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I use songwriting to approach the next few posts on craft, but they relate to whatever you’re making.


Craft is that thing you do when you want to make things better; it exists for the sake of clear communication. The clearer the expression, the more effective the piece.


Honesty or clarity

Some artists are more interested in what they think of as the honesty of the first draft. But when you look at your work and consider how and why you make it, it tends to get better. Being self-critical is an act of courage. You usually find out that you’re not as good as you thought you were. When you see that, you either quit, or you get better.


You have to decide if the honesty of the first draft is more important than clarity. Often this honesty is about you, not about producing your best work. These two things don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.


Getting better

Anything that we do can be made better. Craft means looking at what you’ve made and asking how and why it’s been made that way.


For songwriting the question sound like this: Why is that chord on the third beat and not the fourth? Why am I playing this part loud and that part soft? Are there places where I should stop playing? Would a different rhythm work better here? How does the verse relate to the chorus? Should it be different? The same? It’s not that much different for concert music.


As you write, questions arise. Don’t ignore them. Write them down if you don’t have an immediate answer. This is part of the artistic process. This process can be difficult because it makes you feel stupid if you don’t have an answer right away. The answer will come. It just might not come when you expect.


And remember. The process only makes you feel stupid if you believe the lie that before you can be a good musician you have to be talented (as if being a good musician doesn’t take work). This is backwards. Becoming talented takes hard work. And this involves craft, which involves the development of skill.

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