Anka: The Secret to Song Writing is Simplicity

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SKF NOTE: Paul Anka‘s autobiography had been sitting on my office bookshelf since buying the book on April 5, 2016. Yesterday I began reading it. My experience reading biographies and autobiographies of successful musicians (and other music industry people) is: there is always something to learn from them, some universal advice or principles.

At one point, Paul Anka is writing about his classical piano studies with a local teacher. After learning enough to navigate the piano keyboard on his own, Anka stops his formal piano classes, devoting his time to experimenting on his own at the piano in his basement. With a touch of the “what if?” syndrome, Anka considers his actions and, in 2013 writes:

I wish I’d gone on, though, so that I could have played better, had a better grasp of it all. But I’ve noticed a curious thing. Most singers today are stylists and, aside from the guitar wizards, not many of them are that accomplished as musicians. Conversely, virtuoso musicians and most great arrangers do not make good songwriters. They’re too complicated, they don’t write for the masses.

The secret to song writing is simplicity. You should be able to play the melody using only one finger; that’s a hit, you just bang it out with one finger.

Source: My Way: An Autobiography, by Paul Anka with David Dalton, St. Martin’s Press, 2013

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