Old 05-18-2010, 07:18 AM   #41
sly
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ya this is true. but to me a song is like a woman, the backing is her body, the melody is her face, and the lyrics are her personality. iow, a song that sounds good with good melody and stuff but bad lyrics, to me, is just a pretty face.
I like this metaphor. I also heard it said like this: The lyrics are rarely the thing that makes you like a song - but it is often the thing that makes you LOVE a song.
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Old 05-18-2010, 07:34 AM   #42
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Lot's of good suggestions here, from people clearly more experienced than I. After years of trying (on and off) I'm just barely starting to get happier about my lyric writing.

my guidelines (most of these have already been mentioned):

-Doesn't have to make sense! This one is really important. It's more about how the words fit with the music and the mental images the words evoke in the listener. REM "Birthday party cheesecake jelly bean boom!" When it fits it fits, doesn't have to make 'grammatical' sense.

-Sometimes you have to drop a word to make it fit. Neil Diamond (whom I love) has several examples where you can listen to the lyric and imagine it as written. But when he sang it he had to drop out a word to make it fit, so if you read the lyric he sings it doesn't make proper grammatic sense but it feels so right in the context of the song.

-Try to find a few words/sentance/phrase that the syllables fit with part of the song well, and is interesting from some standpoint. This *might* be your 'hook line'. Don't be afraid to let the words lead you somewhere at first. If you find yourself saying "jelly bean boom" and don't know why, go with it for a bit, see where it leads you.

-Build out from the kernel of the idea from your 'key phrase/hook line'. Even if the idea is "a bunch of seemingly unrelated words stream of conciousness style", or "phrases that are impossible or conundrums".

-Be keen to words and phrases that can be interpreted in lots of different ways.

For a simplistic example: One of my songs I wanted the lyrics to be sort of 'conundrums', things that don't logically make sense together. So I came up with "Shaded Sun", because there's so shade on the sun right? And immediately the thought comes to me "Shaded SON". So I'm thinking this is acutally going to be about a person rather than the Sun itself.

Then I come up with a first line "Walk through the skyline, or move on the page." Because I'm thinking you can't actually walk through a skyline, you can't actually walk on the pages of a book (in essence). And already ideas of things you could do in a music video with that line start popping into my head.

'And the rest just writes itself' as they say. When things start falling in your lap you're on the right track. When it's too much of a chore, maybe you're trying too hard.

I guess I'm saying: Open your mind to the seemingly absurd sometimes. And steer towards things with multiple interpretations.

That's what I like to try, for what it's worth.
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Old 05-18-2010, 07:44 AM   #43
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For me the most worse thing is when people try to get lyrical and/or try to tell whole stories in a song. I am recording so many different singers and the best and catchy lyrics are always the most simple ones (not talking about HIP-HOP now).
When i want a story , i read a book or watch a movie.
The 3-5 minutes of a song just have space for only ONE feeling or ONE situation or ONE message or ONE whatever....but only one. This is the whole trick.


And : You always need a HOOKLINE. If you have no ideas , try to start with a very simple hookline and build the lyrics around it.
sometimes 4 good sounding words say more than a bunch of crappy phrases.
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Old 05-18-2010, 08:10 AM   #44
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I really think the answer is different for everybody and what works for one might not work for you. I've seen a few people say that writing lyrics takes practice .. and man that is the truth. Not so much the lyrics you end up with, but how you end up with them.

I always felt music had to come first. Unfortunately, the music would then shape my lyrics and vocal melody in a pretty boring, root note type of way. Then there was the urge to make words rhyme all the time. Just ends up sounding cheesy.

Now I just write down ideas. I think somebody else mentioned having a notebook with them at all times (another thing that might work for some, and not others) and just jot down ideas, and that works for me. Don't expect to put your pencil to paper and get a final draft right away. Just get the ideas out and you can massage them later to fit your song or mood.

