Ever Tried Songwriting Rules and Consistent Underlying Band Themes or Concepts?

ClashCityTele

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I totally agree, but the rest of my band probably wouldn't.
All our current songs are very different as they were written over several years.
I'd like to get some kind of style going with our new songs, and our stage wear!
We all dress differently on stage. I think we can play songs that will definitely sound 'like us'.
 

THX1123

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Thanks for all the different perspectives and discussion on this.

In the Acme Anvil Corp project the drummer and I were the writers. I tried to support his vision for his songs the best I could. His working method is to take the original inspiration and get it done as soon as possible. He would often come up with a song at work, demo it that night, and send it to me. This has value. Sometimes the original idea is the best. A good example is Killing My Mojo. It is basically as he conceived it. He works in the masonry trade. It is all right there in the song.

I do think sometimes ideas do benefit from development, especially lyrically. We tried something new and collaborated on one song called Sun Thief. I asked him to develop his words. It took about 2 months and about 6 rewrites. I think moving out of the comfort zone probably made it a better song.

I tend to write 3 songs for every one I bring forward. I don't always demo all of them. I usually like to see what the band brings to them. One song for the last release, Diamonds, wasn't like that. My writing usually includes playing to his strengths as a drummer, but this time I asked him and the bassist to please stay very close to the parts I had written. They didn't really know what the words or melody were or what the arrangement would be when they tracked it. Unlike almost all of our other songs I sang all the parts myself.

What we ended up with was another case of being out of the comfort zone. He would normally never switch to a ride cymbal halfway through the verse. What he thought might be a verse breakdown was the chorus. I think it turned out to be a more interesting song because of this. But is also is not really like any of the other songs. He said I intentionally tricked him playing differently.

He was right.

I've put some links below if you are interested in hearing what I am describing. To me these songs don't really sound too much like the same band at all, but maybe it does all sound like "us." Maybe that's a good thing, I don't know. We ain't gonna get rich off of 65 or 1,700 views, that's for sure heh heh.

I moved away again and I really miss the band, but maybe it is time for something new.





 

chulaivet1966

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Yeah, this is a long one. Just jog on if you are a TL;DR-type.

1) Have you ever formed a band, or been in a band that created underlying concepts or rules for what you do? If not, how would you react if the idea was presented to you? Is this something not everyone can do?

2) The rules I suggested weren’t all that seriously restrictive. Should we try to make every song have a killer bridge? Or maybe have no bridges? No songs that sound too much like classic rock songs? If we drift in that direction do we need to stop and re-evaluate? Or do we shoot for the familiarity of classic rock trio structures? No original songs brought in from prior bands? Or, conversely, do we re-imagine those songs collaboratively to fit what we will do? All songs under 3:00? No songs over 5:00? Consistent themes throughout band name, logo, and album title? The drummer and I sing harmony, so how about avoiding vanilla 3rds and 5ths whenever possible? Or do we just go that way with “regular” harmonies all the time?

Yeah, well this got some puzzled looks, that same looks I’ve seen before. They said they’d think about it, but I was barking up the wrong tree again. We did write a lot of music and recorded most of it, 2 albums and an EP. I think much of it is pretty good, but there’s no real consistency. Some songs are classic rock-ish, others are weird, others are more skeletal, some are more post-punk-like. The Acme Anvil Corp stuff is all out there on YouTube and Spotify etc if anyone wants to check it out, I'm not writing this post to promote it.

3) Do you think projects can be stronger if all can agree on some basic ideas from the beginning?
Howdy....

To your point:
1) No...I wouldn't be interested in any capacity.

2) I would not be receptive to any 'rules' or band determined writing protocols.
Especially, if other band members aren't what I would call good song writers....song writing is a developed skill.
For the last (4) decades I have always been one of the very few that wrote original songs.
I'm very particular (ok...critical :) ) about song subject/lyric-phrasing/story line coherency.
Hence, I don't collaborate lyrically....musically/arrangement wise I'll always listen to other band member ideas.
I've helped several musician buddies with their original ideas.
I write about many different subjects and it is myself that decides whether I add a 'bridge' or determine the genre.
To be blunt...no one tells me how to write a song. :)

3) I think it would be a daunting band social experiment and at some point would lead to a disappointing outcome for the band.
Ultimately, many members may start feeling there's a dictatorship which over time leads to resentment along with feeling creatively stifled.
I doubt anyone would like my offered up rules...and I do have a few that I'd submit for (non) approval. :)

How many band members would actually desire to work together under said 'rules" for any length of time?
Could it work?....sure, but it would be a purely anecdotal example.
Would it last?....not for the vast majority is my guess.

