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Songwriting - what do you need?

GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie 22 Dec 06 - 07:34 AM
George Papavgeris 22 Dec 06 - 07:41 AM
David C. Carter 22 Dec 06 - 08:11 AM
Scrump 22 Dec 06 - 08:29 AM
Georgiansilver 22 Dec 06 - 09:07 AM
Drumshanty 22 Dec 06 - 09:48 AM
Amos 22 Dec 06 - 09:49 AM
Bert 22 Dec 06 - 09:56 AM
Scrump 22 Dec 06 - 10:01 AM
McGrath of Harlow 22 Dec 06 - 10:04 AM
Scrump 22 Dec 06 - 10:06 AM
Hawker 22 Dec 06 - 10:22 AM
GUEST,Johnmc 22 Dec 06 - 10:38 AM
LesB 22 Dec 06 - 10:50 AM
Crane Driver 22 Dec 06 - 10:52 AM
Alaska Mike 22 Dec 06 - 10:57 AM
Scrump 22 Dec 06 - 11:01 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 22 Dec 06 - 11:31 AM
CapriUni 22 Dec 06 - 12:10 PM
GUEST,mg 22 Dec 06 - 12:54 PM
CapriUni 22 Dec 06 - 01:16 PM
breezy 22 Dec 06 - 02:26 PM
kendall 22 Dec 06 - 04:06 PM
Anne Lister 22 Dec 06 - 04:08 PM
Peace 22 Dec 06 - 04:14 PM
Mrs Scarecrow 22 Dec 06 - 05:07 PM
GUEST,mg 22 Dec 06 - 05:19 PM
Richie 22 Dec 06 - 05:37 PM
Amos 22 Dec 06 - 06:56 PM
GUEST,Songwriter 22 Dec 06 - 07:38 PM
Richie 22 Dec 06 - 08:09 PM
CapriUni 22 Dec 06 - 08:58 PM
GUEST,mg 22 Dec 06 - 09:48 PM
Richie 22 Dec 06 - 09:54 PM
Richie 22 Dec 06 - 10:15 PM
Bert 22 Dec 06 - 10:24 PM
iancarterb 22 Dec 06 - 10:29 PM
Dan Schatz 22 Dec 06 - 10:58 PM
GUEST,Ingrid Frances Stark 22 Dec 06 - 11:16 PM
M.Ted 23 Dec 06 - 12:51 AM
GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie 23 Dec 06 - 10:28 AM
Alaska Mike 23 Dec 06 - 11:09 AM
dick greenhaus 23 Dec 06 - 11:13 AM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Dec 06 - 12:59 PM
Anne Lister 23 Dec 06 - 01:00 PM
Bert 23 Dec 06 - 01:35 PM
Anne Lister 23 Dec 06 - 07:23 PM
GUEST,gleaner 23 Dec 06 - 10:14 PM
Bert 23 Dec 06 - 11:50 PM
GUEST,ptsn1 24 Dec 06 - 09:12 AM
Azizi 24 Dec 06 - 01:12 PM
Azizi 24 Dec 06 - 01:15 PM
Linda Goodman Zebooker 24 Dec 06 - 01:26 PM
Scrump 24 Dec 06 - 03:39 PM
McGrath of Harlow 24 Dec 06 - 04:57 PM
Peace 24 Dec 06 - 05:06 PM
GUEST,gleaner 24 Dec 06 - 05:53 PM
McGrath of Harlow 24 Dec 06 - 06:04 PM
Peace 24 Dec 06 - 06:08 PM
GUEST,Tone Deaf Leopard 24 Dec 06 - 06:29 PM
Big Al Whittle 24 Dec 06 - 06:30 PM
Peace 24 Dec 06 - 06:45 PM
CapriUni 24 Dec 06 - 10:28 PM
Bert 25 Dec 06 - 02:28 PM
GUEST,david from cleckhuddisfax 25 Dec 06 - 06:26 PM
Marion 26 Dec 06 - 01:32 AM
McGrath of Harlow 26 Dec 06 - 10:26 AM
Anne Lister 26 Dec 06 - 11:15 AM
CapriUni 26 Dec 06 - 12:21 PM
Bert 26 Dec 06 - 02:33 PM
GUEST,GS 26 Dec 06 - 03:45 PM
Bert 26 Dec 06 - 04:07 PM
GUEST,Gs 26 Dec 06 - 04:15 PM
Seamus Kennedy 27 Dec 06 - 12:29 AM
GUEST,gleaner 27 Dec 06 - 01:05 AM
Marion 27 Dec 06 - 10:20 AM
GUEST,guest.gleaner 27 Dec 06 - 10:36 AM
Bert 27 Dec 06 - 12:49 PM
Georgiansilver 27 Dec 06 - 01:20 PM
Bert 27 Dec 06 - 01:50 PM
Georgiansilver 27 Dec 06 - 07:42 PM
Linda Kelly 27 Dec 06 - 09:16 PM
GUEST,gleaner 27 Dec 06 - 09:49 PM
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Subject: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 07:34 AM