If I've already got some music I'm working with for a particular idea, I turn to the piano to come up with a vocal melody for the song .. and to do that I simply just tinker around some notes until I find something SIMPLE that sits well. Start singing that melody with some of the lyrics you've written. (If you're like me .. you'll want to provide ear plugs for family and pets) As you move through it .. you can edit your lyrics to make a better fit, remember .. less is more. I've had so many singers try and fit 500 words in a verse and it just sounds like ass. You can always say the same thing with less words, just need to think about it.

The bulk of it is to not restrict yourself. Don't put a filter on when you're writing lyrics. Just write .. write ... write .. write .. write. You can change it up later .. but thinking about it too much can ruin your natural flow.

good luck!
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:03 AM   #45
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I'm not a songwriter or a lyricist but after having listened to the following song many, many times over the last 25+ years it is, in my personal opinion, one of the finest examples of how lyrics can tell a complete story in under 3:00 minutes and do it brilliantly. Every time I listen to it a movie plays in my head. The "secret" of writing such a great lyric is explained at the end.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJtDWusEFkE
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:11 AM   #46
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Originally Posted by ez_willis View Post
lyrics are overated. you couldn't possibly write something dumber than:

Oh yeah, I´ll tell you something
I think you'll understand
When I say that something
I wanna hold your hand
This is actually brilliant marketing. It speaks to young, inexperienced girls who do not understand the complexities of life beyond hand holding but want to buy records with cute boys on them. Something to scream and feel emotional/devotional about.

Mission accomplished. Well, one of them anyway.
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:31 AM   #47
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Default Great Pick Joe Engineer

Townes Van Zant is such a great storyteller. The song is just the vehicle for the ballad and the story. But what is so good about that is the richness of the language.

That is pure shakespeare the way the cards fall down with the action and you get a little confused if it is a card falling or a person.

The word play is just fantastic and well woven into a great yarn.

His song 'Marie' is just one of the saddest songs of hopelessness and so damned genuine that the story there is again the main gig.
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:33 AM   #48
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Lots of good tips here:

http://thesonggarage.blogspot.com/
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:34 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by reaperdeeper View Post


And : You always need a HOOKLINE. If you have no ideas , try to start with a very simple hookline and build the lyrics around it.
sometimes 4 good sounding words say more than a bunch of crappy phrases.
Agreed in "radio-pop" context.

Then paint around it, try to get the singer´s personality through the Ipod.
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:38 AM   #50
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hey, it's ez willis. what up ez?
what's up, brudda?
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:40 AM   #51
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I don't find anything bad about these lyrics. 'i wanna hold your hand' a nice metaphor for saying i want to be with you
which is also dumb. but if anything, this shows that like music and so many other things, LYRICS ARE SUBJECTIVE.

it's better to be writing songs that certain people won't dig than to be too insecure to write anything.
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:00 AM   #52
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which is also dumb. but if anything, this shows that like music and so many other things, LYRICS ARE SUBJECTIVE.

it's better to be writing songs that certain people won't dig than to be too insecure to write anything.
right subjective. love is not dumb though. and the metaphor 'hold your hand' i don't think is either. you mgiht find it cheesy to sing about it. guys tend to think that love is weakness for men, but really it is strength. but whatever, ya it is subjective. the point is to write about yourself and your own feelings and to be honest in your music. i find anyways. not to write what you think other people will like, like you said, or what everybody else in your genre writes about. there's art and then there's entertainment. art is honesty, entertainment is a job.
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:07 AM   #53
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the point is to write about yourself and your own feelings
that is so not the point. i've never written a single sentence about me or how i feel.
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:08 AM   #54
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that is so not the point. i've never written a single sentence about me or how i feel.
and if i ever do, i will punch myself in the face for it.
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:13 AM   #55
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It's all explained here http://freshonthenet.co.uk/the-manual-by-the-klf/
I'm amazed no-one mentioned this already. You learn from the masters...
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:20 AM   #56
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there's art and then there's entertainment. art is honesty, entertainment is a job.
But it´s all about basic human feelings after all , no?

Entertainment is art and art is entertainment imo. You have to get into the listener´s world, head and thinking to entertain - while rowing your own boat.

That´s my humble opinion.
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Old 05-18-2010, 12:23 PM   #57
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Any wisdom you can share could be the little spark for me and others to get shit done and have a good time. Thank you.
You need to let lose - let yourself go, let your mind wander...

It's hard to explain, but I think good lyrics are not thought up consciously, they kind of write themselves. Afterwards you need to edit them of course for musicality and quality control.
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Old 05-18-2010, 01:50 PM   #58
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Professionally I'm an engineer and so I approach my creative interests with a similar analytical approach: understand the problems, the solutions, and the equipment. One important thing to remember about how our writing equipment (brain) works: The brain is a giant parallel computer. It does many things at the same time. While you consciously think of ideas, other combinations are iterated in the back of your mind.

In the long run, the better songs come together faster, but the process has been similar: I have lots of little bits laying around in my head and nothing is better than the brain and the subconscious at trying every single combination while you're paying attention to other things. When it finds a winner, you'll get that Eureka! moment. The analog to a desktop computer is that when you use the "find" function, the software has to start at the beginning and check every single piece of data for a match. Our brains can do a "find" or "match" everywhere all at once. This is why you can recognize a song you haven't heard in ten years almost instantly. This gives us an incredible creative advantage and learning to let the subconscious go do the work for you has been a huge boon for my writing.

The key for me is to write all the bad stuff too. You have to write through the crap to get to the gold. You have to be honest with yourself when you sit back and go, "Would I listen to this if it wasn't me performing it?"

I have a friend who fancies himself a short story writer but he never has the discipline to finish anything. Even though I'm quite prodigious with my creative output, he has too much pride (or not enough sense) to really talk to me about what he should do, but I tell him anyway, "Write the shitty stories about boy meets girl and you'll discover your own style in all the little side bits and details." I write songs that no one ever sees or hears just to get that one good line out which can then turn into another song that's actually decent.

As for my current process, writing lyrics and writing music have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I fiddle around with the guitar while I do other things and that's where riffs and progressions come from, and a line I'll randomly think of will suddenly strike me as fitting a particular progression, so I'll figure out how to put them together. The only part of my creative output that is 100% conscious is the engineering and production.

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Old 05-18-2010, 02:30 PM   #59
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Im loving the feedback especially the conflicting views, they're great for busting ruts.

I get what ez willis is saying. yes the words were trite and well, were getting away with murder, but them trite words were the right words for the song. take one of your faverite songs and change the words to be about doing the dishes. lyrics matter. Well they do to me anyway.

Take the last beatles album"abbey road", "Oh Darling", and "I want you" both lyrics are certainly not deep on an intellectual way, not very poetic, but the words work. for me and maybe not forsome one else, but for me as a listener if those lyrics were changed, they would be ruined.

BTW Loved that you tube van sant thingy
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Old 05-18-2010, 02:35 PM   #60
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Originally Posted by jens View Post
You need to let lose - let yourself go, let your mind wander...

It's hard to explain, but I think good lyrics are not thought up consciously, they kind of write themselves. Afterwards you need to edit them of course for musicality and quality control.
Nice

Quote:
Originally Posted by agilblom View Post
Professionally I'm an engineer and so I approach my creative interests with a similar analytical approach: understand the problems, the solutions, and the equipment. One important thing to remember about how our writing equipment (brain) works: The brain is a giant parallel computer. It does many things at the same time. While you consciously think of ideas, other combinations are iterated in the back of your mind.

In the long run, the better songs come together faster, but the process has been similar: I have lots of little bits laying around in my head and nothing is better than the brain and the subconscious at trying every single combination while you're paying attention to other things. When it finds a winner, you'll get that Eureka! moment. The analog to a desktop computer is that when you use the "find" function, the software has to start at the beginning and check every single piece of data for a match. Our brains can do a "find" or "match" everywhere all at once. This is why you can recognize a song you haven't heard in ten years almost instantly. This gives us an incredible creative advantage and learning to let the subconscious go do the work for you has been a huge boon for my writing.

