Study Your Heroes
The importance of studying your heroes is often overlooked by most when learning the art of songwriting. Through this blog post, you will learn why studying your heroes is important, as well as how to use what you’ve learnt from them in your own writing.
This blog post aims to summarise the last part of our video ‘New to Songwriting? Start here (3 tips)’’. Click here to watch the video for more details, explanations and examples.
What to Look For
Merely learning how to play your favourite songs is a great start to your songwriting journey, but that doesn’t mean you should stop there. You also need to actively pick them apart and observe why the songwriters make the choices that they do. Examples of aspects which are useful to analyse in particular, are chord progressions and melodies.
To illustrate this, let’s have a look at the song “Someone Like You” by Adele.
By observing the chord progression of the song, we can see that she avoids the tonic chord in the pre-chorus of the song. This makes sense, as it’s the job of the pre-chorus to build tension. Through only bringing back the home chord in the chorus, Adele really makes it bloom and stand out.
In addition, if you learnt to sing the song or picked apart its melody, you’ll find that she never sings a note in her verses that’s higher than the first note of the chorus. She does hit a high note later on again in the chorus in order to build it up, but she never allows the melody notes of the verse to go higher than the chorus. This helps build anticipation and really put a spotlight on the chorus.
This active process of taking things apart and putting them back together allows us to grasp the components that make a song unique and memorable.
You can find out more about other exercises to improve your songwriting in the free PDF ebook, “The 5 Best Songwriting Exercises for Writing Great Lyrics.” Click on the image to download:
Turn Imitation into Emulation
After analysing songs from your heroes, it’s important to graduate from imitation into emulation. This entails not only mimicking the surface aspects of our heroes’ work but also seeking to understand their thinking and perspective. In short, we should not seek to merely look like our heroes, but instead seek to see like our heroes do.
As we embrace their artistic mindset, we begin to cross-pollinate ideas from various songs and generate our own unique artistic voice.
If you’re interested in looking for some specific examples on how we can emulate instead of just imitate, then check out our video entitled ‘6 Ways to Steal Great Chord Progressions’
Conclusion: Study Your Heroes
Becoming a great songwriter is a process that requires lots of determination, hard work and persistence. Studying your heroes is one of the great ways you can improve your songwriting, and ensure you get closer to your vision of your creative aesthetic.
Level up your songwriting with five radically practical exercises used by professional songwriters around the world.