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Songwriting

Windsinger 27 Feb 06 - 12:04 PM
George Papavgeris 27 Feb 06 - 12:34 PM
Windsinger 27 Feb 06 - 12:46 PM
leftydee 27 Feb 06 - 12:54 PM
Windsinger 27 Feb 06 - 01:12 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 27 Feb 06 - 01:24 PM
Amos 27 Feb 06 - 02:18 PM
GUEST,wordy 27 Feb 06 - 02:56 PM
Deskjet 27 Feb 06 - 02:59 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 27 Feb 06 - 04:24 PM
number 6 27 Feb 06 - 04:52 PM
Windsinger 27 Feb 06 - 05:13 PM
Tootler 27 Feb 06 - 06:08 PM
George Papavgeris 27 Feb 06 - 06:38 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 27 Feb 06 - 07:30 PM
Jack the Sailor 27 Feb 06 - 07:51 PM
alanabit 28 Feb 06 - 03:55 AM
alanabit 28 Feb 06 - 03:57 AM
Bert 28 Feb 06 - 07:40 AM
Alaska Mike 28 Feb 06 - 10:33 AM
Windsinger 28 Feb 06 - 11:15 AM
sharyn 28 Feb 06 - 12:24 PM
Grab 01 Mar 06 - 08:15 AM
GUEST,Arkady 01 Mar 06 - 08:35 AM
Bert 01 Mar 06 - 11:12 AM
Rockhen 01 Mar 06 - 12:02 PM
Bert 01 Mar 06 - 12:25 PM
Rockhen 01 Mar 06 - 12:32 PM
Windsinger 01 Mar 06 - 12:34 PM
closet-folkie 01 Mar 06 - 01:38 PM
Windsinger 01 Mar 06 - 04:18 PM
number 6 01 Mar 06 - 05:06 PM
number 6 01 Mar 06 - 05:09 PM
Rockhen 01 Mar 06 - 05:50 PM
George Papavgeris 01 Mar 06 - 06:58 PM
Rockhen 01 Mar 06 - 08:02 PM
GUEST,reggie miles 01 Mar 06 - 10:22 PM
Barry Finn 02 Mar 06 - 12:52 AM
mg 02 Mar 06 - 01:16 AM
alanabit 02 Mar 06 - 01:33 AM
George Papavgeris 02 Mar 06 - 02:10 AM
alanabit 02 Mar 06 - 02:23 AM
George Papavgeris 02 Mar 06 - 03:56 AM
Rasener 02 Mar 06 - 04:48 AM
George Papavgeris 02 Mar 06 - 05:47 AM
Windsinger 02 Mar 06 - 06:43 AM
George Papavgeris 02 Mar 06 - 06:53 AM
Windsinger 02 Mar 06 - 11:14 AM
George Papavgeris 02 Mar 06 - 01:04 PM
Windsinger 03 Mar 06 - 07:23 AM
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Subject: Songwriting: General Discussion
From: Windsinger
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 12:04 PM

Some of you write original music.

Just curious about your personal experiences with it: what inspires you, what styles do you gravitate towards. What instrument you prefer to compose on. How you break out of a block, that sort of thing.

Speaking personally: lyrics come to me easily, but actual composition's something I struggled with pretty hard until about 18 months ago. Cannot quite say what broke the ice; possibly just taking the leap of faith that no, the fledgeling tune wouldn't automatically sound like crap.

Care to share your thoughts?

Slán,

~Fionn

www.geocities.com/children_of_lir


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 12:34 PM

What floats my boat is ordinary people, and their daily little acts of heroism as they strive to achieve a normal life. The little moments, not the grandiose gestures. The individual fights, not the big battles. To give you an idea of songs that I wish I had written but some bugger went and did it before me and better than me: "Lies" by Stan Rogers ranks high; "Father Christmas down Hounslow High Street" by Robb Johnson. It gives you an idea.

So generally I look around me for things happening, or dredge up memories.