The key for me is to write all the bad stuff too. You have to write through the crap to get to the gold. You have to be honest with yourself when you sit back and go, "Would I listen to this if it wasn't me performing it?"

I have a friend who fancies himself a short story writer but he never has the discipline to finish anything. Even though I'm quite prodigious with my creative output, he has too much pride (or not enough sense) to really talk to me about what he should do, but I tell him anyway, "Write the shitty stories about boy meets girl and you'll discover your own style in all the little side bits and details." I write songs that no one ever sees or hears just to get that one good line out which can then turn into another song that's actually decent.

As for my current process, writing lyrics and writing music have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I fiddle around with the guitar while I do other things and that's where riffs and progressions come from, and a line I'll randomly think of will suddenly strike me as fitting a particular progression, so I'll figure out how to put them together. The only part of my creative output that is 100% conscious is the engineering and production.

-Alex
cool posts, im gonna refer to this thread from time to time.
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Old 05-18-2010, 02:53 PM   #61
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One little trick i'm gonna try is set out a loop region for say the first verse play the guitar and sing off the top of my head while recording muiltiple takes till one take feels right.
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Old 05-18-2010, 03:20 PM   #62
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It's coming clear to me that the answer to this question is going to be different depending on the kind of song you're writing. There is a type of music where repeating the phrase "jump around" a lot will give you a hit. There is another where people will only appreciate you if you tell a rhyming history of the Hundred Years War. The technique of writing one is not the technique of writing the other. :-)

Something I do for practice and recommend to others is to take your song idea and an existing song in the style you want to create and rewrite its lyrics. Keep the rhyme and scansion as exact as you can. See how other people put together words in a way that appeals to you. Then, unless you're Weird Al, throw that away and write your own song.
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Old 05-18-2010, 04:41 PM   #63
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Sometimes it works for me if I start by simply singing nonsense syllables over the music, just to get a feel for the rhythm and phrasing that will fit. Usually I am working on melody at the same time, but not always. After I figure out an interesting approach, I then start trying to fit random phrases that seem consistent with the feel of the song and that fit the rhythm. When I find a phrase that fits, I keep it and move on to the next part of the song. Nothing has to fit together logically at this stage, but it must fit rhythmically. After I can fill out a verse and chorus with the nonsense stuff, I start substituting phrases that make more sense, or that maybe jog the rhythm a little. Lots of trial and error at this point. I go on and on at this stage, to the point that I drive everyone around me crazy. Sometimes one of the phrases triggers another idea, and slowly I can put the pieces together. I can't imagine a more haphazard method, but it has worked for me.

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Old 05-18-2010, 05:11 PM   #64
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Sometimes it works for me if I start by simply singing nonsense syllables over the music, just to get a feel for the rhythm and phrasing that will fit.
yep. me too.
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Old 05-18-2010, 06:44 PM   #65
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that is so not the point. i've never written a single sentence about me or how i feel.
i don't mean literally about yourself or literally about how you feel. but if you are in love you can write about that, or if something happens to you you can write about that, or if you have a political thought you can write about that. but to me, it must be honesty your own message, about you in that way. to do otherwise is just to be an entertainer. nothing wrong with that, but to me, that's not art, just entertainment. I mean music is entertainment no matter what, i mean you are entertaining people, but to me there are two kinds of music, one is intended for people, it is written for people it is written thinking what people will like or what people want to hear, this is, to me, entertainment, it is a job. making music as a job. the other kind is to not care how many people like what you write, or care, but not write with the intention of many people liking it, to just write for what you want to say. not for what you think others want to hear. it's a difference. one to me, is art. art, to me, is art for the sake of art. art for the purpose of creating art, to write a message, doesn't have to be a deep crazy profound message, but just to say something to let an emotion out or whatever. the other kind, to me, just thinks, ok, we need to make a radio song, or a club song, and then write the same kind of stuff you hear everywhere all the time, but phrased with a different hook. you know? i've heard alot of songs, i could choose any one of those and sing a topic about that, but not all of those are me. i think that's the important part. but some people make a living out of writing songs that aren't them. alot of hip hop of the popular variety and pop in general are that way. and even worse alot of that is written by someone else, not even the person singing the song. and written for them to sing. to me, more of a regular job, than an art. i'm not sayign anything is wrong with that, but it is a difference. i mean painting is art, but there's a difference between painting what you see and painting to evoke a cool message or something. one is a skilled craft, and the other is art.

