That’s what is happening to a lot of songwriters I know. They get so lost in rules and laws of writing, they forget the first rule in writing music: “if it sounds right, it’s right”. Case closed.
Forget the rules! So, I told the writer I was mentoring to forget all of the rules and to look at songwriting only from the aspect of communication. If you and I are having a conversation, there are no rules. But, if I want you to understand me, I must learn to communicate clearly and I must learn how to tell you what is in my head, the way you understand it, and this requires me to understand you first. But when we are writing for mass people, we write about universal emotions because it is impossible to learn about all the listeners and try to tell them our story the way they would understand. I asked him what “rule” he had broken in the song that had been critiqued. He said, “I changed from first person in the verses to second person in the chorus.” I said, “That’s not a rule. If what you did sounded right, then it’s right.” He looked relieved. I said, “You have always been a great friend to me. I appreciate the way you are always there when I need you. He is an awesome guy. I’m glad I got to know him.” Suddenly, he got it. He didn’t break a rule, he just communicated in an odd way. Just as you would be confused if I’m talking to you directly and then I start talking about you, you aren’t going to know what happened.
Learning to communicate. The more I teach and mentor, the more I learn for myself and the more I see that it’s not about songwriting rules, but about learning to write, and re-write, until you see that you are communicating precisely what you intend. If you do that, then there aren’t any rules. Map out your song so that you know precisely what you are trying to communicate. Then, make sure that you are communicating clearly and forget the “rules”.
Hangi Tavakoli is our in-house established and professional music producer with 20 years of experience in songwriting, music production, mix and mastering. He has written and produced more than 5,000 published songs to-date, including some major hits in international scale.