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Songwriting

George Papavgeris 09 Mar 06 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,Tim the Twangler 09 Mar 06 - 08:34 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 09 Mar 06 - 06:54 AM
David C. Carter 09 Mar 06 - 05:59 AM
Doug Chadwick 09 Mar 06 - 04:41 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 08 Mar 06 - 09:16 PM
Dan Schatz 08 Mar 06 - 09:11 PM
George Papavgeris 08 Mar 06 - 07:09 PM
Anne Lister 08 Mar 06 - 06:06 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 08 Mar 06 - 05:42 PM
George Papavgeris 08 Mar 06 - 04:54 PM
GUEST,Dan Schatz (laptop) 08 Mar 06 - 04:35 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 08 Mar 06 - 03:52 PM
Bert 08 Mar 06 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,Tim the Twangler 08 Mar 06 - 02:58 PM
Dan Schatz 08 Mar 06 - 01:46 PM
number 6 07 Mar 06 - 07:23 PM
GUEST,Sandy Andina 07 Mar 06 - 02:56 AM
Peace 07 Mar 06 - 12:50 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 06 Mar 06 - 08:55 PM
Jeri 06 Mar 06 - 05:58 PM
Bert 06 Mar 06 - 04:40 PM
Windsinger 06 Mar 06 - 04:33 PM
GUEST 03 Mar 06 - 11:55 AM
Windsinger 03 Mar 06 - 07:23 AM
George Papavgeris 02 Mar 06 - 01:04 PM
Windsinger 02 Mar 06 - 11:14 AM
George Papavgeris 02 Mar 06 - 06:53 AM
Windsinger 02 Mar 06 - 06:43 AM
George Papavgeris 02 Mar 06 - 05:47 AM
Rasener 02 Mar 06 - 04:48 AM
George Papavgeris 02 Mar 06 - 03:56 AM
alanabit 02 Mar 06 - 02:23 AM
George Papavgeris 02 Mar 06 - 02:10 AM
alanabit 02 Mar 06 - 01:33 AM
mg 02 Mar 06 - 01:16 AM
Barry Finn 02 Mar 06 - 12:52 AM
GUEST,reggie miles 01 Mar 06 - 10:22 PM
Rockhen 01 Mar 06 - 08:02 PM
George Papavgeris 01 Mar 06 - 06:58 PM
Rockhen 01 Mar 06 - 05:50 PM
number 6 01 Mar 06 - 05:09 PM
number 6 01 Mar 06 - 05:06 PM
Windsinger 01 Mar 06 - 04:18 PM
closet-folkie 01 Mar 06 - 01:38 PM
Windsinger 01 Mar 06 - 12:34 PM
Rockhen 01 Mar 06 - 12:32 PM
Bert 01 Mar 06 - 12:25 PM
Rockhen 01 Mar 06 - 12:02 PM
Bert 01 Mar 06 - 11:12 AM
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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 09:01 AM

Tom said "...where did that come from?" LOL... and SNAP! I use the expression "Who opened the window and let that one in?"


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: GUEST,Tim the Twangler
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 08:34 AM

It is a hard slog then ?
When a song drops ontp your lap fully formed and ready to fly what is you own explanation of it.
MY wife says someone sent them to me(She is only half joking)
Ihink that I have done all the usual stuff to get a song subconciesly(no spell check in here?)
It would be great to know what you all think.
Cheers Tim
I listened to the song El greko mentioned on Radio Britfolk and was moved by it.
Thanks for finding it mate


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 06:54 AM

Hello Tabster (for those of you who don't know she wrote Icarus and Moth - covered by Martin Simpson and others - seriously great songs in anyone's book, and lots more besides).

Songwriting, eh? Well I thought I'd jot down a few notes, a sheet of A4 to hand out at workshops - and before I knew it it was 40 pages long (it's on my site if anyone's really really bored)!

And every time I read a page like this I remember more things to add - it'll be a hardback if I'm not careful. But the brilliant thing about songwriting is that no matter how long you do it, the process remains a mystery. No other art form (that I've tried, anyway) is so ephemeral. Doesn't matter if it comes in one hit (rare for me) or takes months of painful chipping (more typical), good or bad - I still listen to myself singing and go - good grief, where the heck did THAT come from!

