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Songwriters Discussion Room--to share thoughts, projects, etc.
9 November 2013
10.31pm
Funny Paper
America
Apple rooftop
Forum Posts: 2021
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1 November 2012
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I think some Beatles Biblers like me dabble in writing (and/or peforming, recording) songs.

Sometimes I have random thoughts about the songwriting process I'd like to share, or sometimes I run into a problem with a song I'm creating and could use some suggestions.

The world of songwriters is very diverse: some are rich and famous, of course; others are successfully pursuing a career in music, but are not really that famous and often may have to leave music to make money in other ways for a while; others may be interested in performing and/or recording, but are under no delusions that they will become so successful, and are content to just play the occasional open mike or music fair gig (if they're lucky).

Meanwhile, many others love the process, and some may be quite talented, but they have pretty much abandoned any hopes of getting recognized and have consigned their love to a private personal hobby.  For this category, the availability of recording options and social networking opened up by the Net may offer a ray of hope to widen their activity beyond "playing in the basement".  I'm not yet computer-savvy enough to have made a whole bunch of recordings I can link people to -- so I guess that puts me in an even further sub-category...

I probably fit this last category the most.  Anyway, I'd like to use this little space mostly for my random thoughts about my songwriting; but other people are free and welcome to use this for any purpose they'd like, loosely relevant to this broad topic.

To start the ball rolling, random thought:  I've noticed that when I start creating a song, getting a good pattern of chords and riffs going on the acoustic guitar, I sometimes have a tendency to let the bass line become so dominant, it takes over and "demands" to be the main melody.  This sets up a tension in me, because I tend to think the main melody should be different from the guiding bass line, not the same.  So I consciously try to create a melody that's different from where the song so far is pushing.  Sometimes this works well; other times I get stuck and can't figure a way out.

One time, however, I had a flash.  The bass line was so insistent, and during the day when I thought about the song I was still in the process of writing I would just let myself hum the bass line as though it were the main melody.  Finally, I gave up trying to resist that insistent bass line, and I said "Why not just make the bass line the main melody?"  I did just that -- and it worked very well, and it turned out to be one of the best songs I've written, imho.

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
12 November 2013
12.14am
Funny Paper
America
Apple rooftop
Forum Posts: 2021
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1 November 2012
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There are two types of songs (this may well apply to any kind of art, whether poems, stories, paintings, sculpture, etc.):

1) something that seems cobbled together, a bit forced, constructed like a piece of furniture

2) something that seems to have popped out of nowhere organically, something that seems to have grown, like a flower or a fruit.

All the songs on Paul's new NEW album, I hate to say, seem to fall in the category of #1.

A songwriter knows when a song he is writing, or has written, is one or the other.  As good as some of the #1 songs can be, they always seem a bit forced, and about the best of them, one can sense the nails and screws just under the surface holding them together.  That doesn't mean they can't be quite cool and fun -- to play or to listen to.  At any rate, I feel blessed that I have created a few songs that feel like a #2.

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
12 November 2013
12.44am
Ron Nasty
"Where have you been?" "I'm not telling you..."
Apple rooftop
Forum Posts: 3101
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17 December 2012
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I would suggest that there is actually a third type - the cross between the two. You get the flash of inspiration, and you get that original flash down (on paper in my case, as I write poetry), but for some reason you go back to it, and that original moment has gone, and what you might add might seem fine and work well, you're always aware of the joins.

A good example of this is Paul Simon's Bridge Over Troubled Water. Simon's original only had the first two verses. Listening to it in the run-up to recording, it was suggested to him that it needed a third verse. He went away and wrote the "shine on, silver girl" verse, but he has always said that - to him - the third verse has never really worked.

It is that question of when to apply the final brushstroke. Sometimes something can fall between the two types you describe by not knowing, or not realising, when to stop.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
12 November 2013
5.03pm
Bungalow Bob
Seattle, Washington
Hollywood Bowl
Forum Posts: 356
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16 September 2013
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mja6758 said

A good example of this is Paul Simon's Bridge Over Troubled Water. Simon's original only had the first two verses. Listening to it in the run-up to recording, it was suggested to him that it needed a third verse. He went away and wrote the "shine on, silver girl" verse, but he has always said that - to him - the third verse has never really worked.

I have alway gotten a kick out of Paul Simon's humble recollection of writing this song. Apparently, with the third verse, he couldn't think of another rhyme for "I will lay me down." After "Friends just can't be found," and "Pain is all around," he just drew a blank. I can imagine him feverishly thumbing through his rhyming dictionary, scribbling "brown, frown, town… clown…" before giving up and settling for the somewhat inferior "…sailing right behind/I will ease your mind."

I really like discussing the creative songwriting process, and I hope this turns into a lively thread. I go through periods of extended heightened creativity, where I've written some pretty good songs, and then I go through periods of artistic drought, where I don't come up with anything, and I wish I understood how and why that happens.

13 November 2013
12.15am
Funny Paper
America
Apple rooftop
Forum Posts: 2021
Member Since:
1 November 2012
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mja6758 said
I would suggest that there is actually a third type - the cross between the two. You get the flash of inspiration, and you get that original flash down (on paper in my case, as I write poetry), but for some reason you go back to it, and that original moment has gone, and what you might add might seem fine and work well, you're always aware of the joins.

A good example of this is Paul Simon's Bridge Over Troubled Water. Simon's original only had the first two verses. Listening to it in the run-up to recording, it was suggested to him that it needed a third verse. He went away and wrote the "shine on, silver girl" verse, but he has always said that - to him - the third verse has never really worked.

