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Songwriters...how do you get/take feedback?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Flat6Driver, Sep 8, 2017.

  1. chulaivet1966

    chulaivet1966 Tele-Holic

    703
    Nov 17, 2011
    California
    Harry.....

    That's a great example of good continuity of story and the imagery to go with it.
    You expressed the story in (3) stages of the experience chronologically.
    No wasted words that aren't relative to the story just to take up song context.
    Well written........and I get it....clearly.

    Thanks for courageously submitting your lyrics to your song as an example of reference for further discussion.

    Carry on....
     
    Harry Styron likes this.

  2. beyer160

    beyer160 Tele-Holic

    829
    Aug 11, 2010
    On Location
    First, kudos for having the cran to post your lyrics. The problem though, is that song lyrics aren't poetry- they have to be heard in context with the music to really evaluate them. I recently posted about the lyrics to Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak," one line of which goes:

    Searchlight on my trail
    Tonight's the night all systems fail
    Hey you good lookin' female
    Come here

    On paper, that's hilariously bad. In context of the rest of the song with Phil Lynott's delivery though, it totally works.
     

  3. Harry Styron

    Harry Styron Tele-Holic

    685
    Aug 2, 2011
    Branson, Mo
    Thanks for commenting.

    To evaluate whether they lyrics work in a musical setting, of course you would have to hear them sung, preferably with accompaniment.

    Without music, they still may be criticized or evaluated on some other aspects. Chulavert1966 proposed posting a lyric, which I did.

    Coincidentally, I visited my luthier friend this morning to drop off a guitar. While I was there, I picked up a guitar that she had recently restored, a nice 1963 Gibson B25. I played and sang a song I had written, she asked to make a video of it, and she posted it on Facebook with my permission.

    All day I've been fretting about it. I managed to listen to it once, and heard a few instances of singing a bit flat. I also seemed to be older than I remembered and was frowning too much. It has received several "likes" and a few "loves" from a combination of people who I know and don't know, but no comments except, most embarrassingly, from my mother, who said "Way to go."

    My point is bringing this up is that by posting a recording without posting the lyric, it may be unlikely that anybody would say anything about the lyric, critically or not.
     

  4. ndcaster

    ndcaster Friend of Leo's

    Nov 14, 2013
    Indiana
    "how do you really open yourself up working on an artistic endeavor with another person?"

    I've been in visual art studios and some writing workshops. what seems important is to know what you're going for. if you're unclear about that, then feedback isn't going to be of much use. you need to be really clear about what effect you're trying to make. only then will feedback from others let you know that you've achieved that effect.

    example: "in this drawing, I wanted you to feel how the model was really putting all her weight on that one leg." or: "in this song, I want you to feel like the music is keeping it as interesting as the what I'm singing about: keeping married love interesting"

    so that's the first thing, knowing what you're trying to achieve. the second thing is just asking for technical-type tips. does your lyric scan right? does it rise above the literal? are the images sharp, do the details suggest more than they say, and what you want them to suggest? are there any moments when the line or idea is dull or too arcane?

    then there's the whole music+words relationship. are the chord changes conveying the spirit of what you're trying to say? does anything stall? do the chord changes make sense, or do they just sound rote? how about the colors/dissonances? how about the melody -- is it too tied to the roots of the chords, or are you varying the intervals well? etc

    there are a million things to look at. but the only way any of it will be helpful is for you to determine at the outset what you're looking to achieve.
     

  5. ndcaster

    ndcaster Friend of Leo's

    Nov 14, 2013
    Indiana
    has anyone ever noticed that most hooks are over a V-I cadence?

    as in:

    (IV) what're you gonna do
    with (V) good old boys like (I) me

    RIP Don Williams

    maybe start there, and work backwards
     

  6. cousinpaul

    cousinpaul Friend of Leo's

    Jun 19, 2009
    Nashville TN
    Harry, I'll give it a shot. You've got two stories going; the city (or town) encroaching on the protagonist's country home and his relationship with his partner, who prefers the more urban lifestyle. Great stuff! One could easily be a metaphor for the other. I think I'd play that up, maybe by writing about the changing neighborhood in the the verses and jumping to the relationship story in the choruses. As it stands, the two themes are a little muddled.

    I also think "when the country's gone" might be a stronger hook. You could set it up as a "can't put the genie back in the bottle" kind of thing and hammer both themes home with the hook. Aside from that, maybe a little more descriptive detail?

    If you do a re-write, I'd be interested in reading it.
     
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  7. Jakeboy

    Jakeboy Tele-Holic

    967
    Jul 26, 2008
    Sedalia, MO
    When I was actively gigging I would introduce new originals to the crowd like this: "Hey everyone! We have a new original to play for you now. Please listen closely and if ''tis good, let us know when we're done. If it sucks, boo it." As soon as we'd finish, I'd simply say "well, did you like it?".

    I figured I was getting honest feedback that way. It was fun, but it made the band nervous.
     
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  8. Flat6Driver

    Flat6Driver Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    44
    Jan 14, 2013
    DC Burbs
    Interesting to read it without a melody in my head. So, I just made a melody in my head and read it (at my desk). I doubt it's the same melody you have. But since it was a country song, I could kinda see where it was going (or could go). We could do a twist on Twanger Central and post lyrics and everyone do their own take on it. Seriously, thanks for contributing.
     

  9. Harry Styron

    Harry Styron Tele-Holic

    685
    Aug 2, 2011
    Branson, Mo
    Thanks for your comments.

    Telling parallel stories is exactly what I was aiming for. I made the choice to tell the relationship story in the first verse and in the second verse the story of the country home becoming urban. I intended that the chorus pull both stories together by revealing the singer's sense of loss of the country flavor he counted on in his love life. He fell for a country girl and they made a country home, and both the girl and the home changed. The third verse tells the end of the story, that she doesn't feel the the same way he does, and he must leave.

    Incidentally, I have written a different song with the same two themes, switching gender roles, and the Carolina boy is willing to move with the girl back to her home in Arizona.

    Your suggestion that "when the country's gone" might be a better hook is provocative. I need to think about this, because "when," at least to me, refers to an event, rather than the gradual processes of her drifting away from being a country girl while the countryside became developed.

    Regarding improving the lyric with some descriptive detail, you are correct that many songs use this technique to great effect and most lyrics need some of this.

    Maybe I can add a two-line bridge with some details or rewrite the third verse. I'm reluctant to change "the first time I saw her face at dawn" and "shady lanes and meadows are now avenues and lawns," because they precisely and concisely make the point I want to make in the first two verses.

    A question for you, cousinpaul. Are your suggestions aimed at improving this lyric in a general way or at making the lyric better for a particular audience?
     

  10. Wyzsard

    Wyzsard Friend of Leo's

    I like it. The only thing that kind of jumps right out is that you deviated from your rhymes pattern in that last verse.

    Before anything else, are you happy with it the way it is ?
     

  11. elihu

    elihu Poster Extraordinaire

    Dec 24, 2009
    Texas
    I remember a Merle Travis interview in GP where he gave the example of finding the hook first and then writing up to it. I realize it's backwards thinking but whatever works, right?
     
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  12. ndcaster

    ndcaster Friend of Leo's

    Nov 14, 2013
    Indiana
    right

    Personally, I find first lines come easy, but then the pressure's on to "find" the hook. If I get the hook first, it seems easier to figure out what builds up to it.
     
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  13. cousinpaul

    cousinpaul Friend of Leo's

    Jun 19, 2009
    Nashville TN
    Harry, it's just some things I might try if we were co-writing the song. I'm hearing it as kind of a retro-country deal, maybe because you said something about outlaw country in your OP. If you were aiming for contemporary country, I'd maybe make it more positive about a guy walking away from a bad situation for something better. That would be a little more in keeping with the persona most of those artists adopt.
     
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  14. Wyzsard

    Wyzsard Friend of Leo's

    See ? What you're doing here is explaining in a very constructive manner what you would change and why. That's what makes a good critique.

    There's so many things that one can examine with lyrics simply presented by themselves. While it's always great to hear the song, when examining a lyric there's no distraction. A great arrangement can draw one's focus off the lyric a bit as well as a not so interesting arrangement.
     

  15. Wyzsard

    Wyzsard Friend of Leo's

    The Muse is a funny thing. A lot of times I'll hear a song by someone I like who is already getting airplay, and it will inspire me to pick up my acoustic and just get a chord progression going. Then I'll just start singing whatever I feel like until I find a hook or a great opening line. Or even simply an idea for a song lyric.

    That's all it takes for me to spark the desire to sit down and get to work.

    Doesn't always work that way though. I've had writer's block and forced myself to write something just to work on a particular skill of the craft if nothing else. An example would just be an exercise in imagery. Sometimes I wind up with a decent lyric doing that.

    But yes, not only should the first verse be strong to grab the listeners attention, I think the first line/couplet itself is crucial. Even if it sounds cliche, it got their attention lol.

    I prefer to have the hook first. Nd, as you say, having the hook does make it easy to build up to it. And that touches on what I think is a very important tool if you will, the ability to craft the last line/couplet of a verse that leads right into the chorus. Which is where our Hook is in most songs.
     

