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What makes a person a good songwriter?

17 Feb 07 - 03:09 AM (#1970401)
Subject: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Villan

There are many people writing songs, but what makes a person a very good songwriter and why. Why do these people stand out from the crowd.

I guess this should be a thread about advice/Tips and Tricks/Pitfalls etc.

It should not be a thread about who is the best songwriter.


17 Feb 07 - 03:51 AM (#1970410)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith

Apart from the obvious i.e. musical skills and a way with words, I think the key thing is " imagination".


17 Feb 07 - 04:07 AM (#1970412)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Alec

Consistently good Melodists are not usually consistently good Lyricists.
Consistently good Lyricists are not usually consistently good Melodists.
Though there are a great number of exceptions perhaps one of the things that make someone a very good songwriter is recognising that often it takes two?


17 Feb 07 - 04:07 AM (#1970414)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: alanabit

I think the most important quality of a song is its resonance. By that I mean its quality of being able to strike a chord with a listener and make something happen for that person. To my mind, the quality, which marks out the best songwriters is the ability to "hear" the songs rather than to just make them up. We can all make up words and tunes till kingdom come, but our efforts may not move any other person. So although I agree with most of the previous remarks on other threads about the craft, I think that the very best have an instinct, which tells them what will connect with other people.
Now I look forward to a chance to pick up some wisdom from some of the many fine writers on Mudcat!


17 Feb 07 - 04:24 AM (#1970423)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,ian

song writing should have no barriers or taboo's.It is not all about the maths or right and wrong way to create.


17 Feb 07 - 04:28 AM (#1970426)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Georgiansilver

I really enjoy songwriting although I would not claim to be a particularly good one. Tunes often come into my head...not sure why and I sometimes get inspired by those tunes to put particular words to them. Sometimes I have the words and a tune comes...maybe when I am driving my car...that seems to be the most inspirational place.
I too hope to learn a lot from this thread as I would like to be a good songwriter.


17 Feb 07 - 04:58 AM (#1970441)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Villan

>>Consistently good Melodists are not usually consistently good Lyricists.
Consistently good Lyricists are not usually consistently good Melodists.
Though there are a great number of exceptions perhaps one of the things that make someone a very good songwriter is recognising that often it takes two? <<

Although not always applicable, I think that makes a lot of good sense Alec


17 Feb 07 - 05:16 AM (#1970445)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Bernard

When singing a song in public, you have an obligation to your audience. When singing for your own enjoyment, or with a few friends, you can indulge your inner needs. If you can entertain your audience and satisfy your inner needs, then you've cracked it!

The ability to edit the output ruthlessly is most important, I reckon. Successful songwriters have often discarded more songs than they have used, certainly in the early years.

If a song isn't 'up to standard', then bin it... or keep it to one side and use bits of it to write a better one!

Whilst I agree people should be free to write songs without restrictions, I am also free to decide whether I like the results or not!

Keeping a song concise and to the point (okay, we know there are many good traditional songs with 147+ verses...!) is usually a good guideline. If a song is longer than around 4½ minutes, the audience will start to get bored unless the song is exceptionally good. It will also influence whether you get 'air time' on a radio programme...!

An example is a song a friend of mine wrote some years ago with eight two line verses, and choruses in between that were twice the length of the verses! We were recording it for an album, and I suggested to him that the song would possibly be improved by running two verses together and shortening the chorus to two lines - which was how it appeared on the album. It gave the song more 'punch'.

I'm not a songwriter, couldn't write a song if my life depended on it! That doesn't necessarily mean I don't know a good song when I hear it!!


17 Feb 07 - 05:26 AM (#1970447)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: My guru always said

The ability to observe would be a key skill I'm sure, as many of the best songs I've heard are from real-life moments and experiences.


17 Feb 07 - 05:47 AM (#1970454)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: alanabit

Jerry Rasmussen, on one of the earlier song writing threads, wrote that it was very important to listen to other people's ideas and conversations. He has the knack of seeing small things as symbols of people's lives. His excellent song, "Old Blue Suit" is a case in point. He heard one day about how the family planned to bury a relative in his old suit. So Jerry used it as a symbol of a life of decency and accomplishment.
That would fit in with what you are saying mgas.


17 Feb 07 - 05:54 AM (#1970462)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: My guru always said

That's exactly the sort of skill I was thinking of alanabit!!!


17 Feb 07 - 07:07 AM (#1970495)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: George Papavgeris

Beyond the skills and techniques, two things: Empathy and character. Empathy because it is no good being observant unless you can use the observation to put yourself in other people's shoes. And character to impart your viewpoint, to want to influence others; the songwriter's character should come through the song, so that when you hear the song you should get a feel for the person that wrote it. Stan Rogers, Jez Lowe, Eric Bogle, and - most of all - Robb Johnson are good examples of this.


17 Feb 07 - 07:39 AM (#1970513)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Tim theTwangler

Other people who want to listen?


17 Feb 07 - 08:14 AM (#1970547)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: number 6

A person who is true to himself.

biLL


17 Feb 07 - 08:37 AM (#1970564)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: deadfrett

Ahh, that would be a good song. Is the sky blue or purple or is it periwinkle? The best time for song ideas are in the first ten minutes after wakingup in morning. I'm still in touch with the subconcious and not yet connected to the daily phooey. Cheers to all.


17 Feb 07 - 09:29 AM (#1970610)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Shambles

The ablity to write good songs.


17 Feb 07 - 09:45 AM (#1970616)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: John Hardly

Art that is about art usually only finds audience in a like-minded (narrow) group. Art that is about life usually finds a broader audience and a longer shelf life.


17 Feb 07 - 09:50 AM (#1970618)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Arkie

In a conversation with a local songwriter he mentioned that he did not listen to other people's songs because he wrote his own.   I have not heard any of his songs but the songwriters I most enjoy do listen to other music and some of them have extensive repertoires of traditional music and good music of earlier times. I would say a good foundation is one of the essentials to good songwriting. Introspection is of minimal value and the ability to objectively evaluate what one has created is also valuable.


17 Feb 07 - 10:49 AM (#1970651)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Linda Kelly

Gin?


17 Feb 07 - 11:08 AM (#1970674)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST

I agree with Arkie's observation. Most of my favourite songwriters have a great love of music and sing a variety of songs. They usually have enormous respect for both the tradition and their own contemporaries, and I'm sure that by opening their minds this way their own songs have a much richer variety of subject, tune, lauguage etc.

It seems to me that if you 'shut out' other musical influences you'll never know whether you're just 'reinventing the wheel' by saying what's already been said a hundred times before, and probably better.


17 Feb 07 - 11:31 AM (#1970687)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Big Al Whittle

the ability to win radio 2 awards, positive interface with albino herbivores..... ?

I really can't think.


17 Feb 07 - 11:32 AM (#1970688)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Jerry Rasmussen

Songwriting is drawing from a well of experiences, and music that's moved us.

