Y9W44 Songwriting Notes

The Sunday Songwriters club is a stretching exercise for your mind. Arpeggios for the brain cells, so to speak. After all, writing is like playing - to get better, you have to practice.
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jamestoffee
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Y9W44 Songwriting Notes

Post by jamestoffee » August 29th, 2011, 4:41 am

>>>>>Friday and Saturday I'm out of town and not sure about Internet access.

>>>>>Thursday
:idea: Urban Legends from Silicon Valley -Ghosts in the Machine

:idea: Tried to parallel a story about 2 people fighting all night with taking a red eye flight

BMI#2 The Red Eye

http://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=11009422

Verse
It's late much too late
Both of us are still wide awake
It's a non-stop fight from here to daybreak
It's not over ‘til all the baggage is claimed

1/2 Chorus
Hey we're coming in on the red eye
Could someone pick us up?
We'll be there around sunrise
We've been up all night on the red eye

Verse
We're tired much too tired
We both shot off our mouths and misfired
We could try to be a bit nicer
We're pushy when we pull these all nighters

Chorus
Hey we're coming in on the red eye
Could someone pick us up?
We'll be there around sunrise

Strangers cry; lovers curse
It doesn't get much worse than the red eye
Cause there's no sleep on the red eye

Bridge
It's easy to spot those all night frequent flyers
Licking salty wounds; reapplying eyeliner

chorus

>>>>>>Wednesday
Well, I don't know if working on a song is the same as generating ideas for a song except that, as we know, having a topic and having an idea are not the same :roll: ....I have a topic to write about someone not being able to sleep.......so most of my ideas for today on focused on that topic
:idea:
it's late much too late
for both of us to be awake
but we won't stop in San Jose
It's not a chance I'm willing to take
that would be a big, big mistake
...............now I have to figure out why the singer is driving in the middle of the night and avoiding San Jose :?
:idea:
One hand on the wheel
One hand out the window
One shot's all it takes to make a wife a widow
...........could be about a drive by shooting or a car ride after something bad went down earlier that day
:idea:
I dream of sleeping only when I'm awake
:idea:
I can't get no -scientific word for sleep-
:idea:
They didn't build a bed in the driver's seat
:idea:
grave yard shift
:idea:
can't sleep when you're dead
:idea:
animal that never sleeps-toad
:idea:
google side effects of sleep deprivation
:idea:
Song title I'm (still) awake
:idea:
I can't sleep with you
:idea:
the city sleeps but not us
:idea:
they would given in to you
they would do anything you say to
but sleep
:idea:
4am knows all my secrets
:idea:
i could fall fall in love with you
i could could dream dream of all the things we'll do
but i cant fall to sleep

>>>>>Tuesday
:idea: Write a song about Ned Kelly
:idea: Song Title: Zig-zag
:idea: Song Title: Headphones in the dark
:idea: ….We all have our own ways of growing up and falling apart
:idea: Use a sermon outline for a song
:idea: Use book chapters as songs for a CD; use the chapter titles as song titles
:idea: Make a name ending in -iopolis or –iopolees….or some ancient Greek form
:idea: Use a sound in nature to map out a melody line
:idea: Write a pre-quel to a song already well-known. For example, “Who built the Hotel California?”
:idea: Write about an idiom or proverb from another culture; their cliché might sound fresh in the translation
:idea: Change a song titles from affirmative to negative For example “I want to dance with somebody”……change to “I don't want to dance with anybody/nobody”
:idea: Change the modifiers like “Always” to “Sometimes, Rarely, Never” For example “I will ALWAYS love you”….. “I will SOMETIMES love you”……….. “I will RARELY love you”…….. “I will NEVER love you”
:idea: Write letters upside down and make a new word….some will have to be recoded….For example “James” upside down can look like “Fewaz”…… “People love candy”…..”daodla jona geuph”
:idea: Dancers or dancing make a bold statement to others that says “Look at my body”….you have background music, and art on walls, but not often background dancers…..dancing seems to demand attention…..so song title “Look at my body!”
:idea: My grandmother has failing health at the moment. She was unable to remember things like the date, president, her children's names….so when the doctor left the room, she asked my aunt to make a “cheat sheet” of the family member names……like this was going to improve her health…..anyway the idea is “how to cheat death” or “5 Ways to Cheat Death”…..replace the number with any number that fits the song
:idea: Song title “Oxygen to the brain”……or replace Oxygen with another random noun. “Linda to the brain”…… “Shampoo to the brain”…… “Trunk to the brain”…… “Tugboat to the brain”……



>>>>>Monday
:idea: Write a song music first. Use the chord progression of the song to indicate what is happening in the material. For example the tonic- use words like "home" stable, solid, foundational......on the IV chord use a word to like "leaving"
going, on my way.......on the V chord or progression back to tonic, write about going back to home....etc.

