crafting a song

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Phenomenal Cat
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Re: crafting a song

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 10 Aug 2018, 03:16

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mission
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Re: crafting a song

Postby mission » 10 Aug 2018, 10:34

Here's another way of looking at this:

I was once asked if I was ever going to write a novel. I gave my usual guff, cribbed from Beckett, about having the itch to create, but nothing to say. My friend said, I thought rather disingenuously at the time, "But you have done a lot of training." And when I looked at her even more dimly than usual, she finished me off by saying, "You have read a lot of books."

Do you reckon a music fanatic like Lennon didn't listen to an awful lot of tunes - listened to, not merely heard - before he sat down to his own tunesmithery? And do you not think he sat next to another music fucking nerd when began this tunesmithery?

He might not have recourse to the easy fixes music theory would have supplied him with, but he knew how a song was put together.

Craft is not just technical ability, it is the hours spent fiddling with the fixing.

Because a lot of what goes into the sound of what we hear is not just oldfashioned songcraft - yes, I am talking about the recording process; performance and fucking sonic sculpture, man - we are conditioned to respond to the "spontaneous" or inspired sounding. Like Iggy didn't howl.like a stuck.pig in near identical.fashion the 11 takes before the one that got on the record.

Craft, she deserves your respect.
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Re: crafting a song

Postby Snarfyguy » 10 Aug 2018, 18:35

mission wrote:Craft is not just technical ability, it is the hours spent fiddling with the fixing.

Speaking as someone who has written songs, I can identify with this.

it's not all just waking up with the riff to Satisfaction in your head. It takes a lot of time to coax the parts out of the ether and figure out the right way to fit them together. That's why I've largely given up; I just don't have the time to invest and there's real life that needs tending to. But that's for another thread, the point here being that songwriting (typically) entails a lot of hard work.
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Re: crafting a song

Postby toomanyhatz » 10 Aug 2018, 19:14

Phenomenal Cat wrote:John Lennon's complete ignorance of "song craft" is what makes him a great writer.


I think he feigned ignorance.

In more lucid moments, he would discuss how certain "Beatlish" touches were the result of songs they grew up with and little tricks they learned. Diminished chords, descending/ascending bass lines, even that 6th that ends "She Loves You." They ALL had it. Whether or not they learned it from each other is irrelevant, imo. Fact is they had their "tricks" and they used 'em. And if that ain't craft...

For that matter, listen to any outtakes from his solo career. He was totally in control. He knew exactly what he wanted and exactly how to get it. He liked the image of an "instinctive" artist, and yeah, he's more spontaneous than the others. But any talk about how he wasn't coming from a place of knowledge? Consider the source. He was a first-class bullshitter.
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Re: crafting a song

Postby Bent Fabric » 10 Aug 2018, 19:37

Snarfyguy wrote:
mission wrote:Craft is not just technical ability, it is the hours spent fiddling with the fixing.

Speaking as someone who has written songs, I can identify with this.

it's not all just waking up with the riff to Satisfaction in your head. It takes a lot of time to coax the parts out of the ether and figure out the right way to fit them together. That's why I've largely given up; I just don't have the time to invest and there's real life that needs tending to. But that's for another thread, the point here being that songwriting (typically) entails a lot of hard work.


There's definitely the frustration of spending a small eternity chasing the butterfly of genuine inspiration down a blind alley to no real payoff. Any initial idea or inspiration that seems promising enough is likely to nag you if you aren't able to "grab a hold of the whole animal" fairly quickly. But...chasing it never really does me any good. The forceful sort of "Well?!?!? I finished it, didn't I?!?!?" type solutions all reek of unsatisfying, perfunctory graft, and the reality often seems to be that you have to let go of an unfinished idea at some point and trust that it will eventually resolve itself somewhere in the future (a lot of my own work derives from once elusive things that finally decided to finish themselves years or decades down the road).

