Wednesday, April 28, 2010

7♣ Duh!

7♣ Seven of Clubs in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

The Seven of Clubs invites you to write a song, drawing your inspiration from the aggressive energy of sarcasm.

Most of the time, most of us are polite enough to keep quiet in the face of stupidity, bad taste, incompetence, and hypocrisy. Our social world works better if we do. But eventually we need to address all the obvious things that remain unspoken.

Standup comics are great at this: "Hey, did you ever notice that elephant in the corner of the room? What's up with that??" But songwriters can get in on this action as well.

For one songwriting session, drop your politeness and let your sense of sarcasm take the wheel. You might be surprised at how much power it brings to your work.

Of course, you'll want to use good judgment in deciding whether to bring the resulting song into the public light. If it's too mean-spirited, don't perform it. But save that sober review for another day. Today, don't hold back. Go for it!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Don't rely on the words (Songwriting tips)

Find some foreign-language rock songs that you like, and notice how much a song can communicate without benefit of (understandable) words. Not that you should give up on writing understandable lyrics, but don't lean on the meaning of the words. Use every tool in your arsenal to make the song happen.

Recommended listening:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Joker: Write whatever

The Other Joker in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

The second Joker in our deck has popped up, and he says: Write whatever you want to write. Any way you want to do it. Really. Anything.

No rules, no strategy, no gimmicks. It's all totally up to you this week.

That Joker! He's a wild card.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Keep it fresh (Songwriting tips)

For fresh musical ideas, shake up your writing habits. Use an instrument that's different from your usual. If you usually start with a chord progression, try writing the melody first. If you usually write in the evening in your studio, try writing in the afternoon in the park.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A♥ Get into the mood

A♥ Ace of Hearts in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

What is your starting point when you write a song? The Ace of Hearts suggests that, this week, you start with a specific mood or emotion.

Pick a feeling that is familiar to you, so you'll be sure to find something to say about it.

After you decide what mood or emotion you want to work with, try to bring that mood into your body and into your creative workspace. Start coming up with (and writing down) images, phrases, and musical elements that express that mood.

After you've gathered a fairly large collection of raw material, you can start to shape it into a song. Look for a key image or experience to anchor your song, or pick an evocative phrase that could serve as the title.

As you continue to build the song, make sure every new line and every new element fits with and supports the mood you've chosen.

(And when you're done writing the song, remember to shake off that mood and return to mundane life. As the actors say, "It's called acting." You have to go there in order to create something artful and meaningful, but you don't have to live it.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

First impressions (Songwriting tips)

When picking a song for a demo, don't pick your best song. Pick the one that sounds best in its first fifteen seconds. Fifteen seconds may be all you get.

If you're writing a song for an artist that's making a demo, do them a favor: start strong, and grab the listener's attention from the first beat.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

7♦ Song and Antisong

7♦ Seven of Diamonds in The Rock Songwriter’s Deck: 52 Ways to Write a Song

As cards go, the Seven of Diamonds is very positional. Whatever anyone says or does, the Seven of Diamonds is adamantly opposed to it.

If you drink your coffee black, the Seven of Diamonds will get his with cream and sugar and call you an anarchist. The next day, if you get cream and sugar, 7♦ will drink it black and complain that you've gone soft.

That's why the Seven of Diamonds' songwriting assignment is to pick a song that makes a clear, strong point — and then write a new song that argues for the exact opposite.

For example, you might take the Beatles' "Back in the USSR" and write a song called "Back in the USA." (I'm just joking — read the back story here.) Or you might start with the cheerful 1970s hit "Love Will Keep Us Together" and write a gloomy song that argues "Love Will Tear Us Apart." (Just joking again.) Or perhaps you could write a rebuttal to Paul Simon's "Tenderness," a song that bemoans a relationship built on relentless honesty without any kindness mixed in. (Yep, that's been done too.)

Well, you'll have to come up with your own ideas for a song to start with. But, whatever song you pick, don't go easy on it. Make a strongly-argued, forceful case for the opposite point of view. Even if you actually feel that the truth is somewhere in between, leave those hesitations aside. If you played the two songs back-to-back, you'd want a listener to walk away persuaded that your song made the stronger case.

Monday, April 5, 2010

You don't have to rhyme all the time (Songwriting tips)

Song lyrics usually rhyme, but they don't have to. Establishing a pattern of rhyming and then breaking it is one way to give structure to your song. For example, the leadup to the chorus is one place where rhyme schemes often lapse.

Some songs don't rhyme at all, and no one seems to miss it. If you find your song getting bogged down in a struggle to rhyme, try skipping the rhymes. Maybe you're working on a song that doesn't need it.