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Songwriting -- Part 2

08 Apr 00 - 08:17 PM (#209014)
Subject: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Amos

This is Part 2 of the Songwriting Thread which began here.

08 Apr 00 - 08:35 PM (#209021)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: The Shambles

I dug up the old one now as we did have a recent one that has now fallen off the bottom and I did not want anyone to think I was saying 'been there done that' whilst it was still current.

There was a sequel to that original one and you may find some more interesting stuff in it.

08 Apr 00 - 08:37 PM (#209023)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: The Shambles

Er songwriter's Forum

08 Apr 00 - 11:45 PM (#209090)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Ebbie

Thanks for the new thread! The other one had got unwieldy.

My problem: I didn't realize until yesterday how dependent I am on the guitar when I'm working on a song! Currently my right arm/shoulder is, as my mother would say, on the fritz so I can't play.

My problem is that I have most of the lyrics of a song going (3 verses and a bridge) but without the guitar I can't even keep the tune straight never mind the measures.

Does anyone have a suggestion? Is there a substitute? Thanks! Ebbie

09 Apr 00 - 12:44 AM (#209122)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: katlaughing

I haven't been to the other threads, Ebbie, so I am sorry if this has already been suggested. One of the things I always have handy is a tape recorder. As I haven't played fiddle that much lately and don't want to lose the train of thought which is a tune or lyrics, I usually hum, speak, or sing it onto tape first, then go back for transcribing. That way, when the Muse strikes, spur of the moment, I am ready for her.*BG*

09 Apr 00 - 01:17 AM (#209137)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Susan A-R

I've just spent the past hour and a half reading the other threads. Wow! Is there a wish to continue with songs for critique here? Here's one I wrote some thirteen years ago, but it came back to me as I walked around outdoors today. I never knew that spring elsewhere was any different, until I went to college in Ohio and learned that there really is a season. I believe that spring shapes those of us in Northern New England. No wonder we have a reputation for being stoic. Hope I got the line breaks right.

The Northern Spring

Sharp and cold, and somehow more alive The northern spring
Matted grass and rotting ice and snow
The muddy smell of things that bud and grow
It takes subtlety and time to get to know
The northern spring

Chorus She hides beneath the surface, like the sap beneath the bark
Our Lady of the Underground where seeds wait in the dark
Beneath the frozen water, beneath the robin's wing
Beneath the husk on bud and blossom bides the Northern spring

Hints of stronger sun and warmer days
Then icy rains that turn the world to gray
and swell the buds and make the snows give way
for the northern spring Then suddenly the hills are hazy green
The snow is gone, the air is soft and clean.
From winter into sunmer, and between
The northern spring


09 Apr 00 - 01:18 AM (#209138)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Susan A-R

Rats! sure can tell where I forgot those line breaks. Not bad for one a.m. and a new technique.

09 Apr 00 - 01:56 AM (#209149)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Amos


A beautiful and powerfully written song!! I would only offer one change for consideration, viz, the phrase "Our Lady of the Underground". Because of the strong British identification of the expression "the" underground with the subway system, it jars the imagery to use the same words here. Another facet is that the use of the phrase "Our Lady" me anyway..brings up images of Catholic churches, which seems at odds with the more Gaiean imagery of the rest of the song. I would recommend reworking that single phrase, and it will be perfect, for my $.02 worth.

Best regards,


09 Apr 00 - 09:48 AM (#209202)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Susan A-R

Amos, I shouldn't have broughyt up the song. We now have two inches of snow and falling. Actually I knew about both refrences you mention, but perhaps the humor implied doesn't quite fit with the rest of the song. I'll give it some thought.

09 Apr 00 - 10:55 AM (#209213)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Ebbie

Beautiful and very evocative song. Great lines. "beneath the husk on bud and blossom": Love it!

kat, thanks for the thought. I too use that method regularly. But somehow I need to hear the melody and time outside myself in order to put it down. Or something like that. My keyboard skills are very limited, so they don't help. I thought of putting hash marks on paper and counting them off as I sing- that might work. Aah well, I'll figure something out, I guess.

This song I'm calling 'Ten Thousand Tomorrows'. The theme is of seeing in the obits the face of someone you loved 30 years ago. Charming, I know!

09 Apr 00 - 11:29 AM (#209216)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Áine

Dear Susan,

I have to disagree with Amos about the 'Our Lady of the Underground' line. I think it's very appropos to the theme of your song, and could be interpreted several different ways -- which only adds to the quality of your lyrics. I do agree with Ebbie that it is a beautiful and evocative song. Well done.

