Songwriting

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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Music Theory, Songwriting, The Muse, Writing

Saturday Songwriting: Through the Woods

Some songs I hear for the first time and I’m just floored. “You Are Not Alone,” performed by Mavis Staples is one of those songs. The lyric is simple, but deep. The chords and melody, likewise are pretty straight forward. But there are some kinks.  

Watch for the moment about 30 seconds in, right after the line “What’s that song . . . “  where Jeff Tweedy extends the song a measure on the Em and Mavis has to stop herself from singing the next line, because it’s what a person would expect to happen. That moment of space and melancholy fits the song perfectly. Could adding space, (or taking it away), help a song of yours? The only way to fing out is to try.  Here’s the video:

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Jennybird Alacantra’s “Tender”

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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Songwriting

“The Notes are Right Under Your Fingers”

“Let me tell you something, brother. The notes are right underneath your fingers, baby. You just gotta take the time out to play the right notes; that’s life. Ray Charles, from Jamie Foxx’s interview on the Tim Ferriss podcast.  

I was talking to a friend about guitar practice. A few years ago we had the same guitar teacher, who talked about learning the habits of comfort and security. That teacher took us slowly and methodically through each piece of music, carefully building a kind of scaffolding around the work to imagine it before even picking up the guitar.  

I gained a lot working with him. And looking back, I think I experienced more anxiety than security in that work. (Don’t blame the teacher, it was my anxiety). 

The Ray Charles quote above strikes me more as something said out of comfort and security: The notes are right underneath your fingers, baby.  You just gotta take the time out to play the right notes. 

It strikes me that taking the time out to play the right notes doesn’t have to do with simply playing slowly. I know from experience it’s possible to play slowly and still feel rushed and anxious. Just as it’s possible to play blazingly fast, and feel like there’s all the time in the world. The notes are right underneath your fingers, baby.   

Imperfection, Practice

Is it Courage?

I was asked the other day something like, is there courage involved in doing your Work, your writing?Thinking about it I said, I don’t know, I don’t think about it that way.  

For me that word courage is asking my writing to mantle too much. I don’t know if I can be brave, but I know I can show up. Showing up isn’t always easy, but I can do it. All it takes is sitting at a table with paper and pen, (or my laptop) and writing the first word, and then the next. Showing up is simple.  

With courage I find myself imagining horses to ride and armor to don; swords to raise and enemies to ride at. 

Showing up is as simple as sitting down. Maybe there’s a little bit of courage in hitting send, but even that—it’s a click. Merely another kind of showing up.    

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Songwriting, The Song Well, Tunesday

Tunesday: Oct 20th: Curtain Won’t Quite Close

Every Tunesday I post a boldly imperfect, one-take song draft of a song. This was written from a prompt offered on July 10th, “Morse Code” (You can receive a new prompt every Friday in time for Happy Hour by signing up here).

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Footsteps tap along the road
Dots & dashes of morse code
Silver quarters in a jar
Now I’m wondering where you are

Smoke signs burnt into the air
A last goodbye, well thee fair
Ash that echoes from afar
Now I’m wondering where you are

Our neighbors sleep beneath their stones
Someday I’ll be one of those
Driven home in a long black car
Will I meet you where you are?

A call out on your radio
To dads we never really know
W1HFR
Now I’m wondering where you are