Inspiration often comes from surprising places. Not surprisingly, some may say that Twitter and music-making don't mix. So, it's quite true that I never expected social networks to be a source of such strange inspiration, but there you go: since social networks are a reflection of human interaction in some form or another, they’re filled with all the variety of that humanness. So, what can Twitter or other social networks teach us about writing a song or composing a symphony?
Brevity Can Be a Breath of Fresh Air
The current limitation on the character count in a tweet is 280. It used to be 140 which was much more challenging. Still, those limits can be very inspiring when it comes to being succinct about how we say things.
The next time you listen to some of your favorite songs, notice how many of them allow you to tell the rest of the story in your own mind. In the same way, when you are creating music, be sure to connect with the inspiration of brevity and subtlety. Allowing the imagination of the listener to fill in the blanks can invite and inspire them to keep listening. Using too many words or too many production techniques can lead to overwhelm on the part of the listener. If you realize you've put too much (lyrics, musical arrangement, whatever) into the song, you can always take some bits back out.
Pictures Capture Attention
Social media experts often teach the importance of using imagery. Photos, videos, and animation (such as GIFs) are often high on this list. Obviously, these add great contrast to updates that are filled solely with text and words.
Fortunately, Twitter is a very mixed media platform. You can easily share words, pictures, links, and videos directly in tweets. I've certainly found that tweets with videos or photos catch the eye of more people than ones that I've sent with only text. As I mentioned above, this experience matches what the experts recommend.
While we can create cover art and music videos, obviously, the actual song or instrumental doesn’t contain photographs. However, it can contain imagery, color, and contrast. These are so important for making listening interesting. It might be as simple as the contrast between the banjo accompanying the voice singing the lyrics. Or it might be as intricate as the changing colors of a flute playing the melody previously performed by a trumpet.
When someone posts something original on Twitter, it gets lots of attention. Of course, “originality” is relative. Is there really anything new that people can say? “There is nothing new under the sun.”
I've seen many online discussions about every possible combination of notes or pitches in a musical composition. I'm sure that someone has also analyzed all the juxtapositions of words in lyrics. Still, songwriters and composers will keep using our imaginations to come up with something as original as possible.
Even if you're doing a cover song, keep originality on your radar. It's one thing to imitate the original artist and many bands have made this an artform. Doing your own thing with someone else's song seems to me to be a more creative endeavor. What can you do to make your version of a cover song sound like you?
Human Connection Is Compelling
Too many people make the mistake of thinking Twitter is just an advertising platform. Unfortunately, musicians (or wannabe-musicians) are some of the worst about this. Some will even blast you with “Listen to my new track!” or “Grab my free beats!” or “Subscribe to my channel!” before they even say hello. That's neither “cool” nor cordial.
Personally, I'd much rather relate with people in human interactions first. Based on our connection, people will start to ask about my music without me prompting them. In more rare cases, I may give a little nudge (“I thought this song I just released might be one you'd really relate with. Let me know what you think.”), but if there's no connection, I won't bother.
When your music connects on a human level, people are much more likely to respond to it. This is true even of instrumental compositions: if there is a sound or melody that connects with the hearer, they will keep listening.
Composing – Be Real
As is true of every aspect of life, being yourself is crucial. When someone puts on a persona for sharing on social networks, it becomes easily apparent if they are different in private or IRL (In Real Life off of the public page). The way to avoid this pitfall is easy: be real.
This is never more apparent to me than when I am music-making. Though I can create music in many styles, I am always aware that I can only be who I am. For example, when writing songs for PresentSongs, I will do my best to create the style of song, arrangement, and performance that the recipient enjoys. Even then, my own style will also come through in the performance and in the song itself. And that's a good thing.
Creating Music and Twitter
I'm sure that many of you reading this can offer even better examples of what Twitter can teach us about creating music or other art. Maybe there's another social platform (TikTok, FaceBook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) where you've seen a parallel. Be sure to let me know about your experiences in the comments on this page. OK, you can also reach me on Twitter…
Best practices on social networks and in songwriting won't always converge. But you can bet that our being human will connect experiences in all aspects of life. In one of the circles that I've been a part of for many years, it's common to hear, “How is that like your life?“