Saturday Songwriting: It’s Shadow Shall Appear

Today is Halloween. This week, I figured I’d share something scary–or at least potentially spooky–and focus in on chords in a minor scale. Not merely a minor scale, but the A minor scale and how to find the chords in it, and play around with them.  

Minor scales are notoriously unstable, and there are lots of different ways for a scale to be minor, while there is basically only one major scale. The plus side of the variety and instability of minor scales is that tons of different chords and substitutions will sound “good” in minor scales. (The definition of good here is dependent entirely on the amount of dissonance you can bear). 

I’ve included a worksheet below so you can create lots of different progressions and see what they sound like.   

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Pitch Canker’s Art

The Musical Idea:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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Losing Five Minutes

My computer wouldn’t load properly when I hopped on the bus this morning, so I’ve spent the last five minutes staring at a grey screen and Apple’s swirling beach ball of death as the computer reloaded and came back on line. I am, in a word, frustrated.   

It goes without saying it’s hard to concentrate when I’m frustrated. Along with the frustration, feeding it even, is the sense I should start writing the moment I find a seat on the bus.  

Get to work! 

I do have a schedule I aim to hew to, but if I miss five minutes—even ten minutes—of this morning will so much have gone wrong? And if missing five minutes of my routine on a nominal, average, dull morning is such a problem, mightn’t something more be amiss?  

It certainly would be preferable if five minutes here or there weren’t going make or break my day. Sure, there are days when I have places to go, people to see, planes to catch, etc. But it wouldn’t be preferable if the loss of five minutes didn’t send me into a tizzy? 

Something Will Surprise You

One of the best things about writing a song, about sitting down and writing one whether I really want to or not, is learning; “I can write a song, and I can write a song at any time.” 

Lots of people wish they could write songs. Many of those people think they can’t. But they’re wrong. They usually defining “a song” as something epochal and out of reach, unpossible. Of course, a song can be epochal, but they can also be dead simple. Some are both.  

The point is what songwriting writing has taught me: I can do nearly anything given that I set the states low and give myself space to learn the skills required. Some people call this “giving ourselves permission.” To me that’s a little too mommy or daddy looking over my shoulder and saying what I can and can’t do. 

If giving yourself permission works, that’s fine. I find I need most is to remember to set the stakes (and my slights), very, very low. For me, that creates the space for my work to surprise me. And when I give it space the Work often will surprise me, especially if I’m doing the work often enough.  

If songwriting is something you’ve always wanted to do, set your sights low and start writing. Eventually, your work will surprise you. Sit down everyday for a week and simply write for ten minutes. Maybe don’t ever look at it. Stick it in an envelope until the end of the week. When you do look at it. Something will surprise you, and it will be thrilling. 

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Tunesday: Oct 27th: Through the Woods

Every Tunesday I post a boldly imperfect, one-take song draft of a song. This was written from this past Saturday’s prompt, “Through the Woods” (You can receive a new prompt every Friday in time for Happy Hour by signing up here).

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I’ve been a jack
I’ve yelled timber out for the things I loved before
I’ve being a shill
rubbing nickels to bring a genie’d grant me more
I’ve been dirt in a sad song that sings goodbye
I’ve been last call with a jukebox and no dime

These Treetop are always swaying
While I’ve lived and wondered who I want to be
I ain’t through the woods I think that’s what i’m saying
The end of this is surely certainty

I’ve been two roads
Both crooked love and the straight line of regret
I’ve been fresh snow
And the first step in a patch of wet cement
I’ve been the last dance with tequila and a lime
I’ve been shaky words upon page unsigned

I’ve been three beds
I’ve been lumpy like cold porridge and just right
I’ve been beat red
Yelling at these teeth that stalk me in the night
I’ve been moaning ghosts and high spirits that howl round
Flown like buttered toast that lands face down on the ground

Why Write Songs

Songs are awesome, moving, and life changing. 
Songs help me know who I am, and learn what I know.  
Songs also help me learn what I don’t know.   
They can be funny, or poignant, or if you’re John Prine both. 
Songs can bring people together. 
Songs are an opportunity to speak a person’s mind. 
They can act as a bit of revenge, (sorry exes everywhere).
They are an opportunity to learn how to speak more compellingly.  
They can teach us to speak more engagingly. 
Songs can teach us to say what we mean.  
Writing songs might cause you fall in love with writing, communication and poetry.  
In a world that is learning to value empathy more and more, songs a place to learn about our emotions.  
They are an opportunity for grow, and to see our growth.    
Songs are awesome, moving, and life changing. 

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