Lets delve firstly into the natural ability. By this I mean the expression and intended message of an artist. Relating to music, this is the very substance of a song. It's the message of the lyric and the emotion of the music.
But you can't just decide to write a song about a sentiment, pour out your heart amidst a few sounds and call it a song. No, music needs ordered notes, structure and arrangement.
Next we have the 'developed skill'
Now, when writing a song there is always a moment when the process of composition changes from pure expression to purposeful technique. I call it the transition from heart to head; and I believe good art needs both. A bit of heart-felt expression, a bit of logical thought; a bit of play, a bit of work â life has this balance, and so does music. Its that moment when I know what I want to say and can feel it being expressed in my music, but I need to work out which chord or voicing best suits the melody, or which lyrical phrasing best compliments the music. This is the hard work part to writing a song, the part that people appreciate least when listening to the finished product, but it is a very important part of the process for the composer.
Music theory, with its scales and techniques, is often thought as 'constricting rules' by purist musicians. But knowing music theory and employing learnt techniques is not a bad thing. Quite the contrary, employing techniques and working out a structure of a song actually benefits the song's expression. Why? Because we're logical beings and order enables communication. So when the chaos of emotion is expressed in an ordered manner, the recipient (audience) understands the message much clear. And this is called good communication, which is I believe is the second most important aspect to art. The first is expression, but expression finds its purpose most when it is communicated â sent from one being to another. And that's the beauty of art! That someone can transfer an experience to another person via this medium we call art, that is an amazing gift indeed.
So to the artist reading this
So to the artist reading this, specifically to the musical composer, you need to work on developing both your expression and your technique, because good technique articulates emotion with such clarity that unpractised expression simply cannot. Learn to be aware of your feelings and figure out what you want to say, and don't be afraid to employ well-used techniques, because that just means it works well, so why not use it!
The key is using it for what you specifically want to express, because that's what makes it unique to you. But writing music shouldn't be a fight of head vs heart, you need both expression and technique to make good art, so work hard on developing both.
Daniel J. Mathew is studying a Bachelor of Music at Sydney's Wesley Institute and serves as a volunteer in the youth ministry of Hillsong Church, City Campus.
Daniel Mathew's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-mathew.html