The Process as a whole

Well that’s the three tracks finished, initially I had hoped to analyse some songs I liked in order to decipher their lyrics a little. I drafted one essay about one but when it came down to it, it was difficult to relate the writings to the project so the three songs will have to stand on their own along with the artwork on the sound cloud page that I designed.

As much as I’m not 100% happy with all the songs I understand some writers feel the same, I know Springsteen wasn’t always happy with his work and when Weezer recorded Pinkerton Cuomo hated it and still does, so perhaps it’s normal to be not be in love with everything you write.

I think the most important thing to take away from this experience is that I know have a rough process, which I know can at least generate material for me however questionable the quality may be. Another is just to stop being so afraid to write, I think I was always afraid to write because it seemed like a dark art something which should just naturally pour out without editing or thought. After reading about Springsteen’s alternate versions and the revisions he goes through it helped me realise that most people start off bad you can eventually get better with dedication and practice. Another interview that helped me overcome the fear was an interview conducted with Paul Banks the songwriter from Interpol, in the interview a comment is given to Banks (Opipari, 2011) “Some poets and novelists have told me that writer’s block is a failure of courage that it comes because the writer is too afraid to write something bad.” This makes a lot of sense to me and while writers block is usually only reserved for writers actually writing I realise now that all I was doing was looking at other writers who had years of experience then looking at my work and being disappointed.

After all this though my song writing process seems to come down to

  1. I’ll get a melody, whether it’s through writing something down lyrically and adapting it or just playing on a guitar
  2. Once the melody is done, I look for chords that fit under it well while trying not to go overboard and focus on the guitar part too much
  3. I’ll work out the best way to piece the original melody and this together going by feel usually for if it should be a bit more sparse or full.
  4. Usually at this point I’ll try to come up with a chorus melody and from there go through a similar process as I did when constructing the verse
  5. Once I’ve got a set of verses and choruses constructed in the above ways I usually try to write a bridge in order to break the song up a bit. I don’t necessarily come up with bridges the same way as I mentioned above though I normally try to come up with the chords and then the lyrics almost in a stream of consciousness style in order to differentiate them from the rest of the song.
  6. Once this is done I’ll usually set a song aside for a few days or longer if possible, then come back to it and see what I need to fix
  7. After that it’s onto a preliminary demo of the track on my phone usually just myself singing along while playing guitar, I do this because it saves loading up a pro tools session and creating all the tracks. I think it helps me to get the track down as quick as possible.
  8. After this again I try to set it aside then come back a few days later and do a full demo of the track if possible, due to lack of a drum kit however I usually end up creating a drumbeat on a simple drum machine plug-in. Eventually I would like to do complete demos with a full drum track as well.

Here is a link to a playlist containing the final demos of all three tracks

Complete Demo

As usual here’s a more polished demo, with a fuller and clearer arrangement. I decided to make a few changes from the initial demo however, I wanted to experiment with a dirtier vocal sound since the track is meant to represent a slightly darker memory, so I managed to create quite a different sound from what I have used on previous tracks.I also increased the tempo as I felt it fit the track better and gave me a chance to try something different from the others.

I also wanted to increase the tempo of this song as I felt everything else I had previously completed was in the same key and tempo, so it would be nice to try something totally different.

I just wish I had more time to work on this song in particular, since it was done so late in the process I don’t really think it stands up as well as the other two, not that they’re that great either but at least they’ve had some more development time.

Writing Process

I wanted to take the writing process a little differently for this track. Instead of first coming up with a vocal melody then working out which chords fit well under it I’ve done the opposite. I decided to try writing in a minor key this time to give the track a bit of a different feel, unintentionally with the last two they sounded a bit similar due to the similar chords used throughout so I thought I would change it up.

I came up with a slightly longer chord progression than usual, but I hope I didn’t make the same mistakes as I did with the initial draft of Son by making it too guitar orientated. Then I tried to work out what would fit over it well. Once this was done I turned my attention to the chorus of the song once again trying to start in a similar way, chords first then melody.

Once this was done I thought about adding in a bridge section (mainly in hopes of writing a song that lasted longer than 2 minutes at first draft). However I wrote three verses for this song instead of the usual two I seem to write. I’m trying to work out the best place to put the bridge, not sure if it should come after the last verse and before the last chorus or if I should put it after the second chorus and before the third verse for a change.

Another track

After re-drafting and going back the previous track I had written a while back it jogged a memory, a memory of what at the time seemed like a very long car journey.
Untitled
Excuse the terrible quality image from Google maps, if I had the choice I would have preferred to get a photo of it at night. This was usually the point when I knew I was in for a long drive as a child, because I was either heading from Bishopbriggs to Falkirk or vice versa. It’s funny how a place can seem so different in your mind but when you actually see it, it’s not quite how you remember it.
I remember the trees being more invasive lurching over the road more, although you were lucky if you could see them the road was usually pitch black. A few years ago the retail park next to this road became a lot more developed so the area around it started to reflect that but when I remember this road it was dark, isolated and foreboding.
With this in mind I set out trying to write my third song about this place and my feelings for it, you could say it acted as a bridge between two homes for me and it’s definitely a place that’s ingrained deep within my memory.

A More Developed Re-draft (The Springsteen Approach)

Here’s the finished full demo of Son (Version 2) like I said before this song was originally developed from a previous idea which I had shelved and forgotten about.

Initially I had “finished” the song taken one look at it and realized I didn’t like it, put it aside and that was the end of it or so I thought. Then I ended up watching a documentary about Bruce Springsteen and his band recording and writing their album come to think of it I’m not quite sure how watching it would help I initially watched a short interview with Springsteen in which he shows of his large notebook of songs and this sort of convinced me it would be worth watching (ABC 2014).

