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Songwriting & Arranging Workshop

GUEST,Glyn Collinson - Waterfront 08 Aug 11 - 04:56 PM
GUEST,999 08 Aug 11 - 04:59 PM
GUEST,Glyn Collinson - Waterfront 08 Aug 11 - 05:05 PM
Jeri 08 Aug 11 - 05:22 PM
Crane Driver 08 Aug 11 - 05:51 PM
GUEST,999 08 Aug 11 - 05:58 PM
GUEST, Tom Bliss 08 Aug 11 - 06:06 PM
GUEST,999 08 Aug 11 - 08:06 PM
GUEST,Glyn - Waterfront 08 Aug 11 - 09:27 PM
GUEST,Glyn - Waterfront 08 Aug 11 - 10:01 PM
Crowhugger 08 Aug 11 - 10:34 PM
GUEST,999 08 Aug 11 - 11:23 PM
GUEST,mg 08 Aug 11 - 11:32 PM
GUEST,999 08 Aug 11 - 11:37 PM
GUEST,Glyn - Waterfront 08 Aug 11 - 11:47 PM
GUEST, Tom Bliss 09 Aug 11 - 06:26 AM
GUEST,Glyn - Waterfront 09 Aug 11 - 09:26 AM
Jack the Sailor 09 Aug 11 - 09:49 AM
Amos 09 Aug 11 - 10:40 AM
Crowhugger 09 Aug 11 - 12:19 PM
GUEST,Glyn Collinson - Waterfront 09 Aug 11 - 02:26 PM
Crowhugger 09 Aug 11 - 03:20 PM
Amos 09 Aug 11 - 04:35 PM
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Subject: Advice for Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,Glyn Collinson - Waterfront
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 04:56 PM

Dear Mudcat

My band is getting ready to gig at Shrewsbury F.F., and we are currently putting together a songwriting and arranging workshop. Whilst I've got an idea for how to run this, I was wondering had any thoughts? I've been to a few "songwriters" workshops and rarely gotten anything out of it. Does anyone have any ideas on key messages to get across? On how to involve the punters without it descending into a cavalcade of uninformed conflicting opinions?

~Glyn
-Waterfront


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,999
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 04:59 PM

How long is the workshop, and how many presenters are there and how many in attendance?


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,Glyn Collinson - Waterfront
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 05:05 PM

It's an hour and a half slot. There are going to be three or four of us. My idea was to try and talk mostly about how we go about arranging a song, passing on as many tricks and tips that I had, and interspersing it with songs to give examples. I was thinking that whilst we'd make ourselves available for the whole hour and a half, we'd probably do an hour long show/lecture thing, (which is probably long enough as I don't see how to introduce audience participation beyond questions), and then make myself available for questions, and maybe to hold an informal "song surgery" at the end.

However, as I said, I'd really like some ideas and opinions on this.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: Jeri
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 05:22 PM

Biggest problems I see in me and others is:
1)Seeing the song from the audience's point of view. Do they "get it"? Do they want to hear it or do they enjoy it?
2)Editing. I wrote it and I don't want to delete any of it, not one tiny little word. But see 1).

Good luck Glyn.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: Crane Driver
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 05:51 PM

To me, a 'workshop' is not a lecture. If you're giving a lecture on song writing, I personally would prefer you to call it a lecture, so I know what to expect. When we've run song writing workshops, for example at Upton folk festival, we've generally had a dozen or so participants who have mostly some experience already. We encourage everyone to share one of their songs with the group, and say a bit about how and why they wrote it. Our job is mainly to keep things moving and make sure everyone has a go. That way, everyone gets to participate, and everyone, including ourselves, can learn something. So far, the feedback from participants has been very positive.

Andrew & Carole


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,999
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 05:58 PM

I agree very much with Andrew. I've been invited to to participate in workshops, but what the organizers wanted was a performance. Were I doing something like that again, I wouldn't.

