This week’s article comes to us from guitarist, songwriter, and coach, Mike Meiers.
I’ll be completely honest: Right now, $h!t is crazy.
We’re working through a pandemic, doing our best to practice social distancing, and we’re all trying to adapt to this new “normal”. We’ve never experienced anything like this.
If you’ve been searching for a sense of normalcy, here are some things you can work on to level up your guitar playing and songwriting.
1. Write down your goals.
I know so many songwriting guitarists that are jumping from rock to rock, floundering and feeling like they have no purpose.
The reason they feel they don’t have purpose is that they don’t get specific with their goals, and what they want to do.
Are you trying to be an artist? Are you trying to write for other people? Are you trying to do sync licensing? If you’re writing for other artists or sync licensing, are there particular genres that you’re trying to focus on?
You need to spend some time with a pen and paper and get specific. Once you write out your goals, place it where you’ll see it everyday.
Visible goals are attainable goals.
[Want to learn how to set up yourself for goal-crushing success? Check out this post and download the free BPM Method worksheet!]
Download the SMART Goals for Songwriters Worksheet
2. Start practicing active listening.
Any songwriting mentor that I’ve had in my entire life has stressed to me over and over how important active listening is.
If you don’t know what active listening means try this: take a song that you’re obsessed with right now, or something that you’re striving to write like, and examine the song thoroughly.
I don’t mean just listen to it once or twice. It’s not uncommon for me to listen to it like 25 times in a row!
I mean listen to it and make note of everything that’s happening in the song. Pay attention to what’s happening in
- The melody – where does it move up, down, how many notes are being used?
- Chords – where do they change? Where do they stay the same? Where does it fall and rise? Etc.
Take time to map out the melody on guitar, and see how many notes they are using. Think about what scale they are pulling it from. You’re trying to absorb the song, so that when you sit down for your next write you can start taking some of those things that you learned and add them in.
3. Practice with a metronome.
Any client of mine probably hears me say this over and over. “Practice with a metronome.”
This is what separates amateur guitar players, and professionals.
They’ve spent time with a metronome. They can play along to it, but they don’t have this robotic feel. They still have a human element to it, yet they’re staying in time (and that’s tricky to do, especially if you don’t play with a metronome)!
Practicing with a metronome is what distinguishes professional guitar players from the amateurs.
It’s totally normal to want to smash that metronome against the wall. It’s annoying as hell and it’s frustrating, but the more time you devote to it the better and more consistent you’re gonna be as a rhythm player.
4. Connect with co-writers.
Co-writes don’t have to be in-person. Although nothing will replace the experience of being in the same room with another human, exchanging ideas and getting vulnerable, digital co-writes can be a wonderful way to keep the songs coming.
Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts…there are so many different platforms!
[Learn how to connect with co-writers around the world in this post: Different Ways Songwriters Can Co-write Together (In Person and Long Distance)]
You can connect with your co-writers, stay active, brainstorm ideas and write great songs!
Looking for more cowriters? Start joining private Facebook Groups like The 5 in 5 Song Challenge, or Music Biz Besties. Or other online communities (NSAI, SONA) to connect with other like minded creators.
5. Record yourself playing, and listen back.
You don’t have to go crazy, you can use just a voice memo on your iPhone, or you can set up your computer and interface and start recording that way. Record a song that you’ve written, but just the guitar.
I find so many times when I detach myself as the player and act as the listener, I notice so many little inconsistencies that I can work on. Whether I hear some open strings or some strumming inconsistencies, this allows me to clean up my playing.
That way when I go into future writes I’m ten times more professional because I spent the time actually listening to the things that I’m playing for my co-writers.
I’m not sure what the rest of 2020 looks like, but I hope this gives you a plan of attack!
Something that keeps you creative and gives you a sense of normalcy, so that when those doors outside open again, you can step into that creative world a little more confident in your guitar playing.
Pin this handy graphic for future reference: