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A Song Is Born (my songwriting process)

I use this Prezi in songwriting workshops with kids. It explores the creative process that went into writing the song "Super Scientist."

Monty Harper

on 14 April 2011

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Transcript of A Song Is Born (my songwriting process)

Available on iTunes and CDBaby.com Brainstorming 12/15/09 Inspiration 10/20/09 Final Draft Song Structure The structure of a song is the way its various parts fit together. Most popular songs have:

verses (V), a chorus (C), and sometimes a bridge (B)

Here are some common song patterns:


Which one is this song? Verse 1 Verse 2 Chorus Bridge Bridge (2nd draft) A vehicle is a repeated language pattern used to build a section.

Here I want to create a chain of events.

Should I tie each event to the next with "which means"?

Or I should I build each line like this: "to (do something) she'll (something)" Test-driving two different "vehicles" over the "bridge" 12/15/09 A Song is Born How I wrote
"Super Scientist"
by Monty Harper A song can be inspired by words, music, a bit of both, or by an idea or event. I am inspired to write this song by talking to a scientist about her work. This is hard work! Focus! A song is about one thing (focus),
in a specific way (angle)
Writing does not begin without a focus and angle. Anything before that is still inspiration! My song is about Marianna's research, but the could be... Focus bacteria
the scientist
cystic fibrosis
the scientific process
can you think of others? Because she is so dedicated, because she hopes to save lives, Marianna reminds me of a kind of superhero. That gives me my
focus and angle!. The Scientist scientist as superhero Your focus is the object of your song - the thing it's about. Your angle is how you approach the topic, your attitude toward it, your unique expression of it.

A good angle makes a song stand out, makes it interesting, and easier to write at the same time! With a workable focus and angle, I can move on to actual writing!

Now it's time to brainstorm and look for a title and hook. 12/14/09 Notice my focus and angle at work. All my ideas are about the scientist and how she is like a super hero. Superhero words Even when I'm just writing down possible rhymes, the words I choose might be used in a superhero context. Plain Language I'm not trying to make this sound like a song yet. Just expressing ideas in everyday language. Getting words quickly on the page! Hook and Title Once I get some words and ideas on paper, I start looking for my and my .

Knowing my hook and/or title will help guide the rest of my writing. Hook Title A "hook" hooks the listener in. Every song should have at least one hook. That's the thing that sticks in your mind and makes you want to hear the song again. A hook can be words, melody, instruments, even a concept or element of form. A hook is often a short bit of words and melody together. Often the title IS a hook, but not always. When I don't have either yet, I'll try to come up with a title that can also be a hook. In either case I'm looking for a memorable, singable, colorful phrase that sums up the focus and angle of the song.
No pressure. Actual page of writing Is this my hook?
Title? Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Just documenting my idea for an angle Words and music are stand-ins They're gonna change Recorded 10/24/09 10/24/09 Singing off the top of my head using "super hero scientist" as my angle. I'll type this up to start my brainstorming on paper. http://www.montyharper.com Here's one idea for how I might sing this title... Time to admit - I'm stuck!

Nothing I do with "Superhero Scientist" seems to work. It's OK, but I don't love it. And I don't see how to make it into a song.

I have a great angle, but it isn't guiding me like it should.

So, back to work on the angle...

Songwriting hardly ever travels straight from beginning to end without a few detours! Two Steps Forward...
One Step Back. Tightening My Angle I love the scientist as superhero idea, BUT maybe it's not specific enough. Where do I go from here? Asking questions will help me figure it out. Point of View Who is singing?
To whom?
What's their attitude?
What's their situation?
What's their motivation? New Ideas Me singing ABOUT the scientist. Not that different from what I've got. N Try switching to 2nd person. Yes! Now I'm singing TO the scientist, cheering her on. This shows how I feel. A simple new twist, but it can guide the whole song. Not much different from "superhero scientist." Telling, not showing. Zzzzz... New Angle / Hook Actual page of writing "Go, Super Scientist, Go!"
Makes a great hook, too. It allows the listener to participate, cheering the scientist on.

