Posts Tagged ‘songwriting’

Olympic Poetry Writing Event

July 27, 2012

In the original Olympic games, they had poetry, dance and guitar jamming (OK, lyre playing) alongside the sporting events.

From NPR: In the days of the ancient Greeks, poetry and sport went hand in hand at athletic festivals like the Olympics. Poets sang the praises of athletic champions and, at some festivals, even competed in official events, reciting or playing the lyre.

“The ancient Greeks very much sought perfection in the body and the intellect, they saw it totally connected.” Tony Perrottet, author of The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games.

Read or listen to the complete story here.

Songwriting and the guitar

November 17, 2011

This article by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers in Acoustic Guitar magazine includes 21 songwriting tips from Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell, David Wilcox and others, as well as example videos and tabs.

Here’s tip 5, just to whet your appetite.

5. TUNE DOWN. Conversely, you can lower the tuning of all the strings a half step or a whole step to put the guitar into a less familiar range while still being able to play normal fingerings. When I was a beginning guitarist trying to learn “Yesterday,” I wish I’d known that Paul McCartney was playing in standard tuning down a whole step. Instead of wrestling, as I was, with F and Bb barre chords, he used easy key-of-G shapes that sounded in the key of F. Since then I’ve been repeatedly surprised to learn how many songs were written in lowered tunings, from John Fogerty classics (“Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Fortunate Son”) to more recent tracks by Keller Williams and Ben Harper.

Read the full article here.

low tech

June 10, 2011

I’m a big proponent of low tech songwriting, which I define as using only a pencil and your voice (no instruments, computer, recording device, beat box, rhyming dictionary or thesaurus), at least in the early stages. I like to think I can be hiking in the woods and write a song on the spot when inspiration strikes.

I also find that my guitar playing technique or lack thereof, influences the melodies. So if I write the melody first, before I pick up the guitar, I often get more interesting results.

Later, in the editing process, I pull out all available devices to help hone it further. Try this method sometime.

Finish Your First Draft in One Sitting

May 29, 2008

Here’s a question we hear frequently. “Why is it that I can write a verse or chorus that seems really good and often, when I hear it back 24 hours later, it seems awful.”

I’ll bet every songwriter has had (and maybe still has) this same experience.

One short answer is, if it loses its appeal to you, that’s a sign. Move on to a different idea. Of course, this may not be a foolproof way to weed out good ideas from bad.

Another valid answer is that your idea IS good and just needs further development. At first your song idea is all potential. At first you can only imagine how a good song could be created, starting with this idea. And if you stop there, then when you come back a day later, you may have forgotten all the imagined parts and are left with only the ‘seed’ idea.

So try to spend enough time in the first go-round, developing the song (or finishing it) as much as possible. Then when you let it sit for a day or so and come back to it, you’ll have more to work with and a better chance that your judgment (is this a good song?) will be correct.

The more you write, the easier it will be to finish a first draft in one sitting. It used to take me months to write a song. I’d write some, then put it on the back burner for weeks or months and then finally get back to it (to improve it some, then relegate it to the back burner again), and so on. Now I come close to finishing a song in one or two sessions and then polish it to perfection over several more sessions. The polished (editing/rewriting) can still take quite some time, for me.

Few Words, Big Ideas

May 18, 2008

Six-word memoirs

Legend has it that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Last year, SMITH Magazine re-ignited the recountre by asking their readers for their own six-word memoirs.

They sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“Business school? Bah! Pop music? Hurrah”) and hilarious (“I like big butts, can’t lie”)

This sounds like a good challenge for songwriters, who are always trying to tell stories and communicate big ideas with a very limited number of words.

What’s a Songwriter Blog?

May 15, 2008

My first blog post – I’ll admit, this is an experiment. I want to find out if a blog is a good way to share songwriting tips. I’ve been writing songs off and on for close to 40 years, although I only recently started writing on a daily basis.

That’s your tip right there. If you want to be a songwriter, start writing on a daily basis. Kind of like practicing an instrument, songwriting also takes practice. Probably the best overall tip I could offer a beginning songwriter is: write every day. Don’t wait around for inspiration to strike. This really takes the pressure off, because you’re not going to expect to hit it out of the ballpark every time. Not every session will produce a masterpiece, but over time, the process will produce better songs.

This experiment is a way for me to share some of the tips I’ve picked up along the way. Many were learned at songwriting books/workshops or from classes in other kinds of writing, in music theory, and so on.

And many of the following tips come from a forum called Songwriters Tip Jar, which I started with Robert Cote several years ago. It’s still active and has over 7,000 registered songwriters. The brilliance of the forum concept is that the wisdom comes from everyone and is shared with everyone, unlike the old style teaching, which assumes one person has the knowledge and everyone else has nothing to offer and must sit passively and receive it.

I’m hoping this blog works the same way as the forum, in that you can respond to any of my comments with your own ideas, tips, criticisms or encouragement. There’s a place to respond below.