I was thinking recently, what are the three most important things you need to write a song? I know what I consider the three most important things you need to write songs cos I've written a few, but I'd be interested to hear other peoples views. I'll ley you know what my three are after we (hopefully) get a few more opinions!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 07:41 AM

Whatever the "three most important things" are, they would certainly not be enough to write a good song, in my view. You need also the other 7 (or 27, more like). But for what it's worth, I believe that three very important things for songwriting in folk music are:

an interesting story to tell (or viewpoint to impart)
a lyrical and/or musical "hook"
an interesting and catchy tune


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: David C. Carter
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 08:11 AM

I back what George just posted.But,for myself,all I know is that if I can't write,for whatever reason,then I don't function very well in other areas either.If I were to start out using guidelines I would never get started!I love to follow a song,wherever it's going.Give it a push,a nudge here and there,ride it a little,tame it sometimes,then let it go.Writing is one thing,singing it,is another.I'm going to get lost if I carry on.Just do what you do and see if you would like to go see someone doing what you do.
I'll get me banjo!
Good luck anyway.
David


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Scrump
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 08:29 AM

How about these:

- time
- peace and quiet
- the gift of being able to produce good quality songs

I don't seem to get much of the first two, and I don't seem to have the third one, which George (above) has in abundance!

:-)


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 09:07 AM

For me .....inspiration is the first requisite and then I go with what George said....lot of respect for George....great songs.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Drumshanty
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 09:48 AM

Do you need a "calling" (for want of a better word)?

I've been singing for a while, mainly traditional, mainly unaccompanied. During the past year or so, I've been caught off guard by people asking me, "So when you going to write your own stuff then?" It had never occurred to me before - I thought that it would be something you did because you couldn't not do it (am I making any sense here?)

Of course, now that the idea has entered my head, it's left me with a wondering itch...


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Amos
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 09:49 AM

It helps to have:

something to say
a reason for saying it

A


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Bert
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 09:56 AM

First you need an idea for a song.

Then you create a story around that idea.

If push comes to shove you can steal the music.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Scrump
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:01 AM

OK, I'll have another turn:

- a pen or pencil
- some paper
- the gift of being able to produce good quality songs

:-)

Interesting point about stealing the tune, Bert. I found it was easier to start by writing parodies of existing songs (or at least, a new lyric to an existing tune), so you can just concentrate on the lyrics. Then, having written one, you should be able to write a different tune to fit your new words - allowing you to concentrate on the tune this time. It's a bit like replacing the blade of an axe, then replacing the handle. You still end up with a new axe at the end!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:04 AM

More often than not it's a phrase, a loose thread. I pull on it and see what comes. Or like following a path, and seeing where it leads.

There are songs where I've set out to write about something and worked it out, or to tell a story I know in advance, but not that often, and probably not the best songs.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Scrump
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:06 AM

I pulled on a loose thread once, and my trousers fell down. Never again.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Hawker
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:22 AM

For me, I have to be stirred to write a song, I guesss this is what one calls inspiration, a good tune helps make a song a good song and a pen and paper or a keyboard and screen are essential as I have a rotten memory, also I carry a mini voice recorder with me, as often a tune or a set of words just come to me, often when out and I will have forgotten it by the time I get home.
Cheers, Lucy


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,Johnmc
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:38 AM

I would recommend "Tunesmith", Jimmy Webb's book on songwriting.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: LesB
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:50 AM

Talent, & then the last 3 issues of "Living Tradition" where Tom Bliss does an excellent article on the subject.(It can also be found on his website)Tom Bliss.
Cheers
Les


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Crane Driver
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:52 AM

Writing songs, like singing 'em, is more graft than gift, Scrump. The only way to get good at it is to do lots of it. I find the following helps:

1) A good grounding in the type of song you want to write. I sang mainly traditional songs for years. People now say they find it hard to believe some of the stuff I write isn't traditional. Immerse yourself in the style you want to produce.