Jerry


17 Feb 07 - 12:34 PM (#1970754)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: mg

The songs I like best, which doesn't mean they are good, are ones that are very specific as to place and time..and give a person's name..my name is Peter Amberly..PEI..1880...I think that is how they become universal. Also, the ones I like best, and probably the only ones I would want to sing, have a very strict rhythm and the words match up exactly to the notes and there is not a jumble of syllables per note. Also, the words tend to be short..one or two syllables and rhyme exactly. The tune is very important and I do believe that in most cases each song deserves its own tune..there are plenty of notes to go around and a person who can write good lyrics can just team up with someone to put a tune to it. mg


17 Feb 07 - 12:50 PM (#1970769)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Janet

Maidenhead Folk Club is shortly to run its famous song writing competition, so no doubt all over the south-east would-be writers are sweating blood to come up with something passable. I have entered several times and I cannot tell you just how much work goes into it. I agree with Bernard on the necessity for thorough re-writing - over and over again until one is at least hopeful it will not be a total embarrassment. Truth to tell, I think those who can, do, and the rest of us should appreciate just how clever they are.

I always say it's like a breech birth: comes out backwards and with great difficulty!


17 Feb 07 - 05:25 PM (#1971012)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: mg

I will take another stab here...probably some sort of not getting a swelled head and going on about their craft and how they have to spend hours and hours. If it is not worth the time, don't do it. Watch TV instead or play rugby or something. We don't put huge amounts of effort into writing postcards do we? Yet we get the message across. I think the best songs probably sound somewhat natural and spoken as a person would speak them because that is how they flowed from the person's brain and the more twiddling that is done and revising (why?) the less natural it has to be....go with the first draft and once it is out there in public don't confuse everyone with new versions which I have rarely found to be an improvement over the old ones...if your meter is choppy take it to a copy editor of some sort who can keep the same meaning and most of the phrasing but make it fall better onto the notes. mg


17 Feb 07 - 05:28 PM (#1971015)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Villan

I don't put any effort in writing postcards MG or singing or writing songs,so can't comment.


17 Feb 07 - 09:53 PM (#1971223)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Tim theTwangler

But I have heard him sing
LOL


17 Feb 07 - 09:56 PM (#1971224)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,rimshot

D'ja hear the one about how the singer-songwriter sings the scale?


Do, Re, Me, Me, Me, Me, Me, Me.


18 Feb 07 - 07:59 AM (#1971463)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: English Jon

Lol...

Being Gay and / or Jewish seems to help a lot- Then again, I did spend WAY too long working in music theatre.

My father who is a poet rather than songwriter always says "you have to be prepared to murder your babies"

Ie, revise to the point of destroying/completely changing the original if necessary.

Honestly, though, I wish I knew - I'm a dreadful songwriter (hence only ever doing trad stuff that was obsolete when grandad was a boy)

Cheers,
J


18 Feb 07 - 08:43 AM (#1971497)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Midchuck

An unhappy love life is a great help. Some of the best songs I know, that were written by people I know personally, were written right after the songwriters were dumped, or while the dumping was in progress.

Or maybe that's rationalization on my part - the idea that the reason I write very few good songs is that I've been in a very satisfactory monogamous relationship for 40+ years.

Peter.


18 Feb 07 - 09:01 AM (#1971508)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Hawker

I dont honestly think that there is a definitive answer, for me I love songs that appeal tune-wise to my ear... and meaningful words. The sad, emotive and passionate songs written from an obvious stimulus are often more powerful I have found, as they were meant.
I have written a few songs that people actually liked! With me I never toil over a song, songs just happen, often whilst driving the car alone, sometimes the words happen first and sometimes the music. Often they are as a result of story or event that meant something to me.
I dont think you should keep changing and changing a song, But a song needs to be sung-in till it feels comfortable. And if I aint comfortable with it, i wont share it! Its like playing a tune to people you that wouldn't want to hear yourself!
But hey, I haven't written that many songs and what do I know?
I'm just glad that there are such talented people out there who give me a chance to enjoy their creations by execising my vocal chords!
Keep writing out there!
Cheers, Lucy


18 Feb 07 - 09:08 AM (#1971514)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: retrancer

I would not confuse being able to give an emotive performance and establishing a good connection with the audience with good songwriting. That is good performance no matter who wrote the song. I mean if Marianne Faithful or Mick sing "As Tears Go By", its still a heavy duty song as long as its done well - doesent matter who wrote it.

Maybe the elements of songwriting and the skill requirements vary with genre and form - a ballad for example needs to tell a story, put the person in a location - a love song is going to need similie and metaphor. A song about a feeling of sadness, joy or an event, needs some specifics that are generalizable to a wider set of circumstances (audience).

Just some thoughts - I have read some sites about song requirements and rigid structure and formulas, It makes sense but I do not take it too literally - one of mine, broken rainbows,(www.geocities.com/retrancer) has no chorus at all, no bridge, and no break. still it is one of my more popular tunes. The rhymes are precise generally, and the wording and metaphor simple and direct.


18 Feb 07 - 09:10 AM (#1971515)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: retrancer

oops - but about the person being a songwriter - compassion, empathy, insight, vocabulary, creativity - some musical skills but no virtuosos needed.


18 Feb 07 - 09:35 AM (#1971532)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Elaine Green

Learning the rules well enough to be able to throw them out the window if the spirit sends you that way. Take Lennon-McCartney, for example. Heavy traditional (no, not in the folk sense!) song structure. Verses, choruses, bridges (almost always), breaks, blah, blah.

But when it didn't suit the song sweeping into them, they were perfectly willing to dispense with any and all rules. BUT, they always came back to them as the basis.


18 Feb 07 - 09:35 AM (#1971533)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Elaine Green

Oh, yeah, and the all important element of being inspired and energetic in the first place!


18 Feb 07 - 09:39 AM (#1971537)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: retrancer

I agree although I should probably learn the rules abit better myself before ignoring them. I went ahead and posted the lyrics to "Broken Rainbows"


18 Feb 07 - 11:05 AM (#1971588)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: 14fret

Re; 'Villian', Feb' 17th. So why did you?
If you've nothing to bring to the table, don't show up!


18 Feb 07 - 11:30 AM (#1971613)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Villan

14Fret :-)


18 Feb 07 - 12:52 PM (#1971680)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Big Al Whittle

its all a bit silly really.

some peoples idea of a good songwriter, ain't others. much in the way that some peoples idea of a good person won't accord with another persons.

I always like very individual voices like george Formby and Randy Newman. You don't really hear other people doing their material as well as they do (did - in thecase of George).

Other peple think that say Gershwin and Porter are the apotheosis of songwriting, because different artists are attracted to giving different 'readings'.

I'm a bit reminded of the the words of the srtist Charles Strickland in the novel the moon and sixpence - he says something to the effect:-

When a man falls in the water he has to swim, it doesn't matter whether he swims well or badly - but that is what he knows he must do.

I think all artstic endeavour is a bit like that. You do what you can. You probably take advantage of whatever the local condition supply you with, and you do your best.


18 Feb 07 - 01:13 PM (#1971702)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: the lemonade lady

Someone who can convey thought into words. I feel someone has had to really experience what it is they are writing about to be convincing.

Sal


18 Feb 07 - 01:25 PM (#1971714)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Big Al Whittle

well that can't be right - look at all those songs about the deep south by Stephen Foster. Songs about the ist world war by Eric Bogle.


18 Feb 07 - 01:50 PM (#1971743)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Bert

Bernard, I usually try not to exceed three minutes for any song, then if I do run over a bit it's not too bad.

mg, personally I find that too many perfect rhymes can sometimes make a song seem too contrived, especially if the song is very emotional.


18 Feb 07 - 01:54 PM (#1971750)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: George Papavgeris

Agreed, Bert - but too few rhymes can equally make it seem sloppy in some cases. But that is all about technique.

weelittledrummer, again I agree; perhaps it is possible to "experience" events second hand - if you have the empathy, which is why I think the latter is important.