My latest is called "Dance of the old men"; it is a memory from when I was about 10 years old and holidaying with relatives in some Greek village. It's the annual village fete - everyone trudging up the hill to the church, and after service setting up an enormous picnic. Music and dancing until everyone is tired. And then, a dozen old men from the village get up and do a slow, stately, proud dance that had everyone looking at them with pride - "these are OUR old men". I remember promising myself that one day I will do the same. I am well on my way towards the required age limit ;-)

I find tunes easier than picking the right subject. But in any case, a cardinal rule I have devised for myself is:

Write the songs that you would love to listen to, if someone else had written them.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Windsinger
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 12:46 PM

That's a good rule. :) IIRC, it was pretty much Tolkien and C. S. Lewis' personal dictum -- although in their case it applied to literature not music.

songs that I wish I had written but some bugger went and did it before me and better than me

Back around 1990 Loreena McKennit's music started becoming available in the States. She was still pretty obscure at that point; enough so that anyone stumbling onto the material was still blown away by the total freshness and originality of her style.

There's a few of her pieces from that period that made me feel the same darned way -- mad enough to SPIT that I couldn't/didn't write 'em first!

Slán,

~Fionn

www.geocities.com/children_of_lir


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: leftydee
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 12:54 PM

Subject matter is always the problem for me. Once I lock in on a subject the rest of the process is relatively simple. This is not to imply that the song is worth a hoot when it's done. Maybe one in a hundred are performable, but the junk seems to stack up and, eventually, something inspires an OK song. The biggest thing for me is to WORK at the craft. Consistency brings results for me. Finding subject matter is the key. My friend, Dennis Kingsbury, has written some great songs based on newspaper articles. I'm always impressed that he can find the song within.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Windsinger
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 01:12 PM

I've also noticed there's a type of songwriting that stems from the need to chill out and sit in calm reflection. This produces really good "mood music".

There's another type that results from something hot and personal, like anger or grief, that's eating at you so badly the songwriting is more like a desperate sort of exorcism.

For a long time all I could seem to write was stuff in the second category; the ability to write in a gentler style is a much more recent development.

Slán,

~Fionn

www.geocities.com/children_of_lir


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 01:24 PM

Interesting you said what you did about heroism El Greko. A phrase that floats through my conversations is Everyday courage. It's one thing to make a split-second courageous act. Being courageous 24 hours a day, as so many people are is awe-inspiring (and God-inspiring) to me.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Amos
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 02:18 PM

Second the motion, Jerry.

El Greko, when I was a raggy youth of eighteen, circumstance found me wandering the waterfront of a port on the far side of Rhodes, a little town whose name I forget, smaller than Iraklion. Alone and feeling (as eighteen-year olds often do) unloved in the world, I pressed my nose against the windows of a taverna which seemed to be occupied even though closed. There was some interesting laughter coming from within, and some music.

The door flew open and a bevy of friendly men and women whisked me into the wedding party which had rented the whole tavern -- old Greek fartmers in high boots and beautiful maidens in lace, dancing handekerchief dances and playing bazouki to make the roofbeam shiver with delight. They found someone who spoke a little French and stuck a huge tumbler of retsina in my hand and loaded me up with lamb and good food and huge smiles, and we danced the evening away. I have since found that it is part of the tradition of weddings there that the arrival of a stranger brings good luck to the marriage. (I thought it was my personal charm, but, hey, I used to be conceiited before life taught me better! :D)

It was a moment of my youth that I have never forgotten -- the spontaneous and heartfelt welcoming of strangers to a stranger, a deep-rooted recognition of common humanity across all barriers of culture and language.

I am LONG overdue to write a song about it.


A


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: GUEST,wordy
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 02:56 PM

Goerge, I've just read one of your postings on BBC folk. "Snigger-snoggers" indeed? Don't you know they use this term to put down songwriters in general? People who use it don't usually differentiate between people like your good self and say Mike Silver, and the navel gazers they really mean. Self flagellation is not to be encouraged George! It only encourages them.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Deskjet
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 02:59 PM

With me it was something I just had to give into and have a go.
For years I felt the urge/energy to begin writing songs, but I think my main problem was that I did not see myself as a songwriter.
Having made the conscious decision to recognise the urge, after a few songs I too began to regard myself as a songwriter.
Songs can come from any source, any time, any where - or they may not come at all.
Oftentimes a song's source is something that just won't go away.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 04:24 PM