In a workshop, I'd like to see every participant leave with a few well-written stanzas.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 06:06 PM

Start by asking round the room what people were hoping to get from the event. You may be surprised by the answers.

It should not be hard to wing it from there


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,999
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 08:06 PM

Good one, Tom.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,Glyn - Waterfront
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 09:27 PM

The main message I'm getting here is to think about how to make it more interactive. How do you keep the thing from degenerating into a singaround? Do you offer constructive advice on how they might improve things?

I think we are planning on focusing more on arranging songs than writing them, so as cool as it would be if we could send everyone away having written a great few lines, not sure how to actually achieve that. How would that actually work? Could you elaborate?


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,Glyn - Waterfront
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 10:01 PM

Oh, and Jeri, thanks for that, I will fold it in :)


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: Crowhugger
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 10:34 PM

An hour and half sounds like enough time to workshop 3-4 songs, if some need tweaking and only 1 or 2 are in need of a complete re-think, latter which may or may not be completed during the workshop.

Here's what I'd love to experience attending such a workshop:
Just a few songs to show the principles. Maybe you pick them by design ahead of time, or by lottery, having everyone drop their name in a hat on their way who wants their song workshopped. The former gives you a better chance to ensure a variety of issues are addressed.

Then have a go at working them up, with the whole panel contributing to a final version. Every idea used may not be to the songwriter's liking, but it's about teaching the whole group too. Writers sometimes get in a rut and need to be pushed into trying uncomfortably new things.

I definitely want to hear before and after, and I want to see what is tried and discarded on the path from hither to yon. I want to see addressed (not an exhaustive list, just a few things that come to mind):

Ways to improve on
..Too many stories or pictures packed into one stanza or song.
..Rhythm of music fights rhythm of lyrics with unpleasant result.
..Too-disconnected ideas within lines or stanzas.
..Chorus clashes with verses (music or lyrics).
..Wanting more emotion in the lyrics.
..Rangy melody.
..Chords don't follow/fit melody.
..Accidental plagiarism.

Tips, tricks, tools:
..How to use contrasts to heighted impact e.g. quiet music with violent lyrics as inThe Band Played Waltzing Matilda).
..major vs minor key.
..you tell me!!

I won't mind that my song wasn't chosen if I can follow the application of ideas or principles to a variety of problems.

You should know, however, that I won't actually be attending that particular workshop.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,999
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 11:23 PM

I know where Crowhugger is coming from (stay away from ANY underpass in Montreal). The problem with Any workshop that's not preregistered and predetermined is knowing what the participants want to go away with: therefore, have people preregister, and part of that is allowing folks to say what they want. Divide the attendees into four groups, each of you take one group, and deal with it as you are able. Some people won't get in. They will become critics and talk about you. Your students will speak on your behalf. Bob's yer uncle.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 11:32 PM

Seems to me you have two different workshops and you want to do the arranging one so I would do that one this time...mg


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,999
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 11:37 PM

Always the voice of reason. Alright, Irish.

PS I love your songwriting.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,Glyn - Waterfront
Date: 08 Aug 11 - 11:47 PM

Dear Mr Crow Hugger

I think you've made some really useful suggestions, and can already see where I can fold them in. I have to admit am somewhat scared by the idea of having to critique someones song in front of an audience. There is no option for "pre-registering", I'm afraid, so I will have a group of unknown size, of unknown ability, and would have to sort of pick one at random. I'm not that experienced when it comes to critiquing someones work, and am worried that this injects a lot of random factors that are going to be beyond my control. I can see how that'd work really well if maybe I had a bit more experience teaching or critiquing.

This all said, I think the idea of getting everyone to arrange something, try out what works, what doesn't is a really great idea. I'm thinking maybe the way to go is to pick a traditional song that everyone knows ahead of time, which won't throw me as many curve balls. Everyone gets a say in how it's arranged, even if they don't have an instrument there. We can try out different percussion, rhythm and voicing, and see which ones they like the best, get them to come up with a structure to the song.

