I’ve been producing and writing songs for the past couple of decades.
Oh boy, the process of producing a song has changed a lot since then. From recording music onto 2-inch tapes in the early millennium to digital recordings with different DAWs, plugins, AI, VSTs, you name it,
The writing process has also changed a lot, especially in recent times when you can easily collaborate with anyone in the world.
I started as a young teenager working on a computer with floppy disks, trying to learn how to write and produce a song,
A lot has happened since then.
I’ve managed to slowly improve my creativity and technical skills over and over again until I’ve figured out how to write and produce a proper song.
Over the course of the years, I’ve learned that there’s one super important and valuable skill that made a big difference and helped me get better and better.
Surprisingly, it’s not time management skills, networking skills, or even better songwriting talent; it’s not about knowing your melody or having great vocals.
It’s a very basic quality you need to be able to have, like all other successful artists; it’s called self-awareness!
Let’s call it SA for now.
It all ends up in SA.
SA is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, emotions, or thoughts do or don't align with your internal standards.
If we look at SA from the artist/producer perspective, it means truly, objectively knowing how to evaluate your musical craft. No matter if it's a song, a track, a new melody, or digital art, SA is a game changer for every artist.
SA is a character trait not everyone is born with, so you may need to practice and work hard to develop it.
A lot of musicians just become obsessed with creating art, but lack the ability to take a step back and see things in an objective manner. In other words, use your inner communication skills to find the perfect balance.
I wasn’t born with it; my first songs were awful, and the saddest part about it is that I was convinced they were suitable to be in the top charts.
It took me a lot of time to get things into perspective and truly listen to and review my songs in an objective manner.
Why SA is so important
SA is the most essential skill you need as a successful artist because, without understanding and developing a good SA, you won’t improve.
No one was born a producer or songwriter; we improve ourselves, our own work, and our unique style a little bit each time we create something.
A person with a developed SA will improve much faster than a person who has no awareness at all.
If you wrote a song with a boring chorus and you are not aware of it, or if you think your latest synth track is brilliant when it’s in fact very painful to listen to,
You won’t get anywhere.
The faster you identify your weakest spots and improve other skills about yourself as an artist, the higher the chances are you will get to a thriving and successful point in your career as an artist.
It’s a long road, and many artists are dropping out along the way.
The shorter the way, the better the chances of becoming a successful artist, and a shorter way comes with fast improvements and a good SA.
So how do I honestly review your song?
Getting to the core question,
If you just recorded or wrote a song, or a track, for that matter,
You are emotionally involved in the process of creating works of art; this usually clouds your judgment about your recent creation.
The common beginner artist will overvalue his track in most cases and think the song is a proper hit when, statistically speaking, it's not. So how do you grow a healthy and objective SA?
Here are some suggestions:
Don’t fall in love with your creation.
Almost all the artists I’ve worked with have had the issue of falling in love with their own art.
Whether it is a melody, a song production, or a cool beat,
When you fall in love with something or someone, everything looks awesome; there’s a rainbow of colors, and your guitar chords sound like angels singing.
At some point, you're convinced you've created a valuable hit song, and you're on your way to conquering the charts.
I know; I've been there. This is where self-awareness should step in and sound the alarm bell.
You need to truly ask yourself, "Is your song really that good?" "Where are the weakest points?" "Are the vocals good enough?"
How’s your mix and master? Is the melody catchy enough?
If you’ve just started on your musical journey and you think your music is top-notch, you are probably not ready.
Musical references can teach you many skills about making music; they're free, and the knowledge is priceless, Use them to your advantage.
Find out where you are on the musical genre and sub-genre spectrum, and find similar songs to your current one. When you find a couple of good references, start jumping back and forth between your track and the reference. Try to figure out what makes the reference a great song and what is missing in your song.
This is an essential technique for producers, mixers, and mastering engineers, but it could also be an effective method for songwriters.
Looking through someone else's ears
Here’s a simple technique that takes time to develop:
Try to imagine you’re listening to someone else's song.
Detach yourself from your song and imagine you’re listening for the first time to a new song made by a totally different person.
Try to shut down all emotional feelings you have about your song and criticize it in an objective manner.
Once you manage to do so, you will understand what can be done better in your track, how you can approach it with new techniques, There's always room for improvement.
It takes some time to master this, but it could be very effective.
Always be open to new things and get feedback from a professional in the music industry;
It could be priceless if it’s someone you value and who understands what you're trying to achieve with your own form of art and your own style of music.
Your neighbor or your mom is not included; they might give you honest advice, but it might be confusing because they don’t have the right tools to evaluate your song and techniques and to explain in a professional manner what needs to be improved in your track.
I saw a documentary about Lewis Capaldi where his mom listened to his new upcoming song and gave him very bad advice.
This can be 10 times more confusing for an unconfident young artist.
Be open to good feedback from the right people.
But SA doesn’t only involve your music creation.
SA is also about making the right decisions in your musical career. Know who you are, where you are in your musical career, and where you’re going from here. If you've just released a second single and streams and followers are coming slowly,
Contacting Universal Music Group or any other major record label is a waste of time,
Give it time, and always remember:
It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon.
Get ready for a long journey; every achievement and job that you’ve accomplished is a step toward the next big thing.
Look back in musical art history, for example, and you'll see that some of the biggest names worked for years before they became successful artists.
The faster you improve and get better, the faster you will get to where you want to be.
If I had made a list of things I needed to really create art as a great artist,
"Work Hard" will be the second on that list.
Hard work and persistence are essential skills.
Get to the finish line over and over again.
One last thing,
Always get to the finish line. If you start a project, a song, or a production and you quit in the middle, You’ve wasted your time without any achievement.
So stop focusing on what other artists are doing and always get to the finish line.
Do this, and I promise you that, in time, you will succeed.
Your art career is only a song away.
The writer is a songwriter, producer, and founder of One Submit.
Read our articles on: