What is your #1 songwriting question?

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May 14, 2018, 10:36 PM

Hi guys, I’ve been working with a few hit songwriters and experts on a new brand new songwriting program. 


I want to make sure that we cover everything - but I’m a little “too close” to this project right now. So now that we are almost finished, I would like to get some feedback from you… and this will only take you a few seconds. Can you go to this link and answer the one simple question:

https://www.songcamp.org/1question  

P.S. In exchange for your advice, we’ll give you a FREE ticket to our songwriting masterclass that’s happening in a few weeks.

Thank you!
Renato

 
     
Renato Klimeck Joined Oct 10, 2017
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Jun 10, 2018, 05:35 AM

#1 Question: Can Songwriting be ‘taught’?

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? http://www.garyeandrews.com

 
     
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Gary E. Andrews Joined Apr 12, 2005
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Jun 10, 2018, 06:40 AM

Thanks for that Renato. Looks like a great programme.

Hey 101. My big question is one I’ve talked to MAB about on numerous occasions, but am still learning how to apply…

“We are told that a good lyric draws a listener in by telling a story. This skill is demonstrated most clearly in country music lyrics where writers often use a word-rich style, but what about genres where words are used more minimally? For instance, how does one apply this advice —“tell a story”—in a more minimalist rock lyric?”

FYI 101, here’s a teaser vid from last year’s programme:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/236153290

Last year’s info:

http://brisktip.com/songcamp/ref/SongCamp/

Jen

https://soundcloud.com/jennystokes-nz
http://www.evansandstokes.com

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”
- Bob Marley

 
     
Jenny Stokes Joined Sep 24, 2015
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Jun 10, 2018, 06:41 AM

I just realized the date of the original post. We might have missed the boat on this one Gary.

Jen

https://soundcloud.com/jennystokes-nz
http://www.evansandstokes.com

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”
- Bob Marley

 
     
Jenny Stokes Joined Sep 24, 2015
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Jun 11, 2018, 08:34 AM

Jenny,

Not always. Remember that certain genres are going to have different rules. Rock, alternative, and pop are often written to be cryptic and poetic. So the “story” might be different. But if you want to look at it in a pretty close up look in the rock genre, here you go:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjMwrXGk4xU&list=RDzjMwrXGk4xU&t=2

Jack and Diane is a very good example of rock story telling.

Here’s another one, he even slows it down for you to study.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dONEgrsYoOk  (Bruce Springsteen, BORN TO RUN)

HOW IT’S DONE.

The key to all of this is BEING CONVERSATIONAL. If you can read your lyrics aloud with no music as if you are having a conversation with a friend, you are taking a step to more conversational.

There is REALITY.
The subject matter is in REAL TIME, you can SEE the VISUAL FURNITURE in every line. It has PEOPLE PLACES AND THINGS that LEAP OUT at the listener, so they can see it in their mind’s eye.

The melody’s are INSTANTLY MEMORABLE.
This is done by keeping the basic framework VERY SIMPLE with minimum chords that don’t confuse the listener with too much movement, distracting from the message of the song.

The other aspect is TIME FRAME.
These songs are all in the 3-4 minute range. They all make a vivid point, they all have a CHORUS that comes around about every 30 seconds, so the audience can stay on track, and come back to the point of the entire song.

HOW IT’S NOT DONE:

People that write in different genres, most often suffer from “SONGWRITER TUNNEL-VISION” THEY know EXACTLY what they are saying, but it never transfers to the listener. You have to be able to step back from songs and view them from the point of view of your LISTENER.

If you look at many of the lyrics here on this site. They are usually drifting, don’t really make a point, are cryptic to a point that you can’t really even figure out what they are talking about. And they tend to go ON AND ON AND ON for four, five and six verses having said relatively nothing.

I have been asked why I don’t comment on a lot of things here. There are a few reasons for this.

The first is that I do this professionally. My time is what I am paid for.

The second is that I am here to comment more on subject people want to discuss about process, creative journey’s, understanding the business, etc.

Third is that I often do visit people when they direct me toward something, or, like this post, bring my name up. I’m always happy to offer perspective, but most of the time it is private because many things can devolve into anger and hurt feelings. That’s not my deal.

