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Song writing questions

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Doug Chadwick 01 Aug 02 - 03:20 PM
Dave & Julie 31 Jul 02 - 05:43 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Jul 02 - 05:52 PM
Uncle_DaveO 30 Jul 02 - 11:42 AM
Jeri 30 Jul 02 - 10:44 AM
M.Ted 30 Jul 02 - 10:21 AM
MMario 30 Jul 02 - 09:48 AM
Mr Happy 30 Jul 02 - 09:20 AM
Bert 28 Mar 00 - 12:14 PM
KingBrilliant 28 Mar 00 - 11:41 AM
Áine 28 Mar 00 - 08:07 AM
KingBrilliant 28 Mar 00 - 07:47 AM
Amos 27 Mar 00 - 02:40 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 27 Mar 00 - 02:30 PM
Áine 27 Mar 00 - 02:06 PM
Amos 27 Mar 00 - 01:52 PM
Homeless 27 Mar 00 - 11:55 AM
Mbo 27 Mar 00 - 11:23 AM
Bert 27 Mar 00 - 11:10 AM
GMT 27 Mar 00 - 09:33 AM
Áine 27 Mar 00 - 09:25 AM
rainbow 26 Mar 00 - 09:20 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 26 Mar 00 - 07:31 PM
McGrath of Harlow 26 Mar 00 - 07:13 PM
Áine 26 Mar 00 - 02:01 PM
McGrath of Harlow 26 Mar 00 - 01:31 PM
Áine 26 Mar 00 - 12:51 PM
McGrath of Harlow 24 Mar 00 - 09:18 PM
Amos 24 Mar 00 - 08:48 PM
McGrath of Harlow 24 Mar 00 - 06:59 PM
Bradypus 24 Mar 00 - 06:26 PM
Kim C 24 Mar 00 - 05:47 PM
Amos 24 Mar 00 - 04:24 PM
M. Ted (inactive) 24 Mar 00 - 02:12 PM
Jim Krause 24 Mar 00 - 02:11 PM
Amos 24 Mar 00 - 01:35 PM
Bert 24 Mar 00 - 01:17 PM
Áine 24 Mar 00 - 01:02 PM
GUEST,Me again 24 Mar 00 - 12:28 PM
Mbo 24 Mar 00 - 11:41 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 24 Mar 00 - 11:39 AM
Bert 24 Mar 00 - 10:49 AM
Homeless 24 Mar 00 - 10:47 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 24 Mar 00 - 10:44 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 24 Mar 00 - 10:15 AM
Áine 24 Mar 00 - 09:06 AM
Homeless 24 Mar 00 - 08:54 AM
Whistle Stop 24 Mar 00 - 08:35 AM
Eluned 24 Mar 00 - 02:26 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 23 Mar 00 - 10:11 PM
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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 01 Aug 02 - 03:20 PM

Dave,

Thanks for the workshop notes. Lots of good advice.

In the section on "Inspiration" you say Songs about our work can be rewarding (though there's probably more mileage in this if you're a chemical process operator rather than an accountant - and yes, I've been both). One my unfinished songs opens with the lines

I'll sing you songs of times gone by, of men who till the soil
Romantic songs of sailing ships or miners at their toil
For there isn't much romance when your job is boiling oil


I just don't seem to find oil refineries that inspiring. More likely, I can't imagine my day to day routine being that interesting. My biggest problem is coming up with an idea for a song that I think other people would be interested in. But then I found that you had written a song about Nunsthorpe and realised that anything is possible.



One of the earlier postings said you can tell when people write for a market, because the songs have no heart.

I enjoy writing for a specific purpose – a musical interlude in a sketch for example – as it gives me a sense of direction and, more importantly, it forces me to finish it. I've got a bag full of half finished songs that I would be really happy with if only I could find an ending.

In general, I go along with the 31/2 minute rule. I've spent festival weekends listening to a series of 17 verse songs that were so intense and serious that I was ready to top myself.