2) A human story. I can't write songs from lists of dates and statistics about historical events, but a human story often triggers a song - especially a story which, while rooted in history, still has a resonance today.

3) Time. Be prepared to open up to the song. Sometimes I have to work at a line, trying different rhymes until something fits, sometimes it just seems to come ready made, but you've got to let it happen. Too often trivia like earning a living gets in the way.

The most important thing, however, is to believe you can do it. Put that lot together, and with time, you can build yourself a 'gift of being able to produce good quality songs'

Andrew


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Alaska Mike
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:57 AM

Anyone can write a song if they choose to. The songs I've written are quite varied, but mostly I like to tell a story with my songs. So one important thing to have is a good story to tell. Once I have the story, I try to find an interesting angle to the story. Sometimes this means placing myself (the narrator) as a character who participated in the event. In other instances, I write the song from the viewpoint of a person who might have actually been there. And thirdly, the song must have a decent melody in order for it to be receive approval from the audiences where it is sung.

As George mentioned above, there are many more things that a song needs besides these three. I believe it is also important for a singer/songwriter to vary the type of songs that he writes. When performing your own material you should have a good variety of songs to sing so your audience doesn't get bored. So write ballads and love songs as well as humorous ditties. Have some of your songs written for accapella. Write songs in different keys, different chord progressions, different time signatures, etc. Don't write the same song over and over.

Best wishes,
Mike


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Scrump
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 11:01 AM

Some good advice here. I agree Crane Driver, you have to put the effort in to get good results. Having the idea or 'inspiration' for a song is only the start - Edison's "genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration" could apply to songwriting as well as anything else.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 11:31 AM

Something to say
Brief, visual words
rhythm and melody to fit the words

O.K. Maybe that's cheating including rhythm and melody as one. Just having a good melody isn't enough. Songs have rhythm. They have words. They say something (hopefully.) There's four essntial requirements right there. Remove any one and you don't have much of a song.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: CapriUni
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 12:10 PM

From Scrump:

- a pen or pencil
- some paper


I have to disagree with you, there. Some of the best songs in the folk tradition were composed by people who never learned to read or write.

...But if you don't have pen or pencil, you should have a good memory, so you can sing the song over and over to yourself, to work out the kinks (and this is a good tip for any kind of writing; even when I'm writing non-musical prose, I often catch weaknesses by reading it aloud and hearing where the glitches are.)

Here are my three:

Something important to say (even if it's just important emotionally, like: "Damn! I'm Happy!").
An ability to get to the pith.
And a good ear for how the rhythm of language matches to the rhythm of a melody (I'm still working on this last one).


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 12:54 PM

I don't think you need something important to say. How important was it for Stephen Foster to say how long the racetrack was? Or for us to know which horse he bet on? But it is a song that will last forever. mg


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: CapriUni
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 01:16 PM

Well, that's what I mean about "Emotionally important" it betting and losing on a race is an emotionally important event -- otherwise, people at racetracks wouldn't cheer so loud as the horses approach the finish line.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: breezy
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 02:26 PM

Talent
talent
Talent

to write and express oneself clearly

A good grounding in Greek seems a pre-requisite

Thats why I admire good writers and do not indulge my self


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: kendall
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 04:06 PM

Start with talent. The rest will follow.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 04:08 PM

Me, I need something that tickles my urge to write - could be a phrase, could be an image, could be the whole idea or it could just be a chord progression.   And then I need some private space! I hate to think I can be overheard while I tinker around with the song and get cross with myself when it's not going right.

Time is important, too. Sometimes the best songs come all of a piece and in a rush, but sometimes they take time to percolate through and then emerge much later, fully formed and ready to go.

Anne


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Peace
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 04:14 PM

A good ear.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Mrs Scarecrow
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 05:07 PM

I cant better what George Papavgeris has said: message, melody and musical hook


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 05:19 PM

OK...froggy went a courting...was that something important to say? But yet it has lasted forever. mg


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Richie
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 05:37 PM

I teach songwriting occasionally to my guitar students. Here are three fundamentals.

1) You need to have a specific topic idea or story. In general
you need to stick to one topic per song. The most important idea (one line) is called 'the hook' and it is placed usually at the beginning or end of the chorus.

2) You need to understand song forms and poetry forms. The structure of the song is divided into groups (measures) of four. Most song parts are 8 measures, 12 measures or 16 measures. Most songs have A) an intro B) verse C) chorus D) a bridge E) solo F) and outro or ending. There are many forms; with ABAB form A is the verse and B the chorus. Poetry forms include rhyme and meter/cadence. Usually I teach writing in group of four lines with rhyme on 13-24 or 12-34.

3) You need to know how to create an interesting melody to the words (or vice versa). Many successful song have poor melodies but because they are sung by successful artists they are hit songs. The main problems are static or uninteresting melodies.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Amos
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 06:56 PM

"Froggy" was important because it was a story to amuse--probably to amuse children. Possibly "telling" would be a better word. That's why I limited my contribution up thread to "something to say" and "a reason to say it".

Once that reason grows to a certain level the process becomes ineluctable.


A


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,Songwriter
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 07:38 PM

You need to write lots and lots of songs, of which 99% will end up in the trash-can.

It is a craft, like any other, and success comes with practice.

You only learn it by doing it, and by doing it lots and lots.

Eventually, out of all the dross, you will find the occasional diamond.

FWIW, I find that a glass of red wine aids the creative process.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Richie
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 08:09 PM

To comment on last post. Writing songs helps. Knowing how to write then writing is the best. To do this you join writing groups or work with songwriters/teachers. Most larger cities have songwriting rounds/ clinics.

If you want to play classical guitar you don't just start playing the guitar. You get a teacher.

Once you get the info you can apply it.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: CapriUni
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 08:58 PM

Froggy went a-courtin' tells the story of ambition, pride, courage, cowardice, love and death.

All the actors are wearing masks that look like cute animals. But the story it tells is important.

I stand by my first requirement. If you want to say something (anything) well (wether or not it's in the form of a song), you need to believe your own reason for saying it.

Whether anyone else besides your own shadow agrees with you that it's important doesn't matter.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 09:48 PM

I don't buy that you have to tell a story or that it has to make sense. We have song fragments that we like and remember that we have no idea what they are..well I do anyway. I also don't think you have to have the idea first and then develop it. I think you can start with the words and shake them a bit to make more sense if you must. How does oobla dee oobla da tell a story? It paints a a little picture of a point in time and is another probably great song..we love to sing it, and I don't know barely any more words than that..but can't say that there is a story. I also doubt they sat down and pondered how to describe a day at the market or whatever. The words came to them and they wrote them down.. mg


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Richie
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 09:54 PM

I agree. Many songs just come from figuring out the title!

Richie


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Richie
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:15 PM

Hi,

This song was written while I was sleeping. I woke up and wrote it down. I've since finished it. This is what I got that morning 0n 12-19-06. Don't know where it came from (probably a telepathed by aliens!).

CHRISTMAS ON THE MOON

It was Christmas on the moon today,
Nobody seemed to care,
There were no decorations,
No reindeer in the air.
There were no Lords a-leaping,
No partridge in a pear tree,
It was Christmas on the Moon today,
But I just didn't see.

It was Christmas on the moon today,
They forgot the Christmas tree.
There was no figgy puddin',
No blinking lights to see.
I guess someday we'll find a way
To decorate the moon,
It was Christmas on the Moon today,
Too bad it came so soon.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Bert
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:24 PM

What a great thread. I just love the way that different things work for different people. Which is just as well otherwise we'd all end up writing the same song.

I find that pencil and paper doesn't work too well for me. I've tried it, but I find that the first line tends to get set in concrete even if it isn't very good. Then the second line follows that and things get progressively worse.

So I write my songs in my mind, often by the time I get to the third line, I find I've forgotten the first. I assume then, that it wasn't memorable enough 'cos I've already forgotten it.

So if you do use pencil and paper I'd like to suggest a very important rule that I used to teach my programming students.

"One of the most important tools that you have is the waste basket!"

One of the things that I learned in engineering design is, that you must be prepared to throw away your first idea if it isn't working. It is a very difficult thing to do to throw away your "first born idea" but it is essential that you be honest with yourself when it comes to judging the value of your work.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: iancarterb
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:29 PM

Drumshanty, it usually becomes a COMPLETE song precisely because you can't not do it- it drags you around by the ear and pencil until it's done. And I'm with GUEST,mg (who merits attention for her own stupendous songwriting succes)on not needing any reason other than the whim to write, if for no other reason than that it isn't ultimately up to the writer to decide if it's any good, or at any rate if it has any staying power- they're not always the same. If it pleases anyone else, it probably was a successful communication of something or other. Some tic or sudden idea or observation may begin what turns out to be a complete work. It IS a good idea to write stuff down, because the idea may not come to fruition for ages, especially if you ahve a day job!   carter b


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 10:58 PM

I've found that different writers, composers and artists all have different processes for their art and that there is no one model that will work for everyone. Si Kahn used to think that the most important think he needed for songwriting was his old pickup, in which he wrote his first song, and the subsequent several dozen. When the truck finally died he went and found the most beat up replacement he could find, because he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to write without that truck.

