Adapted from the book, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci.
Leonardo da Vinci was a brilliant musician. If he were alive today…
He would have an insatiably curious approach to songwriting and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
Songs can be like problems or puzzles that we must solve or piece together. Asking creative questions can open the mind to new ideas. Keep a journal to record songwriting principles or insights. We can always learn something new.
He would have a commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
Write, write, write. Then write some more. After writing each song, reflect on how the song could be better. Learn what not to do next time. Put the songwriting principles you’ve captured to the test.
He would continually refine his senses, especially hearing, as the means to enliven experience.
Music is an auditory art. Musicians are alchemists of sound. Reflecting the sounds in our imagination into reality requires precision. Ear training to a musician is like tasting food to a chef. Without it, we end up putting ketchup on everything.
Leonardo da Vinci was a master story teller. All good story tellers know that to move someone’s emotions requires sensual detail. Emotions are experienced in the body and great writers know how to make you laugh and cry through sensual imagery. Lyric writing is no different. Show, don’t tell.
He would have a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
Songwriting is 100% inspiration and 100% craft. You should only be concerned with satisfying your artistic vision and always write for the listener. Songwriting is absolutely never about the goal and always about the process except when it isn’t.
He would develop the balance between science and art, logic and imagination. “Whole-brain” thinking.
“Those who become enamoured of the art, without having previously applied to the diligent study of the scientific part of it, may be compared to mariners who put to sea in a ship without rudder or compass and therefore cannot be certain of arriving at the wished for port.”
-Leonardo da Vinci
He would cultivate grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
Let’s face it, our physiology has an effect on our attitudes and emotions and vice versa. Since our bodies are the instruments we use to create art, our art is directly influenced by the state of our physiology. Beyond basic health, there are many fun ways to embody art as well as develop a balanced body and brain. Try writing lyrics or picking out melodies with your non-dominant hand. You can also try using both hands simultaneously.
He would have a recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking.
Leonardo da Vinci would probably consider a song from multiple perspectives: first person, second person and third person. He would understand how it fits into the culture. He would contemplate the ephemeral nature of sound and how it relates to our social musical habits, like the music industry or the RIAA. (hint) Leonardo da Vinci would recognize how a single note changes the world.