This is a great thread. It could be just the thing I need to give me a push into doing something constructive.


By the way, McGrath, I tried the link to your website that was posted back in March 2000 but it didn't work. Do you have an updated link?


Doug C


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Dave & Julie
Date: 31 Jul 02 - 05:43 PM

What a subject! I put some notes together for a workshop we did at Saddleworth Festival & it would be a shame not to share them (though I'm not claiming they comprise the definitive songwriting treatise). If anyone would like me to e-mail the text file please contact me at david.evardson@ntlworld.com


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 05:52 PM

Or as the Carter Families expressed the thought "Give me the Roses while I live" - and here is honking duck with a streaming RealAudio version. (And here are the words.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 11:42 AM

McGrath of Harlow said:

What's the opposite of a flame? Should be a bucket of water, but that doesn't seem to apply to those comments. Warm Fuzzies is what it's sometimes called when people say something nice to you out of the blue. You need them sometimes.

I like "It's nice to get the flowers BEFORE you die!"

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Jeri
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 10:44 AM

My blocks often occur because I want the song to go in one direction, and it's headed in another. If I keep trying to make the lines fit my ideas, I can get hung up. Often, what works is not to just scrap lines, but come up with whole new ideas and quit trying to force something to work. The "wait a while" approach works, because your attachment to what the song should be has a chance to fall out of your head. Sometimes you do find a way to express exactly what you want though. In that case, it may be you have some idea of lines you can't get to work right, and the wait makes your committment to them fall out of your head.

This waiting isn't necessary if you can give up what you've already got and try something completely different. You can save your old ideas, but try something brand new just for the heck of it.

And I say this while I'm currently stuck on the last two lines of a song! I think I already wrote them - they're the second-to-last two lines. Maybe I just need a couple of almost-last lines.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: M.Ted
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 10:21 AM

Sometimes, it helps to write out a couple sentences that tells what the song is about and where you want it to go--then just keep writing phrases that relate to the subject(don't worry about whether they rhyme or scan, or even make sense). After a while, you'll have a bunch of raw material that you can work with--there is a downside, because you can get hung up trying to fit a lot of odd pieces together, but that still is better than having nothing on the page--


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: MMario
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 09:48 AM

sometimes working on something completely different for a while will relaese the block.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Mr Happy
Date: 30 Jul 02 - 09:20 AM

in regard to the 'essay writing' technique for creating songs, when i was at university & had to prepare assignments, one of the ways i would do it was to write out the bibliography first.

doing this seemed to have the effect of 'cueing/ prompting' ideas for the body of the work.

in some respects, i've used a similar method for songs, that is; i hear a song or conversation or read something & quickly make a note of the idea before i forget it.

having the use of a pc's been a great advantage too, except i've had 'writer's block' for over 6 months now- but i've got a couple of dozen half done creations on file- some only as far as the title.

more comments?


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Bert
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 12:14 PM

Kris,
That's a great song! Will you sing it for us and send it in, so that we can play it on Mudcat Radio?

Re: long songs. If you're at a folk club singing long ballads, and that is what everyone expects to hear, then that's fine. But I've been to too many singer/songwriter 'song exchanges' and heard mediocre songs that go on and on and on.

By all means write a 20 minute song, if you have that much to express, but watch your audience while you're singing it. Are they eagerly awaiting the next verse or are they wishing you'd either get to the point or shut up?

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 11:41 AM

Oh good grief Aine! I never worry about whether HE doesn't like a song. He's damned difficult to please in any arena!! If he likes one its a bleedin' miracle. About that 20 minute song - p'raps I'll limit myself to about 20 lines, but sing them REAAAAAALLLLLLY slow....

Kris


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Áine
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 08:07 AM

Dear Kris,

Of course, I'd love to hear your song to have the full experience of it, but your words are very evocative and full of direct meaning. And I'm so glad that things have worked out for your family now.