It is hard to explain but perhaps songs exist with a spirit of their own and the authour only gives them an outlet. I never had any luck sitting down with the intention of writing a song. It always seems that the songs have found me.
                Sandy


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: number 6
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 04:52 PM

I will just sit and play my guitar ... different structures will eventually evolve into a piece of music ... at that point I record it ... that particular peice of music may be a song in itself .... or it will sit in my archives .. until which point it might be linked to another previously recorded piece of music(s) to a song itself. Lyrics I add after the fact. I never write lyrics (which I find the difficult part) first. I write them to fit the music.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Windsinger
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 05:13 PM

A fellow harper once taught a class I attended on simple improv techniques. Playing with finding new tunes by rearranging scales, modal scales, pentatonic scales, what the more common note progressions are, that kind of thing.

"Noodling" around, effectively.

Looking back, that provided a MAJOR breakthrough with getting around my mental block towards composing.

Slán,

~Fionn

www.geocities.com/children_of_lir


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Tootler
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 06:08 PM

You have pretty much described my approach to writing tunes. I quite often noodle around and sometimes something worthwhile comes out of it, maybe just a phrase to start with, but something I can build on. I then usually try to play with it for a while until I have something consistent, then write it down. I prefer to write rather than record at this stage as the tune is often still fluid and a pencil, paper & rubber are the most useful tools. If you are not confident with music notation, use ABC; something I have done until I could get to some manuscript paper.

I found a book a couple of years ago called "Piper on the Mountain" which deals with improvising on a melody instrument (I play recorder) which gave me a number of very useful tips to give more effective structure to my noodling. Tootling as my wife calls it :-)

As to words, once I wrote a tune that someone suggested would make a good song air so I gave it a go and got about half way through, got stuck and never finished it. Words are not really my thing - but I keep thinking I should have another go, but never quite get round to it.

Geoff


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 06:38 PM

Thank you Jerry, I am particularly gratified that we are of one mind on this.

Amos, write the blasted thing or I will! But it will have more power from you. Indeed, the tradition is as you say in Greek weddings - I have been on the receiving end of a few such cases of hospitality, and I did indeed offer it myself to others once or twice at my kids' christenings and my son's wedding. The nicest thing about it is that such cases are not treated as a favour either by the offerer or the receiver - it is simply an invitation to join in someone's joy and celebration, and an honour for both host and guest.

Wordy, my tongue was firmly in-cheek. I know people who recognise no such differences, and I was kind of getting back at them... And thank you for putting me on the same side of the fence with the mighty Silver!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 07:30 PM

Someone said "the songs find me", and I too tend to write in this way.

The words come first, and given the right inspiration, very easily. Then I work on the hard part, which for me is always the production of a tune that fits the mood of the piece.

I think the most important part is to avoid becoming formulaic, and it's not always easy. I have scrapped good lyrics because they only worked with a tune that sounded like something I had already written and performed.

Too often, I think, young singer/songwriters get into this rut, and only the most ardent fan will enjoy a performance where most of the songs sound alike. Variety is indeed the spice of life, and of performing success.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Jack the Sailor
Date: 27 Feb 06 - 07:51 PM

I write the words first, I keep a notebook of interesting ideas and phrases. Then to compose the melody I say the key phrases then sing them until I have the notes which express the feeling best. Then I chose the chords to accompany the melody, write a couple of more verses, polish up the chorus and the bridge then I play it in public and keep the parts that people like and polish up the rest, repeating the process until I am pleased with the result.