18 Feb 07 - 02:43 PM (#1971791)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Georgiansilver

Not so much empathy necessarily as knowledge and intuition perhaps.
Inspiration, knowledge, ability to rhyme and time, an overall sense of cause and effect.


18 Feb 07 - 02:52 PM (#1971796)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Bert

A sense of humour helps too.


18 Feb 07 - 03:27 PM (#1971818)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Hawker

and where possible not too many verses!
Cheers, Lucy


18 Feb 07 - 03:33 PM (#1971830)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Scrump

Consistently good Melodists are not usually consistently good Lyricists.
Consistently good Lyricists are not usually consistently good Melodists.
Though there are a great number of exceptions perhaps one of the things that make someone a very good songwriter is recognising that often it takes two?


Good point. Although there are of course some gifted individuals who are able to do both, i.e. come up with good lyrics and melodies, I know at least one lyricist who has no musical knowledge at all, and is tone deaf, but he can write fabulous lyrics. Luckily, he writes in partnership with a talented composer who can write stunning melodies. Between them, they've written some of the best songs I've ever heard.

Needless to say, this pair have never had any great success :-(

To be a successful songwriter is something else entirely, just as being a successful singer or musician is possible without being a good singer or musician.


18 Feb 07 - 03:55 PM (#1971847)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Grab

To quote Brian Bedford: "The best songwriters are the ones who like to play with language." They need the words at their fingertips so that they can choose the perfect one, and they need to hear the way the words rub together to choose the perfect sentence or phrasing, or twist a phrase in an unexpected direction. Brian Bedford is a truly great songwriter for that...

Graham.


19 Feb 07 - 12:26 PM (#1972595)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Bernard

Sometimes a 'contrived' rhyme makes a song memorable. Can't just remember any right now...

Hee hee! ;o)


19 Feb 07 - 12:32 PM (#1972605)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Alec

"There came a man from Budapest,there never was a ruder pest"
Lerner & Lowe.


19 Feb 07 - 02:12 PM (#1972707)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Alec

A song written on a Piano always seems to have a richer,fuller melodic line than one written on Guitar.


19 Feb 07 - 02:41 PM (#1972744)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Hawker

I know I'll get shot for this........................................



but I write mine on bits of paper!









I'll get me coat!
;0)
Lucy


19 Feb 07 - 02:47 PM (#1972752)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Jerry Rasmussen

Be observant.

One day, while I was waiting for someone in the Woman's department of Lord & Taylor's (an upscale department store) I stood there watching the women who were casually browsing through racks of clothes. Because it was the middle of a work day, the customers were mostly retired women. Many of them had their gray or white hair tinted blue or lavender. They were in no hurry to get anywhere.
There were no husbands in sight.

And the lines of a song came, unbidden:

   "The lavender ladies are leisurely grazing
    In Ladies Wear, Luggage and Fine Lingerie"

It didn't take much to finish the four lines:

   "With hours to kill ,and no one to kill them with
    The loves of their lives have all passed away"

The stories are right in front of you.

Jerry


19 Feb 07 - 02:54 PM (#1972765)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: George Papavgeris

So true, Jerry; if we could only see them, sometimes...


19 Feb 07 - 04:33 PM (#1972865)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Villan

If I was a songwriter, I would write about what I see in the nursing home where my mother is.

It is a good home, but you look at them and they all think you are there son, or husband or Father.

There look of, I'm just waiting to cross the line.

My mother gets very jealous when I talk to the other inmates, but they all need someone.

Jerry
Your comments about opening your eyes to what you see reminds me of a Clifford T Ward song.

SINGING A SONG OF SADNESS . . .
'Clifford T Ward was driving through his home town of Kidderminster, Worcs, when he spotted a pretty, young housewife dragging her two small children to a waiting car.

"She was obviously taking them to school and was in a great rush," he says. "She had her hair in curlers as she bundled her kids into a rusty Anglia and sped off".

No More Rock 'n' Roll   

She gets up every morning at six o'clock
Feeds the baby, makes the breakfast,
gets the kids off to school
And her husband's always late for work
No time to tell her she's still beautiful.
Is this the dream she used to dream?
It's not the way it used to seem
She's a housewife and her work's cut out
No more dancin', no more romance and
No more Rock 'n' Roll.

Every day seems much the same to her
Little time to put her feet up or to answer the door
But she's learnt how to cope and be thankful for her lot
And she handles it with care as her mother did before.
By all accounts she has arrived
To feel her age at twenty five
She's a housewife and her work's cut out
No more dancin', no more romance and
No more Rock 'n' Roll.

Sometimes she lets herself get carried away
Dreams of a love affair - to brighten up her day.

She's a housewife and her life's cut out
No more dancin', no more romance and
No more Rock 'n' Roll.

She's a housewife and her life's cut out
No more dancin', no more romance and
No more Rock 'n' Roll.


"There she was, completely tied to her chores with all her thoughts on her family and no time for parties and pop music. Somehow the incident struck me as rather sad and I was inspired to write her a song."

Which is how his new single "No More Rock 'n' Roll" was born, followed by an album of the same name.'

(1975)


19 Feb 07 - 05:32 PM (#1972924)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Jerry Rasmussen

That's a wonderful song, The Villan.

Another observation of a woman in a nursing home who was strapped into her wheelchair, completely paralyzed except for one finger that she tapped in rhythm while I sang:

   "She remembers the sweet smell of freshly-baked apples
   That came from the wood-burning stove
   And the songs that her mother would sing to herself
   And the laughter when father came home
   And somewhere inside her there's still that young girl
   With a tortoise-shell comb in her hair
   And sometimes the memories come back with a song
   As surely as if she were there"

Jerry


19 Feb 07 - 06:01 PM (#1972956)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Villan

Really nice Jerry

That reminds me of a lady who I see each time I visit my mother. She is in the same boat as that lady.

What is interesting, is last year when my father passed away, I asked my mother if she would like a night of music at the home in remembrance of my father. She said yes. I got a skiffle band to go in, because I only wanted happy music.

Some of the people there could hardly move or speak, but we gave them all a table mat and they held them and tapped the tables to the rhythm. One lady who looked totally vacant and didn't move all night except for mouthing the songs. Afterwards I went up to her and asked her if she enjoyed it, and she looked at me and mouthed "yes thankyou"

Les


19 Feb 07 - 06:31 PM (#1972997)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Georgiansilver

There's a thread on the Mudcat which speaks of songwriting,
I hope to learn how to right songs.
So that I can reach out to the whole world at large,
And entreat them to right all the wrongs.
I will point out the weaknesses, those that I know,
To the leaders and followers all.
'Til my songs bring such peace to all lands in the world,
And there's trouble and strife...none at all.


20 Feb 07 - 08:58 AM (#1973578)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Scrump

A song written on a Piano always seems to have a richer,fuller melodic line than one written on Guitar

Ah, that's because a guitar only has 6 strings and a piano has 88 keys. No contest :-)


20 Feb 07 - 09:17 AM (#1973592)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Alec

Now you point it out that might have something to do with it,Scrump.
On the upside Guitars are usually cheaper & invariably more portable.
However for my money the absolute clincher for the Piano is that it is much,much easier to stand a pint on one.:0)


20 Feb 07 - 09:20 AM (#1973596)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Scrump

And the less said about songs written on a bodhran, the better

:D


20 Feb 07 - 09:26 AM (#1973603)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Vixen

For a lyricist--a diverse vocabulary, an ear for rhythm and rhyme, an associative mind, a vivid imagination, and a love of resolving puzzles.

For a composer--12 notes, a smattering of sharps, flats, naturals and accidentals, an infinite arrangement and intuitive understanding of chord structures, an ear for rhythm, an associative mind, a vivid imagination, and a love of resolving puzzles.

For both--some attributes described by some other writers of note:
As Jerry Rasmussen noted above, a keen eye for observation is essential.
Nathaniel Hawthorne said you need "ice in the blood"
Edgar Allan Poe said an effective work needs "continuity of effort, unity of effect"
Muriel Rukeyser advised "keep your word hoard dry"
Alexander Pope said "the sound must seem an echo of the sense"
Robert Frost said you need the ability to make the "commonplace unusual and the unusual, commonplace"

I agree that just before waking and just after falling asleep are excellent times to harvest lyrics and melodies from the subconscious. Sometimes they're fully formed and just need tweaking, but more often they come as fragments and shards that (as T.S.Eliot said) slip and slide and decay with imprecision. (I think that's from Ash Wednesday).
Consequently, they need lots of labor and time.

Somebody else said that writing is easy--just sit down and open a vein.

It is not necessary, in my opinion, for *good* songwriters to have any performance persona at all. If they do, well and good. If not, it doesn't matter--they won't be performing the song a hundred years later. The song is the thing that must transcend time, place, and performer.

Just my $0.02, fwiw...

V


20 Feb 07 - 10:37 AM (#1973687)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST

Having a belly button that protrudes makes for easier gazing and/or contemplation.


20 Feb 07 - 10:41 AM (#1973691)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme

That was me.

Art ;-)


20 Feb 07 - 10:59 AM (#1973718)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Scrump

On the upside Guitars are usually cheaper & invariably more portable.
However for my money the absolute clincher for the Piano is that it is much,much easier to stand a pint on one.:0)


So it seems guitars are better for writing songs about travelling; whereas pianos are better for composing songs about drinking.


20 Feb 07 - 11:05 AM (#1973723)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Alec

Not "about" Scrump,but rather "while".


20 Feb 07 - 11:16 AM (#1973738)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Scrump

Why not both Alec :-)


20 Feb 07 - 11:18 AM (#1973741)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Alec

Why not,indeed Scrump.:0)


20 Feb 07 - 02:08 PM (#1973927)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,MrMoose

What makes a good songwriter ?

   Many times, the singer...


20 Feb 07 - 02:55 PM (#1973995)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,mg

I don't know if I agree about needing a good vocabulary. I think that often that gets in the way and people try to cram too many words in or show that they know big words...I think, in terms of folk-sounding songs, that the smaller, simple everyday words are probably the best. Why weep ye by the tide lady why weep ye by the tide...I'll wed thee to my youngest son and ye shall be his bride.

Only one word had two syllables. mg


20 Feb 07 - 04:02 PM (#1974087)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Georgiansilver

As the great Elton John said...sorry Sir Elton....
I sat on the roof, and kicked off the moss,
Well a few of the verses,well they got me quite cross.
But the sun's been quite kind, while I wrote this song,
It's for people like you, who, keep it turned on.


20 Feb 07 - 05:41 PM (#1974196)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: M.Ted

You can write a fine melody with a guitar, but you must work with single notes, not just the chords--


20 Feb 07 - 06:09 PM (#1974230)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton

On measure for me is would I want to sing it if I didn't write it? Does it transcend the writer? Does it "have legs"?

Good songs have interesting tunes (sometimes simple but they carry story well), imagery that's fresh, specificity in subject matter helps, a point-of-view that's consistent with the character that's singing or being sung about, well-constructed with scancion (sp?) from stanza to stanza, a subject that is universal in its appeal, one that lasts over time because it has the elements of good writing, in some cases accessible and in some cases not because it requires time for people to catch up to it, sometimes a product of careful editing, a timeliness about it that makes it relevant, is it utile (in a show or express and idea that people want to hear)....other than those qualities much is about subjective opinion.

As to the marriage of words and music by one composer/author that's not as prevalent as it was at one time. There were more Cole Porters in the earlier days

Some of the best songwriting came from the early Renaissance period in Europe (Dowland, Campion etc.), the American Broadway musicals of the 30's through early 70's (so many wrote great songs as a team or as individual composer/lyricists and the "craft" writers from Tin Pan Alley and the movies. The Pop Sixties were interesting too with Joannie Mitchell, Paul Simon, Burt Bachrach and Hal David, some of the Motown writers, Jim Webb, Dylan, Prine, and Christopherson. Some of it came from jazz with Duke Ellington and his protege Billy Strayhorn in the Forties. The Chanson of Jacques Brel and contemporaries were good. Can we include Pete Seeger also? Woody Guthrie for sure.

How do you feel about Steve Earle, John Gorka, Don McClean? I think they qualify.

The areas mentioned above make all of these writers exemplary.

The reason why I bring this up is that if you want to be a good songwriter, you have to do your homework and study the "masters".

Then define what you mean as a "good" songwriter.

Frank Hamilton


20 Feb 07 - 06:44 PM (#1974278)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Sandman

study ewan maccoll.
he was possibly a good songwriter because of his training as a play wright,does anyone remember any of his plays.
FrankHamilton has failed to mention Ray davis [kinks].Harry chapin Born Today


20 Feb 07 - 07:00 PM (#1974297)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,ian

Well what have we here,Villan writing a set of lyrics and someone who thinks Elton wrote those wonderful words.
I guess as long as it works for you and you are not looking for the next big hit,who cares.If you want it to appeal to others,then a little more thought goes into it.If you want to just write or create,then go right ahead and do it.


21 Feb 07 - 06:17 AM (#1974682)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Scrump

mg, I agree it's possible for a songwriter to be too 'clever' in his/her use of words, or literary references, or whatever. These will appeal to some people, but if you are aiming for wider success, keeping it relatively simple is a good idea.

It doesn't mean such songs (using longer words, etc.) aren't good, though - just that they have a narrower appeal.

I've noticed a few references to writing songs 'with' or 'on' an instrument. It should be pointed out it's not necessary to use any instrument at all, when composing a melody. At least one well-known and highly-regarded songwriter deliberately avoids using an instrument, as this can constrain the melody by directing it down certain 'channels' which would otherwise not be the case. If it's helpful to you, then use an instrument, but be aware of the pitfalls.

(Speaking as a not very good songwriter myself!)


21 Feb 07 - 04:26 PM (#1975247)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Mrs Scarecrow

A good song writer may be a matter of opinion but I think an open mind in terms of being willing to welcome inspiration from all sorts of experience both musical, imaginary and personally real. There is also a question as to whether one good song constitutes a good songwriter. I think an ability to write in a number of styles , perhaps unaccompanied and with different instruments, may be quite important to an overall assesment of a songwriters talent. Overall I think the songwriters art is typified by the ability to express complex stories, ideas or emotions in a very concise fashion.


21 Feb 07 - 05:14 PM (#1975294)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Arkie


21 Feb 07 - 05:20 PM (#1975299)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Arkie

That pesky enter key got in the way.   A friend mentioned visiting Bob Franke's site.   He mentioned what he had been reading lately. What goes into a writer is certainly going to have an effect on what comes out of the writer.   The same techniques may not work for everyone, but one who is fed a hearty meal will be stronger than who dines on sugar or salt alone. To me, the mark of a good song is whether I want to hear it again...and again. Some songs I try to find recorded by different artists.


