The MAP Method – Finish Your Songs
Recently, I emailed the over 12,000 people on my email list, and asked them the question “What is your number one biggest challenge as a songwriter?”. After receiving hundreds of replies, we found that the most common problem songwriters have is finishing songs. In this article, we’ll discuss why songwriters can’t finish songs, and my method to ensure that you’ll finish every song you start.
This article is a summarised transcript of our video “The MAP Method: Finish Your Songs”. Click here to watch the video for more details, explanations and examples.
Why Don’t Songwriters Finish Their Songs?
There are multiple reasons why it’s difficult for songwriters to see songs through to the end. Among them are:
- Lack of Clarity: A lot of songwriters get confused between a general idea and a song idea. Saying “I want to write a song about missing someone” is not a song idea – it’s a general idea. You need to attach a title and concept to a general idea in order for it to become a song idea.
- Fear of Ruining an Idea: Another reason songwriters often don’t finish songs is because they’re scared of ruining a good idea they had. If you mentally picture the direction of your song, it will help you bring that great idea to fruition, and you won’t have to be scared of ruining it. You can do this with the MAP method.
- Perfectionism: Songwriters often get over focused on details such as how a specific line sounds. This is detrimental to finishing songs since it causes you to obsess over tiny details instead of looking at the big picture. As a result, you never actually get to finish the entire picture – only have bits of it.
What is the MAP Method?
MAP stands for “Make a plan”. If you make a plan for your song before you even start writing, it ensures that you have a path to follow.
When you have a direction from the beginning, you won’t wander around aimlessly trying to figure out where the song should go. To help you do this, I’m going to teach you 3 different song maps which will apply to almost any song that you write.
Click here to download the free Song Map Template to finish every song you start
Universal Song Maps
There are 3 main song map templates that you should keep in mind when writing songs:
1) Problem – Escalation – Change:
This song map commences with the introduction of a problem, which is gradually intensified throughout the song, and it concludes with a change in perspective or a solution to the problem. For example, if you wanted to write a breakup song, you would start the song not at the moment of breakup, but prior to that – describing why the breakup happened and what it felt like.
Then in the “Escalation” stage, make the conflict bigger. You could describe how the person’s actions feel to you and what it’s doing to them. In the final section, express the way in which you want things to be different. Describe things such as what the situation would look like a year from now or what you actually want.
John Mayer uses a variation of this song map in his song “Slow Dancing In a Burning Room”. In that song, after the escalation of the problem, it gets worse and worse – resulting in the eventual “Burning” of the relationship. This would be called a “Problem – Escalation – Intensification” song map.
2) Situation – Context – Consequence:
This song map involves a vivid portrayal of the current situation, followed by delving into the context or backstory that led to the present moment. It concludes by examining the consequences of this situation.
An example of this song map is Bruce Springsteen’s song “Devils and Dust”. The first verse starts in the present moment and tells of how the narrator isn’t sure who to trust. Then, the second verse zooms out and gives context to why the narrator is feeling on edge.
In the final developmental section, we hear the consequence of the situation, and how the narrator feels that “Faith just ain’t enough” as a result of the situation they presented at the start.
3) Feeling – Obstacle:
This map is perfect for songs that aim to explore a specific emotion. It begins by describing the feeling, then introducing an obstacle or challenge to that emotion. An example of a song with this song map is “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.
In the first verse, he uses a lot of imagery to describe what it feels like to be happy. Then in Verse 2, he talks about how there’s an obstacle to him being happy. Finally, to get back to the chorus, he talks about how he’s not going to let it affect him because he’s happy.
Conclusion: The MAP Method – Finish Your Songs
The MAP method offers songwriters a systematic and structured approach to their creative process. By creating a clear plan and selecting one of the universal song maps, songwriters will be able to write with direction, and intention.
If you would like more details, explanations and examples, then be sure to check out the video now
Turn your inspiration into beautiful songs with step-by-step guidance through two professional songwriting methods. By the end of this course, not only will your tool belt be stocked; you’ll have a plan and a method for finishing your songs – all of them: