SSG Year 10 - Week 1
It's back (AGAIN)
GENTLEMEN, (and ladies), SHARPEN YOUR PENCILS.
Welcome to Week 1. Of the tenth year of the Sunday Songwriters' Group.
We'll use our very first assignment from SSG Year 1 as our topic guideline for this week:
THE OLD WILD WEST
You have two options:
1. Make the Wild West the subject/theme of your song
2. Make your song about anything, but all the imagery must be Wild West related.
I'm going to post my original as an example, but please complete your song prior to critiquing mine.
When you post your work, please use the following subject line format
Thanks, good luck and good writing!
And if you're new to the SSG, welcome aboard! If you haven't read my article for beginners, click the link at the bottom and read it before you start. It will help. I guarantee it.
SSG Year 10 - Week 2
over breakfast this morning,( with David at Mom's diner) we came up with this assignment. We were talking about the qualities that make Bruce Springsteen songs so easy to identify with and came up with this:
this week you are only allowed to describe actions or objects in your song. you are like a reporter or a court room artist. you may not comment on the objects or actions beyond describing them. make sure your descriptions are objective and specific AND come from your point of view.
"the screen door slams. Mary's dress waves, like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays"
Good luck and good writing.
SSG Year 10 - Week 3
As David and I have discovered over the past two idiot's guide books, there are a lot of good public domain songs out there: After the Ball, In the Pines, St. James Infirmary, Hard Times Come Again No More, even Red River Valley and Shine On Harvest Moon. Even the ones you think would drive you crazy can be done well with your own arrangement. We came to the conclusion there must be a reason they've been around so long.
Your task this week, is to take a public domain song and make it your own. Do a complete re-write, ripping off the structure, rhyme scheme, etc. You can change the content to whatever you wish.
Don't tell us the original song when you post yours.
I'm off to post my lyrics for last week and finish critiquing. Good luck.
SSG Year 10 - Week 4
We all know how important the title or hook line is in a song. Well we aren't the only ones who have to think about it. Playwrights do too. This week's assignment relieves a bit of that struggle by giving you the hook in advance. Don't thank me, Thank Tennessee Williams. This week you are to write a song using the title of one of his plays as your title and hook.
I also want you to try to stick to the Springsteenishness that we had a couple of weeks ago. As much as you can, describe the scene in vivid detail. Maybe Springsteen isn't right when talking literature, go all Steinbecky instead if that helps.
Here's the wiki page with all of his plays:
Good luck and good writing
SSG Year 10 - Week 5
A couple of weeks back we did one of my favorite songwriters, this week lets imitate one of yours. I really want you to copy their style as much as you can, almost like a Mad Lib fill in the blank, swap the word exercise. Why? So you can see exactly how they peddle their craft, how they make their songs work, how they lure you in as a listener. The point isn't to write like someone else, it's to discover their style and maybe find out something about your own in the process.
If your favorite songwriter is an instrumentalist, sorry about that, go with your second favorite.
Good luck and good writing
SSG Year 10 - Week 6
Really cool songs from last week. I think we had some keepers that should show up in set lists soon.
This week, in the immortal words of Dewey Cox "Let's Duet"
Write a song with two perspectives, it doesn't have to be male and female, it doesn't have to be about love or cheatin' or what have you. Just write it so two different people sing it.
Try to keep in mind what we've been working on, robust imagery and good consistent story telling.
SSG Year 10 - Week 7
59th Street Bridge song
Positively 4th Street
Highway 61 Revisited
Blue Jay Way
Can you guess the topic this week? Use more imagery than you think you need, use that Thesaurus and Rhyming Dictionary, steal from your favorite artist but make it yours. Good luck.
If you really need help figuring this one out, send me a PM.
SSG Year 10 - Weeks 8 & 9
* with everyone out for Christmas, and now with New Years coming up, let's extend this one a week. If you've done one, do another. Good luck everyone.
It's the most wonderful time of the year, unless of course you are trying to find time to write a song. With that in mind this week, (with David's help) we present:
What you'll need:
A basic idea of what you want to sing about, to whom, and where. Yes all three.
And that's it.
Now simply replace the lines below with your lyrics and repeat for as many verses as you need. As an added bonus, if you act now you only need ONE chorus. Shipping and handling extra.
Line 1 - an object in your song scene in action (ie pencil snaps, picture frame shatters, curtain billows, etc.)
Line 2 - another object in the scene in action
Line 3 - use a metaphor to describe either above (assuming you used pencil for the second line, breaking the silence like the crack of thin ice)
Line 4 - identify something you see or hear
Line 5 - your connection to the line above (reminds me of what you've done to my heart. Hey come on, this is an example.)
Line 6 - repeat "Line 3"
Line 1 - repeat "Line 3"
Line 2 - active personal involvement with original scene
Line 3 - potential listener's response to Chorus Line 2
Line 4 - repeat "Line 3"
SSG Year 10 - Week 10
The number one item in my first article on songwriting is "Be on the lookout for things to write about everyday." This weeks assignment is to write a song describing the environment in which you are reading this post.
SSG Year 10 - Week 11
Axis of Awesome says you only need four chords
Have a look at the video and write your own song that can fit in.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gvx9aFq ... re=related
SSG Year 10 - Week 12
And now for something completely different:
Do you have a snippet of song floating around that you haven't finished? I want everyone to record a riff, a chord progression, a finger picked section, or a melody line and post it somewhere we can all have a listen. Post the link here. The recording can suck. Your playing needn't be flawless, believe me we'll all feel better if you don't play perfectly. You can play it on guitar, uke, piano, accordion, comb and tissue paper, whatever helps you get the idea across.
Next week, after we have all the pieces assembled, we'll all pick one we like and write to it.
I'll start it off with this piece that never went anywhere. I recorded the original idea and sent it up to David, who modified it to fit a conventional song structure and played it infinitely better than I. I think it's in DADGAD. This song is relatively complete, or at least long, but if you have 30 seconds of something, that's fine too. Please don't feel the need to put together something complete. We just want musical ideas.
I don't remember why it's called Tsunami. Oh wait, yes I do, it was going to be a benefit song for the Tsunami victims, it wasn't going to be called that when it was finished.
Have a listen:
SSG Year 10 - Week 13
This week, an assignment you can really sink your teeth into. Write a song, any style, full of imagery about your last dentist office visit.
I'm still working on last week. You should too if you have something halfway done.
SSG Year 10 - Week 14
This week, an assignment you can really sink your teeth into. Write a song, any style, full of imagery about your last dentist office visit.
I'm still working on last week. You should too if you have something halfway done.
SSG Year 10 - Week 15
This week we are going to work on internal rhyme in an ode to your favorite sports team, player or event.
What is internal rhyme? Uhh, it's where you rhyme internally, you know, inside the line instead of at the end...like in this Taylor Swift song.
I'm alone, on my own, and that's all I know
I'll be strong, I'll be wrong, oh but life goes on
I'm just a girl, trying to find a place in
Okay, okay, so I just googled internal rhyme to find an example. I haven't heard that song either. Since this is an exercise, let's go heavy on the internal rhyme for this song.
SSG Year 10 - Week 16
This week we want a bunch of titles, or hook lines, nothing else. We are going to walk through song creation beginning to end in short little segments. Maybe this will get me out of my songwriting funk.
SSG Year 10 - Week 17
This week, take two or three ideas of last weeks ideas, (if you'd like to use someone else's drop them a pm and ask), and write about who, where, what, when.
What happened immediately before?
What's about to happen?
Who is there?
Why is this happening?
Don't rhyme, don't judge yourself, just put in as many details as you can. If it helps to quantify the volume of detail you are shooting for, if you were writing a song you'd write 3-4 verses and a chorus, so put down at least twice that much detail volume word wise. Just details, no structure, nothing else but details.
On second thought, if you don't mind anyone using your ideas, just reply below and give the go ahead.
By the way, it isn't too late to join in now. Get a couple of ideas, or borrow a couple and start the detail ideas flowing.
Thanks and good writing.
SSG Year 10 - Week 18 & 19
Everyone did such great work up to last week. What happened to you all? Well I'm not giving up on you. For those of you who finished last weeks task, excellent work. For the majority who didn't, we are extending last weeks assignment through this week.
Come on now, the hard work is mostly done. Get those rhymes and synonyms and lets finish this thing. You'll be happy you did.
Here's last weeks assignment again:
Wow! What a great response this past couple of weeks has seen. There are some great ideas and detail out there.
This week, we are going to take another little step or two
First we want to use the handy dandy thesaurus and/or rhyming dictionary
Read over your stuff and put the central ideas and images in both the rhymer and thesaurus. Post the rhyming words, add any new ideas the thesaurus gives you. Start thinking about clever turns of phrase or couplets, but DON"T WRITE THE SONG. Anything else you come up with is fair game and post it. YOU ARE NOT IN ANYWAY OBLIGATED TO USE THE RHYMES OR WORDS FROM THE THESAURUS, just post them.
The idea this week is we are loading up our sonic palette of words and tone and coloring for the final song painting. We don't want to go beyond that though. We don't want to judge the value of the words yet as we haven't thought about storyline or structure. Be patient, two more weeks and I think we'll be done.
Good luck and good painting.
SSG Year 10 - Week 20
And here it is, let's put it all togther. Read over your past weeks stuff, but only read it over. Don't give it too much weight. The stuff in there is for reference, to spark something, it isn't what you are writing about. You are writing about the original thing that moved you. The rest is stuff for your imagination, to help you when you get stuck.
If you haven't played along so far, either catch up or use someone else's topics. Don't worry, your song will be competely different than anything they would write anyway.
Good luck and good writing.
SSG Year 10 - Week 21
Hello to all and welcome to the final assignment of Year 6 at the SSG!
It is my honor to announce that, beginning next Sunday (Year 7, Week 1 of the SSG), Vic Lewis will be taking over as the leader of the Sunday Songwriters' Group. As I'm sure he'll tell you himself, Vic's very excited about this and has put together a lot of ideas to for everyone to look forward to.
I'd like to tell you all thank you. Thank you for participating and making the SSG work. In the end it's about who contributes - whether it's songs or lyrics or music or critiques or ideas. That's what makes the SSG worth the effort. I thank you all, not to mention Ryan, Nick and Bob and everyone who's participated over the past six years for sharing your music and for making me a better songwriter with your suggestions and critiques.
So, for this week, you get a line:
It's time for me to go now
You can start with it, end with it, use it as a chorus - your choice. As always, have fun with it and I look forward to reading and hearing what you come up with.
Not to add to your work, but if you happen to have the time (and haven't already done so), please take a moment to discuss your thoughts as to how things went for Year 6 of the SSG in this thread:
It's been my pleasure to work with you all this past year, not to mention it being a lot of fun. Thanks for having me! And, not to worry, I'll still be hanging around, writing and critiquing whenever possible.
PS: Even though this is the last week of SSG Year 6, you still should all feel free to participate on any assignment here at the Sunday Songwriters Group. In case you've missed one, or simply want to catch up or you'd just like an idea or two to work on, here is a list of our previous SSG assignments for the past year:
Again, apologies that this is a little later than normal. Took a lot longer to set up than I'd planned.
Much of my focus this year was on trying to stress the "song" aspect of songwriting. And this next-to-last assignment of Year 6 of the Sunday Songwriters' Group is meant to hammer the point home. This week we're going to look at how a lot of bands handle songwriting, which is by having the musical members come up with the skeleton of a song and then having the singer come up with the lyrics and melody.
I've taken the liberty of providing you with a band. On my Soundclick page:
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_mu ... dID=306627
you will find four tracks labelled "SSG Week 51." Your task is to pick any of the four examples and come up with a song based around how the music makes you want to write. You don't have to use these as backing tracks (they are too short! ), simply think of this as a starting point, something to give you inspiration. Of course, if you really like a particular track and want to use it, let me know and I'll give you the chord progression.
Hope you have fun with this! I look forward to reading and hearing what you come up with.
Sorry this post is so late. Played in FODfest on Friday and then spent all of yesterday playing with some friends at a party in New Jersey that didn't close down until two in the morning. Then spent all day today driving back here. Should have posted this on Thursday!
Anyway. this week, in case you hadn't guessed, the assignment is to take one of the verses from Week 49 (one that you hadn't written or written the first line for in Week 48) and make a complete song. If you're going to go with one that already has music with it, get hold of the writer from last week and (a) get permission and (b) get a chord chart.
And don't sit out just because you've not taken part in the last two weeks! There are more than plenty of ideas to go around. You can even post some new opening lines and new first verses if you so desire.
Okay, this week, you want to take any five lines from those you didn't write (meaning someone else's lines) that you thought interesting or intriguing or just fun. Your job is to write a first verse of a song for each of those five lines. In other words, you should have five different first verses. You have a limit of eight lines for your verses. Minimum of three or four lines.
Also, if at all possible, try to use five different "first line authors." In other words, don't use all five of mine. Spread your creativity around.
But wait, there's more! For those of you who have recording equipment, there is an additional bonus assignment. I want you to also come up with a melody and chord progression for at least one of the verses that you've come up with.
Okay, we're winding down toward the end of another year of SSG. Traditionally, we've tended to end our years with a series of assignments geared toward building a song by parts. One week we'll suggest a title, then we'll come up with choruses, then verses, and so on.
We're going to kind of do the same thing here with SSG Year 6, but with a few slight twists. This week, I'd like everyone to come up with an opening line. Several opening lines, in fact. At least three, but five would be optimal.
And get yourself geared up for some more collaborative efforts. Get that recording gear dusted off.
Okay, let's see if I can explain this in one take:
One thing that I hope I've been getting across this year is the whole idea that we are here to write songs. Or to at least get something going that will become a song. And, as we're all aware, the key thing (no pun intended) that makes most songs songs is that they are musical. So we're going to spend a few of our last weeks kind of focusing on that.
As mentioned, songs are, well, sung. Melodies are important. There are any number of songs where this becomes incredibly obvious, because if you were to simply read the lyrics, you'd be a bit dumbfounded as to what was going on, because the songwriter included a bunch of "nonsense syllables" that were simply meant to be sung in order to take up space. Two prime examples would be Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl and Psycho Killer by Talking Heads. The chorus of Paul Simon's Mrs. Robinson would be another example.
So what I'd like to try this week is to come up with a song, topic and style are totally your own choice, but I'd like you to include some "nonsense syllables." The plan here is to get you working on the focus of melody and rhythm. Not every line of a song has to be crammed with lyrics. Just as in solos, space is important.
You'll have to forgive this being a little later than normal. I just got in from being in Nashville since Wednesday, so it goes without saying I'm a bit behind on things. From here I'm off to finish tomorrow's podcast and then to finish off tomorrow's newsletter as well.
Now, it would be easy to make this week's assignment "write a country-style song," but instead I'm going to use another event as inspiration.
Tomorrow, as it happens to turn out, I am having Guitar Noise Moderator Alan Green as a house guest for a few days. Surprisingly, this isn't the first time I've met Alan. He was in New York on a business trip some while back and we managed to arrange our schedules so we could get together during some of his free time during the stay. Great guy, lots of fun to meet and to talk to and to get to know better.
All of this is a (very) roundabout way of introducing this week's topic: Write about a first-time meeting. Narrator can be first or third person. Meeting can be between people (fictional or historic), between people and things (objects or even ideas, such as "John and his first cigarette") or between things (Western civilization meets East, grunge meets country). Your choice.
This week you get a choice! I know that some people are "music first" songwriters and some are "lyric first," so my thought was to give you a nudge in both directions. You can either:
(A) Make use of a suggestion from Ken:
We've done this sort of thing before. If memory serves me correctly, Nick introduced it in the very first year of the Sunday Songwriters' Group. If you go with this choice, please post (if possible) a link to the picture that inspired you.kenrogers2 wrote:One suggestion for a topic I thought might be enjoyed by the participants is to have them post a picture of their choosing (or of your choosing) and then write lyrics based on the picture.
(B) I'm basing this idea on my belief that most of you write songs with the aid of a guitar. So, in order to give you a new place to start, use an alternate tuning before you start noodling around with your music. Any alternate or open tuning is fair game provided you have not used it before in other of your original material. So Open G is out for you, Vic! You might try DADGAD or even something as elegantly simple as EADF#BE.
Of course, you can certainly do both options! Who am I to stand in the path of creativity?
Another SSG assignment courtesy of the fertile mind of Vic Lewis. This week were going to put the spotlight on a "minor character" or "cameo appearance." The object is to come up with a song lyric either told from the viewpoint of a relatively minor fictional character or a story about said character. "Fictional" means that you can take your character from books, television, movies or even another song.
To put it in Vic's own words:
This should be a lot of fun this week, if only to read where you're getting your inspirations from.Vic Lewis VL wrote:You know I'm a big Stephen King fan - I read, nay, devour, everything he writes...
There's a story in the book, "Nightmares & Dreamscapes," called The Night Flier where SK takes a minor character from a previous story and gives him his own story... the character was Rick Dees, the journalist from "The Dead Zone" who Johnny throws off the porch. He's in the book (and film) for about five minutes.....
So I thought it might be an idea to take a minor character from a book or film and write a song around him/her.....?
Okay, I'm not sure this is going to work, but let's give it a try anyway. It's kind of inspired by something we used to do when younger and bored, so please bear with me. It's all about giving yourself over to chance.
Here's "Part 1:"
I'd like you to get some coins - a relatively fair amount that you can put in a pocket or a tin can or hat or something of that nature. Pull one coin out of the pile and read the date, the year that this particular coin was minted. Think of some event that happened to you (or a world event if you prefer) during that year and write a song about it.
Oh, and then spend the coins in whatever way you see fit!
If you're not thrilled about this, or if you consistently pull out a coin that's older than you are, you can try this "pull a rabbit out of a hat" approach in any number of ways:
1) Randomly pick a name from your address book (or email list)
2) Close your eyes and select a piece of paper, book, or any object from your desk or even your laundry basket!
3) Open a book at random, stab your finger onto a page and use whatever word (or even a full sentence) as your starting place
4) Call or email a friend and ask him or her to give you the occupation of the last person he or she talked with
5) Select a CD at random (or use your iPod) and use the title of the fifth song that plays
As you can see, there are lots of ways that you can generate a "random selection" topic. And (because this is, after all, supposed to stimulate our thinking in regard to song lyrics), "Part 2" of this week's assignment is to come up with other ways of coming up with a topic at random and then sharing this with the group. There'll be a thread dedicated specifically to "Week 43, Part 2" for you to chime in on.
Romeo and Juliet, Bogie and Becall, Batman and Robin, Frankie and Johnnie, Pancho and Lefty, Magneto and Titanium Man
This week, in case you haven't gotten it already, your assignment is to write about a couple. Real life or fictional, your choice.
Have fun and I look forward to reading what you come up with.
PS: You should all feel free to participate on any assignment here at the Sunday Songwriters Group. In case you've missed one, or simply want to catch up or you'd just like an idea or two to work on, here is a list of our previous SSG assignments:
The signs are all around us. Or rather, signs are all around us. Maybe it was just driving to Chicago and then to Quebec City and finally back here that put this into my head, or maybe it's just that the earworm du jour (week, actually, but who has "earworm du semaine?") has been Signs by the Five Man Electrical Band. Who knows?
Your assignment this week is to use a sign as a starting place or focal point of your song lyric. Any sign will do - street signs, motoring instructions, friendly information on your mass transit of choice, even billboards and signs in shops. You need only one, but use multiple signs if you so desire.
Something I hear a lot as a teacher is the phrase "I used to," as in "I used to practice, but why bother?" or "I used to play guitar but..."
But the phrase "I used to..." doesn't have to carry sad connotations with it. "I used to be unhappy" "I used to love her but it's all over now" I used to weigh seven hundred pounds"
The main thing about the phrase, especially to us as songwriters, is that its very nature evokes two states of being - a "before" and a "now." And that's what I want you to explore this week - the now and then aspect of "I used to..."
Man, I hope this makes sense! I used to be better at explaining things...
Looking forward to reading what you come up with! And watch out for the "chain letter lyric" making its way around!
WEEKS 38 & 39
Next weekend, I'll be at the 2008 Riverside Jam, playing music with old and new friends until the cows come home, as they say. So we'll be working on a two-part assignment for this week and the next. You can do it all at once, but why not pace yourselves and work things out over the whole two weeks?
The idea is about vacations, or going on holidays. And, to make it more interesting, I'd like to incorporate an idea that I got from Vic just this morning:
So, here's the plan:Vic Lewis VL wrote:Hi David,
I was reading an old Stephen King novel last night - Cujo - when it hit me just how many of SK's books - and short stories - have been set in his fictional town of Castle Rock. So I got to thinking - maybe for a future SSG assignment, we could write a song around a town created by a favourite writer? Maybe King's Castle Rock, or James Mitchener's Centennial, or R D Wingfield's Denton (as featured in the British TV series, "A Touch Of Frost" or even the universe in which The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres co-exist, linked by the appearance of the characters Uncle Joe Carson (played by Edgar Buchanan) and "Dog" (played by the dog actor Higgins) in all three series.
Just a thought, but it might throw out some interesting songs, and at the very least, highlight some previously unknown authors....
For Week 38, you are a tourist, or someone taking a vacation or holiday, but instead of one of the usual vacation spots, you've gone on holiday to a fictional one. Maybe you've gone to Gilligan's Island, maybe you've landed in Narnia. Maybe you've somehow ended up in "The Village" and found yourself having a spot of tea with Number 6. Wherever. Chat up the locals and write a song telling us about your trip.
For Week 39, reverse the narrative. This time out, you're a local of some fictional location and you can either write about some strangers who've just come through town or simply chat about what life's like in general where you live. Bonus points if you write a Week 39 lyrical narrative using a location that some other SSG person wrote about in Week 38.
In the meantime, think some kind thoughts about middle aged bald guys driving from Massachusetts to Chicago and then back (via Quebec City of all things!). I look forward to reading what you've all done when I get back home to a computer!
A bit of an "interactive" week again, so you might want to get started early. I think I might call this one a "Scavenger Hunt..."
FIrst, you need to contact three Guitar Noise Forum members via the PM system. Ideally, you want these to be folks that participate as writers in the SSG (past or present), but anyone who participates in the GN Forum will do (although you're going to have to explain what's going on).
Second, you want each of the three contacts to give you either a word or a phrase. So, when you you're done with this step, you will have either three words, three phrases, or some combination of words or phrases.
Third, write a song using what you've collected. You saw that part coming a mile away, right?
Have fun! I look forward to seeing what you come up with. And be sure to credit your sources!
In the very recent past, not to mention this very week, some friends of mine have either moved or are moving. Totally picking up and relocated to a new town, new job, new house, new life. No pun intended, but there's a lot of baggage one carries around with the prospect of making a move. What do you leave behind, what do you take, will you ever find a restaurant that's as good as the one you're leaving.
Your assignment this week is to look at only one aspect of the many you can pick from and go with it.
This week we're visiting a form of communication that may be extinct in our lifetime - the old fashioned, hand-written letter. Your assignment is to write a song lyric in the form of a letter. It doesn't have to be from you to someone, the narrator (as well as the recipient) can be fictional. Writing postcards, greeting cards of any sort (birthday, happy anniversary, sympathy, etc.,), business memos or, for those of you who may have never written any kind of note before, emails can serve as well.
And I have to go on record by stating that sometimes the psychic abilities of the SSG forum astounds me...
The best of luck with this! I look forward to seeing what you all come up with. And don't forget that you can still make suggestions for other SSG writers in the "Week 34 - Part Two" thread in the Announcement section of our SSG page.
We've got a two-fold assignment this week, so let's get right to it:
Our regular writing assignment is to examine our every day lives. We want a song that explores the day-to-day routine of things, either as an overview (think Synchronicity II by the Police or the Kinks' Well Respected Man) or looking at a specific part of ordinary life (and the best example running in my head right now is an old SSG assignment by Kathy Reichert called Monday Morning - even the title puts you right into a specific part of life). Have fun!
Vic and Ken came up with great ideas last week by making suggestions for each other in regard to musical styles or an artist that the SSG writer might write a song for.
This week I'd like you to post any suggestion along the same lines in this thread:
So you might post that Straycat write a Tin Pan Alley style song or that Ken write a hymn. The idea is to give the writers ideas in order to help get them to step outside of their normal realm of songwriting comfort. Do feel free to make (many) multiple suggestions.
If you are a writer who doesn't get a suggestion, don't be shy about asking for input. I'm going to!
Writers, your job is to take these suggestions and to consider them seriously and see if they stir up any ideas. If you want to get started on a song, go for it. The finished song is still going to be a ways down the road, but it doesn't hurt to get a head start!
About three months ago, I asked you to write a song in the style of a fellow SSG writer and you all responded marvelously. This week, we're going to step "outside of ourselves" yet again, but in a different ('though hopefully not any less fun!) way.
It wasn't all that long ago (and is still the case in many places) where the songwriter was never the performer of a song. He or she would be hired out, either by an artist or by a company (recording, publishing or agent) to write a song for a particular artist.
So this week, consider yourselves hired! But (of course!) there's a catch! You've been hired, because of your incredible songwriting skills, to write a song for an artist whose musical style is about as far from yours as you can imagine. So Kathy, for instance, may be writing for the Clash, while Vic might be writing for Carrie Underwood. Chirs C. or Pbee could do a song
for Fall Out Boy and maybe Ken finds himself working for Dionne Warwick. Who knows?
The object here is to try to get way outside of your comfort zone, yet still come up with a song that works - both for you and your "employer." Choose your employer well, but have fun, too!
Continuing with the "it's all been done before" idea, this week's assignment is to come up with a song centered around a fictional character. Someone else's fictional character. You take a character from fiction, poetry, movies, folklore or mythology, or even someone else's song and center your song lyric around that character. Bonus points for writing in the first person (as that character).
Something that writers (of songs and of otherwise) tend to hear a lot is "it's been done before." It's especially true of song titles, not to mention titles in general. How many books, movies and television shows have copped their titles from songs?
This week, we're going to use this to our advantage. You can write about anything you'd like, but your title has to have been "done before." In other words, use the title of any movie, book, poem, television show or even another song as your own song title and see where it takes you.
Okay, we've had persons and places, so that leaves "things." Makes for a very broad range of possible topics, no?
So, to narrow things down a bit, try to have the "thing," the object you are focusing on, be part, a characteristic or even a possession of a person or a place. Your father's wallet, the cotton candy at Atlantic City, the chemicals in the Cuyahoga River (been done many times), the smile of your best friend, the silly ideas of a forum board moderator , that sort of thing.
I've been having trouble getting on the boards today, for some reason, so I better post while I have the chance!
This week we continue with nouns and move from "person" to "place." A number of my friends seem to be moving in the very near future and places, locations, the notion of "home" have all been subjects of many conversations. One friend is moving to a place called Middletown and doesn't that seem like a town in desperate need of a song about it?
So this week, write about a place. It can be a purely physical description or a story or a narrative of how a place makes you feel. There are certainly any number of precedents, from Penny Lane to Waterloo Sunset to Atlantic City to Texarkana. You can ever be a little more vague in your setting if you like, such as Dirty Old Town or The Bright Side of the Road. The main thing is to give your listener a sense that he or she has travelled to said place.
It's amazing how little things cause big amounts of annoyance. Not being able to "cut and paste," for instance. Or not having your computer up online for the better part of the day...