27 Feb 07 - 08:53 PM (#1981343)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: retrancer

Well, for me, sometimes the best things i do, which may or may not meet anyone's test, come from thinking through a concept, an emotion, a feeling, studying it from a variety of perpectives, playing with metahpors for it, slowly distilling it down, mapping out rhymes, counting meter. it can come from anywhere - someone on a chat and I were joking and made a reference to having a bottle in the car and I jotted down the following to be titled "Babe I Got A Bottle in the Car" as a country tune:

Babe I got a bottle in the car - song lyrics:

I dont know why I stopped into this bar
The road outside looks long and kinda hard
My hotel room is really not that far
and babe I got a bottle in the car

Babe I got a bottle in the car
I've seen a million miles of gravel and tar
All I own is this old steel guitar
but babe I got a bottle in the car


__________

so its undeveloped, but a concept, needs refining, a completed story line, some more metaphors, a place, maybe a buzzing neon sign and a cockroach, but for me this is the be=ginning of the process - it reminded me of when we all took our own bottles to drink outside because we could not afford to get drunk inside the bar at bar prices - so you arrive smashed and oreder one, go to the car, drink two, go back in, order one LOL.


05 Mar 07 - 05:27 PM (#1987466)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: the lemonade lady

a magic pen

sal


05 Mar 07 - 05:34 PM (#1987470)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Marion

A fascination with death.


06 Mar 07 - 04:58 AM (#1987874)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Scrump

There is also a question as to whether one good song constitutes a good songwriter.

Interesting question, but I would say 'yes'. Even if a songwriter only ever wrote one song, and that song is generally agreed to be 'good', that makes that person a good songwriter in my view.

I suppose if they wrote another 1,000 crap songs it makes it seem like on average they are a crap songwriter, but in my view the one good song is enough to outweigh all the crap ones, since the latter will be ignored anyway.


07 Mar 07 - 12:29 AM (#1989084)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,M.Ted

A Good and Honest thought, Marion.


07 Mar 07 - 08:40 AM (#1989371)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Vixen

Somebody famous, I can't recall who, said that the only inspirations for great art (of any genre) are Love and Death. (of course, they can inspire lousy art, too...)


07 Mar 07 - 08:41 AM (#1989373)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Scrump

Somebody famous, I can't recall who, said that the only inspirations for great art (of any genre) are Love and Death. (of course, they can inspire lousy art, too...)

I would add Drink to that.

And I'll drink to that! :-)


13 Apr 07 - 03:58 AM (#2023910)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,me!

be a good songwriter has nothing to do with writing a good song. The melody can turn horrible lyrics into a great song. But without a great melody sometimes great words can have no meaning because the song just doesnt have the perfect mix of both.


14 Apr 07 - 01:40 AM (#2024853)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Liz the Squeak

it's possible for a songwriter to be too 'clever' in his/her use of words, or literary references, or whatever. These will appeal to some people, but if you are aiming for wider success, keeping it relatively simple is a good idea.

Tom Lehrer has a perfect example of this when introducing one of his songs with the story about the young necrophiliac who gets his dream job in a local mortuary. He completes the story, after a pretty weak audience response with 'the rest of you can look it up when you get home'... which got a bigger laugh.

As for the original question... experience, observation and an intimate relationship with language.

LTS


14 Apr 07 - 09:04 PM (#2025566)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T

Coming at the question from the direction of writing (mostly) comic songs:-

Inspiration, inspiration, inspiration!

You have to observe something which is genuinely funny, and the rest is word juggling.

Serious songs now, well that's much more difficult. I always respond best when the composer has made an effort to avoid all the old cliche phrases. So that's what I try to do.

Do I succeed? You'ld have to ask someone else, as I don't feel qualified to judge.

I DO get requests tho', so maybe......

Don T.


14 Apr 07 - 11:29 PM (#2025657)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: goodbar

a good songwriter is just one who lacks bullshit.


15 Apr 07 - 01:11 AM (#2025706)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Big Al Whittle

one man's bullshit is the next man's manure


23 Jun 08 - 11:55 PM (#2372995)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,taty:]

I write songs myself all the time... and what you really do need is insperation

Any song can be good. You don't need those tricky words or catchy frases..
Simple does the trick.

Being you is the key..


24 Jun 08 - 12:48 AM (#2373009)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Gurney

Wish I knew, I'd write good songs then.

Writing in standard English helps, because then all English speakers can send you royalties! I like some Jim Croce songs, but I can't sing them. Double negatives, bad grammer all over them.

Singing songs that haven't been polished, that still have too many words in them, doesn't help.
Very subjective thread, this.


24 Jun 08 - 11:19 AM (#2373271)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Acorn4

I agree with previous comments about alcohol level being significant, but you don't need drugs, which semed to be compusory in the seventies.


Also agree with the post that says a good tune will sometimes compensate for crap lyrics - that old saying:-

"If you have nothing to say then sing it"

That famous Rod Stewart classic:-

"He took her up to his high rise a-part-ment
And there he tod her exactly what his heart meant"

They don't do them like that any more!


24 Jun 08 - 11:25 AM (#2373281)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Peace

He then took her back to his single-room basement
And put her cold corpse in a see-ment encasement.


24 Jun 08 - 01:26 PM (#2373386)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Acorn4

Made worse by the fact that Rod sang the song looking as if he was squatting on a French toilet!


24 Jun 08 - 01:42 PM (#2373400)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego

I have written "on demand" and for my own enjoyment for over 50 years. Most of what I write is for a limited audience - myself (and, possibly, a few intimate friends). I hear melodies in my head and can usually craft something to go with them in fairly short order. Yet, I don't consider myself a songwriter, simply because I never pursued it professionally or had any songs recorded (so far as I know).

Much of what I have written has been relatively topical and, therefore, has had a certain "shelf life." On the other hand, the songs I most admire are, more or less, timeless. I have enjoyed topical songs, but they are usually stale within a few years, if not sooner. For me, a song that resonates through generations is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. People who can accomplish that are my songwriting heroes.


21 Jul 08 - 08:27 PM (#2394664)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,patstowe

ask yourself "would i wan to listen to this?"


21 Jul 08 - 08:30 PM (#2394668)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST

also a key thing that i use while writing is to tel a story, once a guy named elvis was on the johnny carson show, he asked him about what he thought about this new upcomming band that was popular at the time, he responded " well to tell you the truth johnny i dont think their going to make it." Carson says, really? whys that? and he says " because they dont tell a story with their songs." from that day onward, the popular band beter known as The Beatles, always told a story with their songs.


21 Jul 08 - 09:05 PM (#2394680)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Amos

What youneed is a good vocabulary not of words, but of feelings and concepts that support them. When you swing from thought and feeling into song, if you are clear in your tale, the words will follow and the tune will appear. As one old master once said, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing."


A


21 Jul 08 - 09:35 PM (#2394697)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Big Al Whittle

I think its very subjective. I've gone in for these song competitions and the judges always have an agenda - usually its pushing some vision of 'traditional song'.

Other people equate a good songwriter with someone who has sold a lot of records.

Songwriting is a very slight form of artistic endeavour - compared to writing a great lyric poem - with all its layers of meaning. Or writing a great novel or symphony.