:idea: Write an updated version to Ricky Nelsons: GARDEN PARTY

:idea: #1 Look over a submitted song critique and change the chorus to be more universal (Did it today :wink: )

Original Chorus
http://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=10993118
She was a friend to Buddha
Giving alms, making merit, praying in the street
A friend to Buddha

New/Revised Chorus(es):
http://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=10999013
Chorus
She was a friend to Buddha
To the world she was just one person
Oh Buddha

Chorus
He was a friend to Buddha
To the world he was just one person
To the world he was just one person
Oh Buddha

Chorus
‘Cause she was a friend to Buddha
To the world he was just one person
To the world he was just one person
But to her, he was the world
Oh Buddha

========Song critique at a BMI forum========
[#1] Aug 28, 2011, 03:13 PM

Hi Charles,

What an original, quirky, and interesting song. Thanks for writing it for the assignment.

You've got so many great original images here, and though I don't know you, I can tell; they could only come from you! I like that a lot. Let's look at what you did with the lyrics.

Verse
(HER) Face as weathered as the street; cracked and aged (I like adding her as we know its someone without having to think)
Burning incense at sunrise; patiently she waits
I saw the monks walk to her gate barefoot in orange robes
Dutifully they visit her; does faith like streets erode?

OK great, this verse ends with a question, I like that; it keeps me interested in what happens next…

Chorus
She was a friend to Buddha
Giving alms, making merit, praying in the street
A friend to Buddha

So to me, you lost 2 opportunities with the chorus as written by the decision you made:

1: to bring the whole world into your song as so many listeners wont understand “Making merit”

2: the chorus can also be helped by some twist at the end of it, (to foreshadow the meaning of the song- Slyly spelled out in the last line of the last chorus) also to add uniformity across each chorus so the song makes more sense.

Maybe something like:

She was a friend to Buddha
Giving alms, making merit, praying in the street
and Buddha's a friend of hers
but was/is Buddha a friend of hers?

(You might want to find another idea/word to replace street so you have more rhyming opportunities for the last line of the chorus)

My point is, that it's not enough to have these great verse images. They're unique but don't make us, the audience, dig hard for the meaning of why you wrote this song.

You opted not to say what connection you have to her as a subject, you elected to observed and speculate, which is fine, just spell this out.

What is the song about?
To me it's a cautionary tale. Get behind selling this to the listener as a cautionary tale, if you agree with that. Check out Ricky Nelsons: GARDEN PARTY lyrics…. though yours and his song are completely different, you might get some insights there.

It's important to understand what you're doing with the song and what the opportunities are with this subject.

Hope some of this is helpful, If you decide to re-write it, I'd look forward to hearing what you came up with. Fun work Charles, I dig it!

All the best,
Billy
Last edited by jamestoffee on September 1st, 2011, 7:13 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Y9W44 Songwriting Notes

Post by Chris C » August 30th, 2011, 12:11 am

Good grief James - how many parallel lives have you got going on? :shock:

I thought that reincarnation was sequential - but you seem to have multiple lives all happening at the same time. Are you Charles - or Billy - in another incarnation somewhere? And when do you find time to filter through all these ideas and turn them into something? Is there a James Toffee Discount Song Ideas Warehouse somewhere that you produce stock for?

I like this one:
….We all have our own ways of growing up and falling apart
My twist on it would be that I've reached the falling apart stage without getting around to the growing up part... :wink:

Lots of good ideas there. A mere notebook is not going to be enough... :D

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: Y9W44 Songwriting Notes

Post by jamestoffee » August 30th, 2011, 12:36 am

Hi Chris,
Chris C wrote:I thought that reincarnation was sequential
:lol: :lol: :lol: That's great!
Chris C wrote:Charles - or Billy -
I'm Charles :wink:....Billy gave the feedback :D
Chris C wrote:And when do you find time to filter through all these ideas and turn them into something?
Well, that's what I love about SSG. I forces me to focus and pin down at least one idea from start to finish.....and provides some feedback so it's not just Charles and me listening to the songs :wink:
Chris C wrote:Is there a James Toffee Discount Song Ideas Warehouse somewhere that you produce stock for?

That sound like a song in the making there :idea:
Chris C wrote:My twist on it would be that I've reached the falling apart stage without getting around to the growing up part... :wink:
Yes, very nice twist. :wink:

Thanks for the read and post,

James.....or Charles.....or jamestoffee....... :P

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Re: Y9W44 Songwriting Notes

Post by Chris C » September 2nd, 2011, 8:07 pm

Great lists of ideas there James. :)

Judging by the number of web sites and books that offer tips to songwriters on how to think up new ideas, it would seem that many people don't find it easy to turn the creative tap on. However, from looking at your posts above, I'm guessing that that's not your problem. :mrgreen:

In fact, if you do have a problem it might be that you sometimes find it hard to turn the ideas tap OFF for long enough to make a cup of tea before the kettle overflows! :wink:

Do you have any particular strategies that help you filter through all the ideas and help you concentrate on taking a particular strand through to completion? Or do you just go with whatever happens on the day? I don't seem to have much trouble cranking out ideas either, but I'm still looking for the best ways to manage the process in a way that gives a good end result over time. I know that if I start any song (an SSG assignment for instance) then there's no reason why it will all come together in a week, or any other set time frame. So I end up with a lot of things that didn't make it through to the record stage, or even to getting posted somewhere. Even those that did get that far could still do with a lot more additional work and polish.

The next fresh challenge is always very alluring, so fully completing the last job can often be put aside for later. But 'later' doesn't always seem to come..... You must have a huge swag of past songs and ideas by now, so do you revisit them or have any sort or related 'to do' lists around them? Or is it more about riding the current moment?

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: Y9W44 Songwriting Notes

Post by jamestoffee » September 3rd, 2011, 3:00 am

Chris C wrote:Judging by the number of web sites and books that offer tips to songwriters on how to think up new ideas, it would seem that many people don't find it easy to turn the creative tap on.
I've mentioned these before and they are not directly related to songwriting, but I think they influenced me in generating ideas. Edward de Bono's
Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step
Creativity Workout: 62 Exercises to Unlock Your Most Creative Ideas
Chris C wrote:Do you have any particular strategies that help you filter through all the ideas and help you concentrate on taking a particular strand through to completion?
This is what I like about the SSG assignments. It gives me a set focus time. I've often wondered where the stopping point is between pushing through with one idea or dropping it to try something else. I am still trying to find that balance, but basically I try different startup ideas; a lot of which Nick has been taking us through.
Chris C wrote:I don't seem to have much trouble cranking out ideas either, but I'm still looking for the best ways to manage the process in a way that gives a good end result over time.
I can relate. Here is again is what I like about SSG. It's forced me to experiment. A lot of Vic's challenges were things I never would have thought of and there were times I didn't really want to do assignments, but then I realized I was putting too many expectations on what the song would do for me. In other words, I would say, "If I am going to spend 20 hours on a song this week, I want it to be one I can use and sing in front of others"....but expectations like this were limitations....I found just doing it for the sake of doing it helped me be more productive b/c you can learn something from everything you write.....even if it's "I don't like this"....I know I'm preaching to the choir here a bit, Chris :wink: ...but maybe it's helpful to spell it out :roll:
Chris C wrote: I know that if I start any song (an SSG assignment for instance) then there's no reason why it will all come together in a week, or any other set time frame. So I end up with a lot of things that didn't make it through to the record stage, or even to getting posted somewhere. Even those that did get that far could still do with a lot more additional work and polish.
Nothing wrong with that....seems like that's in line with the purpose of this week (and maybe next week's assignment).....keep building up that library :wink:
Chris C wrote:You must have a huge swag of past songs and ideas by now, so do you revisit them or have any sort or related 'to do' lists around them? Or is it more about riding the current moment?
I don't really have a lot of unfinished work. I focus pretty hard on each assignment for it's own sake. If I finish early in the week, I tend to read about songwriting or home studio recording. Like you mentioned, it can be fairly easy to generate ideas, but identifying ideas that people will want listen to is the challenge :wink: On the other hand, I think we can expect too much of ourselves at times and need to just get it out there.

