The Acoustic Guitar Forum

Go Back   The Acoustic Guitar Forum > General Acoustic Guitar and Amplification Discussion > PLAY and Write

Reply
 
Thread Tools
  #1  
Old 05-07-2019, 06:08 PM
Deliberate1 Deliberate1 is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Posts: 138
Default Process questions

Friends, I am new to guitar and song writing, in equal measure, and would appreciate a bit of guidance from you veterans.
I have over 50 years in woodwinds - mostly jazz clarinet and tenor sax. A couple years ago I started playing with this woodshed group here on the coast of Maine. Mostly Americana, folk rock, traditional, some old timely stuff as well. The clarinet fit in unexpectedly well. I started singing along and had a great time. About a year into it, on my 50 mile commute to work, lines started popping into my head. And then another, and so on. So I cobbled together some songs, words first, because I didn't play piano or guitar - at least back then.
I am a word guy - stories to written legal briefs and oral argument - which are just a different kind of story. Earlier this year I realized that I needed to pair my lyrics with music of my own making, so I bought a lovely 000 Larrivee and have been just loving it. While I have a teacher and am going through the growing pains of learning the fret board, I spend a great deal of time just exploring the sounds of the guitar. To be able to play more than one note at a time is nothing short of miraculous, and challenging. But what wonderful things can come of it. So, a few weeks ago, I cobbled together a bunch of chords that I could play, sort of, and the lyrics unexpectedly came. It was the first time the music came before words., and it proved to be a very different song because of it. Since then, I am working on fine tuning the music to the words. As I get a bit more comfortable making sound, I have been able to tailor the music a bit more closely to the lyrics - rather than just strumming my way through the tune. And that has added a whole new dimension to the song. But it a lot for me to handle - both mastering the lyrics at the same time trying to literally pick and time specific notes of a chord to the words. So I found that humming rather than articulating the lyrics simplified the process considerably. I didn't have to remember what to say - only the sounds. Once I coordinate the music with the hummed lyrics I will revisit the words.
So are there any other approaches or strategies to work the lyrics and music separately and then bring them together, to make the process more manageable for a fledgling.
Appreciate the help
David
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 05-08-2019, 01:23 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 4,707
Default

Sounds to me like you have the process exactly right. It's constant to-ing and fro-ing between music and lyric, getting one to fit the other, depending on which bits (of either) you want to preserve. Keeping the best bits, and cutting or changing the bits that don't work.

When Bob Dylan was asked what he was most proud of in his whole body of work, he just said: "making the words fit." I.e., it's craftsmanship, like joinery. If it is an "art", it doesn't feel like it. It feels like hammering and sawing until it all fits and works.

To add to your process, I'd only say make sure you record what you do in some way. Either audio (on your phone or whatever) or the old-school way in tab or notation. Sometimes nice little phrases occur while noodling, and you can miss them - or you don't realise how good they sound until you play them back. Likewise with lyrics. Keep a notebook (or your phone of course), and any time a good phrase occurs - whatever you're doing, not just when trying to write a song - make a note.
__________________
"There's only two kinds of music: good and bad. I like both kinds." - Duke Ellington.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 05-08-2019, 04:04 AM
srick's Avatar
srick srick is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Connecticut
Posts: 3,841
Default

David -

Truefire just published a two part series of Ellis Paul explaining his writing process. It's very Ellis Paul - touchy-feely and visual. BUT, his technique works very nicely at amping up the emotional and descriptive content of a 'song in progress'.

Frankly, I really like it. Although I haven't had enough time to write (or the clear mind), it has really gotten the juices flowing.

best,

Rick
__________________
Rick
AGF Moderator
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 05-08-2019, 08:10 AM
Deliberate1 Deliberate1 is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Posts: 138
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by srick View Post
David -

Truefire just published a two part series of Ellis Paul explaining his writing process. It's very Ellis Paul - touchy-feely and visual. BUT, his technique works very nicely at amping up the emotional and descriptive content of a 'song in progress'.

Frankly, I really like it. Although I haven't had enough time to write (or the clear mind), it has really gotten the juices flowing.

best,

Rick
Rick, appreciate your suggestions. I checked out the description of EP's course and will look more carefully at it. I am not familiar with Truefire. Do you have any experience with their offerings?
Cheers,
David
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 05-08-2019, 08:35 AM
Deliberate1 Deliberate1 is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Posts: 138
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonPR View Post
Sounds to me like you have the process exactly right. It's constant to-ing and fro-ing between music and lyric, getting one to fit the other, depending on which bits (of either) you want to preserve. Keeping the best bits, and cutting or changing the bits that don't work.

