On Patterns in Songwriting

Once upon a time I went to a songwriting workshop and received some very helpful advice.

I actually travelled thousands of miles to go to this workshop…
That was not part of my regular pattern at all, by the way…

And the main thing I got from it was this one small piece of wisdom.

It was from the songwriter Cheryl Wheeler.
Her advice was: “Your tendency is your gift.”

She meant that we all tend to do things in particular ways, based on our own personal preferences.
We fall into patterns in our creative work…and she didn’t think this was a bad thing.

Instead of teaching us to break out of our patterns or try to write like anybody else, she encouraged us to embrace our own patterns and preferences…because they are our “gifts.”

Patterns are a very important part of songwriting and art-making and any form of life.

I once heard the word “grace” described as “the sense of being held in the pattern of all things” which I thought was a beautiful way to describe the harmonious, balanced sense we associate with grace.

Music is grace-ful, at least in part, because it is composed of patterns and patterns-within-patterns.

As we know, nature itself is made up of repeating patterns…so it might be said that what matters to us matters to the universe.

In songwriting, we use patterns of rhyme and rhythm…
Patterns of melody that repeat themselves…

In painting or visual art, patterns of colour…rhythms of form…

And embracing all of these is the overall arching pattern of our life and our loves…the experiences we find most moving…

The perceptions that occur to us often enough to notice them and to think they’re important enough to reflect on through our art form.

These are our patterns, our tendencies.
And they are our gifts and teachers.