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(@kingpatzer)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 2199
10/06/2008 10:45 pm  

Ultimately, a good song writer surprises and, and thus, engages us. A bad song writer gives us either what we expect, and thus is not engaging, or surprises us with a lack of wit, subtlety, originality, or general talent, and while surprised, we are not engaged.

Not only does the song writer have to have something to say, they have to have a new way to say it.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


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(@misanthrope)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 2268
11/06/2008 11:23 pm  

Don't rhyme too heavily, it restricts what you say and how you word it. It also makes me wince. Do it with cliche and I'm in agony. That means you, Adams. Anyone who puts "stick to you" next to "stick like glue" should be banned from songwriting for life, and anyone who rhymes "fly" with "sky" should be shot just to be on the safe side. :wink: I'd even go so far as to say avoid AAAA and even AABB unless the rhymes are really subtle.

The trouble with all that, is that I'm not terribly creative most of the time. When I try to write lyrics, that's exactly the kind of fluff that fills my head. I discard it with a sneer, of course, but that doesn't help replace it with something good :roll:
You do not like
green eggs and ham?

I don't f'ing
like them,
Sam-I-am.

Could you, would you,
with a goat?

I would not,
could not,
with a f'ing goat!

Would you, could you,
on a boat?

I f'ing would not, on a boat.
I f'ing will not, with a goat.
no f'ing way in the rain.
no f'ing way on a train.
F no in the dark! F no in a tree!
Not in a f'ing car! You let me be!
I f'ing hate them in a box.
I f'ing hate them with a fox.
I f'ing will not in a house.
I f'ing will not with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I don't like those f'ers ANYWHERE!

I'm hearing Samuel L Jackson reading that as only he could, and quite liking it :mrgreen:

ChordsAndScales.co.uk - Guitar Chord/Scale Finder/Viewer


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(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 3460
12/06/2008 12:56 am  

Don't rhyme too heavily, it restricts what you say and how you word it. It also makes me wince. Do it with cliche and I'm in agony.
....

The trouble with all that, is that I'm not terribly creative most of the time. When I try to write lyrics, that's exactly the kind of fluff that fills my head. I discard it with a sneer, of course, but that doesn't help replace it with something good :roll:

The only difference between you and me seems to be that I've learned to accept the fluff with a sigh and a resigned shrug. It was either that or never write a song...

However, I've read through mountains of unlikely lyric dross that still managed to come to life and do the job of appealing to a great many fans, once it was recorded and sung in the right manner. So the major rule that I've spotted seems to be:

1. Get a great producer and arranger, and an irresistible singer (picking the current trend and having a dynamite publicist doesn't hurt either).

Repetition is the bedrock of both classical and popular music - pick a theme, rinse, develop and repeat. Twists and surprises are good but they work best when there's a context there in the first place. Rhyme also seems to appeal at some fundamental level, perhaps because it adds a kind of garnish to the rhythm. But it seems to work best if it slides in there subtly, rather than banging you in the face with a stuffed haddock every few seconds. My only tip about rhyme is that you can get away with one that's a bit weak, provided that you always put your strongest, punchiest rhyme second. Weak follow ups invariably have the sickly stench of thesaurus about them. :(

Chris


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 10340
12/06/2008 1:54 am  

Weak follow ups invariably have the sickly stench of thesaurus about them.

Sickly stench? I know mine's a bit ripe, but I really think a Thesaurus can be an invaluable aid, even for someone with a quite large vocabulary. One of the earliest tips I picked up was from Nick, and I reckon it applies doubly so if you're working on a song for the SSG - said tip was to make a list of about 10 words related to the main subject - eg, Fire - flash, flame, blaze, conflagration, burn, singe, sear, scorch etc....(I got eight off the top of my head there, without needing to peek in the Roget's!) - you might not need them all, but you should be able to work some of the better ones in. That Thesaurus comes in handy sometimes!

BTW - can you buy a dictionary in Thesau'r'us?

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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(@chris-c)
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Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 3460
12/06/2008 3:00 am  

Sickly stench? I know mine's a bit ripe, but I really think a Thesaurus can be an invaluable aid, even for someone with a quite large vocabulary. One of the earliest tips I picked up was from Nick, and I reckon it applies doubly so if you're working on a song for the SSG - said tip was to make a list of about 10 words related to the main subject - eg, Fire - flash, flame, blaze, conflagration, burn, singe, sear, scorch etc....(I got eight off the top of my head there, without needing to peek in the Roget's!) - you might not need them all, but you should be able to work some of the better ones in. That Thesaurus comes in handy sometimes!