When Bob Dylan was asked what he was most proud of in his whole body of work, he just said: "making the words fit." I.e., it's craftsmanship, like joinery. If it is an "art", it doesn't feel like it. It feels like hammering and sawing until it all fits and works.

To add to your process, I'd only say make sure you record what you do in some way. Either audio (on your phone or whatever) or the old-school way in tab or notation. Sometimes nice little phrases occur while noodling, and you can miss them - or you don't realise how good they sound until you play them back. Likewise with lyrics. Keep a notebook (or your phone of course), and any time a good phrase occurs - whatever you're doing, not just when trying to write a song - make a note.
Jon, thanks very much for yours. That quote from Dylan is intriguing - like for him the music comes first, and then he fashions the word part. If I am right, it surprises me, as I think of him as a poet who puts his work to song - not the other way around.
As I mentioned above, I wrote five or so songs before even thinking about the guitar, or frankly, how the music would be scored. Word-centric. And that, I found was ultimately limiting because it was hard to make new tunes sound different when the same vocabulary of notes was floating around in my head. So as soon as I got the guitar and began exploring different chords and progressions, it opened up a new universe of opportunities. The song that came from the music first is very, very different than my other work. Like the lyrics had to be fit to the music versus the converse.
Good to know that I am on the right process path. I do keep paper all around the house, as well as a paper notebook in the car and note app on the phone. You are right. When a line pops into my head, I immediately write it down. Sometimes it is so fleeting, that I lose it in the process. But if it was good enough in the first place, it will circle around again. Sometimes I have a hard time getting to sleep because of it. Seems that as soon as I lay down, the song writing part of my brain kicks into gear. My wife has stopped asking me why I jump out of bed like a madman to run to the pad by the nightlight. Last year I traveled to Thailand and spent way too much time on the hotel bathroom floor fine tuning some lyrics. When you gotta go....
Good call on the recording suggestions. I got one of these, but have not fired it up yet. https://www.ebay.com/itm/Zoom-H4N-PR...72.m2749.l2649. It will be very interesting to hear how I sound on tape. A bit scary as well.
Again, Jon, thanks for your comments and encouragement. This song writing is a lonely business.
Cheers,
David
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 05-08-2019, 09:18 AM
srick's Avatar
srick srick is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Connecticut
Posts: 3,841
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deliberate1 View Post
Rick, appreciate your suggestions. I checked out the description of EP's course and will look more carefully at it. I am not familiar with Truefire. Do you have any experience with their offerings?
Cheers,
David
Yes - I have been a member (of Truefire) for several years. It's hard to pigeonhole the site because they try to be all things to all people. In some ways, I really like their style, and in some ways, I don't. The lessons are reasonably priced and frequently on sale. (In fact, there is a sale going on now)

Perhaps my biggest issue with Truefire is that there is too much material and I only have so much time to figure out where to go. But I will reiterate that I really have enjoyed the Ellis Paul songwriting lessons. Regardless of how much meat was actually there (within the lesson), it got my creative juices flowing and that was the point!

best,

Rick
__________________
Rick
AGF Moderator

Last edited by srick; 05-08-2019 at 09:44 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 05-08-2019, 12:14 PM
Deliberate1 Deliberate1 is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Posts: 138
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by srick View Post
Yes - I have been a member (of Truefire) for several years. It's hard to pigeonhole the site because they try to be all things to all people. In some ways, I really like their style, and in some ways, I don't. The lessons are reasonably priced and frequently on sale. (In fact, there is a sale going on now)

Perhaps my biggest issue with Truefire is that there is too much material and I only have so much time to figure out where to go. But I will reiterate that I really have enjoyed the Ellis Paul songwriting lessons. Regardless of how much meat was actually there (within the lesson), it got my creative juices flowing and that was the point!

best,

Rick
Cheers, Rick.
David
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 05-08-2019, 04:27 PM
JonPR JonPR is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 4,707
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deliberate1 View Post
Jon, thanks very much for yours. That quote from Dylan is intriguing - like for him the music comes first, and then he fashions the word part. If I am right, it surprises me, as I think of him as a poet who puts his work to song - not the other way around.
Well, writing poetry is much the same. It has to rhyme and scan, the rhythms have to work - the words have to "fit".
Musically, Dylan's early compositions were all borrowed from traditional folk songs, so that just was an additional template they had to fit.
Certainly his main interest was in telling stories of various kinds, so lyrics came first in that sense - even if only as ideas for songs. My guess is he was thinking musically all the time he was writing lyrics (because they always blend so well together), even if he didn't fix the tunes till later.

