Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Skill & Talent

I am not an expert, nor am I claiming to have arrived at some inspired insight into the creative process. And this metaphor isn't perfect; I just want to share what I've been thinking about.

In this graph I am defining "skill" as the ability to write songs, and "talent" as the ability to perform them. The goal of all singer/songwriters is to always be moving from the bottom left area to the top right area.

1. This is what I would call the "potential" box. For a budding musician, this is usually the place where people start noticing talent, and doors begin to open. Some never leave the potential box.

2a. This is the writer who has sharpened his/her craft, but isn't able or confident enough to perform their tunes.

2b. This is a musician who has far more singing ability than writing chops. A listener may comment, "I love their voice, but I can't really remember any of their songs."

2c. This is where the truly great artists meet their full potential. The writer performs their original song well and nothing gets lost in translation. Also, the primary goal of the publishing world is ensuring that writers from 2a and singers from 2b meet here.

The reason I've been thinking through this is because I feel like more and more singer/songwriters are ending up in 2b rather than 2c. When an artist shows great potential in the potential box (area 1), generally doors can open up for them to perform more often and work with recognized producers. Unfortunately, the result of those two factors can result in less time to focus on the craft of writing, and the opportunity to rely on production to compensate for whatever the song may be lacking artistically.

I love Coldplay, but to some degree it seems like they've been gradually moving toward 2b, and while they may be introducing some interesting production styles, I'm not sure that the songs will stand the test of time. Any well-written song from 2a or 2c will translate acoustically, but a song from 2b will only be itself when immersed in the landscape in which it was created.

Keep writing (and moving toward 2c),



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1 comment:

  1. You hit the nail on the head, RE Coldplay. I loved their first two albums, but the records they've released since then have failed to grab me, and I think that's because they've been more about the production and less about the songs. I've been waiting for another "The Scientist" for years!