Vic, I completely agree about the value of a thesaurus. In fact I can see a link from here, in my Favourites column, without even needing to open a folder....*pastes link across*.... Rhyming Dictionary and Thesaurus. The point I was clumsily trying to make was that if you have a weaker rhyme you can usually get away with it as part of a build up, because the second one of the pair will generally be the one that sticks in the mind, and should feel more like the punchline.

If you put your best line/word first (often just because you thought of it first) then the follow up has a tendency to sound like you sat there going "coat, moat, goat, stoat, float, boat..." etc and then wangled something in for the sake of a rhyme. Wangle first, punch second is my motto. :)

I often try swapping lines around now to see which way sounds stronger - after somebody suggested a switch for a song I put on the SSG a long while back (one of your many good suggestions if I remember rightly .... :wink: )
BTW - can you buy a dictionary in Thesau'r'us?

:D :D :D

:mrgreen: Have you considered wearing 'Pun-Patches' to wean you off the habit???

Cheers,

Chris


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(@scrybe)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 2248
30/07/2009 11:58 am  

If I can guess the rhyme before hearing/reading it, it's bad. This also means that if lyrics are flowing too easily in the writing process, they may also be bad. Not always, but often.

I've also never been a fan of saying things that shouldn't require saying. Like "I'd never cheat on you" for example.

Ra Er Ga.Ninjazz have SuperChops.http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


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 KR2
(@kr2)
Famed Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 2726
30/07/2009 12:45 pm  

Thanks for reviving this thread, Scrybe . . . I went back to follow the conversation and was shocked :shock:
to see this . . . I think it should added to the Posting Hall of Fame. :mrgreen:

Mary had a little lamb
it's fleece was white as snow
and everywhere that Mary went
that F'@*ker was sure to go.

or

Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house
not a creature was stirring
except that F'ing mouse

or

You do not like
green eggs and ham?

I don't f'ing
like them,
Sam-I-am.

Could you, would you,
with a goat?

I would not,
could not,
with a f'ing goat!

Would you, could you,
on a boat?

I f'ing would not, on a boat.
I f'ing will not, with a goat.
no f'ing way in the rain.
no f'ing way on a train.
F no in the dark! F no in a tree!
Not in a f'ing car! You let me be!
I f'ing hate them in a box.
I f'ing hate them with a fox.
I f'ing will not in a house.
I f'ing will not with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I don't like those f'ers ANYWHERE!

It's the rock that gives the stream its music . . . and the stream that gives the rock its roll.


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(@scrybe)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 2248
30/07/2009 1:09 pm  

Uh huh, Nick's my songwriting idol.

Ra Er Ga.Ninjazz have SuperChops.http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1248
30/07/2009 2:51 pm  

Hmmmm....
IMO, there is way too much emphasis placed on rhymes/rhyming patterns, etc. around here.

I'm not trying to burn anybody at all, though it seems to me that most talk about songwriting tends to revolve around rhyming.
There is SO much more to writing a song than having two words per four lines rhyme.... and having the proper number of verses/bridges/chorus....
None of that stuff really matters.
I'd much rather see a well constructed/cleverly writen story, than count rhymes and see that it has verses/bridges/& chorus.

I mean, once you can actually provide all the proper elements of a story (which I think is the FIRST thing that should be worked on), then worry about bridges & chorus' and that kinda stuff.

To me it seems that songs are written around the rhymes.... that the rhymes have taken over in importance.
Kinda like Chris wrote about looking for the second rhyme; it seems like whole verses are writen with the rhymes coming first and the sentences serving the rhymes!

I don't know how many of you looked into what I wrote for The Mortar Jungle thread in this forum.... that is just the tip of the iceberg for story elements for just that one kind of style of lyric.
That's the kind of stuff I would like to see discussed and explored furthur about songwriting.

I was just thinking the other day that I was surprised that there was no real songwriting section in the newsletters.
Perhaps a more detailed, in-depth songwriting column....?