Amos

"fartmer"?? LOL... If that isn't a real word it should be one.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: alanabit
Date: 28 Feb 06 - 03:55 AM

I have long believed that all songs essentially revolve around just one line. To my way of thinking, all the rest of the song refers back to that one telling line. Two good examples are El Greko's, "There are things he can't remember/There are things he can't forget", (from "Memory") or Jerry Rasmussen's, "All I can leave you is a handful of songs" (from "Handful of Songs"). They take you back remorselessly to what the song is all about. That line does not necessarily have to be the chorus. It can come in any part of the song.
Unless I can "hear" that line in my head, there is no song to write down. So I will go along with Sandy Paton on that one. Bob Dylan once commented that you tend to "find" songs rather than create them. Jerry started a very good thread on that subject a few months ago. I only really like songs, which sound so natural that they appear not to have been interfered with by human hand on the way! It may jsut be a coincidence, but some writers seem to find this sort of song more frequently than us lesser mortals!
There is quite a Mudcat songwriting academy here, in which you can get free workshops with the likes of Jerry, George (El Greko), the laate Rick Fielding, Jed Marum, Frank Hamilton, Harvey Andrews, Pat Cooksey and John D Loudermilk. There is some marvellous stuff in those previous songwriting threads. Check them out and good luck in your quest.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: alanabit
Date: 28 Feb 06 - 03:57 AM

For someone who is an aspiring writer, I really will have to learn not to press "submit" by mistake before I have finished reading the preview!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Bert
Date: 28 Feb 06 - 07:40 AM

Well I'm kinda lazy and don't write as many songs as I should.

I usually get an idea and start with the words but before the first verse is finished I have to have some sort of tune to hang them on.

It usually has a generic country folky flavour.

I went to a songwriting workshop one time and they said "Don't use Cliches" - "Well" I thought "There goes Country Music!"

So now if I'm really stuck for something to write about I'll take a Cliche and maybe twist it around a little and use that as a theme for a song.

This has given me such gems as "Kiss for the Road", "Size Doesn't Matter" and "Picking in the wind"


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Alaska Mike
Date: 28 Feb 06 - 10:33 AM

I have found songwriting to be a very personal experience. I write mostly story songs and usually I will come up with the lyrics first and the melody second. Song subjects usually present themselves to me on a daily basis. I try to record these inspirations on a scrap of paper or a cassette recorder until I can reach a computer and write them down. I write songs about anything; historical naval actions, earthquakes, people I've known, things I read about. But I always try to drive the theme of the song with care. I have found humorous songs to be the hardest to write, but the most gratifying to perform.

I've discovered that I write more interesting melodies if I do NOT use an instrument. After putting the chorus or a verse together I will sing these lyrics over and over in my head until I come up with an approriate and INTERESTING melody. Then it becomes time to see where the song lies on the guitar. On occassion I have had to pull out the old chord book to find a particular chord that will fit. This way I am not bound by my routinely favorite chords and so my melodies are not bound by my limited playing abilities. I hope this makes sense.


Mike


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Windsinger
Date: 28 Feb 06 - 11:15 AM

(Hmph. Why this didn't "take" when I posted it at 3am, I don't know.)

A guitar-buddy of mine in WV recommended just tooling around with preexisting songs that you like -- rearranging them, inverting the chords or the melody, changing the time signature.

Sometimes a completely new tune leaps out; I guess, sort of like how Geo. M. Cohen got Over There out of screwing around with Taps (at least according to the Cagney movie. Neat scene, even if apocryphal.)

With that approach I imagine one must tread carefully for fear of accidental plagiarism. :)

Slán,

~Fionn

www.geocities.com/children_of_lir


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: sharyn
Date: 28 Feb 06 - 12:24 PM

I write everyday, which takes care of the "block" problem: since I write everyday, I cannot tell myself I am blocked (I use the writing practice of Natalie Goldberg, as first described in her classic book Writing Down the Bones."

I tend to write lyrics first -- they just spool out in my head and I write them down. Then, if I listen carefully, over the next few days or few weeks a tune will appear and the lyrics will start singing themselves in my head to the tune. I can sometimes speed up the process of finding the tune by noodling around on an instrument (guitar, violin) or singing melodic phrases experimentally, but other times I just have to wait. Playing in an unfamiliar tuning can help -- putting my guitar in DADGAD gave me a tune that had been eluding me since I don't know how to play in DADGAD and did it anyway, The only problem with this approach is that I played it, found the tune, recorded it, and now I don't know how to play it anymore.

What inspires me, always, is deep emotion -- mostly love gone wrong, but also aversion to war and, on occasion, something else.

