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:

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
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.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQjp5s6DJlw

*Tip of the hat to Tim Ferriss

Music Theory, Songwriting, The Muse, Writing

Saturday Songwriting: Scrape the Sun

The three major chords in a scale are amazing. I feel like I overlook them sometimes. I want to do more than write just another three chord song. But a solid melody and three chords is more than enough to write a great song.  

This week’s musical idea is taking a look at a connection between the three major chords and the scale they come from, which is that those three chords together hold all the notes of the major scale. That means any melody that sticks to a major scale could be harmonize with just those three chords.   

I was blown away the first time I heard that. I still kind of am.  

 

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Christopher Bucklow’s Art

The Musical Idea:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
Music Theory, Songwriting, The Muse, Writing

Saturday Songwriting: Caged Lioness

A few days ago, I was checking out Jake Lizzio’s video (from Signals Music Studio) looking at the chord progression of Bruno Mars’s “When I Was Your Man.” It’s a cool video, and the song has some great changes to explore. And like pretty much all music theory, it can be a little intimidating if you don’t know the jargon.   The cool thing is, BEAD Guides Chord Flow can show the principles guiding the song, no jargon needed.  

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Stefano Bonazzi’s Art

The Musical Idea:

Jake Lizzio explains “When I Was Your Man.”

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
Practice, Writing

The Leftovers of Laughter

I’m a big fan of the HBO’s show The Leftovers.  A couple nights ago pulled up the penultimate episode to watch with my wife. (A main character becomes the president in it—it felt relevant). But it’s the antepenultimate, or third to last episode that’s my favorite.  

I ended up googling the episode yesterday. Looking for reviews or insights—that sort of thing. I found this from Damon Lindelof talking about writing the scripts for The Leftovers: Anything that evoked laughter in the writers’ room became fair game for actual stories.

This struck me. The Leftovers can be a serious show. It tells stories of the lives of people who survive a “Rapture” like event. It never occurred to me that laughter might be part of the writing process.   

As a singer-songwriter, I’ve heard lots of writers say that they know they’re on the right track when they cry in the process of writing a song. Songwriters don’t talk about laughing at something being a good sign—but it makes sense that it could be, it’s simply a different emotional well.