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Old 05-18-2010, 06:46 PM   #66
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and if i ever do, i will punch myself in the face for it.
ya, you're right, tupac sucks. and so does every other great songwriter. maybe you misunderstand me, but i can't think of a single songwriter i would consider great, that does not write songs this way.
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Old 05-18-2010, 07:06 PM   #67
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Bookmarked this thread.

Lots of good angles here to get you over blocks and dry times.

Thanks fellers.
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Old 05-18-2010, 07:12 PM   #68
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The music that I make that I like the most isn't premeditated. It is improvised and comes by itself. I then do some work on it.

Writing may be the same. Thinking can block the creative impulse, though applying thought afterwards to put it into shape is probably going to be needed.
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Old 05-18-2010, 08:38 PM   #69
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if you are in love you can write about that
oh no i can't.

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to me, it must be honesty your own message
now this we can agree on. i can honestly write about drugs and feel good about it. and that's it.
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:38 PM   #70
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Good reader = good writer.

The best way to become a reasonably good writer is to read, read and read.
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:15 PM   #71
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1. Dont try to be to clever at first, get the cadence and rhythm down.

2. Get your best line out and work around the best lines.

3. Don't try and force the song, I think you will find the song will build a life of it's own, go with it.

4. Find somebody who is good with lyrics to collaborate.
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Old 05-18-2010, 11:22 PM   #72
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oh no i can't.
I didn't mean you specifically. i meant one can. i realize that you are not the type to be comfortable with love.
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Old 05-19-2010, 01:29 AM   #73
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like someone said earlier, we all have different ideas of what constitutes the bomb when it comes to music. Ive got alot out it. it's been real, sniff!
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Old 05-19-2010, 03:44 AM   #74
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Garrick,

If you listen to Crowded House for example (your fellow countrymen?), they strike me as...

first - having something to say which they feel strongly about or are particularly moved by in that moment

then - getting the basics down quickly while they feel passionate

later - having agonized about the fine points in the rhythm and rhyme of the lyric

I heard 'Amsterdam' from their new CD on TV last night; on the surface the lyrics sound simple but the story is obviously deeper and as a listener I am drawn to listen again so I can understand what it is/was that has moved them to write this great song.

BTW, on listening to Amsterdam I got the impression that they may have toned down some of the specifics in the lyrics (from how they might have first written them) to make the song more intriguing.

Funny enough the CD is called 'Intriguer', ha!

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Old 05-19-2010, 03:53 AM   #75
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Professionally I'm an engineer and so I approach my creative interests with a similar analytical approach: understand the problems, the solutions, and the equipment. One important thing to remember about how our writing equipment (brain) works: The brain is a giant parallel computer. It does many things at the same time. While you consciously think of ideas, other combinations are iterated in the back of your mind.

In the long run, the better songs come together faster, but the process has been similar: I have lots of little bits laying around in my head and nothing is better than the brain and the subconscious at trying every single combination while you're paying attention to other things. When it finds a winner, you'll get that Eureka! moment. The analog to a desktop computer is that when you use the "find" function, the software has to start at the beginning and check every single piece of data for a match. Our brains can do a "find" or "match" everywhere all at once. This is why you can recognize a song you haven't heard in ten years almost instantly. This gives us an incredible creative advantage and learning to let the subconscious go do the work for you has been a huge boon for my writing.

