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The Channeling (Ways to reach your Muse)
The Three Levels (Part 1)
By Shaman Sean
? 1999-2001 Shaman Sean. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

A few people have kindly asked me to write more about specific writing techniques to attract your muse.

Before I do this, I'd like to first mention that I recently got on a body-building program. I've always been active and exercised, and ate fairly well. But this time I'm actually following a program. My goal isn't necessarily to look like Arnold S, but with body-building I can control the outcome. I control the outcome by selecting which exercises I will do and how many. For instance, if I don't want to be vein-y looking, I just don't cut all the fat out of my diet. (I still don't eat butter or cholesterol items, but I allow some other fats by basically following the good old Food Pyramid.) Or another example: If I want to focus on a particular area of my body more than other areas, I may do more of one exercise, than another.

Writing/muse exercises are the same way. They each have a different function. And there's an added complication that one exercise may do something for one person, and something entirely different for another. So when I give exercises, you need to decide how well they are working for you.

That said, one of the things some people have asked me is what they can do to come up with writing topics. I have a few resources. But instead of getting into them using an article, I will continue answering them on a personal basis for now via email. When I've done that for a while, I'll post the results under the Q&A section online - if that's still ok with everyone. I love answering your questions so don't be afraid. I will, however, discuss 'writing topics' a bit today

Many songwriters learn (at some point in time) that not all songs were as deep as they originally felt or thought. [ What I mean is that the original artist says that they just came up with some words that sounded good, while the song itself might have changed the listener's life, or whatever.] Sometimes the listener feels cheated, but they shouldn't. They shouldn't because the intention of the original songwriter doesn't invalidate the listener's experience in his own life. You should keep this in mind when your write a song.

I've actually came up with a personal theory on this called the "3 Levels of Song Meaning". Basically, you can look at a song as having 3 levels of depth, like a funnel. I named them (with the funnel facing this way < ) levels "3", "2", & "1". LOL

Ok. So "Level 3" is the 'songwriter's level'. He just broke up with someone and wrote a song. Or he's unhappy with the government and wrote a song. Or he just isn't happy and wrote a song. Or he was, a-hum, in a weird frame of mind and wrote a song. Whatever the case. Level 3 is the songwriter's personal meaning.

"Level 1" is the 'surface level' of the song. It's the: "I don't know what its about but I love that chorus." Or the Nirvana syndrome: "It sounds great, but I don't know what the hell they're trying to say; but I don't care." (Then that listener proceeds to sing all the words!)

"Level 2" is the 'deeper listener level'. They've now connected with the song in some personal way. The song has meaning to them. (But it still may not necessarily have the same meaning or intended meaning of the songwriter. But it doesn't matter, because the listener has connected to it. This is where the really skilled songwriters live.)

What I do with this theory; what my personal goal is when I write a song; is to make sure that Level 1 is achieved, and to make sure that my Level 3 is discussed simple enough for Level 2 to be able to occur for the listener. (And to be honest with you, I make Level 3 general enough to become Level 2.) If the listener cares enough to find out my Level 3, then I can tell them if I want.

This may sound complicated but its not. It basically means that the first part the listener feels is Level 1. Then if they stick with it (and you wrote the song well), they may arrive at Level 2. Then the song itself has worked its way into their soul even more.

Now, we've finally arrived at the chase: Basically, I think that most people who have problems coming up with topics are limiting themselves to only starting at Level 3. Think about it. What's wrong with starting at Level 1 and working your way into Level 3? (In this way, you can use the songwriting process as a self discovery technique!)

Of course, there's no way I can know what people really mean in interviews; but I have heard many famous songwriters use that exact phrase. (They use songwriting as a self discovery technique.)

If you do start at Level 1 when you're writing, you can then arrange it to mean something to you. Like a modern art painter. From there you can actually follow the listener's path to Level 2 as you're writing the song. (What a wonderful way to make sure your songs are accessible to Level 2!)

Use this perception however it helps you. Some songwriters also don't care about Level 2. Some don't even care about Level 3. They just start and end at Level 1. You will find that making the song Level 1 accessible, and also Level 2 accessible; requires entirely different skills.

The next article will be a continuation of this discussion. I will discuss how to notice the different levels in your own songs, and possibly analyze a few famous ones as examples to my points.

READ ON to part 2 !!

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