I know songwriters who spend weeks, months or years on a song. I rarely spend more than an hour. I know folks who pay careful attention to "hooks" - I have never paid the slightest attention to that sort of thing, though I don't deny that "hooks" are there in some of my songs. It's an intuitive process for me; others write much more intentionally. Both are equally valid processes.

Do you need something important to say? I don't know - Townes Van Zandt once said about "She Came and She Touched Me" that the song was written completely phonetically; he always assumed the meaning would just take care of itself. On the other hand, a song that says something important can be a wonderful thing to listen to (or dreadful - and I don't sing THOSE songs in public).

I certainly agree that having a good ear is always important. Songs are seldom created out of thin air; each of us stands in a tradition whether we realize it or not. Being attuned to a particular tradition or mix of traditions helps a great deal.

For me, one of the most important aspects of my development as a songwriter was my growing craftsmanship and taste - early songs tended to be high in what I now term "the dippy factor" and rhymes were forced. I recognize that lots of commercially successful songs are like that, but if I wanted to write successful songs I wouldn't be in folk music.

Once I wrote to a songwriter friend that I should maybe write a particular kind of song. I got a letter back in three words: "Don't plot. Write."

Dan Schatz


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,Ingrid Frances Stark
Date: 22 Dec 06 - 11:16 PM

Paper and a pen, and practice.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: M.Ted
Date: 23 Dec 06 - 12:51 AM

There was something that Dan Shatz was getting at that I think is more important than any of the other stuff, and that is that you have to figure out how to write in a way that is true to yourself--and you have to hold on to it.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 23 Dec 06 - 10:28 AM

...Right, back to me again! crikey I only started this thread yesterday and this is the first time I've managed to get back here to look at the replies! well here is what I think and it's more or less the same as George Papavgeris, (not that I disagree with what anyone else says either!AND I'm not saying there is any right or wrong way but this is just MY opinion)

1. You need a subject that interests you enough to want to put pen to paper, something you believe in.

2. You need to be able to condense whatever it is you have to say into a form that tells the story but is not so long that it gets boring.

3. You then need to be able to make the story rhyme

These are the three things I was thinking of when I started this thread, I must admit George puts these in order a bit more succinctly than me, you'll notice I haven't mentioned the tune! which is obviously very important, with me the tune just seems to form itself as I'm writing the words without any great conscious effort. WEll there you are! that's my view and it's certainly been interesting seeing everyone elses, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Alaska Mike
Date: 23 Dec 06 - 11:09 AM

Occasionally, I will set myself up with a project song. For example, I once decided to write a song where every line would have the same rhyme. It was a silly song about a young man who went to work on for a shipping line and fell in love with the owner's daughter. Another time I wanted to write a song with as many 7th chords as I could manage. The song ended up including g7th, e7th, a7th, d7th, c7th, and d#7th. This was a song about a fellow walking through the woods on snowshoes. My point is that you can write songs about anything, so have some fun with your writing and find ways to stretch your skills.

Mike


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 23 Dec 06 - 11:13 AM

talent, while not absolutely necessary, is a big help.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Dec 06 - 12:59 PM

Rhymes? Some good songs dispense with this mostly or entirely. Often enough people don't notice. (Deportees, for example).

I don't think there are any rules for how to write songs, none that you can't find exceptions to, anyway. What there are instead are people's experience of the way they do it - and even there I'm pretty sure it's only some of the time they actually do it the same way.

Story - there are plenty of songs where there's no story, or where the hints of a story would be filled in by different listeners in a completely different way, and that's where the song gets its strength.

What do you need for songwriting is a bit like "what do you need for cooking".

