Artist developmentSongwriting

The comparison game…how to play it well!

Songwriting like any form of art is always subject to personal taste. Judging your own works can be hard for multiple reasons, such as you being too close to them and having insights other people do not have, like what inspired you, why you wrote a particular song and what this specific songs means to you – the artist.

Judging your own works might also be hard for matters of self sabotage, being overly critical and the likes.

What do we do in order to evaluate our own works then? You guessed it! A lot of us compare ourselves to other artists. Mostly artists we love and admire. Comparing your works to theirs is a dangerous game to play, and yet, in some cases it also makes sense.

Here´s some rules for how to compare your music to that of other artists in ways that help you  grow and improve your craft, without destroying your self-esteem or leaving you full of doubts.

Honor the original

Every piece of art is its own original. So why would you try to copy a distinct style or certain song elements, if your work is then merely a copy? Instead of being a copy cat, I suggest you find out the basic elements that make you like other artists´ songs. E.g. a certain dynamics or pitch changes and how those transport certain emotions. Maybe the way they play with language or groove or certain instrumentations. Instead of just copying these elements, try to play around with each of them and find out how you feel when applying them to your songs. There´s a fine line between copying and adapting elements so to meet your style. The key is to adopt methodical concepts instead of actual themes. In consequence, when comparing your music to other people´s music, try to compare on that meta level, which also helps you be less biased.

Honor the variety 

Compare yourself to various artists instead of just one or two of your favorites. By comparing your style to various artists, you diminish the risk of getting to stuck on fixed ideas and you can instead adopt various cool methods into your own writing and create a new intriguing original cocktail. There´s many fish in the water, so stop chasing just one. It´s way too limiting.

Honor each part

Break it down and step away. Sometimes the hardest part is juding our own song material, because there´s so many levels. You might have written the song, maybe produced it and sung it, too! Now what are you actually evaluating? The songwriting? The vocals? The arrangement? You might just lose a clear sense of purpose by judging it all at once and comparing your overall sound to that of other artists. It might be helpful to have another artist sing on your song (even just a scratch vocal) to discover it from a „listener´s“ perspective. Or you may want to step away from your recording for a while and come back with fresh ears a bit later. Whatever helps you declutter the many layers of self-observation and sharpen your ear for the relevant parts. If you can manage to analyze each layer separately, you´ll be able to fix whatever needs fixing a lot quicker.

Put yourself in the listener´s shoes

This touches a bit on the previous tip. Shifting perspectives may make a big difference. By comparing our own songs to those of other artists we are sort of comparing apples and oranges. Confounding the writer´s point of view with a listener´s point of view. It is important to listen to your own songs as though you heard them for the first time ever. As though someone else had written them. Does anythings stand out? Do they touch you? Is there a particular part in the songs you love? The best songs come to you by surprise! If you are too tense, the magic won´t happen! So here´s a tip: Stop writing  songs and start listening to them instead! That´s the only way to really compare your work to that of other artists and ultimately to perceive your songs like everyone else will! Remove some of your dusty ego, and the gold will surface!

Hope these tips were helpful!

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