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The Power Of Story: Marcie (Joni Mitchell)

Storytelling is a powerful tool to connect. This is known in the corporate world and also very visible in songwriting. On this blog, I’m breaking down songs for you to demonstrate what you can learn from them when it comes to storytelling.

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"Don't waste your money."

After stumbling upon this article by Kirsti Hedges, I found myself nodding in agreement for most of the time when reading it. The bottom line is: don’t waste your money on public speaking trainings, because they transform you into an unauthentic speaker that uses the same robotic tricks as everybody else who follows a similar course. Focus on your own innate ability to speak in public instead. 

Of those two statements, I’d say the first one is partly false, and the second one is true.

Imagine you want to learn to play guitar. You know the instrument has six strings and that the strings make sound, and it doesn’t take much research to figure out how to transform that sound with the placing of your fingers. Still, you’d probably agree that it wouldn’t hurt to take some guitar lessons to understand how chords work (they work the same for everyone), how to use a plectrum (they’re commonly used) and different ways of playing (generally known) rhythms. Then, what forms your authenticity as a guitar player is your own unique interpretation of which of those tools to use, and when and how to use them. You choose your personal musical direction and style because you know your instrument and you know its possibilities.

When I first started my songwriting degree, I now and then felt a bit of resistance against all the ‘rules’ about what makes a good song and a good songwriter. Claiming that a theoretical approach would kill the creative one, I wasn’t eager to analyse what I was doing. I was looking to channel emotions, not calculate melodies. Looking back now, I’m so grateful for diving into several different methods and perspectives of songwriting and music theory. Having much background knowledge provides you with a lot to choose from when it comes to creating something.

Compare it to a painter who only knows how to paint in red and blue and makes pretty nice art doing it that way. Then, when he decides to develop his style and starts painting with a whole palet of colors, he might in time realize that nothing suits him better than red and blue - but mixing it with a little bit of the other colors he learned to use along the way, the red and blue fall in place much better. He now knows what he is doing, drops what doesn’t work for him, and emphasizes his strengths and talents, because there is a context now.

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