Songwriting, The Muse, Writing, Music Theory

Saturday Songwriting: Stealing Pears

Seventh chords are a lot like regular chords, but with a little extra something. That “something” that might be described as tension, intrigue, or mystery. I found them a bit intimidating when I was first learning guitar. They seemed complicated. Advanced. Beyond my understanding. 

But they’re not really. They are simply another color to add to your available palette of sounds.  

This weeks musical idea talks about how 7th chords are woven together and where the different kinds of sevenths come from. For the most part 7th chords follow the principles of BEAD Guides Chord Flow

If a 7th chord is called major or minor you can treat it in much the same way any other major or minor chord is treated with BEAD Guides Chord Flow

If it’s merely called a 7 chord, (like G7 for instance), that chord works like a one way sign towards the neighboring letter on it’s right. In G7’s case, C.   

I often think of these chords as pointer chords, they point emphatically towards the neighbor on their right. (They’re called dominant 7s in classic music theory which speaks to their dominant sonic push in that direction). But you could choose to go somewhere else and leave the tension created by it just hanging.   

Finally, there’s the minor 7 flat 5 chord, (also called a half diminished chord). The name is a little involved but ignore that and remember it’s a juiced up diminished chord which likes to move one fret up the fret fretboard the same way other diminished chords do.   

That’s pretty much it. Are there other ways to use and play with 7 chords? Absolutely. But following the principles of BEAD Guides Chord Flow with them is a great place to start. If you haven’t tried playing around with 7th chords before, give one or two a try.   

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Piia Lehti’s Art

The Musical Idea:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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The Original Social Media

One thing I love about music is it is social. Covid-19 that makes it hard right now, but watching “The Social Dilemma,” I thought how the arts (music, writing, crafts) are the original social media. 

They are things we do together and share.  

They are things that connect us to each other and the real world.  

They are things that can often explore and reveal truth.  

They are things that ground us.  

When we engage, and create something we are left with the thing we created. Something to gift. Something to share and enjoy.  A meme, or clever post we make into the internet is lost in the flush and flow of never-ending posts and memes never to be seen again, (unless an algorithm resurfaces it).

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Practice, Resistance

Warding Off Distraction

Over the last few weeks, as I’ve been working to better organize my time. The fight that I’ve been waging is largely one explained in the documentary “The Social Dilemma;” the fight against distraction.  

But that’s not quantifying it correctly. It’s the fight against media that’s designed to demand my attention and engagement. It agitates for it. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to ward off distraction:

* Turning off my phone, placing it in Gladware, and placing the Gladware out of (easy) reach atop a cabinet.  

* Turning off the wi-fi on my computer when I’m writing or doing layouts on my computer.  

* Turning off my computer and using paper and pen or pencil whenever possible to do my work.  

That’s a lot of turning things off.  

If I have to go online, I sometimes repeat my task like a mantra until I complete it, (a tact attested to by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame). I was kind of suspicious of the effectiveness of these strategies at first, but it seems they are mostly enough to focus my intent, and ward off the feelers of Social Media/ The News. This seems to be the new battle. It’s not going away.  

Songwriting, The Song Well, Tunesday

Tunesday: Dec 1st: Gravity

Every Tunesday I post a boldly imperfect, one-take song draft of a song. This was written during a weekly song meet up on Zoom in May. The prompt was, “Gravity” (You can receive a new prompt most Fridays and find out more about the Fearless Songwriting Challenge by signing up for my mailing list here).

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It feels out of Control
Buckshot in a Fairy Tale
Wrapping lemon rinds round a spool
Martinis on the way to jail

Outside is all turning green
Might as well be a magazine

Gravity will have it’s way with you
Every plot twisted and cruel

The river rubs off on stones
Like Daisy Buchanan’s comb
Mumbling complaints out loud
Filling up leather tomes

Pressed to this plot of earth
Selling a pawn shop mirth

Gravity will have it’s way with you
Every plot twisted and cruel
It’s cruel world

A frame Stuck on the silver screen
aWhere they refused the wedding ring

The Muse, Writing

Try the Opposite*

I started listening a podcast of Steve Seskin talking about his song, co-written with Tom Douglas “Grown Men Don’t Cry,” which they wrote for Tim McGraw.  

He and Tom had finished the first two verses. They needed the third.  

The first verse tells about seeing a mom and her child in a tough spot, but not being about to do much about it, or stop to help. 

The second verse talks about a man visiting his fathers grave when it’s too late to make amends and “talking to the wind.”  

Where could the third verse go? 

They explored ideas about what else might make a man cry, more sickness, death, and loss. But they’d already explored all that pretty well. As Steve tells it they spent three days knocking on those doors without any ideas idea they liked answering.  

Then they found the answer: tears of joy–a tender scene between father and child.  

For me the less is it’s easy to get anchored to a point of view or idea. How do you get unstuck? One way is to test out that idea’s opposite.

*Tip of the hat to Tim Ferriss