And here we are! You can blame this on my listening to a lot of Ray Davies music of late, but this week begins a three-part look at nouns. You remember nouns from your grammar school days, no? Person, place or thing? For Week 28, we'll work with "person." The object is to have a specific person be the subject of your song. You don't have to name the specific person, but I do want you to think of a specific individual (real or fictionalized) rather than a generalized sort. Think David Watts or The Continuing Saga of Bungalow Bill or even R.E.M's Man on the Moon.
My apologies for being a little late with this one. I've been enjoying the company of Kathy and John Reichert, as well as some other friends for the past few days. Kathy played a show at the Monterey General Store this past Friday night, which featured quite a number of songs that saw their origins as SSG assignments.
In addition to her own SSG material, Kathy also played a song of Nick's (One By One) and two from John ("the Celt") Roche - Time for Makin' Love and Do You Remember. You might remember the latter song as being John's contribution for Week 20. Kathy and John performed it as a lovely duet and it went over very well with the audience.
Not to wish a hex of Kathy, but we were talking about travel in general and the phrase "lost luggage" came up. I instantly thought, "That would make a great assignment." So, here it is. This week we want a song that explores the idea of "lost luggage." You can be literal or metaphoric, light or ominous. Your choice.
Let's get back on track with our weekly assignments by taking a look at how music affects us. Taking a look through some of the recent threads on the Opinions and Polls page, not to mention listening to a lot of Van Morrison of late, it strikes me that a single song can be as powerful a trigger of memory or emotion as a scent.
And that's what we want to try to do this week - write a song about hearing a specific song (using the title or a line of lyric in your lyrics) or artist. It can be the focus of the narrative or simply play a part in your overall lyric.
WEEKs 23, 24 & 25
Before moving on, I'd just like to thank you all for your participation, which has made the past few weeks been nothing short of amazing in terms of both individual work and group effort. As John ("the Celt") mentioned on the comment page, this is surely the SSG at its finest and you all should take a bow for making it all work.
I'm going to be off to Italy (Karen has a writers' conference) later this week and, if I'm lucky, I won't see a computer for the better part of three weeks. Now while I trust Charlie (my cat) to handle the April 15 newsletter, I'm not so certain he's up to the SSG duties as well.
So I'd like to give you an assignment that can be ongoing while I'm away. It's based in part on something Vic mentioned in the Week 21 - that of going through old ideas to bring a song finally to life. Just to give this project a name, let's call it "Rummaging Through the Attic." You could also call it "Group Writing 101."
The idea here is three fold:
(1) This week (Week 23) I'd like you to either go through your old notebooks or ideas of song and to post something that you started or had an idea for and never finished. It can be a title that never got lyrics, some lyrics that never fit in with another song but were too good to throw out, a chorus that had no verses, a bridge that joined nothing together. For those of you who might not have a "scrapbook" of old ideas, feel free to post up general ideas, from fragments to whole storylines.
(2) Once someone has posted something, take a look at it and see whether or not you
(a) have suggestions that might help the original poster finish it his or herself
(b) might have some material of your own that might work in a collaborative effort. If so, ask the original poster if the two of you might become a songwriting team (at least for this one song) and together post up the progressive work on the piece.
It is certainly conceivable that even more than two people might work together to get something to a final stage.
(3) Since this is a Songwriting workshop, let's not forget the musical aspect of this. Perhaps instead of lyrics, you've got some music in need of a melody or some lyrics. Post the music and see if you can work with someone for that. Likewise, if you see some lyrics that float your boat, ask the poster (plural if it's a group effort) if you can help them out with the music end of things.
The idea here is to see if we can't take some of the ideas that seem to have suffered a setback and turn them into actual songs through the efforts of a team. If you'd like, think of it as a natural extension of our Week 20 assignment.
Naturally, all of this coordinating is going to take time, so we've got three weeks to work with. Feel free to take part in as many collaborations as possible. And be sure to post your progress so that others can chime in. Who knows? Between everyone, we may get three to five albums worth of solid material!
Good luck with this! I am truly looking forward to seeing some great songs when I get back from Italy.
Be seeing you on the boards.
PS: You should all feel free to participate on any assignment here at the Sunday Songwriters Group. In case you've missed one, or simply want to catch up or you'd just like an idea or two to work on, here is a list of our previous SSG assignments:
Becuase it's only fair to give equal time to opposing candidates, this week we give the Devil his due. You can either write using ol' Nick as a character in the narrative (Friend of the Devil, The Devil Went Down to Georgia), narrator of the song (Sympathy for the Devil) or just bandy about the idea of evil and temptation in the world.
Maybe it's because it's Easter Sunday, or maybe (and much more likely) it's because of a few recent conversations I've had with some friends, but God, or at least the concept of a divine being, has been stomping about in my brain of late. So let's discuss God, or religion (or the lack of either if you prefer), and its role in the lives of everyday people like you and me.
Don't worry about making this some sort of epic piece. As is often quoted, "God is in the details," so feel free to work on a small scale. No pun intended.
As mentioned the past few weeks...
I have no idea how this will fly, but I think it could be a lot of fun. I was thinking a while back about the fact that most of us are used to the idea of the "singer / songwriter" - it's fairly entrenched in most of our lives. But it wasn't all that long ago that singers were rarely songwriters (and, yes, you can argue that that's not changed all that much! ) or that songwriters were much in the way of singers (and, yes... )dhodge wrote:I've got an idea for a future assignment that I think will be fun, but in order for it to work, you've got to be familiar with the styles of other writers here at the SSG. So do take some time to read (and hopefully critique) other member's offerings to the SSG. Even old assignments are good.
