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Thread: Have tips for a songwriting course?

  1. #26
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    Often with words a statement is made (or a set up line, two statement lines and a response line per verse).
    For example:

    1 I met a lot of girls in my time
    2 they were like this
    3 they would like that
    4 but she was very different, oh yeah!

    Then the melodic phrases tell the same story, minor chords at end of 2 and 3.
    Oh, yeah!

    This response can also be mimicked with following harmony lines.
    During the instrumental harmonised solo ppl will subconsciously construct the story which is repeated in musical form.
    Yup. Good point. The chords (and melody) create the mood. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" would be a zero as a poem. Not much there without the mood of the song. Put the words and music together and you've got a real song on your hands.

    Likewise, the American Beauty version of "Friend of the Devil" makes you grin because Hunter's downer lyrics take on a devilish leer thanks to Garcia's perky musical treatment. The strategic placement of a couple of minors add a few whistful moments easily overcome by the melodies that follow. And ending on a V leaves us feeling that the story isn't done, it's just a snapshot of a moment on the run.
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  2. #27
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    A friend of mine, who is a somewhat well known music instructor at places like Kaufmann Kamp and Wernick's Merlefest Camp tells a story about a lovely young singer songwriter type at an open mike. She gets up and performs one of her very meaningful, personal, introspective songs full of lyrics or something like that. And it continues.....interminably. Half the audience has gotten up to go outside. The rest are asleep. She finishes. There is a faint smattering of applause. She then says "And now for my next song...."

    That pretty much finished off the audience for anyone else who may have wanted to perform that night.
    I suspect this will be the hardest lesson to convey. It might just be a matter of teaching some basic performance etiquette. I'm glad you brought it up.
    Gibson A-Junior snakehead (Keep on pluckin'!)

  3. #28
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    Sorry Ranald, I was thinking of the 1970’s (UK) when we’d provocatively say that something is rubbish, or use some other hyperbole to describe the opposite.
    I don't get it. But as long as Ranald does, we're golden.
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  4. #29
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    The people who are taking the course, what will they be like?
    Age, education, political and social background, city/country dwellers, musical experience and tastes, economic level, religion, nationality, race, gender, foreign language speakers, all that.
    It’ll influence the methods and level.

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  6. #30
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    The people who are taking the course, what will they be like?
    Age, education, political and social background, city/country dwellers, musical experience and tastes, economic level, religion, nationality, race, gender, foreign language speakers, all that.
    Itíll influence the methods and level.
    No one has signed up yet. It's a fall course, and we only just posted it. Very generally, we expect:

    - all ages (Maine has the highest median age in the US).
    - all education levels.
    - politics ranging from rightwing to leftwing, from Trump fans to Bernie Sanders fans.
    - small town and country residents.
    - musical experience ranging from little to lots.
    - working class, middle class, a few rich people.
    - unchurched Christians (Maine is the most unchurched state).
    - Americans.
    - white (Maine is the whitest state).
    - him/her/them.
    - English speakers.

    (I don't know what "social background" means.)

    The first class will include some getting-to-know-you activities. Then, yes, as you say, we'll tailor the next four classes to suit.
    Gibson A-Junior snakehead (Keep on pluckin'!)

  7. #31

    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Two thoughts:
    1. Originally elton john was given a sheaf of lyrics written by bernie taupin so the songwriting can begin at either end
    2. what is wron with just an instrumental?

  8. #32
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Quote Originally Posted by electric bassist View Post
    Two thoughts:
    1. Originally elton john was given a sheaf of lyrics written by bernie taupin so the songwriting can begin at either end
    2. what is wron with just an instrumental?
    1. Yes, songs are words and music.

    2. Nuthin'! I've written a few instrumental pieces myself. We do expect, of course, that the songs people bring to the class will be both words and music.
    Gibson A-Junior snakehead (Keep on pluckin'!)

  9. #33

    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    I once lurcked in a songwriters forum. The answer is to not hangout in songwriters forums. The answer is to demystify the mystery. To treat a song like a box. A thing. There's very little difference singing your song or someone else's. If it's good, one simply remembers it. An Acuff song occupies the same brain space as a Farmerjones song. (There's far fewer fj songs)

    One could discuss, creating a space/room to makes boxes. Piano? Guitar? Mandolin? And a recording device. A phone is as good as anything, these days. At the end of a session, one needs to make one or more boxes. Some, always keep their tools handy.
    One could break it down into ballads, uptempo, blues, etc. One could break it into iterations of 1,4,5, or 2, 5, 1, and what each progression suggests. What do minor chords suggest?
    Let it be known, it's better to make a bunch of so-so boxes, than to hold off for an Opus that never comes.
    I also get motivated by watching good writers interviews. McCartney 3-2-1, with Rick Rubin. Leon Russell. John Prine.

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  11. #34
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    1. Yes, songs are words and music.

    2. Nuthin'! I've written a few instrumental pieces myself. We do expect, of course, that the songs people bring to the class will be both words and music.
    As you imply, it there aren't words it isn't a song, it's a tune (or melody). -- without getting into more abstract forms of music. Songs are often separated into their two components, lyrics (wods) and tunes (melody, music). People going to a songwriting workshop will, or at least should, want to either write words and tunes or new words to go with traditional tunes.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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  13. #35
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjones View Post
    it's better to make a bunch of so-so boxes, than to hold off for an Opus that never comes.
    Boy howdy, is that ever the truth! This echoes what I was saying before - write the words freely, without judging or censoring, just get them out of your mind and onto paper (or a screen), and sort them later. Maybe what you're writing isn't the greatest song ever, or even very good when compared to this or that, but it can be the best it can be in and of itself, the best version of itself. Not every song you write is going to be another "Something" or "Hello In There." Lord knows I've written some, ahem, sub-standard songs (by my standards), but on their own, they're just fine. Sometimes you just want to write a dumb rock and roll song. In fact, sometimes removing the pressure to excel can help you finish a song. It's helped me plenty of times to turn off or at least decrease the urgings for perfectionism.

    I remembered another tip I got, this time from Tom Rush. He said he'd set aside time every day to write, to sit at the desk in his study and get something done, whether it was a lot or a little, good or bad, just so he kept at it. Eventually one song or another would get done. Eventually, they all would. I believe Hemingway did the same or similar thing. He'd sit at his typewriter and bang away, almost every day (more or less), and he counted it as a good day when he had gotten one page. One page. I'm sure there were days he got more pages, because he did write a goodly number of books, and a lot of people like a lot of them.

    Songwriting is different. The finished product is shorter, it's meant to performed not just read, so aspects such as rhythm, rhyme, and vocal delivery must be considered, and it's meant to be able to stand up to repeated listenings, often often. But the basic dynamics are similar. People trying to learn the craft should be open to the input and examples from many differing sources. As one accomplished songwriter put it: "You take what you need and leave the rest."
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  15. #36
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Get them to write it by hand, on paper.

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  17. #37
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    I'm far from a great song writer - but couple of thoughts:

    1. The list idea presented earlier is a great one. A friend of mine does this for her songs - when she doesn't have a starting point (i.e. just trying to make something up without having a riff / lyric already) she start with a broad topic then writes a lists of nouns, verbs, and adjectives that could relate to that topic. Then she writes out a series of sentences about that topic using those words - the sentences don't have to make sense or rhyme at this time - just have to be point towards to overall topic. She'll then group those sentences into "beginning" "middle" "end" categories with where she thinks those can fit. I usually come in around this point to help with the melody / chords - she'll read / sing the phrases she has and I'll help identify potential melodies etc. We further tweak the song together until she's happy, then we have a song.

    2. My favorite method of writing is to condense a book into a song. I really like MacBeth, so I wrote a song about MacBeth and tried to get the entire play to fit in a 4 minute song. I did another with the grapes of wrath. etc. I like this because you already have the topic and story arch written by a professional, you just need to tweak it to fit a melody / chord structure etc. Plus as an added bonus, those that have read the book the song is about tend to have a better connection to the song.

    3. Get a book of progressions like Guitar Grimoire: Progressions & Improvisation, pick a progression from the book, press record on your phone / computer, and play the progression while free singing about whatever comes to mind. Do that for a while, then listen back and cherry pick the good parts.

    4. Join a group. I used to be part of a songwriting group that was called The Game. Basically the leader of the group put out 2 words or phrases every month and you had 1 month to write a song using one or both of those words / phrases. Every month there was an open mic of sorts for the group to showcase their song. Some of the tunes were amazing - some were horrible - some were half finished - but it was a great group because of those varieties. Gets you out of the "everything has to be perfect" mentality - which is probably the number 1 cause of writers block haha.

    Good luck!!!
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  19. #38
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    Get them to write it by hand, on paper.
    That's my advice, t

    I spend time at the Writer's Block forum at www.tdpri.com, and it's amazing how many songwriters do it on their DAWs.

    I love home recording, but I'd never try to record a song before it's written.
    Gibson A-Junior snakehead (Keep on pluckin'!)

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  21. #39

    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Sir Paul McCartney said something like, "I knew it was good enough if I could remember it enough to bring it to the others."
    Not necessarily a complete song but a kernel. This really stuck in my head.

    Again, I'm not hep to songwriting clubs or even clinics because intellectual property is a real thing. What if someone made a demo out of one of those songs with 12 co-writers?
    Don't undervalue ANY song. Ask Garth Brooks about the value of a crappy little song. The song you relinquish rights on, buys jet fuel for another.
    Last edited by farmerjones; Jun-21-2022 at 9:52pm. Reason: Spelling

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  23. #40
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    That's my advice, t

    I spend time at the Writer's Block forum at www.tdpri.com, and it's amazing how many songwriters do it on their DAWs.

    I love home recording, but I'd never try to record a song before it's written.
    I’ve heard that 12 bar blues with improv narrative is fun too.
    -Though I’d never do that myself. It’s rubbish.
    Last edited by Simon DS; Jun-22-2022 at 5:10am.

  24. #41
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjones View Post
    Sir Paul McCartney said something like, "I knew it was good enough if I could remember it enough to bring it to the others." . . .
    Terry Gross asked Salman Rushdie if the book he was writing was any good. He said, "No! If it were good it would be done."
    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjones View Post
    . . . Again, I'm not hep to songwriting clubs or even clinics because intellectual property is a real thing. . . .
    Absolutely. No one worried about intellectual property should come to this class!
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  25. #42
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    I’ve heard that 12 bar blues with improv narrative is fun too. . . .
    Improvising is a lot of fun. It gets your brain into gear bigtime. Glad you mentioned it. Might be a great group warm-up exercise.
    Gibson A-Junior snakehead (Keep on pluckin'!)

  26. #43
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Yes it’s the preconceptions (good and ‘bad’) that will set the tone for the rest of the term.

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  28. #44
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    A long strange, four column word list for the improv can reduce pressure and have amusing results too. Four or more columns of different rhyming concrete words taken from thesaurus.

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  30. #45

    Default Re: Have tips for a songwriting course?

    Has this class happened yet?

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