Mind you, that wasn't a complaint about the thread topic, it's coming up with some very interesting responses.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 23 Dec 06 - 01:00 PM

Just put my finger on what had been niggling ....there's a difference between songwriting and then taking a song to a wider audience. Yes, you can write a song about anything you like and it can be as much nonsense as you want or as deeply therapeutic as you can stand it. However to sing that song to an audience (and want some respect for it) I think there should be a reason for your choice of material.
So, songwriting, what do you need? Not a lot, really. To be considered a songwriter by others - that's when you'll need talent, luck and all that stuff.

Anne


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Bert
Date: 23 Dec 06 - 01:35 PM

Tabster,

There's times that I've written a song for myself, and I didn't think it would appeal to a general audience. But have found that other people love it.

So as Alaska Mike says "You can write songs about anything".


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 23 Dec 06 - 07:23 PM

Bert, of course you're right - I was merely trying to make the point that it doesn't always follow because you've written a song that it could or should be sung to anyone else. Sometimes writing a song is just that, but choosing to perform your own material is something that takes a lot more skill and judgement. There are an awful lot of mediocre songs out there and I've listened to some fairly boring ones - I owe it to my craft and skill not to add to that list myself. Working out which songs I want to present to others is a large part of my job as a songwriter and sometimes far more difficult than the task of writing the songs in the first place. There are no rules about what you can/should/ought to write about, and maybe some of the songs I discard might be considered good by some people, but (speaking here as someone who is booked as a songwriter and therefore my repertoire is 100% my own material) songs have still got to earn their way into my gig list. Maybe because they have a chorus - maybe because they change the mood - maybe because there's a local or contemporary reference. But I've come across a lot of singers who seem not to discriminate between the relative values of their own songs (no one on this list that I know of, to be sure!) and I wanted to make the distinction between writing and performing songs.

Anyone can write a song about anything. Not all songs are worth performing!

Anne


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,gleaner
Date: 23 Dec 06 - 10:14 PM

I. Some inspiration--not necessarily a prostrating experience. It could be something that strikes you as you're scatting ad libitum or noodling around your instrument. It could be an idea that you decide to put into music.

II. The acceptance that your initial inspiration is not an inviolable tablet of stone. Revision can do wonders, and get you more inspired.

III. Some way to set down or remember what you've come up with. I've heard more than one great songwriter say that, If it's not set down right away, it's gone.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Bert
Date: 23 Dec 06 - 11:50 PM

...it doesn't always follow because you've written a song that it could or should be sung to anyone else....

I've written songs like that too. But I don't tell anyone.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,ptsn1
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 09:12 AM

i agree with george.
but the three have to mesh just right.http://www.myspace.com/wanabwriter


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Azizi
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 01:12 PM

Perhaps this is understood by the points already made about sometimes needing to re-work a song, but I don't think that anyone in this discussion has mentioned yet whether it's important to him or her to get input from another person [or other people] as to whether that person really feels [or thinks] that the song "works".

Mot that I consider myself a songwriter, but I've revised the lyrics and/or tunes of some children's songs & chants that I've written {whole cloth} and adapted {from traditional game songs & chants} based on my observation as to whether the lyrics and tunes of these songs were well received by groups of children I worked with.
Some of these revisions included or at least started with these children's comments about the songs, or my observations about whether the group of children accepted the song as is. And some of these changes to lyrics & tunes included the words that a child or children made through their mis-interpretation of my words, or through the suggestions that they offerred.

I'm wondering how important to the song writing process for folks here is having input from others?


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Azizi
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 01:15 PM

"Mot" of course is supposed to be "Not"

That's input that I can give myself

:o}


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Linda Goodman Zebooker
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 01:26 PM

I don't write much, maybe two short simple songs a year, and only because I hafta. A song starts singing itself to me and I have to finish it. The only songs that I actually PLAN to write are for special family celebrations where everyone does a poem - or as most recently when I wanted to sing a well-known traditional 3-verse song. I love the chorus and the first two verses, but I feel the last verse has inappropriate lyrics - so I have made up my own 3rd verse to sing instead.

I need to be moving: walking, driving, subway riding - one time even cleaning a sink. It was the same thing when I was a programming student - I had to take a legal pad and march around the hollow square of corridors to work out a tough problem. I couldn't do it sitting still. I can understand what Dan Schatz said about Si Kahn and his trucks! Subway riding is the best -because you can write down (and cross out) things as you go. It's harder when you are driving, because then you have to try to remember what you wrote, which gets in the way of the next thing (what Bert said about the wastebasket). It's fun to remember where you were when you were writing - "There's the intersection I was crossing when I FINALLY figured out the last line to that song I was working on for two years..."