Songs I wish I'd written? Too many to count. There are a lot of good songs out there.

Sharyn


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Grab
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 08:15 AM

Always words, and usually from something I've heard or read. It's usually one word or phrase, and that almost always completely out of context or misheard, to give that initial handhold to get a grip on.

Instrumentals come from noodling, but need recording to be learnt - I can play and improvise, but I can't remember what I've just played. It's really annoying when you do something and you think "wow, that was excellent - how did that go again?" and realise you haven't got the faintest idea what you just did! :-( And the words and instrumentals rarely fit together...

I started trying to write about 6 years ago, and realised I was producing crap so I stopped. It's not until I started playing in a band last year that I started again, and this time producing stuff of a more acceptable quality. I think this is basically down to all that extra time absorbing music and getting better at playing - you can't write it unless you can play it. There's a Steve Knightley song where he talks about something like "10 years to learn the instrument, 3 years to find your voice, 2 years to find something worth singing about".

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: GUEST,Arkady
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 08:35 AM

I am a music student looking at how folk songs are composed.

What musical elements go into folk music to make it different from other styles?

For example: punk rock is based on power chords (normal triads, but with the 3rd removed) with a three chord structure, serialism uses the 12 tone row, etc...


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Bert
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 11:12 AM

...and realised I was producing crap so I stopped.... When I do that I just don't tell anyone.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Rockhen
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 12:02 PM

I think there are many different approaches to writing songs. I believe it is a combination of your musical experiences, whether or not you play an instrument, if so, which instrument you play, other factors such as family and other influences...but lastly, who you are as a person. Most songwriters put something of themselves into a lot of their songs, for better or worse!
Personally, I tend to agree with alanabit's view...for me, this is how I write...

"I have long believed that all songs essentially revolve around just one line. To my way of thinking, all the rest of the song refers back to that one telling line. "

For many of the songs, I write, something acts as a trigger, a moment or picture to be described, or perhaps just an aspect of an emotion I have experienced or witnessed in others, but usually I get a line or phrase in my head as a starting point.
I am only an amateur songwriter but get considerable enjoyment out of creating a new song and I think it is a shame that some people only consider listening to tried and tested songs. All songs were new once, (obviously!) and although, not all songs are great, they are all part of the continual progress of musical ideas.
So folks, I hope you all keep writing all those great ideas down on your old scraps of paper, backs of your hand etc...

(my most questionable place for a first draft of a song, was on a (non-used) sick bag in the car. Lovely!)
Cheers, Rockhen


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Bert
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 12:25 PM

Gotta be a song there Rockhen.

... I wrote this song on a barf bag 'cos I was a thinkin' of Yooooo!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Rockhen
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 12:32 PM

Yeah....maybe a separate thread... the most original location for the first draft of a new song...

I have a feeling it may not attract altogether serious, or tasteful, replies!!!!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Windsinger
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 12:34 PM

BAAAAAaaahHahAaHahHaAaaaa!

Slán,

~Fionn

www.geocities.com/children_of_lir


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: closet-folkie
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 01:38 PM

I usually don't worry about subject matter. I start with phrases that I like the sound of and string a few together. Those that don't seem to fit get kicked out and usually a basic theme will emerge from the wreckage. If I get stuck with it, I'll often put it away and forget about it.
Sometimes( and these are my favourites) I'll be picking through piles of ideas in my notebook or on sticky notes and find a long abandoned snippet that miraculously seems to fit another half-finished song I'm working on; a lovely happy accident. Then, of course, it's time to polish it and trim it down. As John Shuttleworth would say "Hone your lyrics!"

Steve Robinson


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Windsinger
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 04:18 PM

Well, Wordsworth's got good advice for writing poetry. It's equally good advice for writing lyrics -- if perhaps less applicable to tunes.

I think it was in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1802), I could be wrong. But he urges poets to write more or less "in the heat of the moment" of whatever experience and emotion they are writing about. Write furiously, sloppily, just don't stop writing until all the emotion is on paper.

Then, set the writing aside. Come back to it later when you're calmer, and THEN work on cleaning up things like rhyme, rhythm, scansion, etc.

