Do you play an instrument? If this photo of my joy over this guitar doesn’t motivate you to pick one up, I don’t know what will. I highly encourage you to pick an instrument, any instrument up and get practicing! Being able to play an instrument will completely change how you write and perform.
When my sisters and I first moved to Los Angeles back in the day, our vocal coach encouraged us to start writing our own songs. Luckily, I had a basic knowledge of the piano from my childhood, and when I was 16 I wrote my first full song called “Upside Down”, on the piano using chords I’d learned over the years. Bless my little lovesick teenage heart! For a REAL throwback, give it a listen below!
That fall, we moved back to North Carolina for my senior year of high school. On our long drive across the country, all I had with me was my guitar and a chord book I’d been given by my Uncle for my 16th birthday. That road trip forced me to figure out basic chords and mess around on my guitar, which I then became completely obsessed with playing. Once I learned some of my favorite songs on guitar, I could write songs in the same style as the artists that I loved to listen to – Colbie Caillat, Adele, and Ingrid Michaelson.
I discovered that I LOVED playing the guitar. To this day, I’ve still never had a guitar lesson (though that’s on my bucket list for sure!). I taught myself how to play simply because I loved how it felt. When I pick it up and start fiddling around, I immediately feel connected. Comforted. At home. Inspired.
Once I felt confident in my guitar playing abilities, my sensibilities as a songwriter started to develop and improve. I could also make other people’s songs sound unique by arranging them in my own acoustic style, and my signature sound as an artist continues to develop because of my love for the instruments I play. I also love that my guitar is portable, flexible, and easy to pack around for acoustic sets when we play live.
I still switch back and forth between writing on guitar and piano, and both now feel like home to me.
I sometimes try to write melodies and songs without an instrument, but they always feel incomplete. My instruments allow me to flesh out my ideas. To bring songs to life and make them rich and full and beautiful. It’s much easier to envision the final production on a song when you have a base instrumental arrangement to build off of.
If you consider your voice to be your primary instrument, you will be amazed by how awesome it feels to be able to accompany yourself while you sing.
If you’ve never picked up an instrument in your life, it’s never too late to start! I just started taking piano lessons again this summer for the first time in 13 years. I’m working my way through the basic children’s books and loving every second of it!
When you find your instrument, learn as many songs as you can by artists that inspire you, and your capacity to write and perform great songs will increase in amazing ways!