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July 30, 2008

Song Writing

No time for a long post, so here's what you get, short and sweet.

Tim and I ran through "Summer Strum" last night, in the vain hope of finding some meaningful lyrics to go with the tune. Did we have any luck? No.

What became abundantly clear from our session was that the verse probably worked better as the chorus (as it's more driving/agressive), the chorus wouldn't be out of place as a bridge and the bridge could be tweaked and turned into the verse. What freaks me out, though is the tonality, as I can't get my head around having a major-sounding verse, with a minor chorus. That probably sounds stupid, but sometimes my brain gets stuck in these so-called paradigms. When it comes to writing music, thinking outside the box isn't my strong point.

And, much like a model's entire face hanging off her cheekbones, this song needs a stunningly good intro to set the whole vibe up properly. Without the knock on the door and 'hello', it's never going to amount to anything.

After last night's revelations, what I probably need to do with this tune is just cut the different chord sequences into loops and play around with the structure until it works. Dunno. Sometimes this whole musical journey seems like the best thing in the world... sometimes it's like pulling teeth. I'll admit to being slightly demoralised about songwriting right now as I feel like I have some good ideas but they never seem to work themselves into anything worthwhile.

Tim pointed out something obvious last night, too, which is that the songs I write are never grounded in my musical influences. Where are the screaming guitars? Where are the complex, synchopated rhythms? Where are the blues..?

...Right here I guess.


Axe Victim said...

Ken, as you know I am a pal, so I am not into trying to upset you, but this post simply screams of self pity.

Songwriting can be regarded as being formulaic. For example:

Verse 1
Verse 2
Verse 3
Middle 8 or bridge
Verse 4
Double chorus and out

All you need do is to write some words! Then fiddle with them to make them fit your melody. Write the words while playing/listening to the melody. Work on the chorus last. The middle 8 or bridge is just a link or something to solo over. Buy a book on songwriting by Rikki Rooksby and learn about the craft. Don't frustrate yourself trying to write something clever or witty or intellectual. Try and write about what you know/see/hear/touch/smell/fuck whatever. Take your time. Don't feel under pressure to deliver. If it's not happening for you this time. Stop. File the melody under 'work in progress' and start again. Keep everything and do not be afraid to use it on every song you write. I plunder my unused songs all the time. I often nick little bits to help develop a new song. Try writing lyrics to the beat of a drum machine. Or to somebody's else's records just to give you a musical meter. There is not hard and fast rule. I would also advise you to work alone to begin with. Working with your partner will not help you to develop your own musical/lyrical identity (sorry Tim). Write a song about something you know about. Worry about the music afterwards. Just start pouring out the lyrics and then find some chords that fit them. It's not rocket science. It's just a block. Once you have started you will find that you can't stop. Relax and enjoy the process. You could write a song with no chorus, or with only two verses, or anything you like because there are no rules. Only you can write your song. Nobody else. Just write the words on a scrap of paper and jam around on your guitar until it just comes naturally. You are thinking way to hard in my opinion. Major and minor keys?!!! Hope to see you next Monday and we can have a proper chat over drinks at DBT?

Kenski said...

No offense taken :-) There's definitely a heavy dose of self-pity in there, mixed with frustration! I guess it's just a frustrating time of year, all round!

My plan is to be at the DBT gig. I'm sure a beer or two (on a school night!) might loosen things up a little.

You're definitely right that I think about stuff like this too much, which basically kills the spirit of the thing. My best ideas come to me when I'm sat watching the world go by as opposed to trying to force something. It's just annoying when I have something I want to 'make work' and it doesn't.

All points good. All points noted. MUST TRY LESS HARD!

Axe Victim said...

Seriously, just chill on it all. You don't want to force it. Have a look on Amazon for several books by Rikky Rooksby. One is about writing songs on guitar and the other is a book about melody in songwriting. Both have proved invaluable to me and I wouldn't be without them. Another of his great books is just about chords that can be used for different musical styles and that's very inspirational. Finally, and again another Rikky Rooksby book, is the Complete Beatles. Every song that the fabs published is in here just waiting for you, like many other sucsessful artistes before you, to plunder for musical ideas and chord sequences. All aspiring songwriters should own at least two or three of his books because they really are that good.

Let's speak on the phone about the gig? I am going with my mate Jamie who is a wonderful drummer in a band called The Stan Sermons. He used to be in Redlands Palimino Company. He's full of life and is great company to spend an evening with, basically because he is the architypal drummer type.

Kenski said...

Rikky Rooksby. Hey, eBay's cheapest one they have is his "Complete Guide to the Music of Madonna". Would you recommend that one? Ach... Amazon marketplace is once again the cheapest source I can find... lemme see... Hey the Madonna one is 1p on there!

Will put on order...

Heff said...

I never needed a book to help me formulate & write songs, but whatever works. Song writing is very cool. Sometimes they come out exactly like you imagined they would, other times, shockingly different.

Kenski said...

The way it works for me is that I get (what I think is a) great idea then promptly head off in the wrong direction! I get the idea for something... a lick or a chord progression... pick up my ACOUSTIC and try to 'figure it out'. By the time I've adapted the idea to the instrument it's become something completely different from what it was intended to be.

I think what I need to do is pull a Slash (did that sound right?) and lock myself into the house with a fifth of vodka and the electric plugged up, amp cranked to 11 and the 'puter recording in the background.

Axe, have ordered a copy of the songwriting for guitar which I look forward to scrutinising!

Axe Victim said...

Heff - that's because you're such a natural rocker!