Speaking of Lennon and McCartney as we seem to have done upthread, I know Lennon's advice to George Harrison about writing was (in essence) "try to get it all in one sitting - if you leave it and think you can come back to it, you'll be disappointed upon return". McCartney recently spoke in an interview with Jarvis Cocker about the curse of the busy person now being able to document fragments of melody into their phones and how this ultimately creates a real "Eh, I'll get around to finishing it someday" methodology that he seemed to find unsatisfactory.

Again, none of this is quite "Well, then I called Desmond Child, Adam Schlessinger, and/or Aimee Mann to crank out some real high class content..."

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Re: crafting a song

Postby Quaco » 10 Aug 2018, 20:08

Lennon not having song craft? He was the best in the business!
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Re: crafting a song

Postby Bent Fabric » 10 Aug 2018, 20:43

Quaco wrote:Lennon not having song craft? He was the best in the business!


YOU I'll argue with!

All the shit he undoubtedly knew (let's just call it "To Know Her is to Love Her", etc.) never got in the way of his more singular and stubborn instincts (odd bars, uneven meters and things like that seem like an especially..."Nope - here I am!" expression of that type of unspoiled individualism). Which always sounded (at his best) like pure spun gold.

Compare that to the person whose "too massive for pop music" brain you can most certainly hear straining with every note.

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Re: crafting a song

Postby Quaco » 10 Aug 2018, 21:15

Bent Fabric wrote:
Quaco wrote:Lennon not having song craft? He was the best in the business!


YOU I'll argue with!

All the shit he undoubtedly knew (let's just call it "To Know Her is to Love Her", etc.) never got in the way of his more singular and stubborn instincts (odd bars, uneven meters and things like that seem like an especially..."Nope - here I am!" expression of that type of unspoiled individualism). Which always sounded (at his best) like pure spun gold.

Compare that to the person whose "too massive for pop music" brain you can most certainly hear straining with every note.

:)

He was so wise not to let it get in the way. I agree he had instinctively learned this stuff, but didn't learn the names of things always and always claimed to be ignorant because of this. Paul McCartney does the same thing, saying he doesn't know theory/how to read music, but he obviously knows every chord progression in rock. He's not chancing upon these things. I am sure that if Lennon hadn't been so self-obsessed (not judging him), he could have been a great collaborator or producer for others. I mean, none other than Paul McCartney still can't get over Lennon's skill with a song. I guess we're drawing a line between craft and instinct/inspiration, when at a high level, they're intertwined. The producer who has so much experience, he seemingly instinctively goes for the right mic and finds the right level; the writer who has gotten so good that they see the subtle connotations that make a word the wrong word, singers who instinctively know where to take a breath because they know their instrument and the language. (I'm reminded of Orson Welles' story where he got so good at fake-psychic-reading people that he started coming out with psychic that surprised even him, at which point he decided to stop.) There's no reason we can't call this craft, unless we are going to say that Lennon, Streisand, Jimmy Miller, Jimmy Webb, Neil Diamond, and Demis Roussos didn't have craft!
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Re: crafting a song

Postby CAN » 10 Aug 2018, 22:22

Demis Roussos had craft enough for fifteen people!
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Re: crafting a song

Postby Quaco » 10 Aug 2018, 22:29

Craft services, that is!
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Re: crafting a song

Postby Quaco » 10 Aug 2018, 22:34

Craft certainly seems like a dirty word sometimes, because it usually means the lower end of the spectrum. But some of our best songwriters were primarily craftspeople. Lerner and Loewe, Rogers and Hart, Gilbert and Sullivan. These are the Michelangelos of popular music -- producing the best realistic but imaginative, craft-based work.
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Re: crafting a song

Postby fange » 10 Aug 2018, 23:26

The Velvet Underground wrote:Demis Roussos had craft enough for fifteen people!

Demis Roussos had Demis Roussos enough for fifteen people!
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Re: crafting a song

Postby Ranking Ted » 11 Aug 2018, 20:18

Quaco wrote:Craft services, that is!

