Wednesday, 19 February 2014

120 bpm and Beyond: The First Collaborations

Happy Birthday to Bèthany Pozzi-Johnson!!!!!!!!

The task of writing a song at 120 bpm or more was a lot easier with the help of skilled pianist and songwriter, Owain Coleman this week. We spent a few hours in a practice room at Newton Park campus working with some scratch lyrics I had written sometime in October, and it turned out nice once I dug into the lyrics and made some changes. Next week's task will be to write an AABA form song..... Oh man. Let's get in touch with some 32 bar standards.

February 17th, 2014

The famous Michael-Angelo explained his process of creating such immaculate art from marble as the cutting away of everything that doesn't look like the target end product. This is the same for songwriting in a lot of ways. The process of subtractive construction. How this relates to this week's task of co-writing a song with 120 beats per minute (bpm) or more for a tempo because when the meter and/or tempo changes in a song, the syllable count is altered. It's harder to say a lot in an upbeat song than in a slow paced ballad basically.

The first collaborators to take the stage were Alex Dillien and Farhan Mannan with their song Super-Unleaded, which was a continuation from the on-the-spot writing exercise we did last week. The song title and subject were fitting since the two of them love writing songs about driving... The overall consensus was that the class wanted to hear more melodic range in the vocal line, possibly exploring the 3rd or 5th in the chorus. I personally loved the pre-chorus range and melodic rhythm the most :)

Next was Lesley Hobbs and Will McKecknie with their collaboration they also began in class last week, Train Is a Leavin'. Lesley provided the lyric and the basis of the melody and Will provided the harmonic aspect on acoustic guitar. The song was an obvious mix of them both, which was nice to hear. Some points that were said were that the two key changes that appear in the song were slightly overbearing and that the lyrics could be shorter and more concise.

As we are listening to the songs, Joe is creating a chord chart on the side by ear.... in real time. Musical Rainman moment! I began testing his metric estimations... and he was right! Whoa. You can find so much excellent material through his website and various articles in Total Guitar Magazine!

>> Click here to be educated ;)

Next was Rosie Lacey, who did an outside collaboration with a lyricist called Where Do We Go From Here, in which Rosey wrote all but the lyric. The song was a love song that came across very straightforward and lacking in imagery, however something with room to grow is always great, especially in the first class. It was agreed that the song would benefit from the presence of a bridge. So hopefully Rosey can work something out with that. Since she didn't write the lyrics however, there was a sense of indecisiveness on going about changing the lyrics.

Food for thought: how do you take creative liberties if they aren't your lyrics?

I could say how I would do it, but that may not be the most comfortable way for everyone-- write with your equals. If you write with other good artists, or artist that are better than you, there is less of a chance of this sort of unnerving situation arising.

Joe gave us an exercise to list our top 5 favorite songs and thing of where the title appears in the song. Does it appear in the verse as well?

For arguments' sake, Come Home by OneRepublic, Mercy by Duffy, Someone Like You by Adele, Come Back When You Can by Barcelona, and People Help The People by Birdy. These are all examples of songs with titles that appear in the chorus.

BUT... Have I Told You Lately by Van Morrison, First Floor People by Barcelona, Skinny Love by Bon Iver, Mercy by OneRepublic, and Bottle It Up by Sara Barielles all have titles in the verse sections. Have I Told You Lately is form specific though, so that one's off the hook... JUST SAYING.

Then we had Bèthany Pozzi-Johnson and Farhan Mannan again with Bèthany's Good Enough. Featuring a strong, repetitive chorus, the song was cool, however the class for the most part agreed that the choice of verse melody and harmony was strange and hard to connect with. I like dissonance, but if you're not going to resolve and satisfy the ear, keep the dissonance light. I don't want to say "tasteful" because that implies a lack of taste, but something of that nature without the negative implication. The end of the bridge was very strong and when that last chorus hits, the ear is so happy :)

Oh and then I looked up and Joe wrote 123 bpm. I checked with a tap tempo app on my phone and he was right.... Mind blown.

I probably went next --my notes aren't in a particular order-- and my collaboration partner was down with a nasty cold, so I sang Get It Right a cappella. I was happy that I did because I had never even tried it before... plus I wrote the song a few days earlier while Owain Coleman wrote the piano and then the night before I re-worked the verse lyrics and melody completely. It went really well anyway. The overall attitude I got was that the chorus lines were a bit unfitting for the song and needed reworking. Joe sent me some helpful links to songs with the same theme and they all have a more positive outlook of "I'll Get It Right".

The last group I took notes on was Bèthany Pozzi-Johnson and Kirsty Folan who both sang and recorded Emily for their collaboration. They had this cannon thing going that was very pleasing, however the song was in 3/8 or 6/8 which means the tempo was either 85 or something in the 200's. Common issue with 6/8 is that it is going to be ballad-y.

Last, we talked about author, Sheila Davis, who writes a handful of songwriting books including The Craft of Lyric Writing, Successful Lyric Writing: Step By Step Course and Workbook, and The Songwriter's Idea Book. In her writing, she talks about her acronym VVTS, which stands for Voice, View Point, Tense, and Setting. If you can identify all 4 of these in your writing, you have done a good job so far :)


Well that was fun :) I am slightly nervous about trying to write this 32 bar AABA song and still maintaining my own styles. Whatever, you never know until you try right?!

Had a fantastic weekend with a few classmates at the Ram Jam set up by former classmate, Chris Rogers (thank you very much!) and sang a few tunes with Alex, Lesley, Beth, Will, and Chris :) Tami also came and we girls had a fun photo taking spree in the dimly lit bathroom....


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