I would also add here that suggested changes to your lyrics should always be considered just that -- suggestions -- and that the final analysis of your song comes down to you. I don't know how many times I've seen people ask for 'comments' about something they've created, only to be totally confused by conflicting commentary. Take everything that anyone says about your creation with not a grain, but a block of salt. If you are satisfied that your song reflects your thoughts and feelings, then that's really all you need to know.

I'm usually more likely to ask advice about chording and resolution -- I tend to be pretty much 'married to' the words of a song when I finally get the lyrics the way I want them. But then, I usually begin a song with a tune in mind, instead of the words first. So, I end up shaping the sound of the words around the sound of the notes. To each his own, however.

Lovely song you have there, (and here's my block of salt) I don't think you ought to change a word. Now take that and let's go make some margaritas. *BG*

-- Áine

09 Apr 00 - 11:44 AM (#209221)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: GUEST,Uncle Jaque

"Northern Spring" sounds like something my Daughter (Field Biologist - Maine) would write. Hauntingly similar to her style. "Lady of the underground" works for me; perhaps reflective of the strong Franco-Catholic cultural presence here in No. NE (at least here in ME and where i grew up in No. NH). It's raining hard & blowing a gale here in SW ME today. Weather in ME may not always be pleasant, but it's usually interesting!

For help in music composition, as well as learning to read/write music notation (has certainly helped me), here's a jiffy and relatively inexpensive program called "Melody Assistant" from France:

That might help. I'd like 2 hear your tune!

09 Apr 00 - 07:26 PM (#209347)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: McGrath of Harlow

"I didn't realize until yesterday how dependent I am on the guitar when I'm working on a song!"

I know what you nmean Ebbie - but it's a trap. Take advantage of not being able to play right now. "Not keeping the tune straight" might be just what you want to do. That's just what guitars tend to do, iron out the subtleties in a tune. I love the guitar, and I tend to us it when I'm singng. But I know when I'm in a setting where people are attuned to singing without accompaniment, and I can sing without it, the tunes and the timeing can get a lot more interesting and powerful.

09 Apr 00 - 09:02 PM (#209392)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Ebbie

Hey, McGrath, I'll try it! In other words, make lemonade, eh? I just might learn something. Thanks! Ebbie

09 Apr 00 - 09:51 PM (#209410)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Susan A-R

Interesting thought. I generally write things so that they work without accompaniment. I think that one consideration in favor of guitar is that it leads you to chord changes/base line changes, which keeps something moving. If I am not paying attention, things don't move much chord wise, although it may seem that there's a lot of movement on the scale.

Uncle Jacque, I feel that I am paying for my song about the northern spring in a big way today. just shoveled about eight inches of snow off our front path. She's not a lady, she's a b#*!!

I will also check out the system you mention. Not being able to write out tunes is a real limitation. I am with MMario. If I can sing it to you, tape it, whatever, that works but anything else is out of range at the moment.

09 Apr 00 - 10:47 PM (#209430)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: The Lighthouse

In reference to "the underground", you should leave it in beacause it doesn't have the subway connotation in New England as it does in Britain, and since you're a New Englander you shouldn't have to worry about those misconceptions all over the world. We wouldn't be writing much if we knew that lots of things mean lots of different things around the world to different audiences!!!!!

10 Apr 00 - 01:46 AM (#209468)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: M. Ted (inactive)

The guitar can really be a bad thing to use when writing songs--The reason being that there is a tendency to set down a chord progression,and sort of let the voice folllow the chord changes, rather than working out a real stand-- alone melody--

Some of the most beautiful melodies don't require much in the way of chord changes, either--but if you concentrate on the chord progression first, then put some lyrics to it, the meter of the lyrics and the chord changes dictate where the voice will go, and the chance to do something with the melody is gone--

My advice (seems like I always have advice) is to start working on the melody first, and after you've decided what your melody is going to be, then start to think of words--

The advantage to this is that when you've got the melody in your head, you won't need the guitar while you're writing--

10 Apr 00 - 08:52 AM (#209535)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Grab

Has anyone found the problem of playing something really nice when they're just fooling around, thinking "Wow, that was cool!" and then realising they couldn't remember it?! Like the Lost Chord, all you've got is a feeling that it was really good, but you can't remember why.

I'm very tempted to get a tape recorder to document these (infrequent ;-) lapses into good playing, cos I'm usually crap. It's odd though, I've got a fairly good memory for other people's tunes, but I have real problems remembering anything I've played myself. Or I'm humming away, think "That's sound good on the guitar", then it's vanished by the time I get to an instrument. Any opinions on little dictaphones for that kind of thing? Do they pick up music at all, or is the frequency response too naff?