That way, you neither lose the principal emotion, nor allow the work to suffer from clumsy or uneven flow.

Slán,

~Fionn

www.geocities.com/children_of_lir


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: number 6
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 05:06 PM

Interesting thread ... for me, the music/melody is the essential part of a song ... I feel, and visualize it, words blend into the tapestry (so to speak) ..... as evident in the posts, most of those that posted, I feel, the words are the primary structure of the song, with the music/melody blending into the music.

Thanks for starting this thread Fionn.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: number 6
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 05:09 PM

Correction ....

the words are the primary structure of the song, with the music/melody blending into the song.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Rockhen
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 05:50 PM

I think when I write, I get an initial idea and then the melody that evolves around the basic idea, adds to that and shapes the words that follow, sort of half and half...
Clear as mud, I guess?!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 06:58 PM

Right - here's a pet hate in songwriting: When people will carelessly use a word in a song that - by virtue of the song's natural rhythm/beat - is wrongly accented in order to fit. One very commonly so abused word is "citY", but there are others too.

I hold that language should not be abused just to fit someone's measure or rhyme. Why? Because of the importance of lyrics in a song. I am not referring to parodies, where occasionally a word is purposely misused or altered for humorous effect, of course, that is OK because it serves the purpose of the song.

Which takes us to the next question: Which is more important in a song, the tune or the lyrics? Clearly, different people approach songwriting from a tune-first or lyrics-first perspective.

There are those who argue that the melody is more important, otherwise you might as well have just a poem. And those who argue the reverse, otherwise you might just have a tune.

As a singer I was taught to "serve the lyrics" first and foremost. The tune is there to support and enhance the message that the lyrics pass. And in order to do so, it should do more than simply reflect the lyrics' mood or attitude - it should promote the important words in a lyric by rising accordingly, or by effects like staccato or a long-held note, or a crescendo. Think of how McCartney structured the tune around the lyrics in the first line of Yesterday; the rising of the notes to match "all my troubles seemed...", followed by the sliding back a little to match "...so far away" give an air of expectancy followed by whistfulness, that enhance the lyrics perfectly. Think of the match between tune and lyrics in "I will survive" - you may be fed up to the back teeth by hearing it too many times, but it is a superbly crafted song nevertheless. Great songs include such mutual support between lyric and tune.

From the above, you'd think by now that I am a firm supporter of the "lyrics more important" camp. But hang on a minute, there are some wonderful exceptions, and none better than "Whiter Shade of Pale". There, the music does not support the meaning of the lyric - what meaning? it's like an acid trip; but rather, the words support the mood effect of the melody. I think this way of writing is not appropriate for the majority of songs, and it is also very hard - but when it works, wow!.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Rockhen
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 08:02 PM

This is a great thread, Windsinger...thanks!
It is easy to become very inward-looking when songwriting. I think it helps you consider different techniques and ideas when you listen to the work of others and have the opportunity to chat about it with them.
I am lucky enough to know and share music with several great songwriters and I think it is fascinating to realise how differently we all work.
I have learnt a lot from others and it helps you from getting stuck into one style of writing and encourages you to try new ideas.
I like this mudcat thingy!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: GUEST,reggie miles
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 10:22 PM

It's all new to me. For years I've only had a small handful of songs of my own to sing. Then, KABOOM! I have more songs than I have time to learn.

I think part of it was due to getting involved with my keyboard at the Mudcat. I examined threads like this and then tried to honestly offer my points of view. After doing this several hundred times the act of writing became easier and that helped me to become a more active songwriter.

I play guitar and a few other instruments but I primarily use guitar when songwriting. I've mostly played interpretations of old blues over the years. I'd also write my own melodies and apply old lyrics to them.

Songs seem to come to me from strong experiences. One of my latest "Katrina Blues" came together via all of the above means. I was shocked by the imagery offered by the news casts (a strong experience). The melody came while I was trying to work up an interpretation of an old blues song that I caught a snip of in a recent movie. The lyric structure and a couple partial verses were inspired by a musical partner's interpretation of an old blues song that I used to sing along with when we were in a band together ten years ago.

