By Peira, Co-Founder & Camp Director
We teach a lot of songwriting at Brooklyn Music Factory. But why?
When I was a kid I took voice lessons. I learned pop songs, with pop lyrics, and most of the time, had no idea what I was singing about. Don’t get me wrong – it was cool. I loved belting out those 80s hits. But then I got a keyboard. It was for my 13th birthday, from my older, punk rock sister and her boyfriend. One of those Casios with all the sound effects. Oh yes. I was ready to blow. But there was one problem.
I didn’t know how to play any of those songs I had been singing. How was I going to rock out to “I Think We’re Alone Now”, if I didn’t know how to play it? And there was no cash for piano lessons, and no YouTube for me to teach myself. So as kids do, I worked around it. I started writing my own songs.
Nothing fancy – just songs about life as I knew it as a 13 year old. Then all of a sudden, something I did out of need, turned into something I loved. I felt an ownership for what I was doing. I was no longer singing about Tiffany’s beating heart. Instead, I was creating my own stories and music. As a result, I became invested in music in a way I had never been before.
Years later, once I had the resources, I began to develop the musical knowledge and skills that I would have loved to have had in the first place. But what if we could combine those two things off the bat? What if we could combine the investment and passion that comes with creating your own songs, while also learning the skills it takes to execute them?
And so the BMF songwriting curriculum was born. At BMF students learn skills and musical concepts through songwriting. (And are truly invested in the music, as a result.) For example, if a teacher wants to teach how to find the downbeat in a song, they might guide their student or band in writing a song with a key lyric only on the beat of one. At the end of the process, the student or band has not only come out understanding this important musical concept, but has also created a work all their own. A work that creates a level of ownership and investment that keeps a student wanting to learn.
In addition, creating songs is a great way to learn the building blocks of a song and what it takes to build a song from the ground up. By learning the building blocks of a song, you gain a much deeper understanding of what you are playing, how to play it on your own, and–ultimately–how to play it with others.
So while kids have long moved on from Tiffany to Imagine Dragons, the idea remains the same. Write your own songs, and gain the power, understanding and investment that comes with creating music that didn’t exist yesterday. There’s nothing like it.