I was commenting to a co-worker how I like the weekly song challenges and hard it can be. He said, "It's only hard because your trying to say something" He was being tongue and cheek, but he also had a valid point. Sometimes I think if we don't lower our own filter of what we won't do b/c it's too simple or below our "standards" we can block ourselves.

Thanks for sharing your strengths of generating "e-conversations" and sharing your insights. :D

James

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Re: Y9W44 Songwriting Notes

Post by CitiZenNoir » September 4th, 2011, 7:22 am

Hey, James :D

I really like this one:
"it's late
much too late
for both of us to be awake
but we won't stop in San Jose
It's not a chance I'm willing to take

...............now I have to figure out why the singer is driving in the middle of the night and avoiding San Jose
"

I'm not so sure that you have to figure out why, or even tell us why.... but that's just me :wink:
I love mystery in lyrics. A scene setting without anything more to go on. It's sorta like looking through a book of snapshots.
I found that this drew me in, in a big way. And I felt that I wanted to hear more of the story, though not nec. the answers as to WHY he was where he was and why he wouldn't stop there.

I'm not sure why, but the R.E.M. song, Driver 8, immediately came to mind when I read this.

"And the train conductor says
"Take a break Driver 8, Driver 8 take a break
We can reach our destination, but we're still a ways away"
But we're still a ways away"

What's a 'Driver 8'? It must have something to do with trains, yeah?
Why have they been 'on their shift too long'?
Where are they going? And why do they feel such urgency in getting there?
If it's a train, what kind? Passenger train? Cargo train? Are they late? Is it a matter of life-and-death?
What year is it?

And what do the rest of the lyrics have to do with a train being in a rush?

"I saw a treehouse on the outskirts of the farm
The power lines have floaters so the airplanes won't get snagged
Bells are ringing through the town again,
Children look up, all they hear is sky-blue, bells ringing

Way to shield the hated heat
Way to put myself to sleep
Way to shield the hated heat
Way to put myself, my children to sleep

He piloted this song in a plane like that one
She is selling faith on the Go Tell crusade
Locomotive 8, Southern Crescent hear the bells ring again
Fields of wheat are lookin' thin"

See, you don't need to have all the answers spelled out :wink:
I might not understand it all, but it sure is a catchy tune :D

Ken
"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles

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Re: Y9W44 Songwriting Notes

Post by jamestoffee » September 4th, 2011, 9:08 pm

Hi Ken,
CitiZenNoir wrote: See, you don't need to have all the answers spelled out :wink:
I might not understand it all, but it sure is a catchy tune :D
Thanks for the read and the post. I'm glad you brought up this topic and thanks for the REM reference.

I agree not all the answers need to be spelled out in the song.
For me, I am lean more towards figuring it all out as the songwriter BUT that doesn't mean I feel it all has to be spelled out. That way if someone is looking for some meaning, it's there, but if they don't want to look deeply, they still enjoy a catchy tune, or if they come up with a different interpretation, that works too...but only if it wasn't do to bad writing on my part :wink: .

I haven't bought into either camp 100%.....and as songwriters, I don't think we should. I think we should experiment with many forms of lyrics and not limit ourselves....but I will say I'd prefer to have something to say (even if it's hidden) than to write (meaningless)....unless of course the purpose of the song was to be meaningless.....for the sake of being meaningless. :D

Here to, I am thinking there is a strong connection with vagueness of message/or meaning and concrete details and images.....in that sense, my hypothesis is even if the meaning is unclear or not there at all, if there are enough concrete images and details, the listener will still connect with the song....and fill in the gaps with their own life experiences.

Thanks again for the insights.

James

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Re: Y9W44 Songwriting Notes

Post by CitiZenNoir » September 5th, 2011, 10:56 am

Hey, James :D

James wrote:
"I am lean(ing) more towards figuring it all out as the songwriter BUT that doesn't mean I feel it all has to be spelled out."

