Writing about music can be difficult, particularly when you are someone like me who never took up an instrument (unless you count that one year of guitar). So how have I become a music blogger writing reviews for the awesome website, Independent Clauses? First off, I write often. Through writing personal blogs for years, reviewing albums just for fun, and writing nearly every day, I was able to hone my writing skills. Self-editing is also a very helpful practice. I certainly am no expert at writing about music, but I have learned a lot through writing for Independent Clauses.
Enough about me. If you are at all interested in furthering your writing, particularly in the area of music journalism, read on! Here are a few tips for any budding music blogger.
- Listen to music well. If you foster active music listening, you will improve in how well you write about it. Pay attention to everything. Notice each instrument in the overall sound. Consider the texture that the vocals provide and the voice parts of each singer. Think about the lyrics and how they add to the song and album. Even in good ol’ rock n’ roll music– harmonization, dissonance, and repetition can all be present. Pay attention to these things and more.
- Don’t be afraid to look things up. If you have never taken music classes growing up, don’t fret– you, too, can write about music. All it takes is listening and writing. If you can do those, you are in good shape to blog about music. If you don’t know all of the musical terms or genres, just look it up! I have been writing about music for years now and I still have to look things up. If a musician is listed on Facebook as belonging to the genre of “psychedelic folk” and you’ve never heard of that before, look it up on Wikipedia! Wikipedia is not the enemy.
- Write about music you enjoy. When I started reviewing albums for Independent Clauses, I was surprised to learn that we only review music we like. Positivity is in, whiny criticism is not. Particularly if you are reviewing independent artists like we do at Independent Clauses. What these newer artists need are good sound bites, not negative commentary. When writing about music, you really have to think about how your words can affect the musician. A good review does wonders and a bad one could negatively affect an artist.
- Free-write, then compose. This rule applies to all writing. I used to stress too much about beginning a piece, until I allowed myself to free-write before the actual drafting. (In fact, this article itself looked very different when I started writing.) But if you just write, you will find yourself at a much saner place to begin drafting up a blog post. With my music reviews, I often find it helpful to first write notes about each track as I listen– quotable lyrics, the instruments I hear, the overall feel, etc. Then, I write my first impressions of the album, my favorite parts, what it reminds me of, and any other thoughts. Finally, I am ready to listen to the album again and begin drafting up a review. Good writing takes time to come together, so don’t rush the process.
- Let your writing sit. I’m sure we can all use improvement on this one. From my experience, a blog post is exponentially better when it has sat for a bit. In our fast- paced culture, we always want to get things done and move on, but writing about music should not work that way. Especially if you are reviewing an album. Take notes as you listen. Draft a review. Let it be. Then come back after some time and revise. If you follow that process instead of trying to bang out a review in two hours, I’m sure you’ll find it will make for much better writing.