And while I'm comparing notes, does anyone else find they get a sweet chord sequence together and think "Hmm, that's nice - now I just need some words..." Or do ppl start with words and put a tune to them? Or do you do it as some kind of group effort?

And are all these questions rehashes of earlier threads? (sorry, I'm writing this in my lunch-break, so I can't do more than skim the other threads)


10 Apr 00 - 09:04 AM (#209545)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Hyperabid


I tend to find I lose melodies or occasionally rhythms. Chords are the last thing to go if I havn't played something for an age.

When writing M Ted's advice is relevent. Don't just stick with the guitar. Sometimes sining out loud and forcing the backing to work for the melody rather than vice versa can produce good results.

If you are afraid of losing individual parts in a song and don't have a convenient mutitrack studio to hand, I find the best thing is to work out each on your instrument of choice. E.G. The sung melody line on your guitar. In this way you reinforce the memory using a separate channel in your mind and are far less likely to lose both.

My £0 0s 2d for what it's worth...


10 Apr 00 - 09:30 AM (#209562)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Whistle Stop

Grab, I keep a little dictaphone handy for just those moments you describe (this experience isn't unique to you). The beauty of it is that it requires no setup -- it's sitting on a table in my living room, and I just turn it on and point it in the general direction of my guitar and voice when I want to capture somthing. Then I can forget about it and move on, confident that my flash of inspiration will be there when I want to come back to it.

As for sound quality, it sucks -- but I'm not doing it for sound quality, just for a memory aid. For that purpose, it works fine.

11 Apr 00 - 12:38 PM (#210085)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Uncle_DaveO

A number of years back I wrote a little song I call The Mantrap. It's advice to young ladies, to a sort of calypso beat. I wish I had a practical way of giving the tune here. The words are as follows:

Coma all you young maidens and listen
And gain some instruction from me.
Be modest, demure and retiring
And chase not the bachelor so free!

Oh, do not act bold, free, and brazen!
Be modest, retiring, and shy.
Men flee from the woman who chases
And the brazen young lady pass by.

(Instrumental or whistling break)

But the modest girl catches a husband,
As doubtless you have been aware,
For the modest girl does not chase bachelors
As the bear-trap does not chase the bear!

Some of you have heard me sing it on HearMe.

Dave Oesterreich

11 Apr 00 - 01:40 PM (#210122)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Amos

Oh, I like it!! Nice job, D. Add a couple more verses!! I imagine it being song down in Louisiana (one of the few places where calypso and bears might intersect, I guess).

11 Apr 00 - 03:31 PM (#210198)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Uncle_DaveO

Amos, I'll agree that it's too short, and could use a couple more verses. But it's a one-joke song, and after I've "snapped the trap" I don't know where I could go.

Dave Oesterreich

11 Apr 00 - 03:36 PM (#210201)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: MMario

use the last verse as a chorus, and throw in some more about how she shouldn't act , along the lines of the "People will say we're in love" number from Oklahoma....

11 Apr 00 - 08:51 PM (#210350)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Uncle_DaveO

Well, I'll think about that. It's a somewhat different concept from what I've done. I guess I can try it, and if I don't like it that way I can stay with the original version.

Dave Oesterreich

12 Apr 00 - 05:49 PM (#210828)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Bert

Good song Dave,

You could try inserting a couple of verses, before the last verse, of specific instances where she chases a man and he gets away. Maybe chronologically, High School then College?


13 Apr 00 - 03:14 PM (#211285)
Subject: RE: Songwriting -- Part 2
From: Songster Bob

On the keeping of tunes in the mind, I, too, fall into the trap of not being able to remember tunes as I write 'em unless there are words to help me.

If I'm just noodling on guitar, I can come up with tunes, but a process also starts as soon as I've played something nice. The process is this: First time around, "Hey, that's nice." Second time around, "Hmmm... that sounds a little like something I heard from someone else (whether this is true or not)." Third time around, the tune has transmogrified into the existing tune that the new tune reminded me of. And there is no fourth time around, 'cause now I know what I'm playing ("Girl of the North Country," or "Itsy Bitsy Spider," or "Silhouettes") and the new tune is long gone. In other words, my picker's brain takes over and tries to identify the tune, usually resulting in finding a tune that reminds me of the new tune and then latching onto that one.

It's only when I have words to hold the notes in postition that it works. And that's one reason why I write lyrics first far more often than I write tunes first. I typically have more lyrics than finished songs.

Bob Clayton