In the bigger picture of learning how to write music, you’ll realize one thing.
Your first songs will suck.
And I’m not talking about the absolute first song you write as a band.
I’m talking about a song that you think is pretty good; that you record and eventually sell. (Or give away.)
Something strange happens when you begin to play music live. You begin to respond to the audience — even though you’re not having an outright, audible conversation.
You begin to notice subtleties in people’s reactions to songs. Maybe the crowd is dancing more to certain songs. Maybe there’s a bigger applause after the song’s over. Or maybe people tend to stay quiet after the song.
Sometimes, it is a direct conversation. “Hey, great set! I really liked the third song.”
Maybe you start to notice that song getting recognition more often.
Eventually, you’ll begin to internalize these critiques.
Your artistic mind will develop a filter. You’ll come up with a riff or a rhythm, and all of those subtle criticisms will be swimming around your subconscious. You’ll unintentionally recognize a pattern, and either decide that the part you’re writing is either good or bad.
Part of learning how to write music is figuring out what your audience enjoys.
Have you ever heard someone say that a band has “settled into their sound”?
That’s exactly what’s going on. The band has internalized what sticks, and what doesn’t.
But here’s the thing — you can’t skip this process.
You need to put the music out there in order to kickstart the dialogue between you and the audience.
You can’t just write songs for a year on your own, trash them, and then publish the songs you write from your second year.
That’s like staring into the mirror day after day for a year reciting speeches, and then claiming you’re an expert at public speaking.
You need to have a conversation with your audience.
It’s an odd thing that I really can’t explain. But it’s definitely felt.
When a band has a debut record that’s all over the place, this is what’s at play.
Their “conversation” is still in its early stages. They haven’t been able to internalize the feedback from their audiences.
This is another reason why when you’re starting out, you should just play as much as possible. You should get used to being on stage, and begin to internalize the reactions of the crowd.
You could write this off as a load of bunk, or pretentious esoteric nonsense.
But you’ll never know until you try. And that’s the point.
If you aren’t putting your music out there, you’re never getting a reaction.
What’s actually more pretentious is analyzing your music on your own.
Keeping your music to yourself is just leaving it in a closed loop. You’re not letting your ideas develop.
Other people can breathe new life into your art if you let it happen.
I understand that your art is dear to you. It’s crushing to hear a “mmm, yeah, I guess it’s pretty good” from a close friend.
But in that vulnerability is where the music is truly able to blossom.
If you’re holding back on publishing some music, I dare you — right now — to take the leap.
At the very worst, people won’t like it and you’ll either decide this isn’t for you (and stop wasting time) or you’ll know what to change, if you choose to do so.