A specific reason for singing the song - for me it's almost always an Open Sing. Having a time limit (when a song is keyed to the theme of the month) and a friendly group to sing my song for, helps me want to finish it.

Linda


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Scrump
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 03:39 PM

This thread is very interesting! My earlier "pen, paper and talent" was somewhat flippant, but essentially right. I agree you don't need a pen and paper literally - you could use MS Word or whatever. And the ideas I get are usually when I don't have a pen or paper handy. My problem is remembering the ideas until I get somewhere where I can jot them down. I've lost quite a few that way.

The other problem is how to motivate yourself to finish a song. I seem to lack this, and feel that maybe if I had a deadline or something it would force me to work on it. Perhaps I need to set myself deadlines - does anyone else do this sort of thing?


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 04:57 PM

One thing I'd always regard as essential is to sing it through a few times without any instrument, and give it room to breathe.

The singing voice comes first; musical instruments are there to supply an accompaniment, not the other way round.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Peace
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 05:06 PM

With certain songs, yes, McG of H. For others, the synthesis of the music and words--that is melody, lyrics and instrument(s)--is crucial.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,gleaner
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 05:53 PM

I find Richie's fundamental advice on song form much too limiting. Although he admits that there are many forms, he lays out only one that he finds usual.

If you want to study song form, I'd go back at least to the standards, and preferably much farther. Flavor-of-the-moment pop charts aren't likely to provide a good sample for analysis.

I wouldn't worry at all about an intro and an ending; there are plenty of instrumentalists and arrangers who can take care of those. The first line, however, as Bob Dylan and others have pointed out, can be quite important.

After capturing the key thematic, melodic, and lyric components of the song, whether or not you think in hooks, you've got your song's basis, and you'll soon know whether it's worth shaping up.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 06:04 PM

I wasn't suggesting that there aren't many songs where the accompaniment is important, even essential. But it is an accompaniment to something that has an existence in its own right.

Rather like a couple.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Peace
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 06:08 PM

Gotcha. Thanks, Mc.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,Tone Deaf Leopard
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 06:29 PM

The first thing we often need is insomnia. Many TDL songs were written in the summer when it was as hot at 4 am as it was at 4 pm.
It is favourite to have a pen or pencil and a notepad by the bed for such occasions. Often, songs are inspired by a word, or a phrase. Let us give an example. Sue's calendar had a picture of a chimpanzee in a tree. She sang "A chimpanzee in a tree" and it became the first line of a children's song.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 06:30 PM

A deep personal friendship with either of England's two influential folk djs. Otherwise, forget it - nobody much is going to hear what you write.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Peace
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 06:45 PM

LOLOL

Fookin' true too.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: CapriUni
Date: 24 Dec 06 - 10:28 PM

From Scrump:

I seem to lack this, and feel that maybe if I had a deadline or something it would force me to work on it.

I think that's what I was trying to get at when I said you had to have something important to say. But maybe what I really meant was you needed to be inspired by something -- and that inspiration needs to be strong enough that it will sustain your interest through the revision process.

But it only has to be inspiring to you. Historians, philosophers and literary critics need not give it so much as a second glance.

And if you're really stuck in the revisions, even so, give yourself permission to put that song away and work on any other ideas that pop into your head. Sometimes, the first idea you get for a song is only the tiny key that unlocks a greater one.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Bert
Date: 25 Dec 06 - 02:28 PM

Right on there WeeLittleDrummer.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,david from cleckhuddisfax
Date: 25 Dec 06 - 06:26 PM

Songwritig is about the mood,the feel,and the sentiment.
One word or thought or turn of phrase.
That grabs ,alights or imposes.
Or a melody that has its own tempo,timbre or emotion.

There is no exact science of songwriting ,or right or wrong way.
though for all sakes keep doing it anyway.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Marion
Date: 26 Dec 06 - 01:32 AM

The ability to live with imperfection. There's a good quote: "Songs aren't finished, they're abandoned." If you feel that every line has to be genius, and every rhyme has to be perfect, and you can't sneak in an extra syllable now and then - you might finish a song eventually, but you probably won't.

I also agree with what Bert said above about the ability to throw things away when they're not working - whether it's a bit of melody or lyric, or the whole damn song.

Marion

SSP: my songbook


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 26 Dec 06 - 10:26 AM

I'd say never throw things away. Recycle them.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Anne Lister
Date: 26 Dec 06 - 11:15 AM

I definitely wouldn't say *never* throw things away - some things really do belong in a waste paper bin, or the metaphysical equivalent! The difficulty comes in recognising the absolute trash from the stuff that's simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And can I again make a plea for distinguishing between writing a song and performing it? The two activities really are quite distinct. I can write a song about anything, in any style, at any time, for any reason but it really doesn't follow that that song should ever be performed outside my own private space.

Anne


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: CapriUni
Date: 26 Dec 06 - 12:21 PM

One of my father's favorite proverbs (he said it was a Russian one, but I don't know if that's true) was:

Don't let the "perfect" stand in the way of the "good."

I think he first heard it in the context of trying to reach a satisfactory arms treaty with the Soviets, and the dangers of rejecting proposal after proposal because it doesn't meet every single one of your objectives. But I think it can apply to any creative endeaver (and finding romance, cooking dinner, and cleaning house, and raising your children, and....) and certainly echos what Marion said, above.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Bert
Date: 26 Dec 06 - 02:33 PM

...Direct light makes them flail their heads or possibly their tails
...

Nice one Marion.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,GS
Date: 26 Dec 06 - 03:45 PM

All you need is ........simply...........unequivocally........and... indisputedly..........Genius.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Bert
Date: 26 Dec 06 - 04:07 PM

All of us songwriters know that already GUEST,GS.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,Gs
Date: 26 Dec 06 - 04:15 PM

And where can I avail myself of your undisputed genius Bert?


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 27 Dec 06 - 12:29 AM

Scrump and Marion talked about finishing a song.
Perhaps if you CAN'T finish a song, it IS finished.
Knowing when to quit is as important as knowing when to start.
I've heard quite few songs where I've thought:
Wow, good song, but it would be a great song if it ended a verse or two sooner.
Oh, and in my opinion start with an EMPTY wastebasket...

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,gleaner
Date: 27 Dec 06 - 01:05 AM

I believe that I should call even myself out and revisit the part about inspiration. Waiting for goose bumps, laughter, or tears, I've concluded, is not a prerequisite. I believe that it's possible to take a theme, story, or even a persistent thought or hellhound, and pursue it through the songwriting process, or fail and move on. Doing it is another matter, I admit.

One thing I don't like is letting rhyme, often slop rhyme, steer the content of the song. I too am tempted.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Marion
Date: 27 Dec 06 - 10:20 AM

Thanks Bert!


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,guest.gleaner
Date: 27 Dec 06 - 10:36 AM

Genius doesn't always produce creative drive, or persistence in staying with projects, or determination to develop a talent; some geniuses admit no room for improvement. And more than a few acknowledged geniuses have died quite young.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Bert
Date: 27 Dec 06 - 12:49 PM

You can buy my CD GUEST,Gs. *hee hee*


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 27 Dec 06 - 01:20 PM

...*hee hee*...Strange name for a CD Bert, what gave you that for a title....ROFLOL....can we hear soundbites from your CD online Bert?


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Bert
Date: 27 Dec 06 - 01:50 PM

Not yet, I've got to get my website fixed and then you'll be able to listen to it.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 27 Dec 06 - 07:42 PM

GR8 Bert, Keep us posted, will be interested to hear some of your stuff.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: Linda Kelly
Date: 27 Dec 06 - 09:16 PM

it's a weird thing songwriting-when people know you do it they produce words for you, fantastic pieces of rhyme and prose that they want you to put to music- I have dozens of them, most tucked away never to see light of day - and frankly those I use I have to wing it because my songs are always based on my words and the rythmn of the words - because frankly I am not a musician. The words dictate the melody and the mood of the song - forceful, soulful, happy or sad. I developed song writing from a long association with poetry and prose and I am lucky that I happen to sing and can be creative with voice and harmony. I write songs very quickly always the words first and the tune develops from there. My tools are a dictating machine and very little else.


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Subject: RE: Songwriting - what do you need?
From: GUEST,gleaner
Date: 27 Dec 06 - 09:49 PM

Perhaps it's worthwhile to consider accepting a little help, in the music or in the lyrics, to get unstuck. There's the issue of whether co-writing credit is fair or expected, of course.

I heard an author state that Yip Harburg couldn't seem to come up with a last line for "Over the Rainbow," and that when that fact was mentioned to Ira Gerschwin, Gerschwin quickly came up with, "If pretty little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why oh why can't I?" No co-writing credit was required.


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