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

TheFuzzDog

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I think one of the most difficult things to do is ask one's self why one's subjective opinion has merit, why one prefers one thing and not another.

I don't like the same regular hot dogs I ate as a kid. I know this because I've had amazing Elk and Venison sausages and killer Brats made of veal, pork and beef.

Much of Beefheart's music is initially unpleasant or confusing, but the intention and method (rules) were both to create an original expression. I like Beefheart's music. The first time I heard Trout Mask Replica I thought is sounded like instruments falling down the stairs. But it did make me feel something unique. Some art rewards the work it demands to find out why it creates a feeling. Sometimes you don't end up enjoying it after you put in the effort and thought. But you do often knowing why you don't.

If an opinion on art or music can only be justified by saying opinion is subjective, then that reasoning is just a tautology. Beefheart becomes equal to Billy Ray Cyrus, and McDonalds becomes equal to steak.
Recently my band had a new lead guitarist join. One night he and I were woodshedding, getting to know each other musically, and discussing influences and faves. I mentioned that I like the Captain, and he put on “the face.”

So I said “I don’t have much use for Trout Mask Replica and the like, but I do like something that I bet you don’t believe exists - Captain Beefheart pop music.”

He agreed that he didn’t think it *could* exist, so I pulled out my phone and played him Hot Head, Tropical Hotdog Night, Harry Irene, and Run Paint Run Run. He hasn’t become a fan per se, but at least he now acknowledges that it’s possible to be a fan, because underneath the sometimes gaudy weirdness, is solid musical knowledge and an understanding of what makes pop music work.
 

chulaivet1966

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I think one of the most difficult things to do is ask one's self why one's subjective opinion has merit, why one prefers one thing and not another.

I don't like the same regular hot dogs I ate as a kid. I know this because I've had amazing Elk and Venison sausages and killer Brats made of veal, pork and beef.

Much of Beefheart's music is initially unpleasant or confusing, but the intention and method (rules) were both to create an original expression. I like Beefheart's music. The first time I heard Trout Mask Replica I thought is sounded like instruments falling down the stairs. But it did make me feel something unique. Some art rewards the work it demands to find out why it creates a feeling. Sometimes you don't end up enjoying it after you put in the effort and thought. But you do often knowing why you don't.

If an opinion on art or music can only be justified by saying opinion is subjective, then that reasoning is just a tautology. Beefheart becomes equal to Billy Ray Cyrus, and McDonalds becomes equal to steak.
Howdy THX....

I would never suggest infer my subjective opinion has "merit" to anyone other than myself.
I think there's a lot of overthinking occurring in this context.
A song or composition either sounds appealing and musical to one's ears (and would want to hear it again) or it doesn't.
Pretty simple from my perspective.

"Much of Beefheart's music is initially unpleasant or confusing"
Regarding your posted example: you find Beefhearts' song musical, creative, appealing and respect their "original expression." (giving it merit).
I find it chaotic, self indulgent and unmusical noise and wouldn't listen to any of it again which has no merit beyond my irrelevant personal opinion.
But....they have a fan base and I certainly don't. :)

Neither of us are right or wrong....we just know what we like for whatever reasons.
Simple as that....without all the debating.
You got a lot of interest with your thread. :)

In any case, I wish all the best with their music endeavors.

That's just me....to each their own.
Back to it....

(EDIT: I gave a few of your tracks a listen. Good vox all, well produced & recorded...well done & good luck)
 
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JIMMY JAZZMAN

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I'll go back to Humble Pie. Some of their music was pretty much country, and on the
same albums, rock and roll. This was with Peter Frampton. Where or what was their concept?
Having a concept is a good start, it doesn't have to be steadfast, but do what you do best, if you
diverse just to diverse, then you lose your vision.
 

Fiesta Red

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My band’s rules:
-Everybody gets a vote, but the drummer and I get 1.5 votes.
-If anyone can’t play a particular song, (technically or stylistically incapable), we don’t play it.
-Just because you poured your heart and soul into writing or learning a song doesn’t mean the rest of us will be enthusiastic or even tolerant of playing that song, so if you insist on playing something the rest of us don’t like, go form your own band.
 

davidge1

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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?

Do you think projects can be stronger if all can agree on some basic ideas from the beginning?
I've never been a band that did anything OTHER than this. Every band I've been in had some kind of concept that was agreed upon at the beginning. I think the bands would have been better if we had had even more discussions about what we were doing and what we were NOT doing.