The important thing is to do it. Best therapy ever invented.

Tom (stuck half way through verse 2 as usual)

www.tombliss.co.uk


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: David C. Carter
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 05:59 AM

Most of my songs have been written on trains,in the car,out walking.Any kind of movement seems to trigger the process.I never write anything down untill it's "finnished".I'm sort of superstitious about that.It's keeping the "pressure" in,keeps me going as it were.Sometimes I'm writing 2 or 3 songs at once,which can get a little tricky.I don't have a subject in mind when writing,more of a "mood",a frame of mind,leaning to the wind.I have always written songs,but it took me a long time to get to believe in them,or that I could do it.When performing them,I mixed them in with other peoples songs,just to see if anyone was going to fall about laughing when I did one of my own.Gradually,I started to leave out everything else and just do what I'd written myself.I think it was that method which gave me confidence,well,more confidence shall we say.But you must believe in what you write,If you don't nobody else will!Having said all that.......!
Good luck to you

David


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Doug Chadwick
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 04:41 AM

...... lyrics come to me easily, but actual composition's something I struggled with pretty hard ......

...... Then I work on the hard part, which for me is always the production of a tune that fits the mood of the piece. ......


or, on the other side

...... Lyrics I add after the fact. I never write lyrics (which I find the difficult part) first. .........

...... Words are not really my thing - but I keep thinking I should have another go, but never quite get round to it. ......



There are some musical greats out there, such as Cole Porter, who write both word and music and produce classic songs but there are far more writing partnerships and collaborations:
George and Ira Gershwin; Rogers and Hammerstein; Bernstein and Sondheim; Webber and Rice

I don't often sit down to write a tune but I can do it if I put my mind to it. Sometimes one gels over a few weeks of playing interesting but unconnected phrases. Lyrics are another matter entirely. I'm with Leftydee that subject matter is always the problem for me.

Perhaps I should accept my limitations and try working with someone else. Are there any Lincolnshire lyricists out there looking for a melody or two?


DC


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 09:16 PM

I'm with you, Dan... although to be truthful, I am pretty organized. Maybe it's my deodorant?

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 09:11 PM

Jerry - I, for one, don't qualify as a non-profit organization because I am not that organized. Though I am certainly non-profit!

Dan Schatz


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 07:09 PM

Welcome Anne (George Papavgeris here, hardly surprising I suppose).

I found what you said about songs arriving fully formed. It is magical when that happens, isn't it? I have only been blessed with about half a dozen of those, and I'll never forget the first (The flowers & the guns). What I found amazing was the way that the lyrics in that case were dictating the tune (I usually work tune-first). It was as if no other tune could ever fit the phrases.

At the other end of the scale I have my shortest song, which took me the longest to write. The tune arrived suddenly, and with it the title, the subject (prayer-cum-love-song) and the structure of the three verses. Yet the nevessary emotions to allow me to write the song were not there, and it took nine months of trying and failing, until one morning everything was right and the song was competed in 15 minutes.

It shows the degree to which I do NOT control the process, much as I try to. The ones that dictate themselves are invariably all winners. The ones I have to work hard on only produce a 10-20% success rate at best.

Yet I cannot simply wait for the ideas. Like Dan, I play riffs and chord successions, looking for the inspiration. I refer to it as my "faffing around the guitar time", and it mostly produces little of value. But I feel I have to give it the time all the same; don't ask me why, I couldn't answer - it's a sort of ritual, I suppose (and of course at the same time it serves as guitar practice and callous-building).