You made several points but figured I stop here. (Ha...you know....that TL:DR thing :) )

Have a great day everyone...
 
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chulaivet1966

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Thanks for all the different perspectives and discussion on this.

I've put some links below if you are interested in hearing what I am describing. To me these songs don't really sound too much like the same band at all, but maybe it does all sound like "us." Maybe that's a good thing, I don't know. We ain't gonna get rich off of 65 or 1,700 views, that's for sure heh heh.
Well...
I gave those three a listen.
They are well recorded with good vox throughout.
To me, it does sound like the same band....what you referred to as 'us'. :)

Good luck with you music endeavors.
 

claes

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Most punkbands had extreme ideas and boundaries.

The idea of stones evolved rather quick. ACDC had an idea but I also think that it crystalized along the way. i'm guessing ACDC where more open in the beginning than stones.

A concept of safety sounds boring.
 

Skyhook

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Do you think projects can be stronger if all can agree on some basic ideas from the beginning?
Probably...
It's just that reaching that consensus is nigh impossible.
Somebody will always think "But I like funk(or other excluded genre) too! Am I now stuck in a band that will never do that?".
The band needs to be of the "benevolent dictator and followers" -format for concept formats like that.
 

THX1123

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Most punkbands had extreme ideas and boundaries.

The idea of stones evolved rather quick. ACDC had an idea but I also think that it crystalized along the way. i'm guessing ACDC where more open in the beginning than stones.

A concept of safety sounds boring.
Well check one out

 

THX1123

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Howdy....

To your point:
1) No...I wouldn't be interested in any capacity.

2) I would not be receptive to any 'rules' or band determined writing protocols.
Especially, if other band members aren't what I would call good song writers....song writing is a developed skill.
For the last (4) decades I have always been one of the very few that wrote original songs.
I'm very particular (ok...critical :) ) about song subject/lyric-phrasing/story line coherency.
Hence, I don't collaborate lyrically....musically/arrangement wise I'll always listen to other band member ideas.
I've helped several musician buddies with their original ideas.
I write about many different subjects and it is myself that decides whether I add a 'bridge' or determine the genre.
To be blunt...no one tells me how to write a song. :)

3) I think it would be a daunting band social experiment and at some point would lead to a disappointing outcome for the band.
Ultimately, many members may start feeling there's a dictatorship which over time leads to resentment along with feeling creatively stifled.
I doubt anyone would like my offered up rules...and I do have a few that I'd submit for (non) approval. :)

How many band members would actually desire to work together under said 'rules" for any length of time?
Could it work?....sure, but it would be a purely anecdotal example.
Would it last?....not for the vast majority is my guess.

You made several points but figured I stop here. (Ha...you know....that TL:DR thing :) )

Have a great day everyone...
I suppose if there's only one creative vision then collaborative rules would not be relevant.

I'll list a few bands that have been pretty successful with a conceptual continuity in a separate post to maybe give a little context.
 

THX1123

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Here are some examples of bands, or artists that perhaps illustrate or give a bit more context to the kinds of things being discussed. Of course I realize that these are the successful ones. I imagine and accept there are a ton of projects that did not work.

DEVO. Consistent concept from inception through entire career, including name of band. Image integrated into concept. Nearly all songs fit within the musical and conceptual framework. Multiple songwiters.
Ramones. Consistent concept through career. No change in image. Musical concept consistent through career (with a caveat for End of the Century). Some collaboration in songwriting.
Wire and Pylon. As discussed in original post.
Peter Gabriel - On his third solo album he made a rule for drummers Phil Collins and Jerry Marotta - they could use no cymbals. There are no cymbals on the album. It shaped the music. I think it is his best solo work.
Oasis - Noel Gallagher had specific rules for his songwriting and the two guitar roles in the band during the band's most successful period. Granted, he was the sole creative force.
The Fall. Probably too much to discuss here.