This is how I look at it: Back in the earliest days of rock music, it was all people who had played folk music and blues. Everyone was coming from the same place, so it was easy from them to come together and expand from there. Nowadays, everyone is coming from a different background. You have a guitarist who likes rockabilly, the bass player is a goth, the drummer plays heavy metal, the singer is into Americana. If you want to create something cohesive, you have bring everyone together and create a situation where everyone can contribute to the concept, rather than everyone doing their own thing and the inevitable conflicts that result.
 

Alex_C

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Maybe making a list of bands each member admires and is sonically influenced by. Distill the list down to a common denominator?
 

String Tree

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

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?

I was reading the book included with my Pylon box set (I love Pylon). I found it interesting that they created a sort of guiding concept for the band’s first batch of songs and 1st album, right from the beginning. They decided the band name, lyrics, and overall feeling would all try to reflect the idea of “safety.” Not just ideas of being “safe,” but more literal ideas like occupational safety, consciously avoiding dangerous things, and driving safety.

Reading a book about the band Wire revealed similar conceptual agreements in the band from its beginning. No solos, no cliches, no stretching out ends of songs. Always try to expand and explore the art and ideas of what the band is, and what it does. Always include the idea that the project was as much about art and experimentation as music.

I know AC/DC have a clear idea of what a good AC/DC song is. They do what they do, and they stay squarely in that concept. I think it is pretty clear that there are AC/DC rules. There are no country or funk AC/DC songs, or reggae breaks in AC/DC songs.

I have attempted this in my last 3 bands. Every time the other guys just looked at me like I was speaking another language. The first try was only half-hearted. It was a surfy/garage band called The Three Fives. The drummer had gigged in the late 60s as a teenager in “real” 60's garage bands. He was in his early 70s. They weren’t interested in concepts or rules, but we got a good gigging band going and recorded an album’s worth of stuff. I purposefully wrote in the surf/garage realm as that was to the drummer’s strength.

The second try was when my high school band re-united. The other 2 guys hadn’t played in decades. They wanted to gig, but we knew it would be a long path to that. I suggested the band could be whatever we wanted it to be – focus on writing and recording originals, making videos for YouTube, or even a subversive online media and music project of some kind. Do we do 75% covers and shoot for gigging? The concept we agreed upon was beer and friendship, which is pretty cool, but hardly ambitious. It slowly fizzled out. Turns out they liked the idea of being a band more than actually doing it. When the recent global troubles hit the band just evaporated into 18 months of excuses and missed rehearsals.

The third try was with my last band. All three of us had known each other for decades, and been playing in original bands for decades. I suggested we find an agreed idea of what the band was going to be from the beginning for once, and incorporate some ideas and rules into the whole process. Not exactly restrictive rules, but rules that guide the songwriting. What would the band (Acme Anvil Corporation) sound like? What would make "us" sound like us? What are our strengths? Should we play to our strengths, or purposefully try to get out of the comfort zone and do something different? Should we make a plan for what we will do, how our stuff will look, and how we will sound, and then follow it?

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.

The bottom line is that I can’t define what AAC sounds like, really. I guess that’s not a bad thing...but of all the bands I've been in since the 90s this last one had the most capable and experienced musicians that were truly capable of consciously making something coherent and focused. Instead we kinda just threw a fistful of darts at the dartboard, again.

Do you think projects can be stronger if all can agree on some basic ideas from the beginning?
Some things you simply can't fake.
It is Real to you or, it isn't.
Rules? What are Rules anyway?

IT has been my experience that when it comes down to it, we (the bands I have been in) just took it one song at a time.

Best of luck.
I hope you guys make some Music that all of you are happy with.
YEP!!!
 

Cyberi4n

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Stying with a formula is always a good idea imho. I’ve been the sole songwriter in the last two bands I’ve been in, from a musical point of view, and also a singer/songwriter in one of the two bands I’m currently in. All three bands have managed to sound totally different to eachother.

The other one of the two I’m currently in is a long-established band I joined recently around a bassist/drummer core. They have some good songs in their back catalogue, but it’s becoming a bit of a free-for-all with the new stuff, with some interesting results. Im not sure I’m fully on board with that approach as we’re starting to lose focus, which isn’t imho a good thing.
 

Harry Styron

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like the sonnet form.... rules can set you free. I like it.
From Wordsworth, last part of Nuns Fret Not:

In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves no prison is; and hence for me
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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From Wordsworth, last part of Nuns Fret Not:

In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves no prison is; and hence for me
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.
Woo hoo! That's great! I love it.

It'd be a stellar tattoo, too.

The title sounds like a college fraternity.
 




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