Don't worry about your hubby not liking your songs. Write for yourself, and if he does like them, that's just an extra bonus. If your writing makes you satisfied, that's what is important!

I agree that it is sad that today's time constraints leave us without the luxury most often of listening to longer songs with rich stories in them. I'm so glad that you had an opportunity to do that -- keep finding those opportunities!

And about that 20 minute song that you're tempted to write out of 'cussedness' . . . Do it! But just keep in mind that you'll have to remember all those words when you perform it...*BG*

All the best, Áine


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 28 Mar 00 - 07:47 AM

Aine - that song was the good kind of simple! Even without hearing a tune the words worked fine (which is quite a feat in itself).

The only song I've written that my husband enthused about was very simple both lyrically & melodically. Its a melancholy little thing about death & the lyrics go:

Its been a year gone by wouldn't you think that I'd be used to it? a long long year, I am not used to it.

Oh you cold cold grave, oh you cold cold grave, oh you cold cold grave, I am not used to it.

Its been 10 years now, wouldn't you think that I'd be used to it? 10 long long years, I am not used to it.

Then it just goes on up the years to 15, 50, 85, with minor variations in the phrasing & melody. Til it gets to

And if it were a hundred years, wouldn't you know I'll not be used to it? one hundred years, I'll not get used to it.

Its probably the simplest lyrics I've ever written & it really needs the tune to put it in context. I recorded it onto a tape to give my dad, and really was just filling up space. I'd never have expected Mark to like it!!!! It just goes to show that simplicity & repetition can work. Mark is not one for compliments (swine), so I was really chuffed to have written something he liked. Especially as it was partly about feeling I'd never get used to losing him when we thought he might have been on his way out a while back - he's fine now though :).

On the three minute rule - I'd sort of reluctantly agree - ish. We went to a folk weekend recently where people were singing a lot of very long songs in the singaround, and it took a while to get used to it after the 3-min conditioning we get on the radio. Our initial reaction was to 'sit through' some of them, but as time got on we got more used to the length and it was lovely to take the time to listen & appreciate the stories in the songs. The weekend was run be a folk-club where the long songs seemed to be the norm. I think that in a more general audience the 'sit-throughers' would outnumber the 'appreciators' & so in general the 3 minute rule is safest. Hell of a shame though. Is it just a symptom of a less relaxed way of life that we don't feel we have the time to sit & listen? I feel like going & writing a 20 minute song just out of ockardness. Kris


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Amos
Date: 27 Mar 00 - 02:40 PM

Come to think of it here is an even more simple couplet, from a Leadbelly song which has almost mystic power in the right context because it invites so much from the imagination:

Redbird, redbird, singin in the mornin' redbird!
Redbird redbird, singin' in the mornin', redbird!

And another, which Leadbelly I think brought forward from friends on the prison gangs:

Ol' Reilly crossed the water
On them long hot summer days...

From "Here, Rattler Here". The latent imagery of the simplicity is amazing.

A


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 27 Mar 00 - 02:30 PM

OK kids, the gloves come off now--first, Amos, wake up!!!

Amazing Grace, while a charming and delightful, and venerable song, is not one of the highpoints of English coupletry--

Aine--what red bird is it that you are referring to?


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Áine
Date: 27 Mar 00 - 02:06 PM

Dear Amos,

Thank you for your kind words. I've already promised Bert to send it in to him, so of course you're on the list (ha!). I'm really going to have to get DH to teach me how to work his computer so I don't have to wait 'till he comes home from work. Thanks again, dear friend.

-- Áine


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Amos
Date: 27 Mar 00 - 01:52 PM

Áine:

It is an absolutely beautiful song and I would not change a word.

And it is not too simple. The most powerful phrase is the leanest one. Here is one of the simplest song couplets ever written:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found; once blind, but now I see.