Honorable mentions: Robert Fripp. David Byrne. Tool. Cannibal Corpse.
 

jaxjaxon

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There are many bands of each type of music that stay within the boundaries of that style. I think that is why they became known because you knew what to expect when a new song or LP came out. This could have been by design of the group or the studio they were contracted to. Familiarity can insure a number of followers. For me I enjoy a group that can change its style from one LP to the Next. But there are not many doing it. You have cross over bands and they became popular because they appealed to more people. To develop a band that will do one strict style and theme would require more of a professional player or players that could only do one type of music. I am more of the type player that gets tired of playing the same style and type of music, so I dont stay with a band that wont progress in different directions it bores me. But it also makes it harder to keep the same players together being that one players direction might not be another's preferred direction to move on to.
 

teletail

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I have a hard enough time writing good material. I don't know why anyone would want to limit themselves. Write the best possible songs, no need for artificial constraints.
 

chulaivet1966

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I suppose if there's only one creative vision then collaborative rules would not be relevant.
Agreed.

Plus....when a band forms they would all generally be on the same page musically (agreed upon genre) by default anyway.
But....for any one member to micro manage the creative input of band members is where it could get progressively problematic and contentious over time.
If they form the band knowing the dictated creative protocols then all is good.....hopefully. :)

Back to it....
 

THX1123

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I have a hard enough time writing good material. I don't know why anyone would want to limit themselves. Write the best possible songs, no need for artificial constraints.
I'd hesitate to specifically only call them limits or constraints. I would call them conceptual decisions. As I suggested above, traditional forms of music have implicit limits and constraints. Choosing to avoid them might become more of a liberating set of agreed rules as opposed to being constraints.

Bands like Wilco, Sonvolt, The John Spencer Blues Explosion, R.L. Burnside, and perhaps even The White Stripes and The Dead all chose to play American music based on traditional forms. They also chose not to stay within the implicit rules and just play I IV V or standard country arrangements.

Is it easy? No. First you have to identify the implicit constraints so you can avoid them. But it is one thing that moves genres forward, and it is what has consistently moved music and art forward.
 

ahiddentableau

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My short answer is yes. Talking about and setting baseline expectations in songwriting makes as much sense as setting expectations in behavior, commitment or any other important area. So I think it could be beneficial.

But. As you have experienced, a heck of a lot of people (most?) will react badly do anybody who brings this up. It screams "ego!" Especially in informal social situations (like most music playing groups regular people are likely to find themselves in) people are going to socially punish the person who brings this up. I don't think this instinct is a bad thing; it's the same instinct that makes us want to make fun of anybody who takes themselves too seriously. Plus when you're trying to be creative you're putting your ego on the line. That's uncomfortable. You'll have to deal with criticism, both in a give and take sort of way. Most people find that prospect terrifying. So it's a kind of self-defense instinct imo.

Most people just want to have a good time. Keeping it light is the safest way to do that. If this runs against making something more creative (and I think it does) it's a price most people are going to be willing to pay.

This is why so many successful bands are dominated by a single writer. The social complications are too great for it to be otherwise.
 

Mjea80

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Your music sounds good, your band sounds tight… but Im not a big fan of rules. You have a fun and rockin sound.

If you are the main song writer just keep doing what you’re doing, sounds like your band is having fun with it !
 

Digital Larry

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I only really had one collaborative songwriting experience, which oddly enough started right at the beginning of my attempts to learn to play music. My college roommate was heavily enamored with Springsteen, Beatles, the Who, Buddy Holly, while I was listening to Zappa, David Grisman, John Renbourn, Shakti, Weather Report, etc.

Well I certainly could not play any of the music I was listening to so we started off jamming on some Who and Beatles tunes. We had sort of a competition to write songs and our band was the sum of those two things along with a few covers, but not very many. The songs I wrote were mostly reggae for some reason, and in minor keys. I tended towards sarcastic lyrics and he tended towards more heartfelt or observational things.

He's gone on to write a lot more songs than I have.

Anyway we didn't have any rules. Currently I have been recording by myself for many years and trying to seek out friends to collaborate with creating music, just for fun. It's been tough. I can spew out one or two chord funk jams like no tomorrow but that falls short of real songwriting IMO. I've been hesitant to search for people to collaborate with that I don't already know because I'm afraid that part of the give and take would result in me having to accompany something normal and sincere and heartfelt and I'm just not that person.

Ah well, it is still enjoyable...
 




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