Teaching a song writing class this fall

swarfrat

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How about instrumental hooks - was watching more of Songwriter's Chop Shop (man the dude's voice/mannerisms grate on me - he has that Dark Docs youtuber melodramatic phrasing. But I like the content I've seen so far). And he was stressing vocal hooks -even nonsense words ... I'm trying to decide if he has a point, or it's just his generational bias. I was considering a vocal/guitar call and response for this chorus. I did get it through my noggin that this is not "1 bar chops showcase" but rather a place for 'the stupidly simple but awesome sounding riff". I'm just not a fan of doo-doo, even when Bruno Mars does it.
 
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Peter Graham

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Yes. In fact, two of our first questions, after name/rank/serial number, is: What's a song you wish you wrote? Why?
With my "potential attendee" hat on again, might it be a good idea to ask students to give this some thought up front and come to first class ready to discuss? I only say this because I've been giving this some thought since you replied to me and it's only today that I've come up with a song I wish I'd written rather than just one I happen to like.
 

getbent

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And what makes a song great to us. One poster here thinks Dylan sucks. Another things Jessica Somethingorother sucks.

Who are we to say? No one.

And, hey, GB, speaking of great, are you the guy who steered me to Acri finger picks? Got three pairs. They're great. Those and a brace of Fred Kelly delrin thumbpicks have me right where I want to be — after years of searching. Thanks!
I really appreciate the thread. My son is coming home this weekend and we are going to play some, it will be a fun convo... i have written songs all my life, but I kind of think I have never 'thought about it' in a productive way. Hunting for magic or the turn of a phrase is maybe all wrong.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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With my "potential attendee" hat on again, might it be a good idea to ask students to give this some thought up front and come to first class ready to discuss? I only say this because I've been giving this some thought since you replied to me and it's only today that I've come up with a song I wish I'd written rather than just one I happen to like.
We want people to start the class when the class starts. No rocket science questions. Not even sub-orbital propulsion.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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Some things I’ve learned writing song for 40 years…For every rule you’ll find countless great songs that break that rule.

However, IMO a great song is one with integrity.

By integrity I mean that every facet of the song serves the central idea of the song. The lyrics convey the main idea. The words and metaphors are consistent and carefully chosen to convey and illuminate the themes.

The music should be evocative of the lyrics and appropriate to the message. Hendrix was a master at musical allusion; I think of how he made the wind howl in his cover of Watchtower or how he shot the lady down in Hey Joe. Jimi was always illustrating his words with music.

The best of the classic singer/songwriters such as Billy Joel always understood and we’re masters of this craft. Piano Man was written to sound like a beer joint rag to further the theme of the story. Paul Simon likewise always conjured images of ethnic New York neighborhoods he wrote about or could convey the expanse of a moonlit field with a rolling fingerpicked passage.

If you can get across the feeling of your lyrical ideas you’re well on your way to being a good songwriter.
Yup!
 

swarfrat

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Lesse songs I wish I'd written... Jungle Love, Never, Fantasy Girl, Vehicle, literally everything off Back in Black except Hells Bells. I think I see some common themes already, and if I don't know, I have a list of songs to transcribe
 

Harry Styron

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this thread makes me wonder and think about the whole craft... what makes a great song?

I can name some great songs, but I'm hunting for the qualities that they share and I am immediately stuck.
A great song is clearly about a single feeling, leaving no doubt which feeling is being evoked by the music, lyric or both. In my opinion.

No component of a great song detracts from or is irrelevant to the central feeling.
 
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Charlie Bernstein

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Howdy G....

To your point and simply put from my perspective....one's discerning ears determines that.

Hope all is well....
Yup. I inentionally kept the word great out of the course title and description. To get to good (or great), strive for better.

We just want to do two things:

- Encourage folks in their pursuit of our honored craft.

- Show them ways to make their songs better — so they can get them to good. If they do that often enough, sometimes some of them will even get to great.
 

johnny k

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A partner in crime and I signed up to teach an adult ed song writing class: SONGCRAFT: Turning your good song ideas into good songs. Five two-hour sessions spread over five weeks, with an emphasis on words and structure.

We know that you can't really teach anyone song writing. What you can do give encouragement, share some technique, create exercises to get them jump-started, and answer questions — like we do here.

We've cooked up a draft syllabus, and we think it's pretty good. But it's not final, and we're not teachers.

So do you have any suggestions? If you signed up for the class, what would you want out of it?

Thanks!
Rhymes, and maybe some ramones songs.
 

ndcaster

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I remember reading an interview of Peter Gabriel a few decades ago in which he made some cutting remark about songs he didn't like because they "never rise above the literal." That phrase stuck with me.

Gabriel is an arty guy, and sometimes too artsy. I think artists can become so non-literal that they end up blowing artsy bubbles to the point that their art loses all contact with reality. At that point, they're like people mumbling to themselves.

Like all good crafts, good songs are balanced right at the intersection of the literal and artsy.

So it might be good to show people those extremes?
 

Charlie Bernstein

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I remember reading an interview of Peter Gabriel a few decades ago in which he made some cutting remark about songs he didn't like because they "never rise above the literal."
I'm happy if one of my songs just rises above the litter!
That phrase stuck with me.

Gabriel is an arty guy, and sometimes too artsy. I think artists can become so non-literal that they end up blowing artsy bubbles to the point that their art loses all contact with reality. At that point, they're like people mumbling to themselves.

Like all good crafts, good songs are balanced right at the intersection of the literal and artsy.

So it might be good to show people those extremes?
It might. He calls it rising above the literal. I call it getting off the ground: A lot of current pop tunes sound (to me) like they're just taxiing for three minutes.

You'll probably agree that this has something to do with taste, though, and I'm no abiter of literal-versus-art.

And since I strive for the concrete in my songwriting, I'd be a hypocrite to tell people there's something wrong with it. (And I'd be an egomaniac to tell people there's something right with it.)

More to your point, though, since what a person has been exposed to makes a difference, I'll see if we can come up with popular examples in each student's genre that compare the literal and figurative, and let them decide what's good.

Good thoughts. Thanks!
 

cousinpaul

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If you have enough of a turnout, you might pair off lyricists with those who have instrumental skills for co-writing. Another idea would be to assemble a bibliography for those who might want to take it further. The Jimmy Webb bio comes to mind.
 

Mark E Rhodes

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I think the first order of business is to distinguish between two types of songwriting (-there may be others but these two must be addressed): 1) writing to express yourself (where you are your own audience and if you're happy with a song you've written, that's the end of it) and 2) writing something to connect with a larger audience, either as a performing songwriter or as a songwriter whose work will be recorded by others.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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I think the first order of business is to distinguish between two types of songwriting (-there may be others but these two must be addressed): 1) writing to express yourself (where you are your own audience and if you're happy with a song you've written, that's the end of it) and 2) writing something to connect with a larger audience, either as a performing songwriter or as a songwriter whose work will be recorded by others.
I've come up with all kinds of grids for that. It's a fun exercise, but really, any kind of song can be performed and recorded, and the toolbox works for all of 'em.

And if your intention is just to play 'em in your bedroom, it works for that, too.
 




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