Forth and probably most important, is that frankly I just rarely see much over here that I can say anything about. Most “lyrics” are not really lyrics. They are stream of conciousness writings, more poetry or emotional gleanings. That is fine, but it is difficult to present those to actual audiences and they are done by so many writers, none of those stand out either. Most newer or amateur writers are writing for themselves with no thought of actual listeners, so they don’t study the craft or if they study, don’t seem to apply much. So there is just not a lot to talk about.

If you want to understand story telling in song, go to the top people in the genre you admire, as I have done here. Break down what they are doing and then compare your songs to what they are doing. Always find the TOP people, particularly those that have had long careers. Be cautious of the “trend of the moment” because there is a lot of “the Emperor has no clothes.” People are often victims of “GROUP THINK” and what may seem to be incredible at the moment actually could just be a trend, and dissapear as quickly as they come. A lot more “ONE HIT WONDERS” than brilliant songwriters.

Hope this helps.
MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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Jun 11, 2018, 06:46 PM
MBarne4908 - 11 June 2018 08:34 AM

HOW IT’S DONE.

The key to all of this is BEING CONVERSATIONAL. If you can read your lyrics aloud with no music as if you are having a conversation with a friend, you are taking a step to more conversational.

There is REALITY.
The subject matter is in REAL TIME, you can SEE the VISUAL FURNITURE in every line. It has PEOPLE PLACES AND THINGS that LEAP OUT at the listener, so they can see it in their mind’s eye.

The melody’s are INSTANTLY MEMORABLE.
This is done by keeping the basic framework VERY SIMPLE with minimum chords that don’t confuse the listener with too much movement, distracting from the message of the song.

The other aspect is TIME FRAME.
These songs are all in the 3-4 minute range. They all make a vivid point, they all have a CHORUS that comes around about every 30 seconds, so the audience can stay on track, and come back to the point of the entire song.

HOW IT’S NOT DONE:

People that write in different genres, most often suffer from “SONGWRITER TUNNEL-VISION” THEY know EXACTLY what they are saying, but it never transfers to the listener. You have to be able to step back from songs and view them from the point of view of your LISTENER.

...

Hope this helps.
MAB

Just printed the above excerpt out and posted it above my piano. Keep it conversational, real, memorable, vivid, and audience focused with an economy of words to time. Good advice as always. Thanks Marc.

Jen

https://soundcloud.com/jennystokes-nz
http://www.evansandstokes.com

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”
- Bob Marley

 
     
Jenny Stokes Joined Sep 24, 2015
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Jun 11, 2018, 09:44 PM

Well, I think I probably do just about OK with the first three MAB lists. Not always so much with the fourth LOL.

All good points, I think. I would add one more, which seems glaringly obvious, but doesn’t seem to be. Have something to say in the first place. Whether it’s a new powerful way to illustrate an emotion, a killer joke, a moving story - have an idea that’s really worth writing about before you even start.

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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Jun 12, 2018, 01:09 AM

Gavin, that is true, but there is also a thing with hit and established professional writers that they do, that most people will never do. They can make SOMETHING out of a very ordinary idea. There have been many hits throughout history, from songs that were about average, every day subject matter, things that everyone can relate to, yet a pro writer will find a way to PRESENT It in an entirely different, fresh way, making all the rest of us slap our heads and say “DAMN! Why didn’t I THINK OF THAT?” Because a pro writer has his antenna up all the time, finds the perspective or hook that most people never even thought of.

I get to see this from a very interesting perspective because I play on shows and often onstage with people who have written amazing hit songs. I have seen it up close and personal and written with a LOT of extroidinarily successful and legendary songwriters and artists. Watching how the greats analyze subject matter, find lines and phrases that just blow your mind, and do it effortlessly, in a very short time frame, is astounding to watch.
A lot has to do with what NOT to write.

I also see a lot of new, amateur and up and trying writers who DON’T do it right. I was on a show tonight. Nine people on the show, two that were really, really good, and the rest that were very very average. The average writer does just that. Takes subject matter and do it the exact same way it has been done for eons. There is nothing new, nothing fresh, nothing remotely interesting. Some are attractive, have good voices, even have money and backing behind them. But they bore the majority so fast it is amazing.

The difference between that and the higher level writers are simply night and day. And proves that there is a LOT to learn about the craft to enable your music to stand up at all.

So yes, you do need an idea. Or at least a NEW TAKE on an idea.

The pros know how to do that. The rest are just searching for it. And most of the time, it is right in front of their faces. They are just blinded by their own egos to see it.

MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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Jun 12, 2018, 08:02 AM

Hello.

Something about this conversation has really hit a chord with me so I thought I’d try to consciously apply your advice tonight, Marc. I wrote a lyric and posted it to the lyric library (not something I do often, but I thought it would be a good teaching tool for the lyric writers on the forum so I posted it there). You know me guys, I don’t have any issues with my stuff being pulled to bits. Would you guys please take a look? Let’s take this very valuable conversation and make it practical. How’d I do applying the lesson?

Jen
PS. Gavin, I wanted to take your advice about “having something worthy to write,” but because I was determined to write a song this evening, I was in the position of having to just pull an idea out of the air. The only thing “worthy” that came to mind was a song about my most wonderful Dad. I’ve never written about him. It’s time I did.

https://soundcloud.com/jennystokes-nz
http://www.evansandstokes.com

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”
- Bob Marley

 
     
Jenny Stokes Joined Sep 24, 2015
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Jun 12, 2018, 08:24 AM

Just did it. WOW! You NAILED IT. That is exactly what I am talking about. Very succinct, to the point, visual, descriptive, every thing hit the nail on the head and it is exactly what I am talking about. I made a couple of suggestions, just really about format, and keeping verses consistent in patterns, and tightening the bridge section, and much would depend on your music.
Considering that it is Father’s day this weekend in this country, it is very appropriate that you posted a song written about your Father. That is very cool and a great tribute to him.

Yesterday I did one of my video blogs on Facebook, that talked about CUSTOM writing for other people, friends, special occassions, etc.
The example I used was a Father’s day song, I have recently written for a friend of a friend. It’s actually a female song, and we are getting it recorded, but it is a similar theme, and you have done it exactly right on yours. So we’ll celebrate our Father’s and the legacy they left us.

Congratulations Jenny, Jenny. You did it great girl.

Here is my video on the similar subject matter:

https://www.facebook.com/marcalan.barnette/videos/10160413832575640/

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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Jun 12, 2018, 08:30 AM
Gary E. Andrews - 10 June 2018 05:35 AM

#1 Question: Can Songwriting be ‘taught’?


Hello Gary, I’m sorry, I didn’t even see this. Of course it can. The principals, the examples, the process, etc. can all be taught. Now that doesn’t mean someone who takes a lot of study is going to be a great songwriter. Much of that has to do with instinct, perspective, and of course, talent. And talent can’t be taught, only focused. Just like People skills. And in songwriting, you really need people skills to acurately take advantage and build on the opportunities that come your way with other writers, where is the place you actually LEARN doing this. From people better than you.

Can it be TAUGHT? Absolutely. Can it always be LEARNED? Not as much.

MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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Jun 12, 2018, 10:55 AM
Jenny Stokes - 12 June 2018 08:02 AM

Hello.

Something about this conversation has really hit a chord with me so I thought I’d try to consciously apply your advice tonight, Marc. I wrote a lyric and posted it to the lyric library (not something I do often, but I thought it would be a good teaching tool for the lyric writers on the forum so I posted it there). You know me guys, I don’t have any issues with my stuff being pulled to bits. Would you guys please take a look? Let’s take this very valuable conversation and make it practical. How’d I do applying the lesson?

Jen
PS. Gavin, I wanted to take your advice about “having something worthy to write,” but because I was determined to write a song this evening, I was in the position of having to just pull an idea out of the air. The only thing “worthy” that came to mind was a song about my most wonderful Dad. I’ve never written about him. It’s time I did.

I left a comment over on Lyrics Library. You definitely picked a great subject.

To be clear, when I said something worth writing about, that included what MAB said about a new take on an everyday thing. That can make a great song. But when you take something you feel as deeply about as this and make a song out of it, the result can be really special.

 
     
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Gavin Sinclair Joined Dec 02, 2014
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Jun 12, 2018, 05:50 PM
MBarne4908 - 12 June 2018 08:24 AM

Just did it. WOW! You NAILED IT. That is exactly what I am talking about. Very succinct, to the point, visual, descriptive, every thing hit the nail on the head and it is exactly what I am talking about. I made a couple of suggestions, just really about format, and keeping verses consistent in patterns, and tightening the bridge section, and much would depend on your music.
Considering that it is Father’s day this weekend in this country, it is very appropriate that you posted a song written about your Father. That is very cool and a great tribute to him.

