An Old Hymn, Jazz, and the Key to Copywriting

An old Christian hymn might seem the last thing that could help you become a master copywriter.

But you’d be surprised…

Do you know the hymn “Morning Has Broken”? (Cat Stevens did a version of it in the 70s.)

Well, that was the first tune I ever learned to play on the bass guitar. And to this day, I can still remember how to do it.

There in the under-funded music room of a rundown secondary school in England, I was introduced to a bass guitar for the first time.

As that particular guitar was the one they used to teach people to play, the music teacher had marked the various notes on the fret board…

A little sticker marked the string and corresponding fret where you should place your finger to play a C, an F, an E, a G, and so on.

Pretty simple stuff.

But I couldn’t read music, and I’d never picked up a bass guitar in my life. So, I was thankful for those simple stickers.

Shown the order of the notes I should play, and with a rough idea of the hymn’s melody, I set about learning how to play “Morning Has Broken.”

Over and over, I would play the familiar phrase… dah dah dah daaah-daaah.

Though any experienced musician might laugh, it was tough. Again and again, I would hit the notes in order, trying to recreate the melody.

I can’t say how long it took me. (It might be that I’ve forgotten that detail out of embarrassment.) But, finally, the breakthrough came.

Practicing at home, I hit upon the melody. And again. And again.

I’d nailed it. I’d learned how to play “Morning Has Broken” on the bass guitar.

At this rate, I’d be a rock star in a matter of weeks. My band at the time — which consisted of me and my friend, who was learning to play guitar and had the sole aim of becoming the next Bon Jovi — would be famous.

Of course, it didn’t work out quite like that.

Instead, my music teacher set the next task: to learn “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Hailey and the Comets. The struggle began once again.

Understanding How to Write Good Sales Copy

Despite my slow start, I did eventually enjoy some success with my bass playing.

I’ve taken the stickers off my guitar and can recall, spontaneously, the position of the notes.

But the fact remains…

It takes me just as long to learn a new melody these days as it did when I was struggling to overcome the dah dah dah daaah-daaah of “Morning Has Broken.”

How come?

Surely, I should be able to grasp the melody much easier after all these years?

The reason I can’t is an important one. In fact, it is fundamental to your becoming a successful copywriter…

You see, it all has to do with how a person learns to play the bass guitar. And, in turn, it has everything to do with how you learn to become a master copywriter.

The Unavoidable Importance of “Rote Learning”

From the moment I first picked up that note-marked bass to the present day, every time I look to learn a new melody, I do it in the same way…

I play the melody over and over and over again.

It is only by constant repetition that I am able to learn the melody at all.

And learning to write sales copy is the same…

When you take your first steps as a copywriter,: repetition is key.

You might have heard the technical term used to describe this kind of learning… They call it “rote.”

I often talk about it. And the reason I do, is because I really believe this is one of the best ways to give yourself a good grounding in copywriting.

But if you’ve not come across rote learning before, believe me, it’s no rocket science.

All it really means is learning by repetition.

Did I already say that? Well, that’s the point.

To get something into your head, you’ve got to repeat it over and over until it becomes a natural reflex.

Have you heard of Dave Brubeck? A quality jazz pianist. He wrote the tune “Take Five,” which even if you don’t realize it you have heard.

But without rote learning, there’d be no “Take Five.”

I assure you, though he’s considered a master of his art, even Dave Brubeck would have sat at that piano and tapped out the melody to “Take Five” over and over again.

He’d hit dud notes. He’d get the rhythm wrong. He’d get angry and be ready to call it quits…

And as you learn to write copy, you’ll go through the same problems. And, yes, sometimes you’ll feel like calling it quits.

But you shouldn’t. Seriously. If you start out right here at square one, if you throw yourself into the unavoidable period of rote learning that all master copywriters must go through…

You will make it to the other side. The doors will open for you. And in the process, you’ll achieve something so few really ever do…

You’ll become a master copywriter who can demand thousands of dollars for just one sales letter.

It is possible. More important, it is possible for you.

So here’s your homework for today. Pick up a compilation of bestselling sales letters. You can find them online or in the library.

Print one out and set about copying it out by hand, word for word. Then type it out, word for word. I know, it sounds laborious. But trust me, this is something I make all trainee copywriters do — and it works…

The simple act of repeating the words will help you form a strong, almost subconscious understanding of copywriting. And you’ll soon realize the positive effect it’s having.

So give it a go… and let me know how you.

[Ed. Note: Learning to write winning copy by imitation is one of the first lessons in the Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, offered by ETR’s sister company, American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI). Following the teachings of Michael Masterson, Paul Hollingshead, and the other master copywriters who created this program, you can reinvent yourself as a copywriter and join this very lucrative profession. No previous writing experience or talent necessary. Check it out here.

After studying business, economics, politics, and creative writing — and working for many years in local government — Glenn Fisher joined Shortcut Publications as the editor of their flagship publications, Shortcut Bulletin and Shortcut Confidential. Glenn has developed a loyal following by helping and inspiring his readers to achieve personal and financial freedom. To receive Glenn’s free, daily e-letter, go here.]