One very silly song, "A Dilly Of A Tale" came to me while I responded to a thread here at the Mudcat. The thread was discussing the law suit being filed by a woman who had burned her lip on a hot pickle at McDonald's. I had recently purchased and sampled some very nasty tasting dill pickles (strong experience) and wondered in my post if I could have a suit on the basis of having eaten pickles that were just plain bad.

Somehow, while typing my response to the hot pickle thread the phrases began to rhyme. This prompted me to try to work with the ideas more with that intent in mind. I ended up with what I considered a partial song. Being tickled by the way the whole thing came together, I worked at trying to elaborate on the idea of the tale even further, making full use of my artistic license. ;o)

I applied the lyrics of this wordy tale to a ragtime bottleneck slide melody. The melody started out being a simple 16245 progression but by the time I mixed it with the verses it had developed enough stops, starts and twists to work successfully.

I've written many songs and partial songs without music. I have instrumental music without words that I may find words for at some future date, or they might simply only ever remain melodies. I think that my years of applying my own melodic approaches to interpretations has helped me when joining my own lyrics with my music.

What bugs me about some songs is that they seem to come with their own ideas of musical accompaniment. Some of these melodies are exceedingly difficult to then master on my guitar and it's a challenge to be able to sing some of them. My voice is far from golden.

These songs never seem to let me be until I've successfully joined them with their musical accompaniment. Then too, they're still not satisfied until I manage to get them into the ears of others. It is only then that the life cycle of a song is complete.

I also find it difficult to have some of my songs demand to be joined with musical progressions that I'm not particularly fond of playing. It's not that the music is as difficult to play as it is, in my mind, trite sounding. What can I do? These songs seem to have a mind of their own.

I'm always happy when something I write comes together nicely as a blues song. I've only written a handful of these. I've worked with so many old blues that it's nice to have my own blues songs to present.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Barry Finn
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 12:52 AM

For me usually, but not always, it comes with a good slap on the face. The topic has just broken my jaw. I have an idea where I heading, sometimes & sometimes I end up going I some completely different direction. More often than not I'm, like what wordsmith was refering to, "writing furiously, sloppily, just don't stop writing until all the emotion is on paper". I'm also with George about "serving the lyrics" probably stricter except I will play with words, example. In a song I just wrote Guantanamo Bay, the last verse the words are as ridulous (as the tune) as the situation but still they do support the intent of the song.

I must be mad, I quess I've just been had
I'm told I've got to go, that I don't know what they thought I knowed, it's bad
I've been MIA'd, I've been CIA'd, I've been christened, I've been crossed, I've been kicked, I've been tossed

CH: To where the sun shines hard on the dogs in the yard
An' I'm here to say there's no place in the world like Guantanamo Bay

Usually as I get on with the song I'm developing a tune that makes the song singable & supports & lends itself to it's structure, or changes it structure. After the blast is over it sometimes a cue for my to let it go & start going back over it & start grooming & polishing.

A great thread. It's nice to see how the people here, espically those that have been heard apply themselves to their craft.

Barry


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: mg
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 01:16 AM

well...here is my opinion....it is like typesetting..only certain words will go into a slot and have the right accent...leave it blank if it doesn't go in and sooner or later a word will pop in...i think the rhythm is the most important and by and large shouldn't be tampered with..i think i would make one of those strict tempo Scots dancers...like they always told us in grade school...just because they wrote listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere in an absolutely wonderful rhythm it doesn't mean you should say it that way. I think they are wrong. You should...well it is your call but that is my opinion...good enough for Stephen Foster and Robert Burns it is good enough for me... mg


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: alanabit
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 01:33 AM

El Greko: I have never done acid, but I'll take your word for it that "A Whiter Shade of Pale" is like an acid trip! I couldn't agree more about the marriage of lyrics and music. When I "hear" that main line of a song, I usually hear both together. I like songs, which seem to have their own life.
I also agree with you about using natural word stresses and syntax etc. As an English teacher, I cringe when I hear some unnatural English in songs. I cringe even more when I discover it (too late) in my own songs. I mispronounced "hotel" on my last album and on the previous one, I actually sang,"...and I will never tire/To sit with you and watch the embers fade..." I have often enough taught people to use the correct preposition after verbs (in this case "of" after "tire") and it should be followed by the gerundium. It sounds pretentious and it is irritating for the listener.
Another thirty four years and I may get down the basics of this craft!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 02:10 AM