I will be sure to mention the issues that you raised with a few examples of my own songs. I can, for example, play them a bit of a song in an early form that really doesn't work for one reason or another, and then show them how I fixed it. (scary in its own right!)

~Glyn


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 09 Aug 11 - 06:26 AM

I've never done a workshop at Shrewsbury but've encountered most of the options at various UK festivals, doing both writing and arranging. The smallest number was one guy who didin't actually play, sing, or write - the biggest was about 60, in which case you really have little option but to do a lecture/demo (and bear in mind that this is what most workshop leaders do, so many - even most - of your audience may be expecting/wanting this).

My infamous songwriting booklet was written as a direct response to a workshop at Broadstairs where I had four people - one who had never written a song and didn't ever envisage doing so, one who was brilliant with words but almost tone deaf, one who was a great musician but had poor language skills, and one who was a far better songwriter than me!

It's really only practical to do hands-on writing if you have two or more linked workshops, so people can go away and work quietly by themselves then return with something for the group to consider.

Don't be afraid of commenting on other people's work. There will always be something nice to say, and you'll know how hard to go in with the shears by their reaction. The important thing is to leave them believing they can do it as well as you - because they probably can.

A week of daily workshops at Sidmouth (in the middle of the night, though - at 9.30 a.m)! produced 5 good songs, one I even recorded on my next album, but you'll find you won't get much done in terms of writing in an hour and a half - though you can pass on some good tips (and some of the attendees will do too if you let them). This is why I wrote the book - because I could see that I could never satisfy all the questions in the time and I didn't want people to go away Empty Handed. (Unless they were going to write a song as good as that natch).

Arranging is easier - if more restricted.

Tom and I have one, but even that varies according to what people want. Sometimes it's about putting chords to tunes or song melodies, sometimes it's about editing lyrics, sometimes it's about duo/band arrangements - and how instruments work together, or about presenting music on stage (how to add drama etc).

The best one about arranging was with Johnny Dyer and Vicky Swan AND Chris Parkinson and Maggie Boyle at Sidmouth. They all knew some of my songs, so we were able to play a couple of things quite well from the off, and discuss our individual approaches. Then we had a go at arranging an unaccompanied song of Maggie's that the rest of us had never heard. It was a mess, of course, but rather a lovely mess, and I hope enthralling for all concerned. That was a biggish crowd (obviously) so there wasn't much interaction, but Tom and I used to do schools work which was 100% hands on.

Flexibility is the key.

Good luck :-)


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,Glyn - Waterfront
Date: 09 Aug 11 - 09:26 AM

Tom,

Thanks for the advice and the pep talk :)

~Glyn


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: Jack the Sailor
Date: 09 Aug 11 - 09:49 AM

One of the best pieces of advice I have seen about song writing is "Keep at it. Expect to write 12 songs that are bad before you have built enough skill to write a good one.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: Amos
Date: 09 Aug 11 - 10:40 AM

I think I will be cochairing a similar workshop at the FSGW Getaway this year. Appreciate the thread, therefore.

Sometimes a workshoip like this is really just a showcase--and thus becomes a singaround. I think your approach is more interesting.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: Crowhugger
Date: 09 Aug 11 - 12:19 PM

JtS, adding to your remark--I agree "Keep at it" is a crucial message. Also, here in Canada I sometimes hear songwriting (any writing, come to think of it) compared to sugaring-off: It takes 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of maple syrup.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: GUEST,Glyn Collinson - Waterfront
Date: 09 Aug 11 - 02:26 PM

This has all been very helpful, thanks to everyone!

~Glyn


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: Crowhugger
Date: 09 Aug 11 - 03:20 PM

...but don't bet your sugarbush on that ratio, I've heard it can vary.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting & Arranging Workshop
From: Amos
Date: 09 Aug 11 - 04:35 PM

A real lady never bets her sugarbush, I believe...


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