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously withinbegins to live more simply without"-Ernest Hemingway"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"-Orson Welles


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 10340
30/07/2009 4:52 pm  

Hmmmm....
IMO, there is way too much emphasis placed on rhymes/rhyming patterns, etc. around here.

I'm not trying to burn anybody at all, though it seems to me that most talk about songwriting tends to revolve around rhyming.
There is SO much more to writing a song than having two words per four lines rhyme.... and having the proper number of verses/bridges/chorus....
None of that stuff really matters.
I'd much rather see a well constructed/cleverly writen story, than count rhymes and see that it has verses/bridges/& chorus.

That's a very valid point, BUT....(there's always a "but," isn't there?!)...I think a lot of how we look at songwriting is down to environment and conditioning. Most of us have listened to the radio from an early age - and that early exposure was probably to pop/chart music. You know, the familiar verse / chorus / verse / chorus/ bridge / chorus/ chorus (possibly with key change) formulaic stuff that fills the top 40. IMO, that particular conditioning influences the way we write in later life. We're almost brainwashed into thinking that's the ONLY way to write.

The important question is, what can we do about it? How can we go about changing our safe, steady, comfort-zone style of writing? I suppose like anything else, you've got to WANT to change first, or at least feel the need to vary your writing style now and then. I can only speak for myself here, obviously, but I've found that if I stray too far out of that comfort zone, I tend to get lost, I tend to meander, I tend to lose focus. Looking back over songs I've written over the last few years, they tend to fall into the following categories:

1 - Twelve bar blues. My default setting, I suppose. That particular style of writing has been used for slow blues, up-tempo rockers and a lot of songs in between.

2 - Verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/chorus - my "pop" setting. Influenced by the music I listened to as a kid, I suppose - The Beatles, Kinks, Manfred Mann and so on.

3 - Slower ballads.

4 - Dylan-influenced (specifically, Blood On The Tracks influenced) folk-ish songs, sometimes in open tunings.

5 - Stones-influenced rockers.

There's hardly a song I've written in the last few years that doesn't fit one of these categories; whether that's a good or a bad thing is down to the listener, I suppose.....I know I've fallen into a safe, conventional, well-trodden songwriting groove (rut?) but I suppose I'm just not put together to break the rules!

Another important point is the actual HOW of songwriting. Do you sit down and try and write to a set pattern? Do you wait till inspiration strikes, or do you actively search for inspiration? Music first, or lyrics? I would imagine that it's easier to write in a free-form style if you write lyrics first then put music to them afterwards. Again, I can only speak for myself, but I tend to start with a word or a phrase - a hook, if you like - and write around that. I'll always have a vague idea of melody, style and chords while I'm scribbling down lyrics; more often than not, I'll have a guitar in my hand and put the whole song together at once. Maybe I'll tweak it once it's finished, but again, more often than not, the finished song won't be too far away from the original rough draft.

It's always going to be one of those choices that's down to the individual; stay on the path, or go off the beaten track? Safe familiar ground, or go out on a limb? For myself, it's nice to try something different now and then, but sooner or later I'll revert back to those "default settings!"

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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(@scrybe)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 2248
30/07/2009 9:09 pm  

I've read this last exchange three times now, and I'm still failing to follow it. And it has nothing to do with the quality of posting; I think my brain has stalled. :shock:

I like Prof. Stephen Fry's argument that it is the struggle to work within (and sometimes break out of) limits and structure that makes art truly interesting.

I also think that any song making mention of sharks (of the aquatic variety only) is automatically perfect. Same goes for damp squids. Damp squibs, otoh, are so cliche.

Ra Er Ga.Ninjazz have SuperChops.http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1248
31/07/2009 12:00 am  

Sorry.... Maybe I wasn't clear;

I'm not asking anybody to change their style.
Everyone has thier style - I know I certainly have my own, and I wouldn't want to change it.
Although, I'm not exactly where I want to be with it yet either.
I'm still trying to get to a certain place, songwriting wise.

I happen to like experimenting - sometimes it works, other times it falls flat on it's face....
Either way, I've walked away learning something.

I'm not saying that anyone has to write like me.... I know my stuff is pretty far out for most people,
and that's okay with me; and it seems to be fine with most people here, especially those of you who have taken
the time to actually read my lyrics and comment on them (Thankx :D ).