So what I thought was, how about if each of us posed as an "old time" songwriter this week? Your assignment is to write a song that you think would be perfect for the performing repertoire of another member of the SSG. A specific member. For instance, Vic can write a song for Paul ("pbee"), Trev ("Barnabus") can write a song for Jane ("pearlthekat"), Kathy can write a song for straycat, Lavadave can write one for the Celt...
I hope you get the idea. Obviously, you get to choose who you want to write for. Remember, the object is to try to write something that you think (a) would be a good song for the SSG member to perform because (b) it fits the style or genre or general fashion of that person's music or because (c) you just think it would be a great song for that person to sing.
I was talking this week with a friend who was interested in songwriting. He found the process, or rather the choices of processes, involved in writing to be a bit bewildering and overwhelming. "Where do I even start?" was a frequent theme in our conversation.
So, this week you're getting a specific place to start! Here's the opening line for your Week 19 song:
I was packing my bag when the phone rang...
After that, it's all yours! Let's see where you end up.
Maybe two years back, Bob had us write about promises. Let's delve into that topic a little deeper, if we may...
What is a promise? Sometimes it's actually an accepting of responsibility, such as "I promise to be good" or "I promise we'll get there on time." And sometimes, through circumstances, fate or whatever, promises or responsibilities are broken even though the promiser or person with the responsibility has done everything in his or her power to fufill the deed.
Of course, the person on the receiving end doesn't usually feel that way.
Okay, if you've lived through that long winded intro... This week I'd like you to explore a broken promise or a break down of responsibility from the viewpoint of the person who didn't make the promise. Could be the promotion that didn't come through. The bicycle you didn't get even though you got top marks in your class. The date that didn't show up...
I hope you get the drift. Have fun and I look forward to reading (and hearing) what you come up with.
This week's forecast is for songs about weather. Details right after the top news stories...
If you've been reading the newsletters, you'd know it always seems to be snowing or the middle of some kind of ice storm when I'm writing those things. It must have struck someone's nerve in the Southern Hemisphere, because I got a friendly note about the fact they are having one of the driest and hottest spells in ages in Western Australia. And my brother informs me that Chicago has seen more snow than since 1978 or so.
So let's talk about the weather. Many songs prominently feature weather in a literal sense (Rainy Night in Georgia, Was A Sunny Day, etc.,) while some are more in the weather-as-metaphor vane. Oops! I mean "vein" (I Can See Clearly Now, I Wish It Would Rain, etc.,)
A hearty thank you to Trevor ("BarnaBus RoX") for his post concerning the passing of Smoky Dawson, one of the bright lights of Australia's country music scene.
Reading the post, doing some more research on my own, and listening to some of Smoky's music put me in a cowboy frame of mind, so this week your task is to come up with a cowboy song. Big bonus points if the song subtly places the cowboy somewhere outside of the Western United States. After all, there are cowboys everywhere...
This Thursday, February 14, is Valentine's Day. And you can take that for an early warning if you need to...
But, if you haven't got the time (or funds) to wine and dine your better half / soul mate / prospective sleeping partner, you could wow him or her with a love song. This week's task is to write a love song and, as usual, there is a slight catch. You're not allowed to use the word "love" anywhere in the song.
Have fun! As always, I look forward to seeing what you come up with this week. And I'm also hoping that, despite a new sememster of group classes starting up on Thursday, I'll be able to start getting caught up with old assignments and critiques for past weeks as well.
Today is "Super Bowl Sunday" in America, which is when we think that the most important sports game in the universe is played. This is, of course, a laugh and a lie, but that's besides the point...
It could be agrued that what today truly represents is the acknowledgement that almost all of the huge technical developments in communication (telephone, radio, television and now computers) ultimately become tools and conduits of advertising. Kind of astonishing, really.
So this week, let's look at advertising. You can write a lyric about advertising in general, or just write a song about another topic and slyly and simply do a little "product placement" of your own - tossing in a name brand or a slogan. Who knows? Your lyric might hit some Account Executive's radar and you may find yourself asked if you'd like to sell the rights!
It's always tempting to go with "superstitions" as a topic whenever we get to this particular week. Go figure.
But thinking about some of the things mentioned in the various song lyrics and critiques of this past week's assignment (particularly from Vic), I'd like to explore superstitions on a broader range. Let's talk about free will versus fate. Do we make our own choices or is everything preordained, as in horoscopes. Use your own free will to take this topic wherever you'd like. Or, conversely, write the song you were meant to write this week.
I'm sure everyone knows the punch line for the old joke that starts "If I told you you had a heavenly body..."
This week we'll ditch the joke and concentrate on the "heavenly body" aspect. Any celestial form will do - stars, planets, asteroids, comets - simply use some cosmic matter as part of your lyric, preferably in a prominent role.
Okay, time to delve into your history books! This week I'd like you to write a song about a historical event. Could be relatively recent, could be a long, long, time ago, but it does have to be a documented historical event (so my discovery of fire, sadly undocumented by scholars, wouldn't work). For the sake of separating history from headlines, let's try to go with something at least twenty years past.
Having chosen your moment in history, I'd like you to also try to write from the point of view of someone involved in the event at the time. Here we can be a bit flexible - you can go for an actual person (such as Wilbur Wright, for instance, if we were writing about the first airplane flight) or a fictionalized account of someone who was there (a farmer looking up and seeing the Wright brothers' plane, for instance).
Remember that part of the beauty of this style of writing is that your narrator may not know of all the significance of what's going on. He or she is undoubtedly a biased reporter, but not a prescient one.
Pick a number, any number...