I think it is something you acquire skill at, the more you do it - and to be honest you need some modicum of success to become a serious player. Because otherwise you would give up. Most of the best writers I have known, give up. the dullards just beat them into the ground and take up all the creative opportunities. just watch a 'hits of the seventies' programme to see how dull and powerful in the industry the dullards really are.

You can see the same sort of thing happening in the folk world nowadays. I used to run a small studio, and all the record companies used to phone up and ask if I had anybody interesting in making demos - but they all had myopically stupid ideas of what they were looking for in their head - basically they all wanted a copy of what was number one that week. You can bet your ass - they're all phoning round this year looking for seth lakeman and kate rusby clones at the moment - haven't you heard its gonna be the next big thing?

Kay Russell whom i was privileged to work with for a while once said to me,   the only nice thing about the music business is the music.

And I think that's the best thing you can come to as a songwriter - do it, cos your life feels better as songwriter than someone who doesn't write songs. If you feel otherwise - maybe the best thing is to give it up.


22 Jul 08 - 04:14 AM (#2394828)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Acorn4

I teach a few guitar lessons from time to time, and last year I had a pupil who was heavily into Coldplay. He asked me to teach him the chords of some of their songs, and we ended up doing around fifteen or so of their more famous songs.

A year on and I can't remember a word or chord of any of them.


22 Jul 08 - 05:57 AM (#2394878)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Big Al Whittle

'A year on and I can't remember a word or chord of any of them.'

Perhaps this will refresh your memory - it was yellow......


22 Jul 08 - 08:19 AM (#2394964)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Sandy Mc Lean

It is very subjective to try to define a good song or songwriter.
As an example I thought that Achy Breaky Heart was a total piece of crap but it stood #1 on the charts almost forever. Billy Ray Cyrus made a fortune with it so it must have been very good indeed!


22 Jul 08 - 08:38 AM (#2394978)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Gene Burton

The worst thing about Coldplay's songs is that you just can't hum them:>)

I've tended to find that my best songs seem to come mostly in a 20 minute burst of adrenaline- it's a very intense, almost spiritual experience and I honestly don't know too much about the processes at work. Conversely, the harder I have to work at a song, consciously search for lines, etc., the more the song tends to disappear up its own arse. Fortunately my quality control has tended to be good enough to prevent most of these from ever seeing the light of day, though there have been occasional exceptions.

When you're at your very best as a writer, I think you're merely a channel for something much bigger than yourself, ultimately.


22 Jul 08 - 09:54 AM (#2395036)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Acorn4

Gene,

That's interesting.

I remember the experience of Paul McCartney saying he woke up one morning with the tune of Yesterday going around in his head -would back up the "something much bigger than yourself" idea!


03 Feb 11 - 10:16 AM (#3087867)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,1jarofclay

You may know everything their is to know about music but still be a bad songwriter. you give people tips and you may even take a songwriting class but that wont make you a good songwriter.

I hate to say it but some people are just born with that gift. you cant pass it on or give it to someone.

People always go on about writing songs in this key or that key having great chord progression or using this clever wording. All good to know and having a good musically knowledge is worthy but it still won't make you a good songwriter.


03 Feb 11 - 10:34 AM (#3087880)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST

One whose songs that are timeless, often relatively simple melody and lyrics (clever, but not TOO clever!), that sound good played in a variety of styles.


03 Feb 11 - 01:32 PM (#3087980)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: lefthanded guitar

A good songwriter has depth in their soul and respect for their muse.


03 Feb 11 - 02:21 PM (#3088020)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,mg

And they don't impose a point of view, like, in general, join the union, save the tree..mostly..could be some excpetions, but the more political or preachy they are, usually the worse they are as songs...mg


03 Feb 11 - 03:03 PM (#3088053)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Desert Dancer

There not only "could be" but are some serious exceptions, mg. The trick with a political song is making it generalizable, so its shelf-life is not too short.


03 Feb 11 - 04:52 PM (#3088129)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST

'A good songwriter has depth in their soul and respect for their muse'

ah that's where I went wrong! I'm very shallow and i can't stand the bitch.


03 Feb 11 - 06:57 PM (#3088214)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Morgana

I wouldn't call myself an expert on this subject (have been writing for 1.5 years only), and I guess this should be taken with a grain of salt. It's not a good idea to force these characteristics into songs; they (except for the fifth) are better off working their own way in.
I think much of this advice has to do with topical songs. It may not be as applicable to songs dealing with relationships.

1) A quotable line or central theme that you can build your song around. As old school as it sounds, a song is kind of like an essay. You need to have a claim, and the other details help support this. A line that might sound cliché to one person can be something that your audience remembers later on.

2) The connotations of words are important. Because a song needs to be relatively short, every word makes a point. I often find myself spending a long time deciding which words and phrases to use.

3) Poetic elements. Songs don't have to be super flowery, but some description and figurative language can help expand an argument beyond its logical basis.

4) Phrases that are also pleasing to the ear, can also make the words stick in the mind of the listener. I agree with what has been already said on this thread; that a songwriter needs to have an ear for how the words will sound together.

5) Experience. While political songs are hard to build from direct experience (in my opinion), careful observations of what goes on around you (in daily life, and not always just your song subject in the news) can provide the insight for a song.

Thanks for bothering to read this long, overly-analytical post.


03 Feb 11 - 08:07 PM (#3088255)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,mg

I have probably said this in another post but I will say it again..to me the very main concern is the rhythm..not the content, not what is said, not the story, not the poetry..but how the words fit into the rhythm..and if they fit, it doesn't matter too much to me what they are..the accents fall in the right places and fit the notes nicely..then you have the marriage of tune to words. mg


04 Feb 11 - 04:03 PM (#3088788)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Cluin

A good ear and a good mind, a good sense of rhythm, a good vocabulary, good editing skills and the good sense to recognize when you're on to something or you're just spinning your wheels.
But most of all, the desire to write songs.


04 Feb 11 - 05:14 PM (#3088835)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Tim Leaning

So in the gap between 2008 and 2011 above in this thread ,how many songs did you all write?


04 Feb 11 - 05:27 PM (#3088844)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Stringsinger

1. singability. The words flow and are remembered easily. Take for example W.S. Gilbert.
You can remember all the words because they flow.
2. specificity and showing not telling. Fresh images.
3. consistency. Stanzas match. Rhymes make sense and don't call attention to themselves.
4. variety from verse to chorus.
5. wedding, lyric and music
6. versatility. Can be sung by most anyone though some require more training.
7. knowledge. Other songs studied.
8. a lyric is not a poem. It must have music.
9. interesting, not boring or cliched.


04 Feb 11 - 05:28 PM (#3088845)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Stringsinger

What makes a person a good songwriter is writing lots of songs and learning
from each one how to write the next one.


05 Feb 11 - 04:58 AM (#3089052)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Doug Chadwick

To be a good songwriter, you first of all have to be a songwriter of some sort or other.

For many years I yearned to be a songwriter but couldn't put pen to paper unless I was going to produce a masterpiece. In the last year I have joined Rockhen's song writing circle and have written more than one song that I am unlikely to sing again, some that are OK amongst family and friends and one song that I am proud of. Whatever the result, it has been great fun trying.

If you feel that you could write a song but are not sure, then have a go. Who knows, you might produce that masterpiece that I have been searching for .

