A commercially successful song, in general, requires the songwriting skills of both a carpenter and a designer… musically speaking. Are you bringing both skill sets to your songs? If not, your songs are probably not as good as they could be.
The Songwriting Carpenter
This songwriter has the craft down. The Carpenter can structure a song well. The rhyme schemes are tight. The chorus lifts. The message of the song is clearly communicated, and the song is solidly constructed.
The Carpenter’s songs can sometimes end up without enough heart or imagination. The Carpenter’s “house” is sturdy, but it looks just like every other house in the neighborhood. There’s no “wow” factor that impacts the listener emotionally.
The Songwriting Designer
The Designer has vision. The Designer knows what he wants to accomplish with the song- what the listener will feel- what the emotional impact will be. The Designer has great, compelling, song ideas.
Without enough craft, the Designer can’t pull off his vision. The wonderful story isn’t told clearly. There are problems with structure, rhyme, or other “nuts & bolts” areas. For the house metaphor, you could say the house is beautiful on the outside, but it won’t pass inspection.
As you can see, both the Carpenter and Designer have really great, important skills. They also have weaknesses. They need each other. And, truth is, you have at least a little of each of them inside you. You’re both.
So the question is: are you bringing ENOUGH of each of them to your songwriting process? Are your songs too much Carpenter and not enough Designer? I’d say most writers aren’t professional-level at both- especially when you’ve only been writing for a few years. And that’s okay.
That’s why God made cowriters.
Learn your strengths. If you build solid cookie-cutter houses, you need to find a Designer. If you have great ideas that don’t seem to reach their potential, you may need a Carpenter.
How do you know if you’re a Carpenter or a Designer?
Play your songs for a songwriting coach, your PRO rep (ASCAP, BMI or SESAC), a music publisher, or other songwriters. If you often hear comments like, “Great idea, but it just doesn’t kill me,” you might be a Designer. If you hear, “Yeah, it all makes sense… nothing wrong with it… but it doesn’t knock me out,” you might be a Carpenter. Or you might be somewhere in the middle- where your Designer and Carpenter skills are pretty balanced, but just not professional-level yet.
Get to know yourself- your strengths and weaknesses. Then find coaches who can help you get better and cowriters who can bring out your best, while bringing the strengths you’re missing.
What about you? Are you more of a carpenter or designer? Leave a comment- I’d love to hear from you.
Pro songwriters know and are honest about their strengths and weaknesses. And if YOU want to become a pro, you need to think like a pro, too. In my FREE e-book, “THINK LIKE A PRO SONGWRITER,” I not only reveal several of the mindsets which separate the pro songwriter from the amateur, but also…
- How to get on a music publisher’s radar
- How the pros know who is looking for songs
- Six simple ways to make your songs more commercial
- And more!
God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,
Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.