Archive for the ‘lyrics’ Category

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.

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Lake Street Dive: Songwriting Masterclass at NEC

November 4, 2015

I had to share this video that combines songwriting and Lake Street Dive. If you haven’t heard LSD, check their many many live videos on YouTube.

Songs performed and discussed:
“You Go Down Smooth” (Olson) begins at 5:20
“Look What a Mistake” (Price) begins at 20:30
“Seventeen” (Kearney) begins at 46:20
“I Don’t Care About You” (Calabrese) begins at 1:06:05
“Let Me Roll It” (McCartney) begins at 1:51:35

After meeting while students at NEC in the early 2000s, Lake Street Dive has catapulted to stardom. NPR notes that they blend “jazz, folk, and pop in dangerously charming fashion.” In this workshop, the band—vocalist Rachael Price ’07, trumpet/guitar player Mike Olson ’05, stand-up bassist Bridget Kearney ’08 Tufts/NEC, and drummer Mike Calabrese ’07—returned to NEC to share its wit and songwriting expertise with students.

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.

Out of ideas?

September 27, 2013

Running out of song ideas? Time to go beyond love songs and heartbreak songs.

Look around and write a song about what’s up in your world. It might be something happening in your immediate world, i.e. your new puppy, crazy boss, job search, a funny thing your toddler said, etc. Or consider things in the news, like Syria, Iran, the Fukushima leak, the Nats, the Navy Yard shootings, the Hillary for President movement, the Tea Party, or texting while driving.

If you have strong opinions about any of these, that would make a good subject for your next song. If some of these complex world events are just confusing, write about that.

Try this: Close your eyes (don’t do this while driving). Spin around a time or two. Write a song about the first thing you see when you open your eyes. Maybe it’s an empty coffee cup, an iPhone, a person, the horizon, whatever. It could turn out to be a silly song or you may be able to make the object a metaphor for something more serious.

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.

Lyricists get their due

August 29, 2010

Lyricists got front page coverage in the Wall Street Journal, well, the front page of the Weekend Journal section. In The Secrets of Songwriters, lyricists and their methods are profiled. The writer casts a wide net, including lyricists from Nashville, Broadway, hip-hop, indie rock and even an opera librettist.

Whether they’re poets or hired guns, modern lyricists are fighting to keep their words in tune with a wildly changing music business. How top writers, from country to hip-hop, nail the phrases they hope will last forever.

Pat Pattison master class: melodic & lyric rhythm

May 7, 2010

Master Songwriter Pat Pattison’s insights into songwriting with this Master Class session.

Topics for songs

October 27, 2009

This question recently dropped in my inbox.

How do I decide on a topic when I’m thinking about writing a song?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Here’s what I do to get around the problem. Hopefully there will be something in here that helps you.

My strongest songs are always the ones written about a specific topic (or person, place, idea, etc) I really care about. It can be anything from my pet iguana to my baseball card collection, from chess to downhill skiing, from social causes to my favorite cartoon.

It doesn’t matter what your topic is, as long as you are passionate about it. Whenever I try to write a song on a topic that I’m not really interested in, it turns out lame, or I lose interest altogether before finishing it. It helps to be a passionate person with a lot of interests.

What kinds of things are you passionate about – think of your hobbies, your interests, your loves (and that can mean romantic love, love for your mom, your kids or your hotrod).

Another source of topics and ideas for songs is quotations. I subscribe to a free daily inspirational email quote service. There are many of these on the web. You can also get a book of quotations at your library or bookstore.

Here’s an example. I’m passionate about my guitar, no surprise there. But one time with Valentine’s Day approaching, my songwriting partner and I thought we should try to write a love song for our respective wives. It turned out a little different than we expected.

Play time

September 11, 2009

As a songwriter or lyricist, you may think of yourself as a wordsmith. The written word is a powerful tool. And even more powerful are words and music together.

To increase your word power (resulting in improved songwriting), you probably read a lot of books. You may also read poetry and study the great writers. And for an avid wordsmith, this is all fun.

On a lighter note, I suggest you also play Scrabble and other word games. It may be rest and relaxation, but it also keeps your mind sharp and develops that part of your brain that deals with words.

Looking for a good title?

July 24, 2009

I keep a list of phrases and potential song titles in my notebook and I’m always adding to it. That way, if I hit a dry spell, I can just open up my notebook and see if anything jumps out at me.

If you don’t have your own list, check the list of titles we’re growing online. We call it the Title Bank.

Feel free to take one or more and add your own (see Leave a comment» at the bottom of this post). There are no copyright restrictions on titles. Many songs can use the same title. You can also take the name of a book, play or movie as your song title.

Here’s a small sample from the Title Bank.

Average American Survivor Reunion Factor
Bush Goes to Mars
Dangerous Carbs
I Lost My Job
(Janet’s) Wardrobe Mishap
Madoff Goes to Jail
Martha Vacations at Club Fed
Ten Minute Bride (Britney’s Folly)
The Ballad of Tony Soprano
Tyco Juror #4
Since You’re Out of the Closet My Heart’s On a Shelf
Don’t Go Away Mad – Stay Here and Suffer
Dandelions and Rhododendrons
The Whole Enchilada
Get On My Feet and Dance
Face Down in the Pavement
Feel my pain
Frustration Overload
Picking up your pieces
Pull me under
Butterfly Fields
Symphony in 3-D
Love-school
Forever Blessed
Catch a falling star [for you]