Regardless of the metaphysics it is extraordinarily sweet and direct and it pierces to that place that words know not, which is what songs should do whenever they can.

Yours does that. Thanks for revealing it. Will you add it to your stack of unfulfilled taing requests, please? I know it will be another that gets played over and over.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Homeless
Date: 27 Mar 00 - 11:55 AM

It seems the general consensus is that most everyone has to work at a song to get it right (and I thought I was the only one who had to do that). I thank everyone for their input - it's been very educational. I'll be checking into some of the references listed here. And I've printed this thread for my "personal files," to look back thru when I've done a bit more writing.

But seeing that songwriting is such work, it has brought up another question, which can be found here.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Mbo
Date: 27 Mar 00 - 11:23 AM

It DOES work, bert, at least for me. My song "Say Goodbye" (in the Songbook) was written for The Music Gang, the first friends I'd ever had, and the sadness of our breaking up last year at the end of our community college days. I cried when I wrote it, I cried when I sang it for them, and I still cry when I sing it now. That's why I don't play it too much...it's too sad.

--Mbo


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Bert
Date: 27 Mar 00 - 11:10 AM

Áine, I think it's a great song, but the true test for YOU is "When you sing it now, does it make you feel the way you felt when you wrote it?"

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: GMT
Date: 27 Mar 00 - 09:33 AM

I've been away for a week but don't see mention of the Jimmy Webb book which I've found to be very helpful if a bit wordy.

Cheers Gary


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Áine
Date: 27 Mar 00 - 09:25 AM

A Chaoimhín -- I guess that means you liked it. I hope so, because I wrote on the back of my printout of your own 'Listen To Your Heart', which I was trying to put chords to. I just took your advice from the song, and 'Will I Know?' came out. (BTW, if you could see your way clear to send me the chords for 'Listen To Your Heart', I'd really appreciate it!).

M.Ted -- I hope to send this in to Max for the Mudcat Radio this week, so maybe you'll get to hear it next week. (The Good Lord willing and the creeks don't rise!).

rainbow -- I'm glad to hear that you want to start writing again. Speaking from experience, even in a busy life, you can find a way to do it. I wrote 'Will I Know' with two kids playing a computer game behind me and another one watching a video in the next room, in between breaks to wash dishes and put clothes in the dryer. Great good luck to you!

-- Áine


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: rainbow
Date: 26 Mar 00 - 09:20 PM

.. well last night i got to iview jeanene van zandt about townes songwriting.... some of what she shared was that he needed to be alone to write.... hotel rooms and late nights when everyone else in the house was asleep... he'd go to bed early and get up in the wee hours.

also, his cd released after his death -- called "far cry from dead" is really interesting. listened to him read the poem (sans music) of sanitorium blues... he was coming up with a little chord structure that was on the tape... and the musicians created the song from there, playing his reading of the poetry over the music. very interesting...

his songs often came from an outside source (up "above") ... and he felt called upon to deliver them to folks.

i miss the days when i wrote alot of songs... when i would wake up and be so inspired with an idea that i HAD to write it down... for to write was to distill a feeling, an emotion, an understanding... and then when it was distilled in a form it could be shared... well, then i truly had learned from my life...

it doesn't happen as much as it used to. things used to DEMAND to be written about. now i am busy busy busy. the last writing i did was at an international guitar night concert. the flamenco music stirred up so many emotions that it stirred up many things that needed to be put into words.

i am a wordsmith in my work, and it seems the more i write for work, the less i write songs and poetry. sad i think. i would like to change that more. that's one of the reasons i visit this place. i am seeking inspiration.

i have brought out my music research books and things and they are close to the computer now... trying to create new habits and get back to the wisdom hidden in the olde songs.

... lorraine


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 26 Mar 00 - 07:31 PM

Simplicity is good!!! Now I want to hear it---


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 Mar 00 - 07:13 PM

Oh yes!