DC


05 Feb 11 - 05:34 AM (#3089062)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Alan Day

I prefer Traditional songs for the very reason that at least there is some tune that the words are being sung with. So often I have had to endure a ten verse song with I admit lovely words, but the tune content is non existent , a background repeating strumming. Country Music and Contemporary songs seem to follow a similar pattern with a lot of song writers. There seems to be little imagination or concern for those who have to listen to it.
Al


05 Feb 11 - 05:54 AM (#3089073)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Doug Chadwick

I prefer Traditional songs for the very reason that at least there is some tune ……

Survival of the fittest. – it's the good Traditional songs that have been handed down to us. I'm sure that there was plenty of dross around way back when, just as I am sure that there are good songs being written today. You just need to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

DC


05 Feb 11 - 10:41 AM (#3089178)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Tim Leaning

Its a good feeling innit Doug?


05 Feb 11 - 12:44 PM (#3089257)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Desi c

I'd only suggest one or two things that 'don't' make a good somgwriter if that is you want the song to connect with audiences. Firstly numerous folk singers I hear sing technically very good songs with very good instrumentation, butr are very introspective i,e about their troubles and hard times, I don't really want to sit there listening to their personal woes and troubles. A time and place and all that. Likewise many write about where they come from, but mention every building and street. The really good 'my town songs i.e Liverpool Lou, Leaving my L'pool home, Dirty Old Tomn, I belong to Glasgow and so on, really could apply to several towns e,g Dirty OLd town never mentions Salford and is often mistaken for being about Dublin, Belfast, Liverpool, London etc, so it has a much wider appeal because folk can relate the words to their own home town. I wrote a song about Kilkenny Ireland (singing In Kilkenny, see you tube)that is doing quite well there, again because I think it could apply to several towns, in several Country. Only other thing I'd suggest is keep the tune fairly simple, lots of complicated chords are great for instrumental, but the ones I like to sing are those that I feel a not too accomplished guitarist like me cuuld play

Desi C
The Circle Folk Club
Black Country UK
WV14 9JH every Wed Night


05 Feb 11 - 01:15 PM (#3089273)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,999

To answer the thread question, being a good listener imo. People who go into various types of music with their minds shut will have difficulty growing in the craft or art if you prefer. Craftspeople and artists learn from previously existing craftspeople or artists. fwiw


05 Feb 11 - 07:07 PM (#3089472)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Jeri

There are introspective "me" songs that are quite good. Carrickfergus for example. What you don't care for, someone else may love. I think good songs are ones 1) people want to hear, and 2) people want to sing. As for good songwriters, I agree with 999 (who knows) about being a good listener. It's the same thing with good writers being good at reading and understanding, and good artists being able to evaluate and understand other people's art. Mostly, I think it's the understanding. Being good at appreciating art of any sort doesn't mean one can do it, but I don't know of anyone who is any good who can't understand their medium.

Being good at songwriting means you don't just luck out with a song or two, but do it consistently.


06 Feb 11 - 04:04 AM (#3089627)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Allan Conn

I am what you'd call a "hobby" songwriter myself and find that an important thing is to have an 'honest' critic on hand to help - whether it be a family member, fellow musician or just friend. In my case it is my wife who pulls me up on things not working. I don't always agree with her critique but I do always listen and take note - and in hindsight she is more often than not correct. I wouldn't want the club members on a Friday night being the first people to hear the song as in general they are supportive and nice people so tend not to be too critical - certainly not openly. It is more easy to tell if one goes down really well than the other way about.

I feel the 'rules' in how to be a good songwriter may be important to take into consideration but are also there to be broken. Someone mentioned in the thread that there should be a good variation between verse and chorus. However my song that goes down best at the club and has become a regular play for me has no variation between verse and chorus. Basically the chorus is just the first verse which gets repeated between all the other verses. Apart from tinkering slightly the entire song was made up just singing whilst enjoying a bath. Hence it is simple which can sometimes be the trick. I've had people who think it is traditional tell me they like it which was a nice feeling - as people don't tend to say to your face "I don't like that".


06 Feb 11 - 07:34 AM (#3089682)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Desi C

I certainly wouldn't class Carrickfergus as the boring long winded 'about me' introspective songs I criticised. It's a great classic Irish Ballad, not about the writer him/herself (assuming Dominic Behan did in fact write it) but based on a true story. and the tune isn't over complicated or too long like those I referred to. Anything is good if it's your kind of thing and if you like the introspective 'me' songs well and good. My only point was I don't


06 Feb 11 - 09:04 AM (#3089734)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Jeri

Anything is good if it's your kind of thing and if you like the introspective 'me' songs well and good.

If your definition of "good songwriter" is "songwriters who write songs I like", then I guess that's what you're limited to. It's ironic how it comes down to your own personalization instead of the songwriter's--somebody's "me" still comes into it somewhere. In the end, if our definition of "good" is only about what we like, we're missing the broader picture.

There are plenty of songwriters whose songs don't particularly care for, and I can still manage to think their songs are good, and sometimes great. Townes van Zandt wrote a few songs lots of people know and sing, and I think they're OK. He wrote a couple I like. Mostly, I'm not crazy about his songs, but he was a great songwriter. I can hear the quality in the songs. It's just that they don't really connect with me, personally. We can, and HAVE talked about what makes a good song. This isn't about songs, it's about songwriters.

Allan, finding an honest, competent critic is very hard. Somebody who's willing to stick their neck out and tell when something works is rare. It's also rare to find someone who doesn't simply say "I like it" or "I don't like it". I give up asking those folks. They mean well, but they can't step outside of themselves long enough to even try to be objective. In the end, I think good songwriters HAVE to be able to critique themselves, and that is hard, hard, HARD. You think your song is the greatest ever because it's yours and you worked hard on it, you think it stinks because it's yours and you worked hard on it, and you know there are still places that could be better, and the tune's a little boring, OR you get so sick of it that you just shove it in a drawer and start another one.


06 Feb 11 - 10:31 AM (#3089790)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Morgana

"Craftspeople and artists learn from previously existing craftspeople or artists."

I couldn't agree more. Reading Rise up Singing is a nice method for learning how to write. (or has helped me, anyways...)


06 Feb 11 - 11:10 AM (#3089812)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,999

I have found over the years that even stuff I don`t like teaches me about writing. And stuff I do like teaches me even more.

Jeri is now working on a song that will be GREAT. The melody would make a bishop put his foot through a stained-glass window, and the lyrics she has so far are dynamite. It is partly an introspective song, but saying `I don`t like it` before hearing it is short-sighted to say the least. I`m sure many people will; that`s their loss.

I will also point out that Jeri has written many ballads, and she has a foundation in shanties (chanties) as a singer. I take issue with remarks that denigrate songs before people have heard them. However, I don`t expect that will ever change.

No offense to anyone.


06 Feb 11 - 11:19 AM (#3089819)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Jeri

Thanks, neufman. THERE's the problem: I get a good start, then I'm afraid I'll screw it all up. I have to remember it ain't done until the fat lady... until enough people hear it so they'd notice if I "fixed" it.

Carrickfergus IS introspective. That was my point. Maybe the introspective, boring songs are just BORING.

Or maybe, because Desi was talking about a singer, that singer was just boring. It can be the singer or the song, but I would hope, in this thread, people would be talking about songwriters.


06 Feb 11 - 01:38 PM (#3089922)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Desert Dancer

Ian Tyson on how "Four Strong Winds" was written.

"[Dylan] was just rattling it off and developing that style," Tyson says. "I thought, 'I can do that. How hard can this be?' I opened up the case and started fooling around. It took half an hour. ... I didn't think anything of it, but it took off."