Kraft cheese?

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Re: crafting a song

Postby fange » 12 Aug 2018, 00:57

Let's werk!
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Re: crafting a song

Postby bobzilla77 » 12 Aug 2018, 21:54

You need to be able to FEEL stuff, not just hear music as a descending pattern that resolves on a 7 suspended chord.

You need to hear, in your mind, that the character singing the song is having a panic attack, facing down their impending DEATH if they can't have their baby's love.

You need to be able to FEEL that, then think of how it would SOUND if you expressed it perfectly, and work your way backward to "it requires a descending line that resolves on a 7 suspended." Maybe you could have gotten there with a heavy crescendo over a rapidly ascending line instead, but decided that would be more anxious than melancholy, and this song needs to FEEL more melancholy.

FEELINGS! HUMAN BEHAVIOR! I feel like Tommy Wiseau here. But he was right about all that. That's where it's at.
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Re: crafting a song

Postby bobzilla77 » 12 Aug 2018, 21:57

I liked how Andy Partridge described his process, that he has to hit on a chord that suggests a scene - a time and place - and once he can visualize that, he can start to put words in the characters' mouths immediately.
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Re: crafting a song

Postby Quaco » 13 Aug 2018, 00:44

bobzilla77 wrote:You need to be able to FEEL stuff, not just hear music as a descending pattern that resolves on a 7 suspended chord.

You need to hear, in your mind, that the character singing the song is having a panic attack, facing down their impending DEATH if they can't have their baby's love.

You need to be able to FEEL that, then think of how it would SOUND if you expressed it perfectly, and work your way backward to "it requires a descending line that resolves on a 7 suspended." Maybe you could have gotten there with a heavy crescendo over a rapidly ascending line instead, but decided that would be more anxious than melancholy, and this song needs to FEEL more melancholy.

FEELINGS! HUMAN BEHAVIOR! I feel like Tommy Wiseau here. But he was right about all that. That's where it's at.

Also, just to be able to make decisions. FEEL which chord you like better, then go with that. Then feel where you want to go after that -- more lyrics, tone it down, simple, complicated, or add some western imagery, or go in a funky direction. Whatever it is, to feel what you like and then find a way to do it.
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Re: crafting a song

Postby bobzilla77 » 14 Aug 2018, 21:36

Quaco wrote:
bobzilla77 wrote:You need to be able to FEEL stuff, not just hear music as a descending pattern that resolves on a 7 suspended chord.

You need to hear, in your mind, that the character singing the song is having a panic attack, facing down their impending DEATH if they can't have their baby's love.

You need to be able to FEEL that, then think of how it would SOUND if you expressed it perfectly, and work your way backward to "it requires a descending line that resolves on a 7 suspended." Maybe you could have gotten there with a heavy crescendo over a rapidly ascending line instead, but decided that would be more anxious than melancholy, and this song needs to FEEL more melancholy.

FEELINGS! HUMAN BEHAVIOR! I feel like Tommy Wiseau here. But he was right about all that. That's where it's at.

Also, just to be able to make decisions. FEEL which chord you like better, then go with that. Then feel where you want to go after that -- more lyrics, tone it down, simple, complicated, or add some western imagery, or go in a funky direction. Whatever it is, to feel what you like and then find a way to do it.


Yeah I think that's it. You need to be an instinctive shot-caller who can make decisions and live with them in order to get from inspiration to finished product.

Remember the days before SMiLE was officially finished? We all had the chance to construct a meaningful whole out of all the parts. Now that we've heard it, it seems insane that it wasn't finished fifty years ago. It took like, an inch more content and a running order to make it all make sense. But in the 1990s it was all "ooh, it was too much, it was too much, no human could ever finish it to satisfaction."
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Re: crafting a song

Postby Phenomenal Cat » Yesterday, 01:04

bump
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