Neither have I (done acid), Alan, except a little salicylic (aspirin) now and then, perhaps a little acetic (vinegar) on the chips, and in my younger days quite a bit of carbolic (fizzy drinks)! I base my knowledge entirely on an analysis of George Harrison's "A Day In The Life"...

When Robb Johnson took me onto his Irregular label he punched some holes in my songs, and would not let me into the studio unless I changed the lyrics into proper English (he's an English teacher too). Inversions (...to boldly go...) are a special pet hate of his. I was a little miffed at first, but I am grateful now.

Nowadays I am blessed with the support of Moorleyman, who gets to hear new songs of mine early on and combs them for language misuse as well as offering other useful advice, given his extensive reviewing experience. All songs in the upcoming album have been so treated "cleaned up" in this way, and I acknowledge his invaluable help on the sleeve notes.

mg, I agree 100% about leaving a gap until the right word pops in. Nowadays I find that the use of a rhyming thesaurus can sometimes speed up the process of finding an appropriate word (I find RhymeZone.com very useful that way).


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: alanabit
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 02:23 AM

Oh what a disappointment George! I thought I was going to get it straight from the horse's mouth of a former acid head... Never mind... Is that "George Harrison's "A Day In The Life"..." a book? I am sure you are as well aware as anyone that the song was mainly Lennon with a few lines of Macca in the middle.
We could start a thread here about "wincers" - those lines which you have lived to regret not removing from your own songs.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 03:56 AM

I just assumed it was George H because of the style - accuracy and source-checking are not my middle names, clearly...


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Rasener
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 04:48 AM

Think I have a nice one about a fisherman in Chios George.

In the winter he lived with his family in Athens, and in the summer he came to Chios and set himself up with a corrugated tin shed which was his home for the summer on the south coast right on the waters edge. He would then fish each day with his boat and any money he made was sent back to the family.
Inge and myself made friends with him, and I used to go out early morning with him fishing.
One day there was a religious festival on at a local village. He invited us to jump in the back of his open wagon, and took us to this festival. There was music, dancing and typical Greek boozing :-)
I wortked for polaroid at the time, and had bought with me loads of the latest polaroid instant film and the latest camera.
I was taking photo's and this nice greek man came up to me, and gestured me to his table - he didn't speak English. He gestured that I take a picture of him and family at their table in the square. I took several pictures of them, and the smile on their faces was a picture to behold. Anyway he shook my hand and I retreated back to our table and thought no more about it.
About ten minutes later, this person came along with a tray of food and a bottle of wine for us to eat and drink. I was taken aback, as I treated instant film as a normal event of the day, but obviously to him, he had probably never seen instant pictures before and It must have been mind boggling.
I think that says a lot about the kindness that greek people offered us whilst on holiday, and language or lack of it was not a barrier.
This was 30 years ago, and never has been forgotten.
Les


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 05:47 AM

Generous to a fault... But I find that in every country, with the people out of the big cities/towns. Why, I understand even in far Lincolnshire there are a few.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Windsinger
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 06:43 AM

Nowadays I find that the use of a rhyming thesaurus can sometimes speed up the process of finding an appropriate word.

Word. :)

Slán,

~Fionn

www.geocities.com/children_of_lir


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 06:53 AM

?


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Windsinger
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 11:14 AM

Rancid pun ("word" = "right on.")

Never mind. :)


Slán,

~Fionn

www.geocities.com/children_of_lir


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 01:04 PM

Duh - sorry!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Windsinger
Date: 03 Mar 06 - 07:23 AM

To elaborate, I agree with you. Having a thesaurus in one hand and a rhyming dictionary in the other is a GREAT way to preempt blocks, or repetitiveness, or weak rhymes.

Slán,

~Fionn

www.geocities.com/children_of_lir


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