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Áine
Date: 26 Mar 00 - 02:01 PM

Upon reflection, and Kevin's response, I figured that asking the question without providing the lyrics was kinda dumb. So, here they are, with the chords (as they stand now): It's in 4/4 time, BTW.

Chorus:
If(C) I let you fly(Em) away,
If(C) I let you go (Em),
Where will you(Am) be tomor(F)row,
Will I know(C), will I know(D)?

Win(C)ter has come(D7) and gone(C),
The redbird has found(D7) her nest(Am),
But it's time(D) for you(C) to tra(G)vel,
And it's best(Em), yes(D7) it's best(Am)

In(C) a world that's new(D7) to you(C),
But is so old(D7) to me(Am),
Will the road(D) that leads(C) away(G),
Bring you back(Em) again(D7) to me(Am),

(Chorus)

I(C) have held you in(D7) my arms(C),
Now's the time to set(D7) you free(Am),
Will the world(D) set you(C) on high(G),
Or will it bring(Em) you to(D7) your knees(Am)?

There(C) you go with just(D7) a wave(C),
Down the road, your back(D7) to me(Am),
Not a tear(D), no sign(C) or sor(G)row,
Walking tall(Em), a man(D7) to be(Am).

(Chorus)


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 Mar 00 - 01:31 PM

That's a bit like asking if a pair of shoes can be too small. Depends on the size of the feet you are putting in inside them.

You can't get simpler than than "Happy Birthday to you". You can't get simpler than the only verse of "Auld Lang Syne" that people remember and sing.

Small is beautiful, less is more, simple is best. If you can manage to say what you are trying to say, that's what matters.

"I wander as I wander out under the sky
how Jesus our saviour did come for to die
for poor sick and weary, for you and for I,
I wonder as I wander out under the sky."

That's simple...


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Áine
Date: 26 Mar 00 - 12:51 PM

I wrote a song last night that is a very simple song (in line with my 'keep it simple' philosophy). Taped it so I wouldn't forget the tune, since it was late, and listened to it again this morning. Last night I was satisfied with it. Today, I'm not so sure.

I'm still satisfied with the key, the chord progression (although I've been messing with the chord voicings and the picking style). The tune is a good one, I think. It's the lyrics I'm worried about. Just to read them without any music, the words are about as "bare bones" as you can get. Still, they express what I was feeling at the moment.

My question is, I guess, can a song be too simple; even if it expresses the emotions of the songwriter?

Looking forward to hearing from you all, Áine


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 09:18 PM

If I say Get Well Soon Amos, does that turn this into a healing thread, and the GHOST/GUESTS come and haunt me?

I'll risk it, anyway. As they say, "Amos is as good as a smile".


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Amos
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 08:48 PM

I like that idea a lot, Kevin! If i ever come back to the land of the living (I'm suffering from a cold and trying to record through it) I am going to exercise that plan...thanks for sharing a piece of mastery.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 06:59 PM

Well, I must say, that's very nice of you. What's the opposite of a flame? Should be a bucket of water, but that doesn't seem to apply to those comments. Warm Fuzzies is what it's sometimes called when people say something nice to you out of the blue. You need them sometimes.

Of course the good thing with doing stuff on the internet is that the words can get a fair share iof the attention -when you're singing in pubs it tends to get drowned out, and you have to bellow to get heard.

Homeless, I like the sound of your devil. I mean I don't like him, but I start to see him. Looks a lot like Jabba the Hut in Star Wars. Actually the way you put it in prose - "an evil smirk kinda slowly creeping across this fat, ugly face" struck me as putting it very well. You might play around with using those words in the verse version, tweaking them around to get them to scan.

That's another thing I occasionally do, write a prose version of a song, and then translate it into verse. Not very often, but it can help sometimes. Someone who often does this is an Essex songwriter called Tony Kendall.

