A Quality or Quantity Approach – Which is Better for Songwriting?
Based on the Podcast Episode: “A Quality or Quantity Approach – Which is Better for Songwriting? with Kari Loya” – Episode 22, The Magic of Songwriting with Francesca de Valence
Many musicians know that it takes years of practice to become proficient on their instrument. But with songwriters, that can all go out the window and they can get stuck for months on one song. This brings up the old quality over quantity argument and which approach is more likely to result in great songs.
In this Club Conversation with bilingual Emmy-Award winning voice actor Kari Loya, we discuss Kari’s bold new adventure into songwriting and how taking a fearless, fun and abundant outlook on creative practice can result in some wonderful songs!
Quantity vs Quality
Everyone wants to write great songs, and there are many different approaches to achieving this, but this story beautifully sums up our preferred ‘quantity builds quality’ philosophy.
This is an excerpt from David Bayles and Ted Orland’s’ book Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.
“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”
How Quantity Builds Quality for Songwriting
The quantity of what we create is totally up to us. The quality will come over time and will likely come about faster by doing writing more often!
- By writing a lot of songs, there is a lot of learning that happens.
- You will develop skills quicker – when you’re writing regularly, there is no atrophy of skill, just a constant momentum. You’re continually developing skills and you’ll develop quicker.
- There is less time to be self-critical and get stuck. Writing a lot helps move you forward fast enough so that you won’t get buried in all the things you could be doing to ‘perfect the song’.
- There is a greater chance of success – No one knows what’s going to be successful, so writing a lot of songs will give you more volume of options to choose from and test in the marketplace.
If it’s starting to become clearer to you that quantity builds quality, then how can you go about making the learning process of writing regularly more fun, enjoyable and fruitful?
On Learning New Skills as an Adult
An educator and executive coach himself, Kari knows that effective learning happens when we lose our inhibitions – or simply put, make a mess like babies do. The tricky thing is that babies can do this for 3 years and everyone encourages this, but if you make a mess after 8 years old, people will start to correct you. So after the age of 8, we learn to censor that natural play period and that continues into the way we learn as adults.
How can we create learning opportunities where we’re excited enough to come back tomorrow to continue to learn?
Kari’s Operating Principles for Learning
Our traditional education system seems more focused on moving a group of people through a rigid structure so we can measure outcomes, so Kari created some operating principles for learning a new skill of songwriting and it really centres around how to make learning fun!
1. Move quickly, create fearlessly
Be like Pollock and throw paint on your musical canvas. This makes creating fun! There’s a creation phase and then a separate re-writing phase. “If there’s an idea, I immediately try it. And so I have to go faster than my mind to avoid judging that idea.”
2. Learn systematically
“I use The Club to guide me in my songwriting practice and then I might develop one additional thing each week – like a specific production skill.”
3. Network strategically
Meeting people who are ahead of you on the path can help you connect with others who can help you to learn. “I met Francesca when she did a keynote at the Durango Songwriters’ Expo in California in 2020, and that meeting has resulted in me writing 100 songs in 100 weeks!”
4. Play long
We need to make sure we don’t crash and burn. Recognise we’re writing songs because we have to do this. It’s not about any short-term gains.
5. Have fun
The fun comes in more relaxed times and when you’re not worrying about what you have to do, but just following the fun and discovery.
Kari then reflects on these operating principles each week, and asks himself ‘Am I really showing up for this’?
How can we support ourselves in the learning process?
1. When learning is hard, take breaks
If we’re pounding our head against a wall, stop. It’s all good to have discipline and perseverance yes, but know how to take breaks and take care of yourself. Fill your tank of gas!
2. Be aware of your skills and growth
Break down what needs to be done and self-evaluate.
3. Interact with others in community
How are we getting feedback to develop our growth and gain self-awareness? It’s hard to gain self-awareness in a bubble and learning next to others is a brilliant way to learn about ourselves. Getting feedback is an essential part of receiving encouragement and also constructive support for continued growth.
Timestamps for podcast audio:
2:37 – Kari shares how he got into songwriting
6:15 – On learning new skills as an adult including some helpful tools
20:15 – Kari’s operating principles for learning
27:50 – How we can learn alongside others
36:26 – Finding clarity in your artist brand through writing songs
41:55 – Quantity vs quality
54:09 – On collaboration and creating unique work
1:01:45 – Kari talks about writing “Agua” in I Heart Songwriting Club and then shares the song.
1:18:05 – The Magic of Songwriting
About Kari Loya:
A bilingual Emmy Award winning voice actor, educator and executive coach, Kari Loya brings bold adventure and excitement to his new skill – songwriting! The American started noodling with song ideas when he lived in Rio de Janeiro years ago and continued noodling when he moved to Silicon Valley and again in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He has travelled to nearly 40 countries, worked in seven, and learned several languages along the way. Kari loves exploring, learning, creating and empowering.
Contact Kari: Website / Instagram
Song Credit: “Agua” – Written and Performed by Kari Loya.
Episode Show Notes:
Get your creativity, confidence, and songwriting output flowing. Join The Club and receive the support and structure to write 10 songs in 10 weeks and get feedback from a private peer community. This is THE essential writing practice that has changed the careers and lives of 1000s of songwriters worldwide.
Just getting started on your songwriting journey and need more hands-on support? Establish a firm foundation and develop your musical and lyric skills with our Beginner Songwriting Courses. They are the perfect place to begin and cover everything you need to know to write your first songs. You’ll receive lessons from Francesca directly!
Don’t struggle to write your next album – write an album a year with ease! Watch our Free Songwriting Masterclass.
Want more for your songwriting but don’t know where to go from here? Take the I Heart Songwriting Club Quiz to discover your next steps and inspire your way to writing better songs.
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Podcast theme song: “Put One Foot In Front Of The Other One” music and lyrics by Francesca de Valence
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