...

"I thought, 'I can write a couple of those a week,' " Tyson says. "I found out quite quickly you don't write a couple of them a week. At all."


06 Feb 11 - 01:43 PM (#3089929)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Desert Dancer

The whole NPR "What's in a Song" series can be reached via this page.


31 May 11 - 03:46 AM (#3162946)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Secil

If you can connect with the audience and it makes them feel the feel the songs purpose (sad,happy,loved up). If it has true feelings and emotions (better if from personal experience). If your not sure about a song,record it, close your eyes and listen too it. if it's sounds good then it's most likely a good song. Ignore the singing if your a bad singer though Use a thesaurus. instead of forcing a rhyme look up another word for it, if there's none rewrite the two rhyming lines. You never know,you could think of something better. try and spend 30mins a night writing. It will improve a lot. WARNING: I'm no expert I'm just a 12 year old girl who lives in the countryside so I'm no expert. But I do  writing songs and singing too. I use writing songs too help me get through hard times. I would rather write than talk. But I think I'm not sure if I'm a good singer so if anyone has any techniques to find out ? Iv heard singing against a wall and putting your fingers in your ears so you can't hear anything else apart from singing but that's it. I CAN NOT get a singing teacher.


01 Jun 11 - 12:09 AM (#3163509)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity

Truth....way down deep inside, and believability, as far as the lyrics!!
when the song is about 'them',(the audience), yet VERY personal!

GfS


01 Jun 11 - 01:52 AM (#3163532)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity

Let me add to what I just posted.

I know from the audience re-actions to a lot of the material I've written and performed, that usually there are a LOT of tears..not so much because the song is 'sad', but rather, it is beautiful..OR deals with emotions, that the audience identifies with, as something beautiful within them....and nobody else seems to touch that part of them. I find a very helpful hint, is to plainly address things that nobody else will even broach. Make it personal, but not 'preachy'. Be open, about what everybody else wants to hide! Define the abstract, and abstract the well defined! Use images that evoke the emotion that you feel, when seeing that image....There's more, but enough for now, unless someone is really interested.

None of this applies, if you are doing 'light' material..BUT if you want your music to impact deep and hard, and at the same time, shed light on those hidden places, you should do VERY well!...Oh, and do your homework!!

Regards!!

GfS


12 Dec 15 - 07:37 PM (#3757975)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Philbert Digby

Hi all,
I've been called a good songwriter by close friends and of course family,but they're nice peoples so they are ,but that's not to say they are not musically gifted themselves.

My approach is populist,but sometimes a song comes along I have written and I wonder where it came from.
I don't listen to much music usually,I tell myself my writing is original.
Of course,everything has been written before it gets to my mind,I dont know why or how I get inspired,but being stressed out is not a help.

I think that by writing about myself would bore the listener,is this a cowardly approach I ask myself oft .
Inspiration rarely comes without being .
I have tried collaborating with other writers and it usually doesn't work because they weren't able to see the same as I do.
I feel sometimes loneliness is a blessing in this world as it allows oneself to be removed from the process,so's to speak.

Sometimes a title is the catalyst to a melody,sometimes the cadence,flow,of words makes the melody.
Whoahh,this is hard to put into words.

Really appreciate all your input above though. I didn't read it all.My eyes hurting.

God B-more
Philbert


12 Dec 15 - 10:10 PM (#3758004)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: mg

I wonder if the twelve year old is still writing. I vote for not killing off your songs for quality issues. We can't tell ..your dud might be the perfect song for someone especially if it about their hometown, a shipwreck they knew someone on, a memorial for someone...


13 Dec 15 - 08:33 AM (#3758081)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Mr Red

Good songwriters are not automatically good delivers of their song.

Sometime a good interpreter of songs approaches it with convergent skills. Homing in on the one interpretation. Whereas a good songwriter behaves in a divergent way a lot, it makes it possible for songs to be formulated, rather than formulaic.

To get a good performance a lot of that divergence has to be switched off. But............

As GBS said. The Golden Rule is that there are no Golden Rules. It is just that GBS used his own maxim wisely!


13 Dec 15 - 10:44 AM (#3758098)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Jim Carroll

As far as someone using folk styles is concerned, someone who can write from a personal perspective to create something that everybody can relate to - i-e make it their own - MacColl described it as being able to move from the specific to the general.
That is why folk songs remain relevant over centuries while many (most) pop songs have a life-span that is measured in months, even weeks, unless the music industry runs out of imagination and revives an oldie to keep the tills ringing
Jim Carroll


13 Dec 15 - 11:26 AM (#3758106)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,HiLo

I think good songwriting avoids both musical and lyrical clichés, it will normally have a decent chorus and will have well honed and polished connection between the music and the lyrics, There are many writers, pop, and otherwise who do this very well.


13 Dec 15 - 01:06 PM (#3758132)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Sandman

"As far as someone using folk styles is concerned, someone who can write from a personal perspective to create something that everybody can relate to - i-e make it their own - MacColl described it as being able to move from the specific to the general."
Excellent.
Folk Style, the use of particular musical modes and the avoidance of others? possibly the ability to write convincingly in the third person or to switch from first to third person, not something associated often with popsongs, or am I wrong?


13 Dec 15 - 07:06 PM (#3758216)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,HiLo

Hi good soldier, interesting point, could you be more specific? I can,t quite see where some "pop" songs don,t do that or why doing it makes for good song writing. Just a thought.


14 Dec 15 - 05:34 AM (#3758291)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST,Allan Conn

To me a good songwriter is someone who writes good songs! What makes a good song is maybe harder to define but surely there are good bubblegum pop songs just as there are good more serious types of songs. Matter of taste. Some people may want a good crafted original sounding song with meaningful lyrics whilst others might just sometimes want a catchy tune to dance to. Horses for courses! Re the jumping from 1st to 3rd person apart from again personal taste I don't understand why doing or not doing that would make a song good or not? Re pop tunes doing that I suppose The Boxer is an example.


14 Dec 15 - 08:08 AM (#3758306)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Mr Red

Remember the Golden Rule

More to the point - what makes a good audien (sic) for it is the receiver of a song that declares it a good song. The songwriter who declares his song good still has to run the gauntlet and he has chosen a large gauntlet by declaring.

Maybe we know a bad song when we hear it - moreso.

Horses for courses definitely. Bad songs can be bad in the way that makes them good fun. see Golden Rule


14 Dec 15 - 10:35 AM (#3758341)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: GUEST

Some valid and sound points made on this thread.
One of the Abba guys said every good pop song should have 5 hooks.
To me the melody and lyrics should flow. Take time to even out the speed bumps. Song writing is a craft and some people have a natural talent for it.
I find I get most of my inspiration in my semi concience state when waking up. Also, picking up catchy lines from others in everyday conversation. As a previous poster said, if you just observe there are song stories all around you. All you have to do is mould them into words & music.


15 Dec 15 - 04:08 AM (#3758483)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: Mr Red

Point of order Mr GUEST sir. Speed Bumps?

I submit "Hesitation Blues" as an example where the Golden Rule proves itself. Comic songs thrive on not being predictable.

The audience are critical in this respect (literally). I have witnessed how a song can evoke praise one day and bomb another - look to the news that night for clues. The quality of the beer that day. "Good" is ephemeral sometimes.


15 Dec 15 - 02:24 PM (#3758598)
Subject: RE: What makes a person a good songwriter?
From: The Sandman

Copy MacColl.