  16. Fiesta Red

    Fiesta Red Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 15, 2010
    Texas
    I write songs that sound like something I want to hear on a roadtrip, or at a party, or when chillaxing around the house/lake/river, or whatever mood the song was written in or written for.

    I don't have a specific method. Sometimes a lyric or line will come first, sometimes a riff or a melody, and sometimes a full song just pops out all at once. I don't question or ponder where it comes from, I just smile when it does, no matter which of the aforementioned methods start (or complete) the process.

    I write for myself. If I think it's a good song, I'm satisfied. I would like it if other people like it, but if they don't, I don't get my feelings hurt, because I was just expressing something, whether it was sad, happy, fun or angry.

    If I don't like a song I'm writing, I'll hold on to it until I am suitably inspired (a la McCartney's "Yesterday")...or, if I'm just not able to get "inspired" by it, I'll throw it at either (1) my best friend/drummer or (2) my daughter, and say, "Finish this, whatever makes it work..." A few times, that method took the song in directions I didn't expect it to go...and a few times, it was so bone-simple-stupid as to how to finish the song, I couldn't believe I didn't think of it myself.

    A lot of my riffs and melodies come from me trying to play a song (or riff or melody) that I like, but didn't/don't have the skill to play like the original...I wrote three different songs (similar in music, but not in lyrics) trying to play the Fabulous Thunderbirds version of "Runnin' Shoes" (aka "Meet Me In The Bottom")...and although I finally got it down pretty good, I still don't play that Jimmie Vaughan lick completely correct.

    One other thing--I had a thread here about how a person can't predict what other people label "good"...I wrote a simple little song in about six minutes when I was 20, and I always thought it was stupid. People love it--it gets butts out of seats and on the dance floor...and I still think it's goofy. I commented that to my wife and she said, "It's catchy..."

    So was the Spanish Influenza, but nobody wants it...I'm still baffled by the "success" of that dumb song.

    Conversely, I wrote a couple of serious songs that I thought were good, but I thought were too personal for people to "Get"...but I was wrong there, too. People have said how those two songs were touching and/or moving, and a few times, they (surprisingly) guessed about the situation(s) that inspired the songs, although not knowing the details.

    I used to write a lot of drinking songs. I thought some were good and some were stupid...and drunk people like the ones I thought were stupid.

    When I quit drinking, I wrote a lot of songs about getting sober...and you could pick out who in the audience was in recovery...they'd perk up their ears and look thoughtfully when I played it.

    I still perform (and write) drinking songs, even though I quit drinking 19 years ago.

    I refuse to perform a song I think is sappy (even if I wrote it), so when a love song comes out of my pen, it's usually an honest assessment of a relationship, citing where I love her, but could do better. It's also made my wife understand that I'm aware of my idiocy, so please give me some slack.

    I've always admired those songs that put you in "that place" of an experience or feeling...one great example is Kristofferson`s "Sunday Morning Coming Down". Every line expresses that vague, empty feeling of sadness and a mild hangover, with the empty stomach and melancholy hopelessness that might, just *might* get better if you get up and move forward...

    I think most of us have lived the various lines at one point or another--"I woke up this morning with no way to hold my head that didn't hurt," "stumbled to the closet...and found my cleanest dirty shirt," etc.

    Good Lord, I have never even smoked and I deeply feel the line, "I smoked my mind the night before with cigarettes and songs I was singing..." Just singing and playing harmonica in a smoky bar has put me squarely in that spot many times.

    If Kris Kristofferson never wrote another song besides that one, he would still deserve to be in the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

    I hold it (and many others) as the benchmark of a good song, and on the few occasions I've seen people stop in their tracks and just listen to something that I wrote, the feeling is so overwhelming I almost have to hide, for fear of losing my composure.

    I wrote a song the morning my grandmother passed away, but it was about more than just her. In short order, I had previously lost a spiritual (not blood kin) "little brother," my mother-in-law, my job and my mind...my father got cancer (and lived)...and I was on a downward spiral of drinking (I ended up getting sober a year later)...

    Then, on top of all that, when Grannie died, the song came tumbling out of my guitar and my pen so quickly it almost scared me. 20 years after I wrote it, my wife still cries when I play it (he was her "little brother" too, she loved my grandmother, and of course, her mother), but even people who don't know me, who didn't know the people I wrote it about, come up to me and comment how melancholy and sad it was, and how it reminded them of a loved one they lost.

    My drummer, whom I didn't know when I wrote the song but knew the "little brother," (he worked with the kid's father) asked if it was about Steven when I played it for him the first time...and he's never mentioned by name--in fact, he's only mentioned in two lines that could be about anyone.