Yesterday I did one of my video blogs on Facebook, that talked about CUSTOM writing for other people, friends, special occassions, etc.
The example I used was a Father’s day song, I have recently written for a friend of a friend. It’s actually a female song, and we are getting it recorded, but it is a similar theme, and you have done it exactly right on yours. So we’ll celebrate our Father’s and the legacy they left us.

Congratulations Jenny, Jenny. You did it great girl.

Here is my video on the similar subject matter:

https://www.facebook.com/marcalan.barnette/videos/10160413832575640/

Here we go again!  :)
I just came from the Lyrics library and all the wonderful comments there. You guys are making me positively glow today. Thank you so much for your feedback.

Funny to find out that it’s Fathers’ Day this weekend. Heading into the song, I didn’t actually know that. We celebrate Fathers’ Day in September. Glad my timing was perfect   :)

I loved your facebook post. I have recently been thinking about branching out into custom writing so your post was very relevant to me. I love the idea of reaching out to people through music. Thank you for sharing that Marc.

https://soundcloud.com/jennystokes-nz
http://www.evansandstokes.com

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”
- Bob Marley

 
     
Jenny Stokes Joined Sep 24, 2015
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Jun 12, 2018, 05:53 PM
Gavin Sinclair - 12 June 2018 10:55 AM

I left a comment over on Lyrics Library. You definitely picked a great subject.

To be clear, when I said something worth writing about, that included what MAB said about a new take on an everyday thing. That can make a great song. But when you take something you feel as deeply about as this and make a song out of it, the result can be really special.

Thank you Gavin. I appreciate that.

https://soundcloud.com/jennystokes-nz
http://www.evansandstokes.com

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”
- Bob Marley

 
     
Jenny Stokes Joined Sep 24, 2015
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Jun 12, 2018, 06:51 PM

Glad to do it Jenny. I always believe in rewarding people when they do things right. I have at times been accused of being very negative over here on certain things, namely the music industry itself. The reality is that I think there are always bright spots. There are always going to be people who succeed. And if people would quit looking to outside forces to make them happy and work on what they CAN have an effect on, as opposed to those that there is NO WAY we have an effect on (streaming and making money in music) we will all be happier and better off for it.

You did a very good thing here. Demonstrated that you listen, and apply. You are always good about getting everyone’s opinion, and share your own when it is relevant to the conversation. So it is great to see you applying what is discussed and doing it well. That you picked a very good subject, particularly on an upcoming holiday about Father’s is the right approach at the right time.

Good job.
And thanks for viewing my video.

MAB

 
     
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MBarne4908 Joined Jul 29, 2010
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Jun 22, 2018, 04:30 AM

I was talking to a lyric only writer the other day He had collaborated with several ????

Lets say learning writers maybe one or two were one hit wonders   and maybe others were

still learning like him

We were talking about meter and matching verse lines in order to try to make the songs

more memorable .

He stated to me he had only changed one word from his finished lyrics in twenty serious

collaborations

It was then I realised why this non singer and non serious musician had never had serious

interest in any of his collaborations

A lyric should not be written purely for THE EYE, It should be written primarily for THE EAR


Yes all his web peers are giving him pats on the back for his latest offering?  but basically

that means nothing   What matters is   Does The Finished Lyrics Sing ?? and how would he

know because this guy is not even a serious singer


This is why I firmly believe that successful songs have to be written in a partnership , via a

meet up otherwise its like trying to Add Music to an Ugly Skeleton It doesn’t work because

the finished result will still be UGLY

Either In Partnership or solo—sometimes we have to re write drastically, often

Scrapping some Stanzas Completely   and coming in from a different angle

One of the biggest errors,  are songs where the phrases between the verse and Chorus or Hook

has no real Contrast  

This is the major reason I work on my own because I don’t have to contact anyone and tell

them I need major lyrical phrasal change I do it automatically after listening to playback ,  I hone

out all the lines that are not working and sleep on the results .  There is nothing like going back

to a song a few days or weeks after and instantly recognising what needs changing.


Yes I am lucky to have a voice that can adapt to many styles.   

Stage Experience obviously helps ,  dont rush off and spend money on something you may regret

at a later date because you later recognise it could be improved on

[ Edited: 03 July 2018 01:10 AM by Peter Kristian]
 
     
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Peter Kristian Joined Jan 11, 2008
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