Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

more anatomy

April 9, 2017

See more hilarity at Wrong Hands.

start where you are

December 2, 2015

Where are you right now? I mean both literally and emotionally. Stop and notice what is on your mind right now. You can take your frame of mind at this moment and put it into a song.

How are you feeling? Are you bored, tired, frustrated, content, distracted, ecstatic, lonely, excited, surprised? Whatever you’re currently feeling or thinking about (bills, co-workers, love life, aches and pains, zits) is enough to begin writing a song about.

You know the expression ‘write what you know’? Well no one knows your feelings better than you. And I bet some of your thoughts and feelings can be turned into a song that will be relatable by others who share some of those same feelings.

Next time you’re stuck for a song topic, start where you are.

Play an instrument, improve your brain

November 2, 2014

Willie Nelson's guitar

Scientists watched brain activity using FMRI and PET scanners. Multiple areas of the brain light up when the subject is listening to music. Even more so for a musician playing music. While playing, musicans’ brains are “simultaneously processing different information in intricate, interrelated and astonishingly fast sequences” according to neuro-scientists.

To watch the whole 4 minute Ted video, click here.

your theme song

October 7, 2014

Last week I happened on to an interesting niche of songwriting. I saw a fb post wherein a casual friend mentioned she needs a theme song for her life. This was part of a longer post, but something in me clicked when I read the bit about a theme song.

I immediately offered to write her theme song, if she was serious. I know her well enough to guess what she was after: something uplifting, empowering, maybe like a rock anthem or a mantra set to music (a chant?), but with a good beat that makes you want to move. It turns out I was pretty close. She was into it. I didn’t charge anything, I just wanted to see if I could do it.

Somehow it all just flowed easily and a week later I had a complete song, based on my knowledge of my friend, my intuition and some ideas she gave me.

I was surprised how fast it came together and was very happy with it musically and lyrically. And, fortunately, my friend loves it! That’s a win/win. Because I don’t refer to her by name in the song, I have been able to use it, singing it a live shows and it’s going over well. I always tell the story, giving her credit for the idea and for providing me with some pithy lyrics (which became the heart of the chorus).

The last time I sang it, someone came up afterward and asked if I would write her theme song. She said I should market this and she called it branding.

Have you ever heard of anyone doing this? Let me know if you’ve done it or know someone who does.

The only similar thing I’ve ever done is a song I co-wrote one time, years ago. A reader of this blog contacted me. He had written a poem for his fiance that he read during their wedding ceremony and he hired me to put it to music for their 10th anniversary. That long distance collaboration worked out well, too.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress and after I get permission, I’ll post some of the music.

in praise of silly

April 24, 2014

Wiggles

It’s all well and good to write a serious introspective song that moves people at a soul level. It’s also commendable to write a righteous protest song that people can rally around. But what about a silly, even meaningless song? Can you release the ‘serious songwriter’ burden once in a while and write a funny song? Call it a kids song (for kids of all ages). Whatever you call it, if you make people laugh, that’s another way to reach them with your music.

So take a break from the deep thoughts and let a silly song spill out. Songwriter is supposed to be fun. If nothing else, it’s a palate cleanser, clearing your mind for your next serious song.

don’t fall in love with your songs too soon

March 7, 2014

pedestal with heart

A great songwriting teacher once said ‘don’t fall in love with your songs too soon.’ In the early stages of writing a song, stay open – open to fixing a line, improving a melody or re-engineering a rhyme.

It’s not baked yet, so give yourself the freedom to play with it, experiment, improvise. Give it time to percolate. Sleep on it. Find the weakest part of the song and improve just that bit.

Eventually, the song will be completed and that’s the perfect time to fall in love with it. If we fall in love too early, it becomes precious and we miss out on the better song we could have written.

We fall in love with our creations, true. And our songs are our babies. Just don’t be too quick to put them up on a pedestal.

Bass line exercise

August 6, 2013

esperanza475

Let’s get back to basics (no pun intended). In this exercise, you’ll write a new song from scratch, limiting yourself to only two elements.

Forget a full band arrangement. Heck, forget chords. Write a song consisting of only a melody and a bass line. [For you bassists, resist playing chords or double stops. That would defeat the purpose of the exercise.]

So focus on these two musical elements: melody and a bass line. A chord consists of at least three notes, so technically, your song won’t have any chords. Even so, a listener’s ear might ‘fill in’ chords, that is, might feel a chord is implied at any point in the song.

In the process of focusing on these two elements, you might learn just how important a bass line is. You bass players can thank me later.

Step away from the instrument

May 8, 2013

piano-01

Do you limit yourself every time you write a song? I certainly do, in more ways than one. But here’s one limit that’s easy to overcome. It’s your instrument.

It’s easy to see how a beginner guitar- or piano-playing songwriter will be limited by his/her skills on the instrument. But even the most proficient virtuoso pianist or hot guitar picker has habits. Your fingers just want to go someplace familiar (they have a mind of their own). Some people call this ‘finger memory.’

When you are writing a song and your brain is busy with lyrics, rhymes and melody, it’s often your fingers that end up writing the chords by default.

So step away from the instrument. When you put away your instrument and write, you are not limited to the chord progressions your fingers go to on auto-pilot. This way, when a melody (and possibly some lyrics) are written and you’re ready to think about chords, you can tailor the chords to the melody and not the other way around.

Nothing wrong with writing chords first and then melody, as long as the chords are intentional and not something that happened while the creative side of the brain was busy with other things.

Erin McKeown interview

January 14, 2013

Erin McKeown

I found a great interview with singer/songwriter Erin McKeown on American Songwriter. She talks about her songwriting process, her co-write with Rachel Maddow, her songwriting heroes, her new release, Manifestra and her anti-holiday album.

See the full article here.

Favorite Paul Simon quotes

October 13, 2012

From Performing Songwriter magazine.

“As soon as your mind knows that it’s on and it’s supposed to produce some lines, either it doesn’t or it produces things that are very predictable. And that’s why I say I’m not interested in writing something that I thought about. I’m interested in discovering where my mind wants to go, or what object it wants to pick up.” —Songtalk, 1991

“A lot of talent is a gift, but a lot is also luck. I’m very aware of that. I was born in the right place at the right time. I am also blessed because I’ve never been a sex symbol. I’m spared the embarrassment of acting young.” —Associated Press, 1993

Read more Paul Simon quotes at Performing Songwriter magazine.