    That's a successful song, if you can make people feel something just by your words.

    I don't write to make money, I write to exorcise personal demons, to express an emotion (positive or negative) or just because...if somebody thinks a song is good, I appreciate it. If they don't, I really don't care.
     
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  17. Wyzsard

    Wyzsard Friend of Leo's

    cousinpaul, when you get time, if you would take a look at this lyric, I love to hear your take on it.


    Walkin Out That Door

    runnin’ ‘bout empty
    down an old crooked road
    my last beer is gettin’ warm
    and I’m near out of smoke
    if this old Ford won’t carry me
    where I’m goin to
    at least I’ve made it far enough
    to start forgetting you

    (chorus)

    that fork up ahead must lead somewhere
    far from the pain I left behind
    I’ve made it with a whole lot less
    sometimes with not much more
    but one thing I’ll smile back on
    is walkin out that door

    last I talked to Mama
    said you call her every day
    but don’t you bother callin back
    'cause I’ll be on my way
    down a road I’ve never been
    through towns I’ve never seen
    from Tucson to Tacoma
    and everywhere between

    (bridge)

    I guess if the truth were known
    I’ll think of you some day
    I may even shed a tear
    But for now I’m on my way

    that fork up ahead must lead somewhere
    far from the pain I left behind
    I’ve made it with a whole lot less
    sometimes with not much more
    but one thing I’ll smile back on
    is walkin out that door

    tag

    the only mistake I never made
    was walkin out that door


    © 2005 CAW
    All Rights Reserved

    Anyone else welcome to have at it as well.
     

  18. william tele

    william tele Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 7, 2009
    Kansas City, MO
    There is so much truth and real in this post I don't know where to start. Setting Kristofferson as a benchmark of great turn of phrase is probably a good place. Great post!
     
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  19. cousinpaul

    cousinpaul Friend of Leo's

    Jun 19, 2009
    Nashville TN
    Wyzard, it's kind of got me wondering what she did to drive the protagonist away. Also, think it might could use some conflict. It's pretty one-sided and the guy seems to have a made up mind. Here's an example of a similar theme where the protagonist is more double minded. Hopefully it leaves you wondering what he's gonna do. Feel free to critique away.

    This Side of the Highway

    v1
    They say this side of the highway will take me to Memphis
    With it's Egyptian pyramid parked on the Mississippi
    Once you cross that river, it goes on forever, just stretches indefinitely
    But tell me why does this side of the highway, feel like the wrong side to me

    v2
    They say that this side of the highway cuts cross Oklahoma
    and the Texas panhandle, straight on, clean through to LA
    I can hole up in Vegas, until my luck changes, as it must eventually
    but tell me why does this side of the highway, still feel like the wrong side to me

    bridge
    and I'm standin' in a telephone booth, with a handful of change and the rain on the roof
    and to tell you the truth, I've been missin' you all the while
    So I'm callin' just to hear how you are, guess I'm doin' alright to have made it this far
    With a truck stop, a speed cop, a teardrop for every mile

    v3
    They say that this side of the highway fades into the sunset
    That's the way every cowboy should go when he rides away
    Will he turn back around or follow it down, well right now it's too soon to say
    But tell me why does this side of the highway...

    tag x2

    copyright 2006 all rights reserved
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2017
    Wyzsard likes this.

  20. Harry Styron

    Harry Styron Tele-Holic

    685
    Aug 2, 2011
    Branson, Mo
    Here are my comments:
    v1
    The pyramid is a strong image, a little too strong for something that doesn't have anything to do with the story. It is a distraction. That's the paradox of descriptive detail; it draws the listener in, but it it needs to be relevant.

    The effect of this distraction is made worse by the failure to make clear who the verse is addressed to. The word "you" generally signals who the song is addressed to, but in the first verse the you is not addressed to the lover left behind.

    The rhyming of Mississippi and indefinitely is good. When you put Mississippi at the end of a phrase, you've painted yourself into a corner, so matching it with indefinitely is a good solution.

    v2
    The second verse doesn't help to refine the question of why this side of the highway feels wrong. At this point, without knowing who the song and the question are addressed to, I don't know what the song is about other than the highway.

    Bridge
    This is a good picture of a guy standing in the phone booth in the rain, trying to connect. But I haven't seen such a phone booth for at least 40 years in the US. Finally, we know the guy left a girl behind for unspecified reasons and he's not sure why. I can't identify with a narrator who doesn't know what's going on.

    v3
    The narrator is burdened with a cowboy fantasy (there are lots of successful songs that draw on this fetish). But I need to know more about the woman and the relationship to be drawn into the story, which needed to happen in the first verse.
     

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