Teaching a song writing class this fall

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.
Good idea on the face of it, but kind of a rabbit hole if you get into it. I've worked out all kinds of style grids. It's a fun exercise, but whether a student is writing songs for the woodshed or the Ryman, the toolbox helps get 'em into shape.

And people whose songs are already in shape won't be signing up for the class.
 

ravindave_3600

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In his book Unrequited Infatuations, Steve Van Zandt wrote that he really learned to write by writing songs "for" other people: let me try an Everlys soundalike, can I do something Solomon Burke would sing?

I think it's a very good idea, and in fact have been doing it myself for 40 years. Got some good mileage from songs we introduced as "Here's a little-known tune by Smokey Robinson / Johnny Cash / Springsteen / The Clash."
 

Charlie Bernstein

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In his book Unrequited Infatuations, Steve Van Zandt wrote that he really learned to write by writing songs "for" other people: let me try an Everlys soundalike, can I do something Solomon Burke would sing?

I think it's a very good idea, and in fact have been doing it myself for 40 years. Got some good mileage from songs we introduced as "Here's a little-known tune by Smokey Robinson / Johnny Cash / Springsteen / The Clash."
Yeah, with originals, it can help to say it's a song by Dylan or Petty or Prine or Aretha or Janis or Ringo — whoever's plausible. Then people are more forgiving.

We'll be sure to mention that in our class. Thanks!
 

ravindave_3600

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Yeah, with originals, it can help to say it's a song by Dylan or Petty or Prine or Aretha or Janis or Ringo — whoever's plausible. Then people are more forgiving.

We'll be sure to mention that in our class. Thanks!
I was actually not suggesting your students pass off fakes (I don't think anyone really believed mine) but that the exercise of imitation is a powerful learning tool.
 

thesamhill

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I was reading this thread the other day and didn't have much to say at the time, though I found it interesting.

But I'm sitting here in Logic, failing to accomplish a satisfactory de-essing, so I thought I'd stop because in to say this:

I suggest not putting more "s" sounds together in one place than you or your intended singer can actually sing without slurring them together. In fact just don't use any words with "s" in them.

Apologies if it's already been said! And also if you could just send this memo back in time to me about 6 months ago that would be fantastic. Tell me it's really important.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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I was reading this thread the other day and didn't have much to say at the time, though I found it interesting.

But I'm sitting here in Logic, failing to accomplish a satisfactory de-essing, so I thought I'd stop because in to say this:

I suggest not putting more "s" sounds together in one place than you or your intended singer can actually sing without slurring them together. In fact just don't use any words with "s" in them.

Apologies if it's already been said! And also if you could just send this memo back in time to me about 6 months ago that would be fantastic. Tell me it's really important.
No S's? Good idea! Why didn't I think of that? No more sneakin' Sally through the alley or scotch and soda or sailing on the Sloop John B. or going on a surfing safari!

What we're going to tell them is to sing their songs to suss out the snags, snares, and speedbumps, a.k.a. the Three S's.

That's how you debug a song that looks good on paper.

Now 'scuse me while I go fire up the ol' WABAC machine!
 

ndcaster

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I would like to interject something about the importance of open vowels

plus, something like this:

I > I continues a thought
I > vi is a kind of depressing thing, or a stasis
I > III7 is a mind-bending thought
IV > I is calming
ii > V is unemotional to me and just kind of nerdy
IV > V lifts emotional tension upwards
V > vi furrows the eyebrows
vi > iii is very thoughtful and meditative
V > I is a kind of concluding thought or reaction
VII > I expresses something like sarcasm
 
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BigDaddyLH

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I would like to interject something about the importance of open vowels

plus, something like this:

I > I continues a thought
I > vi is a kind of depressing thing, or a stasis
I > III7 is a mind-bending thought
IV > I is calming
ii > V is unemotional to me and just kind of nerdy
IV > V lifts emotional tension upwards
V > vi furrows the eyebrows
vi > iii is very thoughtful and meditative
V > I is a kind of concluding thought or reaction
VII > I expresses something like sarcasm

While yer at it, what about...

IV -> iv
iv -> I
bVII -> I
 

ndcaster

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While yer at it, what about...

IV -> iv
iv -> I
bVII -> I
IV > iv = wistful (but sometimes ironic)
iv > I = pleasant surprise
bVIII > I = hard-headed, insistent

it's interesting, but minor key movements are a lot more complicated emotionally -- think of melancholy and nostalgia -- Paolo Conte would shrug thoughtfully and say "è un complesso di cose" -- it's a complex of things

oh, and all this ignores inversions, so we'd have to think about

I > V6 = a slight twist of thought that usually goes directly to vi -- but that's cliché -- what if it goes to IV before heading back to I? that's a brightening and calming thought

so Charlie, what I'm saying is that it's tempting to plug and chug when it comes to chord changes, almost as if they were Lego chunks to stick together, and maybe it's worthwhile to slow students down to connect their hearing of harmony and their limbic systems

this could be applied to melody, too

slow them down!
 
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