Perspective: A Powerful Tool For Songwriters

 

I believe that “perspective” may be one of the most powerful concepts in our lives.

Your perspective can totally change your experience of an event. Siblings can have dramatically different takes on a traumatic home situation because they take different perspectives on what occurred.

When I was in high school, Nelson Eddy was my English teacher and theater director. He was always challenging us to look at things in different ways and from different angles. He lived a small apartment and would grade our papers at a makeshift desk he laid across his bathtub. When we practiced our plays, we would sometimes look out to see him standing on his head in the seats of the auditorium, just to “get a different perspective” on the play. His unique view of life was a catalyst that made me start looking at my own life and challenging many things I had accepted as ‘fact’ before I met him.

Develop a unique perspective…

I discovered that I had let other people define my beliefs in many areas. I also discovered that many of the “facts” I had accepted were really opinions that were no better than my own. My biggest discovery was that I needed to keep an open mind in regard to perspective.

Many things in life are not as they seem at first glance. And, almost everything in life is best viewed from different angles. My journey to find perspective has impacted my songwriting in many ways. I try to consider every possible angle before I settle on the direction for my song. I look at my idea from the perspective of the artist, the record label and the consumer. Considering all of those perspectives gives me a “big picture” view that helps me write in a way that is a little bit “outside the box”.

Your best  songwriting tool is thinking “outside the box.”

I believe that “outside the box” view is one of the biggest things you can do to improve your writing. Many writers write the most obvious angle for each idea. The result is that there are LOTS of songs written from that angle. They don’t sound fresh or unique. The “outside the box” perspective gives you a song that is NOT written the same way everyone else would write the same idea. Challenge yourself to consider different perspectives on each idea you write (and on life in general if you choose). Even if you decide on the direction you began with, you will be better off for having looked at all the other options as well. Don’t settle for the first road you come to. The BEST road may just be a couple of exits away.

Here are 5 tips for songwriting outside your box and creating a unique songwriter’s perspective. Use these exercises to stretch your writing boundaries.

Write songs from the point of view of the opposite gender from time to time.

Trying to write something that feels honest and real for a woman to say is challenging for me. Every now and then, force yourself to write from the opposite gender’s perspective.

Write a song from a viewpoint with which you disagree.

If we only write what we think and believe, we are going to have a lot of songs about the same things.  You don’t have to ALWAYS write from your perspective.  Try putting yourself in the shoes of someone whom you disagree with.  Write a song from their perspective.

Imagine yourself in a situation that you have never been in and write about as if you had been there.

Research the topic if you need to.  I was writing a song about 4-wheelers one time and had to do a lot of research, because I don’t know much about them personally.  Write a song about doing something you’ve never actually done just to challenge yourself! Song building or blueprinting your ideas can really focus your story and allow the character to shine through.

Become a character.

Write a song that a you think a well know TV or movie character might sing. See how accurately you can imagine their viewpoint. Writing from another character’s perspective will certainly get you outside of your usual box.

Choose an idea and explore the way three different people might approach the same idea.

Pick the direction that you think more people will relate to. Considering different angles for a song before you write is always going to increase your chances of landing on the BEST one.

It’s important to practice songwriting “outside your box” every now and then.  Don’t let yourself get caught in the routine of writing the same old thing. Develop your own uniques songwriter’s perspective.

Check out all the angles and THEN, write on!

MD

Marty Dodson - pro songwriter/instructor - SongTown

Marty Dodson is a multi-#1 hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting. 

8 thoughts on “Perspective: A Powerful Tool For Songwriters

  1. One of the most important reasons to always “keep your songwriter antennae on the job” IMO.

    If get a song idea from a conversation I happen to overhear, I usually find it very natural to try writing from a perspective other than my own.

    On there other hand, if I’m writing about something that is already on my mind, it often doesn’t even occur to me to switch points of view. Need to work on that one.

    Incidentally, I don’t believe writing from another point of view means you can’t write the song in the 1st person, if that’s most effective. You’re still playing outside your own sandbox. (I think?)

    Thanks Marty

  2. Looking at an idea from various angles, then coming up with the best one, sounds very interesting.
    Thanks for this lesson, Marty!

  3. Great advice Marty…When my youngest son Landon was 7years old, he had an older brother that became an alcoholic. Landon loved music so he and I started writing songs together. It gave us an escape from the hell that we were going through with his brother at the time. One day, we were talking about how different his brother’s life would be if he could put the addiction behind him. We decided to write a song from his brother’s perspective. That song, “When The Whiskey Runs Out”, was a source of healing and hope for Landon and I. We still get messages from people saying that song gave them the courage to take the first step….
    Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom Marty!
    We appreciate you…

    Oh…In case you were wondering, Landon’s brother did decide to put his addiction behind him…He’s living a great life. God is awesome 🙏🏻

  4. Hi Marty! Hot topic! So much to say here… My favorite anecdote for my perspective is a songwriting workshop I was taking, and the leader was illustrating the use of common terms. He used “ Bank on it”, and expanded it to mean “money in the bank”. I entered the discussion observing that I had always thought it was an expression from Pool, that you could always predict or steer your shot by hitting the bumpers at the correct angle ( the ball always makes a 90 degree angle from contact with the bumper) to score a shot. Total silence in the room….

  5. I really love the idea of writing out of the box, with particular attention to how an artist might perceive or handle it. I especially appreciate you adding that part about how artists might deal, as I’ve stumbled repeatedly where I’ve found artists don’t generally like playing the role as an actor these days. While my gut tells me that delivering these songs as first person are most powerful, perspective proves to me that 3rd person story-telling works best.
    Great topic Marty, perspective is indeed a creative and valuable tool for sure.

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