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Anne Lister
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 06:06 PM

Tried to contribute the other night and thought I had but clearly it didn't make it ...Writing songs for me doesn't tend to be something I particularly want to do, it just has to happen. And there are two distinct types of song - one is the songs which get sung into my ear, like taking dictation, and they arrive almost fully formed with very little need to do much to them. The other - the songs that need working at, tweaking and pruning and taking care of. I tend to have most confidence in the first group, but I'm not sure audiences can work out which is which.   
How do I know which ones work best? By testing them out on audiences.   If a new song doesn't stir up much reaction on its first few outings I reckon it's probably not much of a keeper, on the grounds that if I'm putting all this new song energy into performing a new song and it's not making an impact, then it's probably not one of my better efforts. I have high standards and I've probably lost a few good songs that way!
Oh, and I should probably introduce myself under my real name of Anne Lister.   Nice to be here (fairly new Mudcatter).
Anne


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 05:42 PM

You described it perfectly, El: My only question is "If I keep losing money, why don't I qualify as a Non-Profit organization?"

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 04:54 PM

Here's how it works in some cases, Tim:

You sing them to friends first. You practice the ones that make it through that net. One day you steel yourself and sing them at a singaround. Then at another. And another. You take note about which ones are most popular and slowly structure a set around them. You keep going to more singarounds, and now you start to travel further and further for that. Eventually you record them and publish them under your own label - at this point you also register them for copyright. You start selling some copies of your album, but probably giving away at least as many as you sell. What you're trying to do through all this is to get the songs heard, to keep them in people's consciousness. By now probably a couple of years have elapsed, and so far you only have costs - for travel, overnight stays, recording.

Now you spend more money. You set up a website, put up some free downloads. Prepare abiography and start sending it round clubs, cafes etc. Your regular clubs might be willing to offer you your first gigs (and they will be very low paid of course, you are a risk). But if you are any good and if the songs are any good you will probably start to get some better gigs within another 6-12 months. And if you have done your work going round venues and singarounds, perhaps some other people have started to sing your songs. Send promotional copies of the album to radio stations and reviewers. Every time you support some bigger name than yourself make sure you sing songs that they might latch on to. Eventually, some may like your songs and take them up. You will get some royalties if they record your songs, but in folk volumes are low and so the royalties you get will be hardly enough to cover your costs for producing the album (if you get 20-25% you are doing well) - that can only come from your album sales and gig fees. So you keep pushing; you keep writing; perhaps produce a second and a third album. And you hope for the day when you will break even.

Five years down that road, I am hoping to break even in 2006 - on annual basis. How long will it take me to cover the losses of 5 years? I don't know, perhaps never. Which gives you a clue:

I am not doing it for the money.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: GUEST,Dan Schatz (laptop)
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 04:35 PM

Usually if I'm not interested in singing them for myself I'm not interested in singing them for anyone else either. I also sing them for folks I trust - my wife, friends, etc.

I imagine that I've probably let go some commercially viable songs - probably any commercially viable songs - in the name of high standards. I'd never make it in Nashville....

Dan Schatz


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 03:52 PM

Money?


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Bert
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 03:07 PM

...getting the nerve to sing and play the...

You're right there Tim, there's always that first time, and you're thinking is this a load of crap, or, did I unconciously steal this from somewhere


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: GUEST,Tim the Twangler
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 02:58 PM

Hey writing em is easy getting the nerve to sing and play them is hard.
Getting them published and some money coming in?
How do you experts do that?


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 01:46 PM

Songs usually start with the melody for me - I've very rarely been able to write a song for a given topic, and when I do, it doesn't have much staying power for me. Usually it starts with playing around on an instrument, or hearing a melody in my head, and the melody inspires the lyric. However, like El Greko, I always make sure that the foot of the lyric matches the demands of the melody. No accents on the wrong syllABle for for me!

And I write them quickly - 30 minutes to an hour and a hald, tops. I can think of only one or two songs that ever took me more than a day to write, and thes etook two. As I sing them, they evolve - I correct a fact, or try singing it in a differnt way, or refine the lyrics. I amke sure not to repeat words too often or have rhymes that are too obvious. And if a song isn't working out, I give up.

I'm writing a lot fewer songs than I used to - when I was in college I wrote a song a month, and some of them were pretty good. But most of them weren't really keepers. Now I write one or two a year, most of them keepers, and just keep my ears firmly rooted in the good music that's all around.

My most recent song grew out of a lullabye my mother used to sing to me when I was a child - and somehow developed a story of parents who, through war and economic necessity, were unable to be with their child at night. (It's better in song form!) Where did it come from? I don't know; it was just there. But I like it fairly well.