This week, I'd like to revisit an assignment that some of you might remember from previous years and that's to use a number as part of your theme. It can be small (One by U2, Two Hangmen by Mason Profitt, Three Marlenas by the Wallflowers) or it can be vast (40,000 Headmen by Traffic, 2,000 Light Years From Home by the Rolling Stones) and the topic, aside from the number, is totally up to you.
Not to mention, an early welcome to the Year 2008! And, bearing that in mind, let's get back to the second part of our "end of year" assignment, which is also kind of a beginning of year assignment...
This week, let's use the time-honored theme of "a new leaf" or a "clean sheet of paper" or a "fresh start" or any other metaphor for a fresh beginning you can think of. No points for bad puns like Carp Blanche (fish with white sauce that we were served last Monday night...)
You can write about a new year, a new job, a new relationship, whatever, but I'd like you to focus on the feelings of newness and anticipation.
"...we interrupt our current assignment to bring you this one..."
I want you to make someone a present for the holiday. We're going to give someone a song instead of a toy, but the idea is that your recipient will have just as much fun playing with the song as he or she would with the toy.
In the spirit of whatever holiday you choose to observe or choose not to observe this year, I'd like you to write a song for the kids. Not about, but for. Something that you think children would have a lot of fun singing. It doesn't have to be holiday oriented, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snow Man. It can be timeless in the classic style of Little Bunny Foo Foo or can appeal to both kids and adults as Puff the Magic Dragon.
First of a two-part, end-of-year assignment. I'd like you to look back at 2007 and focus on a single event. It could be a big news story or something personal or something that happened to what's-his-name-that-lives-two-streets-down-and-still-drives-that-old-rustbucket. And I'd like you to tell us about it in song.
At the close of SSG Year 5, we ran through some song title suggestions and one I liked a lot was Contradictions. Contradictions have been a staple of songwriting as far back as one might remember. Sometimes they can be direct (think Hello Goodbye from the Beatles) and comical (as in Oh Suzanna: "...it rained all night the day I left / the weather was so dry...) and sometimes very poignant ("...I was so much older than I'm younger than that now..."). Sometimes it can even be a little heavy handed ("maybe it's the best thing for you, but it's the worst thing for me" sort of line), so the trick will be to find a nice balance ("...I'm tired of being in love and being all alone...").
So this week, try to work a contradiction or two into your lyric or even in just your title. It can be something as simple as a phrase turned around, such as Hello Cruel World, as opposed to the stereotypical "Goodbye, cruel world," or Pleased to Meet Me. Again, as of late, topic is completely up to you.
It's the first of December as I write this (even though, technically, Sunday is December 2) and, for obvious reasons, the song A Long December seems to be playing around in my brain. We often use the proper names of months to evoke moods or feelings and that's what we want to focus on this week.
So write about anything you choose, but use any single month of the calendar year (doesn't have to be December - think November Rain) as part of your story or description.
So a guy walks into a bar...
That's the start of many a joke or story. You don't have to use the actual line, just come up with a song that could center around the man (or woman) who wanders into a bar or restaurant / drinking establishment of your choice. Since we're focusing on narration (in case you've forgotten! ), the idea is to have your narrator be one of the characters involved in the story or description. You can be said man or woman, his or her companion, a patron at the bar (think Lola by the Kinks) or the bartender, bouncer, wait person, or even the musical entertainment (a la Piano Man).
Every song has a narrator. But the narrator doesn't have to be the "I, me, mine" of the songwriter. Just as in writing fiction, the "point of view" or choice of narrator can lead a song into very interesting territory. The next few weeks we'll be examining and experimenting with both point of view and narrator choice.
For this week, I'd like you to write a song about anything. BUT you are to write strictly as observer. You are simply reporting facts of an incident that has occurred to someone else. No first person pronouns (unless you're writing a conversation that someone else has) and, as much as possible, no editorial bias from the narrator. Try to present your lyric as neutrally as possible. Let the description paint your picture. Think Richard Thompsons's 1952 Vincent Black Lightning or Hurricane by Dylan or Life In The Fastlane or Lyin' Eyes by the Eagles.
This week we're going to continue in our minimalist ways, only this time out our focus is on the chorus. The chorus is usually the core of our song (not to mention the part where you can get a lot of audience participation if you play it ), so we want this week's choruses to be prime examples of brevity and clarity.
You are welcome to write a song on any topic and any style / genre of your choosing, but what I'd like you to do is to have a chorus that is simply a single line repeated two, three or four times. Think along the lines of Sweet Home Alabama (twice), Leonard Cohen's Everybody Knows (three times) or Dylan's Knocking on Heaven's Door or Lou Reed's Sweet Jane (both prize winners with four repetitions and no other words).
We'll start in nice and easy as Tina Turner might say. But she'll also undoubtedly add "we never do anything nice and easy..."
As songwriters, we often work in a format that requires us to choose words carefully. They need to fit rhythm patterns and still make a good song. For folks like myself, who tend to go on and on (and on and on and on and on) about things, sometimes the hardest part of writing is being our own editor.
So here's the easy part - this week, write a blues song.
Here's the harder part - I'd like you to write a blues song in the traditional (or what we've come to think of as traditional) twelve bar blues format, such as in the song Before You Accuse Me. This means you get three lines of lyric per verse, which is really two lines since the second line should be a repeat of the first (on one with very slight variations from the first line).
And here's the real challenging bit - I'd like you to limit yourself to three verses, or four verses tops. Ideally, you'll sing two verses, do an instrumental, sing another verse, another instrumental and then the final verse (and this is just an example, don't worry about playing an instrumental if you post your song - of course, it would be nice to hear!). Bonus points if your final verse is the same as the opening verse.