Thursday, April 23, 2009

The importance of songwriting

A friend forwarded me a link to the welcome address to freshman at the Boston Conservatory by Karl Paulnack. If you ever wonder why its so important to be a songwriter read this!

It talks about how music "has a way of finding the big, invisible pieces inside our hearts and soul and helping us figure out the position of things inside us." To help understand this, read the article.

I judge the success of my songs when it touches someone. I will always remember the faces of individuals that one of my songs impacted. Like when I received the comment "thanks for putting words to what I feeling" and "it made me feel as if I was there." I'll also remember the silent tears and the smile when there wasn't one before.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Songwriting - Dynamics

The other night, we got into the discussion on songwriting dynamics. When listening to a friend's song, he started out strumming and singing loud and kept the same pace and volume throughout the song. While the song itself it was good, it was missing dynamics that would make it interesting. In 2007, I posted techniques for changing the dynamics, in songwriters, take your listener on a journey.

A good place to study dynamics is American Idol. Last year's winner, David Cook, was the master at what I call the "American Idol build." He would start quiet, build to full out rock, and then drop to almost a whisper on the last line. His recent CD went platnium in three weeks, so he must be doing something right.

I saw another good example of a different kind of build watching the Blue Canyon Boys, bluegrass band. In bluegrass they change the tempo, speeding it up with each verse. By the last verse, they've got your pulse racing!

A comment I heard the other night was I'm just playing the song the way I wrote it. It's true that every song I write starts out with almost no dynamics. The dynamics come in the polishing phase, between writing the song and getting ready to play it for someone. I'm constantly tweaking my dynamics for the room I'm playing in, the audience, or my mood.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Songwriting - You've got the song, now what?

Stopped by and saw a friend that I had talked with a few weeks ago. At that time he was struggling with lyrics. Today he played two newly completed songs. Pretty impressive and what was even more impressive is that they are both good musically and lyrically. It's amazing what happens when you get the internal critical out of the way and just write.

Now that the songs were done, I gave him a few suggestions on what to do next. My first suggestion was to make a recording and ask these questions?
  • How long is the song? My general rule is shoot for around three minutes. Over 4 minutes look for a place to cut.
  • How does it flow? Think about a journey, where do you build, where do you get quiet?
  • Do you play you're favorite riff too often? Where would it have the most effect?
  • How often do you play the chorus, can you get to it quicker? Lately I've become a big fan of concentrating effort on the chorus, giving people a place to sing along. I try use a chorus three times.
My final piece of advice was to not consider the song finished, instead think of it as evolving. The last few months, I've been going back and reworking some of my older song and actually applying some of the comments above. It's much easier to give advice that to do it yourself.

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