There's a nice term which covers the process: prosody: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosody_(music) Dylan was a master of it, which is why his songs feel so good to sing. IMO, his lyrics don't make great poetry on the page (not like Leonard Cohen's or Joni Mitchell's anyway) - they need the melodies to really come alive. Obviously he was tremendously imaginative as a lyricist - and a fabulous story-teller - but his poetry was somewhat hit and miss. Some wonderful phrases, some not so wonderful - although at least they did all "fit"!
__________________
"There's only two kinds of music: good and bad. I like both kinds." - Duke Ellington.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 05-08-2019, 04:37 PM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 1,369
Default

The answer is that just about any way works some of the time for some of the songwriters. And of course you have songwriting teams where it's not even the same person doing words and music. At least when you're doing both yourself you can tell the lyric writer when to get off their tone-deaf high horse or the music writer to pay some attention to what the words are trying to say for once.

I'm a poet, and I start with words more often than I start with music, but since I'm a poet, the words are already forming music even if I'm not intending to use them in a song and only on paper. I have this theory about poets who share my approach (even unconsciously) that we tend to think musically as we write poetry, our thoughts already have measured lengths, refrains, call-and-response, timbral contrasts, breath awareness, and so on. Obviously this applies to song lyrics, which are just a particular form of poetry, but there you are even more likely to tap into this word/music type of composition.

As some have already said above, you're working it creatively, that the process....
__________________
Parlando - Where Music and Words Meet
-----------------------------------
20th Century Seagull S6-12, S6 Folk, Seagull M6
'00 Guild JF30-12, '01 Martin 00-15, '07 Parkwood PW510
Epiphone Biscuit resonator, Merlin Dulcimer, and various electric guitars, basses....
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 05-09-2019, 07:24 AM
Deliberate1 Deliberate1 is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Posts: 138
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonPR View Post

There's a nice term which covers the process: prosody: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosody_(music) Dylan was a master of it, which is why his songs feel so good to sing. IMO, his lyrics don't make great poetry on the page (not like Leonard Cohen's or Joni Mitchell's anyway) - they need the melodies to really come alive. Obviously he was tremendously imaginative as a lyricist - and a fabulous story-teller - but his poetry was somewhat hit and miss. Some wonderful phrases, some not so wonderful - although at least they did all "fit"!
Good word. Always nice to expand the vocabulary with a word that articulates a concept you intuit but have never put a name to. I write a great deal in the course of my legal work. And, unfortunately, I am called upon to prepare and deliver eulogies as well. As I craft the written or spoken piece, I am always conscious of the sound of the words as they fit together, and their cadence. Long sentences and words, and then short ones, for good measure and contrast. Even single word sentences. I often break grammatical rules by omitting a verb or some other "indispensable" component of a sentence. The absence of an element the ear is attuned adds tension and emphasis. Now I know that is called prosody. Thanks for that.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 05-09-2019, 07:38 AM
Deliberate1 Deliberate1 is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Posts: 138
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankHudson View Post
At least when you're doing both yourself you can tell the lyric writer when to get off their tone-deaf high horse or the music writer to pay some attention to what the words are trying to say for once.
Frank, is there not more to that story....
I take your point about he shared DNA between lyrics and melody, though had never cogitated on it. I am not a poet. But I appreciate that some poetic devices share musical roots. I reached back deep in my memory to Longfellow's Village Blacksmith poem which I learned as a third grader. I suspect I could bang out a tune to fit that iambic metering in short order. A Pilgrim's Progress would take a bit more effort.
Cheers.
D
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 05-09-2019, 12:49 PM
DukeX DukeX is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: SoCal
Posts: 1,797
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankHudson View Post
The answer is that just about any way works some of the time for some of the songwriters. And of course you have songwriting teams where it's not even the same person doing words and music. At least when you're doing both yourself you can tell the lyric writer when to get off their tone-deaf high horse or the music writer to pay some attention to what the words are trying to say for once.

I'm a poet, and I start with words more often than I start with music, but since I'm a poet, the words are already forming music even if I'm not intending to use them in a song and only on paper. I have this theory about poets who share my approach (even unconsciously) that we tend to think musically as we write poetry, our thoughts already have measured lengths, refrains, call-and-response, timbral contrasts, breath awareness, and so on. Obviously this applies to song lyrics, which are just a particular form of poetry, but there you are even more likely to tap into this word/music type of composition.

