The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46494   Message #690323
Posted By: Jerry Rasmussen
15-Apr-02 - 07:36 AM
Thread Name: Songwriting 101
Subject: RE: Songwriting 101
Well thank you, Mick. That makes eleven people who have heard of me, at last count. I've led many songwriting workshops and find them endlessly fascinating. But, workshops don't lend themselves to telling people HOW to write songs. You can take classes on how to repair your motor, or frame a house, but writing songs is different. Workshops, like this thread, are best for feeding the muse. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article once on feeding your muse, and a song that went with it that started out, "I feed my muse on rhythm and blues and old-time rock and roll." Songwriting is ultimately a creative process, and doesn't necessarily pay attention to rules. But, listening to others talk about how they write songs has always given me encouragement. If nothing else, I see that we all go through the same process. Some of the encouragement that I've offered others is for starters, "Shut up and listen." Beginning songwriters often draw almost exclusively on their own feelings, which is why songwriters have such a bad reputation. The truth is, there are a world of stories and songs around all of us if we listen and watch. There are memorable lines waiting to be picked out of conversations, images to be put into words if we actually SEE the world around us instead of wandering through it, self-absorbed. I've written songs where almost every line of the song was something I'd heard someone say. Lines like, "What good is a man whose idea of pleasure is a can of cold beer and the game of the week?" Lines that are musical, coming out of the mouths of others.

And how do you teach someone to write a song in a dream? Eat a large pepperoni pizza before you go to bed? But, you can encourage people to keep a pad and pen next to their bed so if an image or a line comes to them in a dream, they can write it down. Everyone has had the experience of awakening from a wonderful dream, and trying to go back to sleep to get back into the dream. Sometimes lines come in a dream, and I try to put myself back into the dream and the imagery to allow more lines and images to come.

I would hope that others would share their experiences, writing songs, rather than just keep a thread going about how people need songs critiqued. When I've talked about writing songs, I often say that everyone has written songs. Most of us just grow out of it. Kids are constantly making up songs, often as parodies of popular songs or commercials. Every family and community has a lifetime worth of songs in them. I've tried to create a family album with songs, instead of photos. And that leads to another subject... making songs visual. Kinda like, have you seen any good songs recently? From the same song quoted above, Lavender Ladies:

"And where are the men who can find their contentment
In a living room waltz or a walk by the sea?

"A living room waltz?" What kind of a picture does that conjure up? Spontaneous romance.

If this thread is to continue, let people talk about lines that they're having trouble with, or ones that were a gift. Songwriting is as much mystery as craft. Some of the best lines just "come."