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Beating Songwriter's Block: Jump-Start Your Words and Music Hardcover – March 1, 2014
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Reviewed by Peter M. Dunn, Violinist
It is my guess that a novice songwriter who is just ‘fooling around’ will find Songwriters’ Block a bit of too much of everything. Too many ideas, too much of ‘try-this and try-that’, too much decision-making. He, or she, will likely have another toke, and pick up the guitar, still aimless.
But let’s consider a person who is serious about their music: someone who has already asked for advice, and still is uncertain about how to do better. It is very possible that, this small-but-mighty book will be of much assistance.
Open it anywhere, at random, is my thought: read a little, try a few pages ahead, or go backwards and read a little more. Soon enough, Gary Ewers’ intention becomes clear - he is writing for someone with lasting ambition, for someone willing to do the work.
The psychology of the Block, steps to break free: it’s all here, in a careful but breezy style. The importance of lyric and the shape of a good song, discovery and discipline, how to work, how to be patient. And finally, after half the book, the choice of chords appears.
Garys’ message, if I have this right, is that Melody and Lyric will drive the chords, not the other way around. Many blocked-up writers will find this a revolutionary concept, but Gary makes a well-defined case for it.
In this any many other ways, this book is a unique contribution to the library of the serious pop, rock or folk song-writer. To fully profit from it may take weeks, or, for some - months - of organized work, but we should not be intimidated; the book presents page after page of exercises and creative puzzles that can be investigated in shorter commitments of time.
The reader will find a remarkable number of useful references to familiar (and the not so familiar) pop tunes, from Bing Crosby to Springsteen to Lady Gaga, each chosen to demonstrate the skill, process, and technique of good songwriting. Quotes from researchers into the psychology of mental blocks, and their solution give added authority to this volume.
The open-flat format and very solid cover and ring-binding make this a well-designed book, which will withstand the late-night habits of the young musician.
Open it anywhere, and start working. If you are serious about what you do, there will be benefits.