A friend once told me: "Don't plot. Write." It was good advice.

Dan Schatz


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: number 6
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 07:23 PM

"I don't write songs. I tame them. They are like shy, timid wild creatures. If I approach them too aggressively, they run for cover. I need to coax them out, encouraging them and if they draw back, let them. They will come to me in their own time."

So true Jerry. I find that exactly with writing lyrics.

sIx


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: GUEST,Sandy Andina
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 02:56 AM

>>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. <<

Busted! "Ink and Pen" started out as the tune to the Beatles' "A Day in the Life," to which I originally put "I bought a pen today, oh, boy." Morphed into "I brought a brand-new pen today;" then I changed the melody and then the structure of the following lines so that the underpinnings were completely gone. Sort of like making papier-mache over a balloon and then popping the balloon once everything has dried and set. (Or inking and painting over a pencil sketch and erasing the pencil lines, or knocking down the scaffolding from a finished building).

Songs usually come to me via one phrase whose vowels and rhythm practically dictate the melody. Then comes the rest of the chorus, whose melody is usually fully formed before I even pick up a guitar. Lately, though, I have begun to visualize the chords even as I form the melody. Most of the time, I tell myself I must write a certain song, only to have something else worm its way into my consciousness and demand "Write me now, dammit!"

I am always open to new tricks to shake things up, and to unusual choices of chords to affect the harmony of the melody. But every note must serve the lyrics, and every lyric must be singable and flow with the song. One of my pet peeves is a gorgeous poetic lyric and then a clunky prosaic phrase that just thuds and lies there like a dead fish thrown onto a boat deck.

And no matter how much I may like the finished product, I'm always open to suggestions on how to refine it. There is a big difference between believing in your songs and being married to them.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Peace
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 12:50 AM

I'm with Jerry 100% on that one.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 08:55 PM

It's been a while since I visited this thread... thanks for the generous comments, alanabit. This is what I wrote in the Kitchen Table thread (why not stop by for a visit?)

"I don't write songs. I tame them. They are like shy, timid wild creatures. If I approach them too aggressively, they run for cover. I need to coax them out, encouraging them and if they draw back, let them. They will come to me in their own time.

It's why I could never do a songwriter's workshop where I give people advice on "how" to write a song. Other than maybe "Don't make any quick moves or it will run and hide. " :-)

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Jeri
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 05:58 PM

About the block thing, think yin/yang. When you can't get over a 'block' by hitting it head on, try another angle. Sneak around the sides or surprise it from behind.

I've tried to write about a certain subject and got no-where. It's because if the song needed to be writen, it would sort of start itself going. The 'why' comes before the 'what'. Why do you want to write the song? What is it about the subject that inspires you.

As for tunes, I've actually found I'm better on melody instruments. I hear the chords/harmonies in my head anyway. I know just enough guitar for it to limit me. Fiddle is OK, but I have to set it down to write or type the notes. I bought a cheapie keyboard, and the melodies come easier on that. The best tunes (sans words) I've written have been done solely on computer, with me thinking, "What happens if I stick a quarter note here?" With both the keyboard and the computer, I feel more free to experiment, but I don't know why.

What's hardest for me is that, although I can write words, and I can write tunes, it's a real bugger for me to write tunes to words or words to tunes!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Bert
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 04:40 PM

When stuck for a rhyme I often change the structure of the line so that the rhyme falls on a different word. Or expressed differently you don't HAVE to rhyme on a key word.

Also I create an imaginary picture of the verse in my mind and add props to the picture then you can rhyme with one of the props.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: Windsinger
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 04:33 PM

(Refresh.)


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Subject: RE: Songwriting
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Mar 06 - 11:55 AM

how about Busta Rhymes?


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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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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: 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 - 06:53 AM

?


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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 - 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: 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 - 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: 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 - 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 12:34 PM

BAAAAAaaahHahAaHahHaAaaaa!

Slán,

~Fionn

www.geocities.com/children_of_lir


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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: 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 - 12:02 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 - 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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