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Tariq Hussain

on 14 March 2013

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Transcript of Songwriting

Songwriting “If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often. It’s a mysterious condition. It’s much like the life of a Catholic nun. You’re married to a mystery.”

Leonard Cohen Talking about music is like dancing about architecture I started writing songs the summer I turned eleven. Like most beginning songwriters, I knew little about music except for a handful of chords. My first attempt at songwriting was not a real song but a set of lyrics for an existing melody, Paul Simon's "The Sound of Silence." Mine was called "The Look of Absence"--masking my influences was evidently not a major concern at that age. But this is precisely the way that all songwriters learn to write songs, imitating and emulating that which inspires us until our own styles gradually emerge. Through the years I've hoped to find some formula, some trick or method that would make songwriting simple. But there is none.

Regardless of genre or generation, all songwriters are connected by this singular pursuit of merging music and language to create songs. Songwriters are forever united in this delicate balancing act of discovering words that seamlessly match the mandate of music and music that enhances that lyric with a sense of resonance and organic grace.

Paul Zollo from "Songwriters On Songwriting" How do you write a song? Songwriting Tips from Vancouver songwriter, Dan Mangan:

"I write slowly, painstakingly so. I edit endlessly."

1. I try to always have something on the go, even if it's not much

2. I also try not to freak out in dryer times. I try to trust that in time, more will come

3. I try to listen to the world

4. I try to be open to new ideas about the world

5. I try to not assume that I'm right.

6. I try to continue to surround myself with interesting experiences, which will, in turn, spur on new creative ideas.

7. I try to listen to good music, watch good films, read good books and go see some theatre or visual art as often as possible.

8. I believe that the maintenance of a good artist is assuming they know very little – to continually reinvest in their hunger to grow, evolve and improve in their ability to understand the world." Q & A with Madonna (from "Songwriters on Songwriting" by Paul Zollo)

Z: You mentioned how melodies will pop into your head. Do you have any idea where those ideas originate? Do you feel that they come from beyond you?

M: I’m such a sponge; and I love so many different kinds of music and I’ve listened to so many different kinds of music all my life. You know how you just keep memories in the back of your head all the time? I’m sure it’s everything that I’ve ever heard. And then it comes out in my own bastardized fashion. What I am is what I’ve digested throughout my life. What comes out of me. I don’t think it’s beyond, I just think it’s all stored up.

Z: Do you have any techniques for staying in shape creatively?

M: Yeah, just living. Just experiencing life, being really open and observant -A "singable chorus"
-Strong narrative "voice"--the underdog stands up for himself
-Dynamics--louder to softer etc. So, how do you write a song?

Start with the question: what kind of song do I want to write? Jazz Standard
Hip Hop
Electronic Screamo
Laptop Pop
Blackened Death Metal
Doom Metal
Spacesynth Types of songs:

-Advice Songs
-Protest Songs
-Torch Songs (Songs of unrequited love. -Comes from the sense of someone carrying a torch for someone)
-Murder Ballads (A traditional ballad that describes a murder and/or the events leading up to it as well as the events following it)
-The Historical Song (Songs about historical events)
-Sports Songs (Songs with sports themes) "Miriam" a murder ballad by Norah Jones Musical Genres/Types of Songs Introduction--What songwriters say about songwriting Elements of Songs Intro, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Melody, Lyrics, Hooks, Instrumental Break, Riff, Rhythm Lyrics

What to write about? “You have your three big things that you can talk about, basically, if you’re going to write something that actually means something to you as a human being, which is Love, God and Death. That’s basically the thing. Love, which occupies a lot of our time, because we don’t like being lonely. God, because everyone wants to know that there’s a reason behind what they’re doing and what the hell is going on. And death is just the reality of your finite time here.”

Sam Beam of Iron & Wine Narrative Position

Linear Story Song
Single P.O.V
Multiple P.O.Vs

*Songs don't have to be about YOU One Great City by The Weakerthans

Late afternoon, another day is nearly done
A darker grey is breaking through a lighter one
A thousand sharpened elbows in the underground

That hollow hurried sound, feet on polished floor
And in the dollar store, the clerk is closing up
And counting loonies trying not to say

I hate Winnipeg

The driver checks the mirror seven minutes late
The crowded riders' restlessness enunciates
The Guess Who sucked, the Jets were lousy anyway
The same route everyday

And in the turning lane
Someone's stalled again
He's talking to himself
And hears the price of gas repeat his phrase

I hate Winnipeg

And up above us all
Leaning into sky
Our golden business boy
Will watch the North End die
And sing, I love this town
Then let his arcing wrecking ball proclaim

I hate Winnipeg Guitars
Computers (Garageband, Ableton Live, Reason, Pro-Tools
Drum Machines

Use whatever feels right. Do what feels natural.

Sometimes not playing an instrument very well is a good thing for pop songwriting Tools for Songwriting Avoid cliches and excessive rhyming and write good songs. Make no money...?

Use cliches and excessive rhyming and make loads of $$$! A Plea From A Cat Named Virtute

Performed by The Weakerthans
Lyrics by John K. Samson

Why don't you ever want to play?
I'm tired of this piece of string
You sleep as much as I do now, and you
Don't eat much of anything

I don't know who you're talking to
I made a search through every room
But all I found was dust that moved
In shadows of the afternoon

And listen
About those bitter songs you sing?
They're not helping anything
They won't make you strong

So we should open up the house
Invite the tabby two doors down
You could ask your sister, if
She doesn't bring the Basset Hound

Ask of things you shouldn't miss:
Tape-hiss and the Modern Man
The Cold War and Card Catalogues
To come and join us if they can

For girly drinks and parlor games
We'll pass around the easy lie
Of absolutely no regrets
And later maybe you could try
To let your losses dangle off
The sharp edge of a century
And talk about the weather or
How the weather used to be

And I'll cater
With all the birds that I can kill
Let their tiny feathers fill
Disappointment Virtute The Cat Explains Her Departure

Performed by The Weakerthans
Lyrics by John K. Samson

It had something to do with the rain
Leeching loamy dirt
And the way the back lane came alive
Half moon whispered, "Go"

For a while I heard you missing steps in the street
And your anger pleading in an uncertain key
Singing the sound of you that you found for me

When the winter took the tips of my ears
Found this noisy home full of pigeons and places to hide
And when the voices die
I emerged to watched abandoned machines
Waiting for their men to return
I remember the way I would wait for you

To arrive with kibble and a box full of beer
How I'd scratch the empties desperate to hear
You make the sound that you found for me

After scrapping with the ferals and the tabby
Let you brush my matted fur
How I'd knead into your chest while you were sleeping
Shallow breathing made me purr

But I can't remember the sound that you found for me
I can't remember the sound that you found for me
I can't remember the sound Writing Exercise Miriam by Norah Jones

Miriam, that’s such a pretty name
I’m gonna say it when I make you cry
Miriam, you know you done me wrong
I’m gonna smile when you say goodbye

I’m not the jealous type
Never been the killing kind
But you know I know what you did
So don’t put up a fight

Miriam when you were having fun
In my big pretty house did you think twice
Miriam was it a game to you?
Was it a game to him?
Don’t tell me lies

I know he said it’s not your fault
But I don’t believe that’s true
I’ve punished him for being too weak
Now I’ve saved the best for you

And I’m trying not to hurt you
‘Cause you might not be that bad
But it takes a lot to make me go this mad

Oh Miriam, that’s such a pretty name
And I’ll keep saying it until you die
Miriam, you know you done me wrong
I’m gonna smile when you say goodbye
You know you done me wrong
I’m gonna smile when I take your life NPR's radio doc on Nickelback:

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