Further back, the 17th Century poet and mystic Thomas Traherne used to do it - and his prose versions read better than then verse tyranlsations, which are pretty good.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Bradypus
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 06:26 PM

Homeless - Thanks for starting this thread. I was thinking of starting something similar, but I hadn't got round to it.

I'm in a similar situation to you - I hadn't written much for years, until I found the Cat and the challenges, and I'm now finding something I enjoy doing, and some people seem to think I might even be good at it sometimes !!!

One thing I would say is that writing for the Challenges isn't really the same as writing songs. One of the hardest bits - finding inspiration for a subject - has been done for us. The other big difference is that there isn't time to polish the work. Someone commented about revising songs above - for the Challenges, they are lucky if they get proof read, rather than lovingly polished line by line. I'm thinking of my own stuff here - some of the stuff written in the key of five minutes flat looks polished already.

People have been sharing their writing techniques. Mine is something like this:

1 Read the Challenge, and think 'there's no way I could write something about that.

2 Get some sort of inspiration - a title, a tune, an odd way of looking at the subject. I only work with borrowed tunes - I admire people who can come up with originals, but I'm not one of them.

3 Think of a few phrases, or rhymes, or scenarios in the car on the way home. Hope I'll manage to remember the best of them! Also hope no-one else has come up with the same idea / approach as I have!

4 Sit at the computer and work out the rest of the song. I'm surprised at how quick this part can be, depending on how long the gestation period has been. I need to wrestle a few lines into shape, and hammer out a few rhythms, and see how it goes. I like to put a couple of clever word plays in if I can .. gems for people to savour, assuming they've got the same warped mind as I have.

5 Submit it, and hope for a few kind comments. I really like it when I get some positive feedback, and I know I'm guilty of not giving much myself. Part of that is due to a timing problem (it can be hard enough finding time to write my own offerings, without commenting on other people, and as a thread grows, it seems harder to comment on early stuff, even if I thought I ought to. I will try to do better!

That's about it. Aine - thanks for the challenges. Amos - thanks for the kind words, especially when I just started. Everyone - thanks for the fun - long may it continue.

Bradypus

5 Submit it, and


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Kim C
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 05:47 PM

Bert ----

I love Barley Mow and have sung it before to an appreciative audience. :) They do pay attention to see if you can get all the lines in there! Of course this was at an historic site, where people expect to hear that kind of stuff. I doubt it would go over too well down at the club. Which is why I stick to historic sites.

And you're right, the modern radio listener likes that 3.5 minutes. But that's not necessarily who I'm after.

Regards ---------- Kim


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Amos
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 04:24 PM

That's it in a nutshell, Mister Ted.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 02:12 PM

Milne and Houseman are both good suggestions--the language is contemporary and direct--the old ones are great, but their language is very different--

Listened to some of Kevin's stuff and I must say thatthe songs seem like a development and extension of the thoughts snd feelings that he presents here--I think that an artist cannot strive for more that to find an authentic voice for his own vision--


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Jim Krause
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 02:11 PM

I start out with a title. This helps keep me focused on the subject. Before I ever grab my guitar, I get the lyric finished first. That way, the lyric doesn't become laminated to the melody when it comes time for the rewrite phase. Or, grab your guitar, or sit at the piano first and compose your melody, then when the melody is just the way you want it, write you lyric to fit the melody. I've done it both ways. There is a book about the craft of lyric writing by Sheila Davis I highly recommend "The Craft of Lyric Writing" In fact she has two or three books out on the subject. Even if you just write songs for the fun of it, the money is well spent for her books. Helped me out a lot steering me through the intricacies and clear of the pitfalls.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Amos
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 01:35 PM

Soprry I didn't see the question until earlier. This one is great for the image,which (for me) is a fat and evil face, fat enough to think of as having girth...but the word girth jars a little bit because it is heavily associated with the waist rather than the face. You could play with his ugly mug being slowly wrapped in mirth, or something, if you liked. On the other hand the use of girth may be just the slightly jarring effect you're looking for, because the reader is caught by the unusual insertion. My .02 and the author's own vision is the last court in these things... But the image _is_ vivid...I'm still looking at the picture in my head!