Great point.
In my songs, I'm sure that close to NOBODY gets them. And as convoluted as they may seem, there IS a story behind them.
A story that I know. And that is how I choose to communicate that story, lyrically.

The trouble with me is, I find it amazingly difficult to write lyrics from the.... logical, the practical side of my mind....?
That part of my mind that can solve math problems, or read aloud. If I use that part to write with, it comes out rather silly and childish.

So, I access the part of my mind that is somewhere between the conscious and the sub-conscious. The closest I can come to describing where that is in the mind, is - You know how it is to be a passenger on, well, anything - Train, bus, car, plane....
And you find yourself daydreaming, or lost in deep thought....? It's a much different thought process than that of the mathematical mind. It's filled with hazy near-images that carry emotional associations with it. Not only is the brain used, but the heart becomes involved, and feelings are tapped.

So, you can probably now see why my lyrics are not so.... Mathematical and correct. They're more involved than that.
But it was something that happened to me, that I felt, and that cannot always be easily communicated to others in a non-linear fashion.

My writers block has to do with not being able to access that area at will, now.
I usually come up with an idea, or whatever I'm feeling at the time (cos I know I should be able to get to that and that it will be fresh). If it's solely a personal experience, than I just try and go to that daydreaming place and conjure up the images I need.
If it's an idea, then I have to research that idea. And then I let it gestate in my mind for a bit. And when I'm able to access it, I do.

The things I write, I never really think about the words. They just come to me and I write them down. But I have to be able to stay in that dreamland the whole time. Even for the re-write. It's almost like a fever that overcomes me. And everything external gets shut out. It's hard to sustain.
(Probably the most extreme case was with the song, Under My Pillow. I actually found myself in character, much like a method actor, I expect. This went on for a period of days).

James wrote:
"....even if the meaning is unclear or not there at all, if there are enough concrete images and details, the listener will still connect with the song....and fill in the gaps with their own life experiences."

Yeah, that's what I hope for with my stuff. I think I'm still missing it though.
It seems to me, that if you have a strong message, and vivid images in a snappy chorus, you can say whatever you want in the song :lol:

Give a listen to Elton John's, Someone Saved my Life Tonight.
What is the main body of the song about....? You can guess, mostly because of the fantastic chorus. It ties it all together. It gives meaning to the verses, even if they are a bit hazy.

Ken
"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles

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Re: Y9W44 Songwriting Notes

Post by jamestoffee » September 6th, 2011, 5:59 pm

CitiZenNoir wrote:See, you don't need to have all the answers spelled out :wink:
I might not understand it all, but it sure is a catchy tune :D
I just read an interview with Paul Simon. Look at his response to "Is that accurate?"
http://www.americansongwriter.com/2011/ ... -i-know/2/

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Re: Y9W44 Songwriting Notes

Post by John Sargent » September 7th, 2011, 8:02 am

jamestoffee wrote:I just read an interview with Paul Simon. Look at his response to "Is that accurate?"
http://www.americansongwriter.com/2011/ ... -i-know/2/
Yes, I think sometimes I work too hard at clarifying plot development. Maybe it's OK to let someone hear a song and determine for themselves what meanings it has.
Like "Boots of Spanish Leather" or "Abba-Dabba Honeymoon"

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Re: Y9W44 Songwriting Notes

Post by CitiZenNoir » September 7th, 2011, 4:33 pm

Great interview 8) :D

I liked the part you pointed out.
Also this one:
".... this is a great track but this lyric, I don't believe it. It sounds like I'm trying to say something, instead of it naturally coming out of me, like I was saying something that I already knew."

That's about how I feel if I try and write with my logical mind.

When he said that other people come up with what they think his lyrics are about, and he thinks that it's better than what he thought originally - I've had that happen a few times, here on the SSG.
Someone has said something about a lyric I wrote, and I thought, WOW! I like that angle! And went with that instead of what I started out with :D

And people always ask me if what I write are lyrics or poetry :evil:
I like Morrison and all, but I never thought of it as poetry.
Though I do see commonalities with poetry.
Perhaps more than others do.

Ken
"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles

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