As some have already said above, you're working it creatively, that the process....

I agree with this assessment and generally fit into this category. This concept could be expanded to an entire essay.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 05-09-2019, 12:52 PM
KevWind KevWind is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Edge of Wilderness Wyoming
Posts: 11,110
Default

For me having played covers for years and years before seriously trying to write my own.

Most of the time 90 +% I start by noodling a chord progression first .Which does two things for me .
One it suggests the melody line
Two the way the music feels to me usually helps suggest the lyric content.
The other thing I have been trying to get into more is developing a melody first.

But I have yet to develop the lyrics first and then attempt to write music to that (which is perfectly valid but something I have yet to accomplish)

And to get back to "Prosody" beyond cadence syllabic and tempo etc., in music it is also very much tied to "the feeling" of both the music and the feeling suggested by the meaning within in the lyrics as well.

And the another aspect of great songwriting is that universal application that the listener can absorb identify with in a personal way.

And lastly as there is a songwriters truism (not absolute) but in general which is ........... better to show, than tell..................
__________________
" Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding." Albert Einstein
Enjoy the Journey.... Kev...


KevWind at Soundcloud
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 05-26-2019, 10:45 PM
pjroberts pjroberts is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Napa, California
Posts: 2,200
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by srick View Post
Yes - I have been a member (of Truefire) for several years. It's hard to pigeonhole the site because they try to be all things to all people. In some ways, I really like their style, and in some ways, I don't. The lessons are reasonably priced and frequently on sale. (In fact, there is a sale going on now)

Perhaps my biggest issue with Truefire is that there is too much material and I only have so much time to figure out where to go. But I will reiterate that I really have enjoyed the Ellis Paul songwriting lessons. Regardless of how much meat was actually there (within the lesson), it got my creative juices flowing and that was the point!

best,

Rick
Truefire had a huge catalog, so much that’s it’s sometimes hard to find the right course ... wish hey had a better community rating and comments system in place. But there are many great courses and instructors.

I have the Ellis Paul course and also subscribed to his “channel”. Though I do enjoy it, you’re right about the overly touchy feely aspect, and frankly kind of redundant — sometimes I wish he would just get to the point. I am going to go back to that now — I’m having same challenges as OP, with some really strong partial concepts going on the music and melody side, and the lyric side, but hitting walls bringing them together coherently. I will clear my mind and try out E Paul again.

This is a great thread topic ... appreciate the discussion.
__________________


martin D-28A '37 | D-18 | SCGC H13 | gibson SJ-200
taylor 814ce | GS Mini Holden | goodall RP14

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 05-27-2019, 09:56 AM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 1,369
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deliberate1 View Post
Frank, is there not more to that story....
I take your point about he shared DNA between lyrics and melody, though had never cogitated on it. I am not a poet. But I appreciate that some poetic devices share musical roots. I reached back deep in my memory to Longfellow's Village Blacksmith poem which I learned as a third grader. I suspect I could bang out a tune to fit that iambic metering in short order. A Pilgrim's Progress would take a bit more effort.
Cheers.
D
Yes, Longfellow's shorter poems are easy to set to music, as are Emily Dickinson's (who often wrote in hymn/ballad measure) or William Blake. What may be more unexpected is that some free verse sings/works with music easier than you might expect.

Like T. S. Eliot at his most bleak in "The Waste Land"

To Carthage then I Came

Or Carl Sandburg being Whitmanesque

Smoke and Steel

And here's Longfellow, who of course isn't free verse, sung (well, sung as well as I can sing anyway)


It is Not Always May


Anyway, in my current project it's fun to take a break from writing the words and the music, and even given the limits of my voice, to figure out how to sing or otherwise present the words of others.
__________________
Parlando - Where Music and Words Meet
-----------------------------------
20th Century Seagull S6-12, S6 Folk, Seagull M6
'00 Guild JF30-12, '01 Martin 00-15, '07 Parkwood PW510
Epiphone Biscuit resonator, Merlin Dulcimer, and various electric guitars, basses....
Reply With Quote
Reply

  The Acoustic Guitar Forum > General Acoustic Guitar and Amplification Discussion > PLAY and Write

Thread Tools



All times are GMT -6. The time now is 09:34 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, The Acoustic Guitar Forum
vB Ad Management by =RedTyger=