I knew from then that Springsteen wrote a lot, which is something I admired considering I can still barely just piece together songs while singing over them. After I watched that interview I found another article somewhere that had a small picture of his journal and mentioned that when the documentary was released it came with a copy of his song writing journal (Berkun, 2011). Owing to time and economic factors I wasn’t able to get my hands on a copy to look through myself but I did watch the Documentary, there was a lot of talk about how Springsteen writes his songs.

One section that stood out to me in particular was when one of the engineers mentioned that “Bruce was a tremendous re-writer” apparently he would have different versions of songs, some with different endings some with totally different verses. Springsteen goes on himself to say that “If something wasn’t complete I just pulled out the parts I liked” this gave me a bit of inspiration to look back at my previous work as well which in the end I think turned out favourably. Certainly better than my initial draft of the song anyway after the advice of just taking out which part I liked and scrapping the rest.

Springsteen offered me another valuable insight however other than the benefits of constantly writing and re-drafting ideas. There’s a point in the documentary where he looks back on the beginnings of his career and mentions that when you first start writing you base everything off of your creative instinct not your creative intelligence. This is something I’ve obviously tried to get around by reading Webb’s book on song writing, Zollo’s book of interviews and Addonizio’s book on poetry and creativity. While these books have taught me the basics and given me enough courage to actually get started it still helps to know that the only way forward is by applying those techniques even if it does lead to less than brilliant work, hopefully that will come with time though.

Here is a link to the full version of Son…

Once again, excuse the less than brilliant singing.

Re-drafting

Re-drafting

So far my songwriting process has relied heavily on getting a small spark of inspiration whether it’s a melody like I had with the first song I demo’d and working from that to create a full track around it or even just a theme of what I want to write about.

I had struggled to come up with anything original today and with time stretching ever on, I looked back at one track which I had originally throw away. This was a track which I had initially presented during my CMP presentation last year. The track was originally intended to be written from my fathers point of view since Jimmy Webb had mentioned in his book that most songs are written from a point of view I felt this would be a good idea to try and incorporate into the project purely for experimentation purposes.

When looking back at the draft lyrics and chords I had written I immediately wanted to make revisions. I could remember the melody which is what had brought me back to the song but when I looked at it I noticed that it plainly looked like it had been written with a “guitar playing” mentality. There were a lot of chords when really the melody only really in my opinion needed two or three.

With this in mind I scrapped most of the chords I had written for the verse section and simplified it to just two chords, I had also been reading about techniques that were prevalent in The Beatles songwriting. They often used the first chord in a key and the fifth key in order to create a bit of tension and release so I tried this out. It didn’t have a dramatic overall impact over the song but I thought it sounded good so I kept it in.

Some of the lyrics also got re-written so the melody flows a bit better, even although I’ve not really written many sets of lyrics yet looking back to the original draft of this song there were some glaring errors I had made. I suppose that’s some good progress though here’s a demo that I recorded quickly today, it’s not the best quality.

My First Demo (Take 2)

I finally got a chance to record a more developed version of the first demo I posted in an earlier entry.

This version encompasses a “full band” type of set up there’s a drum machine providing a beat (albeit a basic one at the moment), bass guitar, rhythm guitar and also myself singing.

Regarding the issues I had mentioned in my previous entry, I managed to extend the song a little by adding in an intro and adding in a few cycles through chord progressions before the singing comes in at certain points. While The length of the track is only extended slightly it still seems better to me. Right now I’m thinking of other possibilities that may help to extend the track even further.

Listening to my own singing in this track, it is evident I do not have a natural talent. However I hope that the melody is at least recognizable to an extent as I do wish to further develop this skill and I believe that writing melodies and actually singing them myself is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

My First Demo

So here’s my first demo, the quality is a bit poor. I ended up recording it on my phone because I didn’t have time to setup my microphone and amp.

At this point in the songs development a demo like this might be for the best, it gave me a chance to see how long the song lasted (clocked in at just over 2 minutes) and let me hear how well the sections went together. The only problem is the vocals aren’t as clear so I can’t make out if my singing is passable. There will be a better quality demo recorded over the next few days when I’ve put in a bit more work to the arrangement some more.

The main aims at the moment are to increase the length of the song, the song follows the standard intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/double chorus format which I’m sure is mentioned in the Webb book, but it still seems too short and I’m not really sure why.

I had a look online and a general consensus seems to be that it’s easier to shorten a song than extend it and that a pop song should be between 3 to 4 minutes. While I have no aspirations of turning any of my songs into chart smashes I still think the song needs to be longer, which is something I plan to work on.

…And their continued application kind of

IMAG0150The American Sentence idea has proved to be a good jumping off point, although the 17 syllable idea didn’t last very long. The more I started writing the quicker it changed into more or less syllables.

These are all notes I’ve taken throughout the ideas/drafting phase of ideas. Most of the ideas written down are all focused on the concept of leaving my first childhood home which occurred when I was about 3 or 4.

I don’t have a lot of memories of this time and when I was reading an interview with Randy Newman he said he had written a song “Kind of about how your childhood gets told to you” (Zollo, 2003) so I thought I would kind of center my lyrics for this piece the same way. Based on what my parents had told me about this move.

Most of the lyrics talk about places things that were left behind from my first home in Glasgow and then in the second verse I go on to talk about what went on around my new home. Due to the area we moved to in Falkirk still being built a lot of the lyrics stretch over a period of time when the area was being developed so it talks about the development of the area.

The song is still being drafted so there’s not demo at the moment but at least there’s more development coming into play now.