And I'm not saying that rhyming is bad and should be abolished.
I know I've certainly writen my fair share of rhyming lyrics, and will continue to do so.

What I am saying is that my 5 year old son learned how to rhyme everything he said in kindergarten.
So it's pretty obvious to me that it is almost an innate human trait.... so why waste so much time talking about it/fretting over it....?
There's way too many more important things about songwriting that keep slipping thru.

Regarding the change of style - I'm just saying that moving into areas of actual 'writing' would expand your style.
I've often said that these are songs, and that if I wanted to read a novel, I would....
But -
The same basic writing rules apply to songs as they do to novels; at least the in-depth, storied type of songs that most people here are looking to write.

It's like the comment I made on Coolnama's song here: To me, great lyrics.... still only half the story.

I mean, Nick pointed out something on one of "ABD's " song lyrics that he claimed was a novice mistake....
I didn't happen to agree.
But letting Coolnama's lyrics get by as only half a story IS a VERY novice mistake. (Coolnama is admitedly a first time writer, so....)

I mean 'little tips' on songwriting to me are.... well, maybe with a bus token just might get me on a bus, ya know?
First, one must learn how to present a story.... then format it into a song.

"Oh, the ragman draws circles
Up and down the block.
I'd ask him what the matter was
But I know that he don't talk."

Okay, who is gunna say that there is a bunch of novice mistakes in that verse....?

Written by, perhaps the greatest songwriter of the 20th century.... I don't think they are novice mistakes.
It's just that when you know the rules, you can bend, break, or pick and choose which ones to use and which not to use.

I don't advocate breaking rules as much as having an arsenal of rules under your arm that you can choose to use or not to use as well as mix and match them.

"did you see the silver moon
her spell cast me back to you
making love against our sillouette
holding hands

out in the copper dunes
it was always warm and breezy
too bad dreams don't come as easy
as the waves crashed and swept away all-our-plans"

Here's something that I wrote for a past SSG assn.
I don't know what anyone thinks of it; it works for me though.

What's the rhyming pattern?
Well, first verse: Moon/You is (ABxx)

Second verse is: Breezy/Easy (xBCx)

Then there's: Moon/Dunes (which is AA of verse 1/2)
As well as: Hands/Plans (which is DD of verse 1/2)

Some are true rhymes, some are 'forced'

And of course the second verse is longer than the first.

Furthur down the song, the second set of verses don't have the same rhyming pattern, and are different lengths as well.

All novice mistakes????

Did I plan that pattern?
Not even close.
It just sounded right to me.

It just seems that people are being drawn into the BS of so-called song writing minutiae, while the more important
real craft of song-smithing is being largely ignored.
That's all I'm saying.

Well, I'd better knock off....
Hope that was a bit clearer :wink:

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously withinbegins to live more simply without"-Ernest Hemingway"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"-Orson Welles


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(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 3460
31/07/2009 3:10 am  

Hi Ken,

Lots of thoughtful points from you, as always. :) I agree with you that it's probably not good to get too enslaved by any particular aspect of song-writing, such as rhyming. I'm certainly hoping to broaden my range a lot more in my own attempts at songs which currently mostly tend to chug along well worn rhythmic rails. But it's probably also worth considering why we use rhymes and rhythms at all, and the reason is surely this - because they work. As you say about Lucius's school experience, rhyme is a powerful way to help with both emphasis and memory.

Variations in rhythms are also a major part of what distinguishes songs from either regular speech or any other sort of vocal noise. All language employs some kind of rhythms and cadences, whether it's a highly stylised song or poem, a play or even just yelling at the world. It's never completely random and shapeless. Naturally, the lines can be blurry, and there is probably no precise point at which throat noises cross some invisible line into song, but for practical purposes we mostly have a reasonably common idea of what we mean by songs, particularly when it comes to the world of western guitar music.

So why is rhythm both pleasing and useful as a tool, and why is rhyme an effective and popular part of that? (Answers in 100 -1000 words on one side of the paper only please. Extra marks for answers that use rhythm and/or rhyme.... :mrgreen: )

As Vic says in an earlier post, certain rhythms and rhyming styles become ingrained in us from birth onwards. These are not necessarily universal (try listening to Indonesian gamelan music for instance and see how quickly, or otherwise, you can tap into what they're on about) and you don't have to stick to the ‘rules (if indeed there are any...).