And it provides a clear direction for the song. We are the spectators of a battle between the super scientist and her nemisis, the bacteria. Writing a draft will be easier with this in mind! Hmm... It's OK. Where does it lead me? Lab work?
Not very dramatic! Verse 1 sets up the villain, explaining why we need a super scientist, which leads right into the first chorus. Since this section contains the hook three times, it will likely become the chorus of the song. guitar
chords hook title? 12/14/09 My first attempt at the whole "Cheer." Will This is my first try at a verse. I will support the chorus with a verse about the scientist's superpowers. The chorus is repeated several times throughout the song. The words and melody are the same each time (or very close). The chorus usually contains a hook and the title of the song. It conveys the song's focus. A song may have two or more verses. Each verse has the same melody and different words. The verses support the main idea expressed in the chorus. Each verse has its own focus, and each verse leads the listener back to the chorus. Not every song has a bridge. Usually if there is a bridge you hear it only once, though it can be repeated. A bridge has a different melody than the verses and chorus. The words bring a whole new idea or point of view into the song. Here's my whole first draft, with two different attempts at the bridge. Verse 2 focuses on the scientist's super powers. Revisions First Draft I think I will need a bridge in this song to show scientist's process. This is best explained as a chain of events, and wouldn't fit well into a verse. The unique structure and content of the bridge adds variety and interest to the song. I'll make tons of improvements to my first draft, both in words and music. How do I know when the song is good enough? I look for and correct certain types of problems. The song is done when I can't make it any better (or I run out of time). Let's look at some problems I often need to correct... Prosody Melody Lyrics Clarity Punchlines Words and melody fit well together Memorable Interesting The Songwriting Process I. Pre-Writing 2. Writing 3. Revising Inspiration
Asking Questions
Verse, Chorus, Bridge
Vehicles Prosody
Colorful language Vehicle 1 Vehicle 2 Colorful Language "Who can stop their vicious tricks"

"None can stop their deadly tricks" Bacteria aren't vicious but they are deadly. And none can stop their deadly tricks
None but the super scientist...
Go, Super Scientist, Go! Who can stop their deadly tricks?
We need a super scientist...
Go, Super Scientist, Go! becomes uncertain
leaves you hanging suspenseful
leads into chorus Punch Word She triumphs by hypothesis

She punches by hypothesis

becomes becomes Three reasons... You can picture a punch, plus the two p's sound cool together. (Alliteration!) Flows well from section to section Will this be a verse or a chorus? Time to think about structure! Plus she hasn't triumphed yet! Revising the melody With each try at this section the melody gets better at building tension and leading back into the chorus. My voice gets louder as I feel more confident! Make sure the words mean what you mean them to. Each section "punches" on the last word. To Recap 1. Prewriting I took my from a scientist's work.
I chose to on the scientist herself.
My was the scientist as a superhero. More specificially, I wrote TO the scientist, cheering her on.
My was "Go, Super Scientist, Go!" My was "Super Scientist." Focus Angle Hook Title 2. Writing I words and ideas in plain language, guided by my focus and angle.
When I got stuck, I asked questions to clarify my angle.
My contained the hook and title, and it expressed the angle.
Each supported the chorus, each with its own focus.
The introduced a new idea. I used a to help write it. Brainstormed Chorus Vehicle Verse 3. Revising I checked for , making sure I said what I wanted to say.
I made sure the punched.
I made sure my words were and interesting.
I made sure the was interesting and flowed well from section to section.
I improved the - the way the words and music fit together. Clarity Punchlines Melody Prosody Bridge Colorful Inspiration Hear the final product... Here's the final recording, from my Songs From the Science Frontier CD. Produced by Chris Wiser and featuring the Sugar Free Allstars
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