfully sat through some horrible attempts at song writers telling me "Hey check this out" I would like to look at them and say "ouch" but i don't. I smile and let them finish. Hoping that i won't have to sit through it again down the road. I do agree that most times less is better. Musicians are usually the ones that listen to the "tuff stuff" anyway. Tom Petty was one of the greatest 3 chord song writers ever. The trick is marrying the words to the music. There in lies the passion
    I do take passion over technical ability. Although technical ability is important, if you can't put in the emotional feel into your music you'll never be able to write anything as emotional as Stairway or Numb or Fade to Black.
    I agree with you man. IMHO, however, sometimes you have to set aside passion(joy of doing things) and endure practicing and do technical things perfectly so that when you go back to play passionately, your soul will be more fulfilled. That's what I'm doing
    Well, some people can be naturally technical and have an amazing sound. ie. Justin king in Paris Morning. great amount of technicality, but immense passion.
    I think that it's important to be technical, not just to be technical, but so that you can use all the things you know on the spot, I'm not saying be able a 32 measure sweep picking arpeggio, I'm sayin' practice how to sweep pick, and learn how to improvise with it and create music with it.
    louis van wyk
    If you play guitar because it's your passion then you owe it to that burning ambition inside you to be a better guitarist. If you can play better guitar, you can express your passion better. I don't want to be able to jackhammer through "the flight of the bumblebee" at 350bpm and have no connection to the music. I would want to be able to do it so that i can have great control over my guitar so that the passion inside me can be fully expressed. Maybe im just wasted right now :l
    kush. ...can we get some admins cleaning up the shit(ads) on these bloody pages?!
    I have been in that mindset lately, you know when you start getting mad at your guitar and you realize that you paid waaay to much attention. I try to regain my passion and this little article was read just in time.
    Good lesson, bro. Until after reading this, I've always been dissatisfied with my writing. This is gonna help me ALOT.
    this is a great philosophy. Simple often makes the best music, but if you start worrying that other guitarists might think you stink because you're only using 3 notes in a riff etc. then its counter-intuitive. If you want to play rock n roll, the whole philosophy has always been to not give a f**k what anyone thinks and just play to kick some ass.
    My Last Words
    Lol, the reason why I started playing was me being able of playing the intro lick to "walk" by Pantera. I might as well lose sight of that.
    The reason I first started playing was to basically play Green Day and get girls. I like technicality now because it gives me another challenge and helps me better my playing. I like playing passionately, but hey, we're not all playing Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, now are we? My passion is innovative, progressive music and I try to show that in my guitar work and music I make. I'm not a huge perfectionist though.
    "we're not all Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, now are we?" Very True. Bands like Green Day, Blink 182 and the majority of punk/alternative bands get discriminated against in the music industry because of the simplicity of the songs that write. They still get recognized though, that's where there passion comes in, they have such a passion in the music they make, which makes the music great. This lesson applies to ALL genres of music. Though it shocks me you dont like Pink Floyd. As they were progressive before progessive was around. But to each his own.
    thanks to the article. i thank because without this article i would have missed what aeolianwolf and celeb99 had to say. i have a drink with me right now, and cheers!! to what you had to say guys.
    I really like this article... there should be more of these philosophical lessons, not just play like this-play like that... : Nice work...
    I was talking to a friend the other day and I said, "Making good music is about having the knowledge and skill to get the job done well, while being naive enough to have a vision." quelle coincidence