But, as far as I can see, the issue really boils down to “Who do you want to reach?”

In my experience, one of the first pieces of imagination that most new writers employ is dreaming up some sort of imaginary audience for their wonderful musings. It's all too easy to conjure up a receptive band of fans who ‘get' what you say, who are ‘perceptive', ‘on your wavelength', ‘appreciate the way you're pushing the boundaries' (aaaargh.... :shock: ) or whatever. But the truth is that if you want a real audience, one way or another you've got to earn it. We won't get listened to or respected just because we trot out what I've seen tellingly described as “the bowel motions of the brain”.... :wink:

If we write using reasonably ‘conventional' song forms then we'll probably have a better chance of reaching a wider audience. If we insist on churning out stuff that's rhythmically unattractive and lyrically hard to comprehend then we may struggle to find anybody who wants to hear it. They may well exist, but the price of their attention will often be that we will have to ‘appreciate' their stuff in return, and it may well be even more obscure and unappealing than ours.... I would say that the difference between an amateur and a pro is that the professional has a much more clear and realistic understanding of who the intended audience is, and that means both understanding and respecting them. All too often, amateurs seem to treat it as a one way street - they're hungry to get understanding and respect, but don't always remember to give much of either to the listener or reader in return. (EDIT: I'm not having a shot at anybody in particular there, it's just a trap that I think most of us fall into at some time - spending too much time internalising everything and not giving our efforts enough real world 'road testing').

It's an endlessly debatable topic, but one reason that I still work on trying to master rhyming lyrics is that I can more clearly and easily tell when it's working. I can see pretty readily if the lines are clumsy, the imagery weak or the rhymes forced and obvious (which of course isn't to say that I always have the necessary skills to improve on them... :? ). But I edit and edit and edit until I think that it's starting to look like it just flowed onto the page with no effort, and could hardly have been any other way...... At least, that's what I try for, whether it's songs lyrics, prose, or whatever else.

With ‘free verse' or less structured lyrics it seems much easier to fool yourself into thinking it's good, or that it works well. It ‘came from the soul' and it's ‘honest' and it's ‘the way I feel' so it must be good, eh? Well, no, actually... it can still be so much half baked chatter. I'd very much like to keep improving my lyrics and get freer and more impressionistic (and I do write non-rhyming songs too) but in the meantime I'm happy to keep learning how to control music and language in some of the more traditional and structured ways, and try and do it with a more subtle and less obvious touch.

Endlessly interesting exercise, and I don't think there's ever a time when I'll stop paying attention to what effects my words are having when they reach the ears of others. After all, if the intention isn't to communicate to somebody else then why bother to open your mouth or pick up the pen at all? :note1: :note2:

Cheers,

Chris


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(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 3460
31/07/2009 3:18 am  

Short version of the above:

Chris' Self Applied Rule of Writing:

1. Feel free to attempt to entertain the audience by being instructive or amusing, familiar or strange, intriguing or appealing to the emotions, even provocative or challenging, but do try not to bore them or ignore them.

(Even shorter version: Don't piss your audience off, or you won't have one... :wink: )

Cheers,

Chris


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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1248
31/07/2009 6:53 am  

Hi-ya Chris! :D

Well, I'm not saying that there should be no rhyming.
Songs certainly seem to need rhymes.

What I am saying is that it's the minutiae of songwriting that keeps getting discussed - over and over and over again.
While the actual structure of the song gets completely ignored.

I would just like to see a shift towards discussing that/those aspects a bit more.

Sure it's a song - It needs rhyme and meter and verses and chorus.... blah blah blah.
What about the actual structure?
It seems to me that most people are trying to tell a story of sorts, but have no story telling basics.
They're more worried about making a silly 'novice mistake' in some detail that really shouldn't matter much
(as I demonstrated with Mr. Dylan's lyrics - who employs plenty of rhymes, himself :wink: )

It's like - Someone needs a car to get to work.
They gather all the parts together, and paint them up pretty.... and then they haven't the skills to put the parts together.
What good is it?

Then week after week, instead of learning how to put the parts together, they just keep making the parts look pretty.

Shouldn't they, at some point learn how to put it all together?

Gotta run....

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously withinbegins to live more simply without"-Ernest Hemingway"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"-Orson Welles


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