It is that question of when to apply the final brushstroke. Sometimes something can fall between the two types you describe by not knowing, or not realising, when to stop.

Yeah, after I posted my last post, I almost went back to edit because you're right, there may be a third sort of hybrid of those two.  The type that just comes whole like an epiphany, though, has a unique specialness.

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
13 November 2013
12.22am
Funny Paper
America
Apple rooftop
Forum Posts: 2021
Member Since:
1 November 2012
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Although it's somewhat subjective, I think one can recognize the songs by a particular artist that seem like the "Muse" just hit him and he didn't have to engage in a lot of patchwork and hammering nails just to plug the leaks, so to speak.

Here are my picks -- just an incomplete list -- of those types of songs for Paul Simon (solo years):

Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard

Kodachrome

Was a Sunny Day

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

Diamonds in the Soles of My Shoes

You Can Call Me Al

(Though one of my favorite songs of his is "I Do It For Your Love" I can't quite say it's one of this type of song -- I suspect if anything, it's a hybrid of the two types: he had a flash of inspiration with a melody or two and a few chords, then he began to weave it together with intellectual effort into a whole with beginning and end and middle.  The finished product is great, but it still feels a bit artificial here and there and you can see the seams, so to speak.)

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
9 December 2013
8.20pm
Funny Paper
America
Apple rooftop
Forum Posts: 2021
Member Since:
1 November 2012
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More notes on songwriting:

"To R or not to R"...

Sometimes with words ending in an R I like to pronounce the word frontally and juicily, like biting into an apple.  Of course, it can sound rather "southern" or "country" that way, so if you don't want that effect, you have to be careful.

I'm working on writing a song now where most of the time I want that R sound (for a line ending in "car" for example).

However, for some reason, with one line I thought of the British singer Dido and how she has this rather cute way of avoiding the R sound in words, and it just feels right to do that for this one line:

"picking up the swag from the starboard bow"

where I want to sing

"picking up the swag from the STAHbud bow"

P.S.:  The Beatles seemed to have just let their British take over which, when supplemented with the 60s American pop penchant for not sounding the Rs, resulted in hardly ever having an R sound.  What Beatles songs had the R sound in any word enunciated clearly?  That would be a good subject for one of those offbeat Topics, I suppose...

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
15 January 2014
6.01pm
Funny Paper
America
Apple rooftop
Forum Posts: 2021
Member Since:
1 November 2012
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When I'm working on a song and it's "under construction", it often runs through my mind during the day, and/or I sing (or hum) parts of it to myself.  In this process, many little variations come to mind -- almost feels like the various water rivulets and branches of a mountain stream finding its "true nature" as the form it will become amid the terrain it's carving as the vessel of that form, so to speak.  I'm always aware, however, that "more is not necessarily better" and sometimes "less is more".  On the other hand, I don't want to suppress the creative flow while it's going on, in case some flash happens that is worth keeping.  Often as this goes on over time, certain of the variations that keep coming back to me I can tell are keepers.

However, there's another dynamic afoot here: as a musician, I strongly believe that a song should have variations and curlicues to its basic pattern.  I often am annoyed when songwriters out there fashion a song with a certain structure, but they never deviate from any parts of it when they repeat the refrain or the chorus etc.  So I consciously try to figure out deviations to do -- they don't have to be flashy; they can just be subtle.  But more importantly, they should feel right, musically. 

So I've got a song I'm working on how that's in a sub-genre one could call "tavern songs" or "Irish shanties", with a strong folkish feel.  This sub-genre being traditional sounding carries a strong pressure to be boilerplate and not have lots of variation.  All the more reason to break the rules, I say.

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
20 January 2014
11.34pm
Funny Paper
America
Apple rooftop
Forum Posts: 2021
Member Since:
1 November 2012
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Currently I'm rounding out and polishing up a song I wrote that's in 5/4 time -- my first 5/4 time song ever.  Very interesting and difficult to remember the right beats while playing acoustic guitar and singing.  I'd have to record several tracks to be absolutely sure to keep the time right -- the first track only basic chords and no singing.  Otherwise, I'll just have to keep practicing until I get it right...

Faded flowers, wait in a jar, till the evening is complete... complete... complete... complete...
20 January 2014
11.48pm
Necko
Rishikesh
Forum Posts: 846
Member Since:
11 November 2010
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Funny Paper said
Currently I'm rounding out and polishing up a song I wrote that's in 5/4 time -- my first 5/4 time song ever.  Very interesting and difficult to remember the right beats while playing acoustic guitar and singing.  I'd have to record several tracks to be absolutely sure to keep the time right -- the first track only basic chords and no singing.  Otherwise, I'll just have to keep practicing until I get it right...

I've never been able to write in anything other than 4/4 or 3/4 and still manage to make it sound good.

Currently, I'm working on six albums at once for three different musical projects.

C

I'm Necko.  I'm like Ringo except I wear necklaces.
20 January 2014
11.55pm
Ahhh Girl
sailing on a winedark open sea
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20 August 2013
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Funny Paper said
Currently I'm rounding out and polishing up a song I wrote that's in 5/4 time -- my first 5/4 time song ever.  Very interesting and difficult to remember the right beats while playing acoustic guitar and singing.  I'd have to record several tracks to be absolutely sure to keep the time right -- the first track only basic chords and no singing.  Otherwise, I'll just have to keep practicing until I get it right...

Impressive. Shall I wait for its arrival on the "Pimp your stuff thread"?

 

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