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Bert
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 01:17 PM

Ah Yes! He a master. Listen to "Blue Clicky Thing" while you're there. Just look at the way he uses words.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Áine
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 01:02 PM

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest a poet that you might not think (at first glance) would be relevant to good songwriting -- A.A. Milne. His poetry is not as simple as one might think, if you study it. It sings from the page and evokes experiences and imagery that both children and adults can understand and enjoy. Milne's poetry is a wonderful way to learn how to 'keep it simple,' which, to me, is the best way to write a song.

IMHO, the best songwriting is that which relates the writer's thoughts without making the words do fancy 'tricks'. For the best example of this, I'd suggest you study McGrath of Harlow's songs on his website. All kidding aside, Kevin is a master at making you think about the subject of his songs, and pleasing your ears at the same time.

All the best, Áine


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: GUEST,Me again
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 12:28 PM

Homeless: John Donne, Richard Lovelace, William Blake, Walter Scott, Tennyson, Thomas Hardy, Wilfred Owens, Siegfried Sassoon, Wallace Stevens. Try three poems of each, any you don't find easy to understand put back on the shelf and go on to the next one. You'll be able to find somebody you like.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Mbo
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 11:41 AM

Read A.E. Housman, my sister loves him!

--Mbo


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 11:39 AM

Homeless!!! Robert Frost to "The Saint Go Marching In!!! That is the most wonderful thing--you have a gift!!!

I am serious, too!!! I will never read or hear that poem again without hearing it to that melody, and neither will anyone else who sees your post--

The goal of the artist, what ever the medium, is to convey a vision that transforms the way the world sees things--and you did it, in posting that one thought, just as surely as if you had wrapped the Washington Monument in illuminated scaffolding!!!!

I am honored that you would ask me for references on poets--your little effort above reminds me of Milton's Paradise Lost though he is a little hard to understand, at least initially--

I have been reading Ezra Pound (sorry, I can't find the pages with just his poetry, but if you plug his name into a search engine, you will find a lot--he is now regarded as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century) lately, but he is also kind of difficult to understand, but I've also been reading William Butler Yeats and Harte Crane check them out--poetry is easy to read on the internet for some reason--and enjoy!!


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Bert
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 10:49 AM

Kim,
Actually it's not 3 minutes it's 3 1/2 minutes. But I usually say three minutes because it's human nature to over run and 4 minutes is too long.

Now of course in the millions of songs that have ever been written you're going to be able to find a few exceptions. But I'm not a good enough songwriter to write those one-in-a-million songs.

It's also a function of MODERN listeners, in times gone by, people had more time - and songs stories and books were all longer.

Here's an exercise for those who don't believe me.
Next time you hear someone singing a long song - take a good look at the audience. See how many are paying attention. See how many are waiting for the singer to get to the point. See how many are just waiting for the song to end.

You can do this yourself by singing something like "The Barley Mow"

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Homeless
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 10:47 AM

M.Ted - I read your comment about paying attention to my literary education, but the fact is we never studied poetry very much. I once had to memorize Robert Frost's "Stopping by the Woods On a Snowy Evening" which I managed to do by putting it to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In." Of all the names you listed, the only one I've ever read is Shakespeare - and that was 4 of his plays. And I've never liked poetry, so I haven't much read it on my own. So given that I'm poetically illiterate, and Shakespeare was indecipherable, where would you suggest I start my poetic education?


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 10:44 AM

Oh, I forgot to attach my name and claim of authorship, to "The Devil Isn't Ugly",composed in a trice, a trifling bit of nonce verse, but still, it's all that I have--

But seriously, Homeless,the last line is bit cumbersome--when you write in that sort of polysllabic scan, you're lyrics need to seem more effortless--I played with it, and got:

"And a wicked smile extended crost his face's flaccid girth"

Which I humbly offer, not to supplant the gift of your Muse, but only to inspire you to greater heights of..oh, well, you know what I mean....