The key for me is to write all the bad stuff too. You have to write through the crap to get to the gold. You have to be honest with yourself when you sit back and go, "Would I listen to this if it wasn't me performing it?"

I have a friend who fancies himself a short story writer but he never has the discipline to finish anything. Even though I'm quite prodigious with my creative output, he has too much pride (or not enough sense) to really talk to me about what he should do, but I tell him anyway, "Write the shitty stories about boy meets girl and you'll discover your own style in all the little side bits and details." I write songs that no one ever sees or hears just to get that one good line out which can then turn into another song that's actually decent.

As for my current process, writing lyrics and writing music have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I fiddle around with the guitar while I do other things and that's where riffs and progressions come from, and a line I'll randomly think of will suddenly strike me as fitting a particular progression, so I'll figure out how to put them together. The only part of my creative output that is 100% conscious is the engineering and production.

-Alex

Great post!


I just want to add some thoughts:

if you conciously attempt to write some lyrics, chances are you get caught up in a web if cliches. That's the best way to end up with a pathetic result - pathetic because it isn't honest. Pathetic because it's written to make an impression, not really written to say something. Pathetic in every way. There are a lot of people who attempt writing poems and end up in that exact trap. They want to write, with the idea to write a touching poem being the main motivation. The result makes you cringe. And if your quality control works, it makes you as the writer cringe as well so you end up with nothing.


But then again:

Me driving home by bike from a rehearsal of my band.
Across the river and then along the shore. The famous cathedral ahead, the water softly shimmering under the star-bright sky, the warm summer night so beautyful, inspiri*scratch*



inspiring? In what way exactly? How could I describe what I felt? And if so what is it good for anyway? What is relevant about it?


Writing about your lost love is good and proper and probably important for yourself, but do you have to say anything worthwhile about it to the general public? Some message, something they could use? Are you able to share anything else beside whine?

Think about it - what is it you want to say? and how could you say it?

Start writing, then interpret your own words - what do they mean, what could they mean to others?

The more I think about it the more I become aware of how complex the process actually is - I think it's a constant exchange between your consciousness and your subconsciousness - almost like a discussion between the two - and in that it's probably not so different from composing music - and that figures, since the same area of the brain is mainly used for both of it.
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Old 05-19-2010, 04:34 AM   #76
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Originally Posted by ez_willis View Post
lyrics are overated. you couldn't possibly write something dumber than:


Oh yeah, I´ll tell you something
I think you'll understand
When I say that something
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
How about:

There's a lady I know
If I didn't know her
She'd be the lady I didn't know.

And my lady, she went downtown
She bought some broccoli
She brought it home.

She's chopping broccoli
Chopping broccoli
Chopping broccoli
Chopping broccoli

She's chopping broccoli
She's chopping broccoli
She's chop.. ooh!
She's chopping broccola-ah-ie!
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Old 05-19-2010, 08:08 AM   #77
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Originally Posted by BoxOfSnoo View Post
How about....
comparable. not sure if i hate broccoli or cheesy love songs worse.
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Old 05-19-2010, 08:42 AM   #78
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comparable. not sure if i hate broccoli or cheesy love songs worse.
I feel sorry for you man, love is awesome. not sure if you just avoid love, or if you just avoid making love public. but love might solve your anger issues.
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Old 05-19-2010, 10:29 AM   #79
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he wrote 'cheesy love songs'
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Old 05-19-2010, 10:42 AM   #80
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Well the bit of advice I have is never lose out on anything, always keep a little notebook with you and write down anything that comes to mind. listen to good music. believe in yourself. AND most importantly, don't buy into that "you either got it or you don't". it's bullshit. the human mind is an incredible, incredible machine... ANYTHING can be learned. you just have to work hard.



edit...p.s.- don't be afraid to put yourself into your songs. that doesn't necessarily mean every song has to be "i.. i... me.." You can create a character in your song and go from there. It's all about putting all of your emotion into your songs. That is what people connect with and what will make them buy your music / go to see your shows.

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