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 10:15 AM

The Devil isn't ugly,
He's as handsome as can be.
The kindest man you'll ever meet
A friend to you and me

As generous as ever was
He'll never wish you ill.
He offers gifts and pleasures.
And feasts! He'll grant your fill!

Dismiss his reputation,
It's grown much oversize.
Your soul, it's assignation,
Is all that he desires.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Áine
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 09:06 AM

Homeless -- I don't know about Amos; but, I like it!

-- Áine


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Homeless
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 08:54 AM

Amos - does this hit close to your imagery idea (esp. the last line)?

The devil called his minions to him, deep in the bowels of hell.
and said, "I've got me an idea, I think will suit us well
Why should we wait 'til after death to torture the souls of earth?"
And a wicked smile wrapped itself around his face's girth.

I was trying to project the image of an evil smirk kinda slowly creeping across this fat, ugly face. Did it work? Is that the kind of imagery you had in mind?


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 08:35 AM

Really worthwhile insights here -- anyone who laments the "good old days" in the Mudcat might get some renewed enthusiasm out of this thread. McGrath, the Dylan quote is a gem; always loved his wit. Also, I agree absolutely with your advice about it being perfectly acceptable to go with half-rhymes and sort-of rhymes, as long as the words have a "conversational" aspect that flows naturally with the rhythm of the song. And your tip about putting the more awkward word first in the rhyme scheme really works; this has been in my bag of tricks for a long time, and it has made a lot of my songs sound less contrived than they might otherwise.

M.Ted, I love what you did with lines from other people's messages; I know it was semi tongue in cheek, but it shows what can be done. And Eluned, I've been carrying a cheap Dictaphone around with me for a long time. The thing warbles and and wobbles and generally sounds awful, but it memorializes what I've done so I don't have to rely on my dwindling and overtaxed brain cells. Great ideas all.


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: Eluned
Date: 24 Mar 00 - 02:26 AM

Homeless:
I'm not a regular musician like a lot of the folks here, but I have read one thing over and over from different people in this thread; "When inspiration strikes, write it down as quick as you can. The music and lyrics are slippery things, they'll go back where they came from if you don't act fast"......and they are soooo right!
Mbo;
what you need is one of those note-taking portable little tape-recorders. The cheap ones are not high-fidelity, but will serve to bring the songs back to you later. I had one once when I delivered pizzas, and couldn't take my hands off of the wheel to write things down. I wore it out. (I still miss the thing, but it is not high priority for me....bills come first.)


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Subject: RE: Song writing questions
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 23 Mar 00 - 10:11 PM

Bert, I remember hearing Phil Spector, many years ago, talking about how good it was to use cliches--He said that cliches were cliches because they spoke to people--

Meanwhile, I know that the songwriters are out in force here tonite, because I can go through this thread and pull out at least twenty hooks that could be used for songs--

McGrath, you deliberately stuck a bunch of cliches and quotes, but even without them, I got:

"And then it changes, and keeps on changing"

Which scans perfectly to the melody of "you are my sunshine"--

Kim-I got this little bit from you:

you can tell when people write for a market, because the songs have no heart. You can hear when someone's just writing for the paycheck.

Which I ironed out to:

You can hear when someone's writing for the market, Because the songs they write have got no heart You can hear when someone's writing for the paycheck And it's sad when they pretend, and call it art--

(ItScans to "When the Moon is Shining Bright Upon the Wabash"and probably others)--

You also gave this away:

"Sometimes they fall out of the sky, sometimes they don't" I think it could be a big hit, or maybe a jingle, a bit like "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't"

You people are throwing away some great lines--Mbo, maybe you should cull through here and see if you can hang a melody onto some of these things;-)

Aloha,

Ted


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