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Good song writing

vhollund

Member
Messages
3,519
The discussion has started as a subtopic in several threads.


Making rules about what inspires...
I think is trying to make rules where there aren't any

A song can be inspired by many things and anything you want as long as it's inspired.
Sometimes it's style-dependant however.

But we can describe what works well for us as listeners or writers...

The song texts, I like the best, often describe a situation, preferably with some inner human contradictions, or just helplessly overwhelmed by the events of life

Mark Knopfler is a great writer :

Your Latest Trick.

All the late night bargains have been struck
Between the satin beaus and their belles
Prehistoric garbage trucks
Have the city to themselves
Echoes and roars, dinosaurs
They're all doing the monster mash
And most of the taxis, most of the whores
Are only taking calls for cash

I don't know how it happened
It all took place so quick
But all I can do is hand it to you
And your latest trick

Well, now, my door was standing open
Security was laid back and lax
But it was only my heart got a-broken
You must have had a pass key made out of wax
You played robbery with insolence
And I played the blues in twelve bars down on Lover's Lane
And you never did have the intelligence to use
The twelve keys hanging off of my chain

I don't know how it happened
It all took place so quick
But all I can do is hand it to you
And your latest trick

Well, now, it's past last call for alcohol
Past recall has been here and gone
The landlord he finally paid us all
The satin jazzmen have put away their horns
And we're standing outside of this wonderland
Looking so bereaved and so bereft
Like a Bowery bum when he finally understands
The bottle's empty and there's nothing left

I don't know how it happened
It was faster than the eye could flick
But all I can do is hand it to you
And your latest trick
Jeff Buckley:

Lover you should have come over.

Looking out the door I see the rain fall upon the funeral mourners
Parading in a wake of sad relations as their shoes fill up with water
And maybe I'm too young to keep good love from going wrong
But tonight you're on my mind so you never know

Broken down and hungry for your love with no way to feed it
Where are you tonight, child you know how much I need it
Too young to hold on and too old to just break free and run

Sometimes a man gets carried away, when he feels like he should be having his fun
And much too blind to see the damage he's done
Sometimes a man must awake to find that really, he has no-one

So I'll wait for you... and I'll burn
Will I ever see your sweet return
Oh will I ever learn

Oh lover, you should've come over
'Cause it's not too late

Lonely is the room, the bed is made, the open window lets the rain in
Burning in the corner is the only one who dreams he had you with him
My body turns and yearns for a sleep that won't ever come

It's never over, my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder
It's never over, all my riches for her smiles when I slept so soft against her
It's never over, all my blood for the sweetness of her laughter
It's never over, she's the tear that hangs inside my soul forever

Well maybe I'm just too young
To keep good love from going wrong

Oh... lover, you should've come over
'Cause it's not too late

Well I feel too young to hold on
And I'm much too old to break free and run
Too deaf, dumb, and blind to see the damage I've done
Sweet lover, you should've come over
Oh, love well I'm waiting for you

Lover, you should've come over
Cause it's not too late
(Note how they both start by letting the scenery describe their emotional state. (Expressionism?))

There was mention of Elton John /Taupin
Great song writer in his time.

Songwriters: JOHN, ELTON / TAUPIN, BERNIE
Wise men say
It looks like rain today
It crackled on the speakers
And trickled down the sleepy subway trains
For(4?) heavy eyes could hardly hold us
Aching legs that often told us
It's all worth it
We all fall in love sometimes

The full moon's bright
And starlight filled the evening
We wrote it and I played it
Something happened it's so strange this feeling
Naive notions that were childish
Simple tunes that tried to hide it
But when it comes
We all fall in love sometimes

Did we, didn't we, should we couldn't we
I'm not sure `cause sometimes we're so blind
Struggling through the day
When even your best friend says
Don't you find
We all fall in love sometimes

And only passing time
Could kill the boredom we acquired
Running with the losers for a while
But our Empty Sky was filled with laughter
Just before the flood
Painting worried faces with a smile

I used to know this old scarecrow
He was my song, my joy and sorrow
Cast alone between the furrows
Of a field no longer sown by anyone
I held a dandelion
That said the time had come
To leave upon the wind
Not to return
When summer burned the earth again
Cultivate the freshest flower
This garden ever grew
Beneath these branches
I once wrote such childish words for you
But that's okay
There's treasure children always seek to find
And just like us
You must have had
A once upon a time
Older stuff :

Songwriters: WIGGINS, DWAYNE P. / PEARL, MAURICE / ALLAN, LEWIS

Strange Fruit.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
 
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rob2001

Member
Messages
16,939
I like songs with literal lyrics that tell a story, but I also enjoy songs with lyrics that are like a collection of ideas where I'm free to put my own situations into the music.

As far as lyrics that tell stories and bring you in, I think this is a masterpiece.....

"Tangled Up In Blue"

Early one morning the sun was shining
I was laying in bed
Wond'ring if she'd changed it all
If her hair was still red
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama's homemade dress
Papa's bankbook wasn't big enough
And I was standing on the side of the road
Rain falling on my shoes
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I've paid some dues getting through
Tangled up in blue.

She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam I guess
But I used a little too much force
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split it up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best
She turned around to look at me
As I was walking away
I heard her say over my shoulder
"We'll meet again someday on the avenue"
Tangled up in blue.

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the ax just fell
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Working for a while on a fishing boat
Right outside of Delacroix
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind and I just grew
Tangled up in blue.

She was working in a topless place
And I stopped in for a beer
I just kept looking at her side of her face
In the spotlight so clear
And later on as the crowd thinned out
I was just about to do the same
She was standing there in back of my chair
Said to me "Don't I know your name?"
I muttered something underneath my breath
She studied the lines on my face
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe
Tangled up in blue.

She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe
"I thought you'd never say hello" she said
"You look like the silent type"
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the fifteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burning coal
Pouring off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the café at night
And revolution in the air
Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside
And when finally the bottom fell out
I became withdrawn
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keeping on like a bird that flew
Tangled up in blue.

So now I'm going back again
I got to get her somehow
All the people we used to know
They're an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter's wives
Don't know how it all got started
I don't what they're doing with their lives
But me I'm still on the road
Heading for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in Blue.
 

JonR

Member
Messages
14,844
The discussion has started as a subtopic in several threads.


Making rules about what inspires...
I think is trying to make rules where there aren't any

A song can be inspired by many things and anything you want as long as it's inspired.
Sometimes it's style-dependant however.
Right. I agree there are no rules about inspiration; about how to get ideas for songs.

The rules kick in when you start developing and structuring the idea - turning the inspiration into a song. (That's where "style-dependency" can apply.)

If it's lyrics (as seems to be your main interest) the "rules" are about rhyming, scanning, prosody. Mostly these are intuitive (we can feel them) but they are still rules. You have to make your wonderful story - or simple mood or event - fit a musical structure; there have to be verses, maybe a chorus; a verse needs a certain number of lines (typically 4 or 8, but usually multiples of 2); lines need to be a certain length; some need to rhyme; etc.

If it's music, then - for a "song" at least - it's melody. Again there is a lot that is intuitive about melody, because a "song" needs to be "sung", and we can usually feel what feels good or easy to sing, and we can choose and shape melodic phrases accordingly.
(Finding a great melody, of course, is hard; sometimes they just seem to happen. But we can make it more likely for them to happen by learning lots of great melodies, getting used to the rise and fall of melodic intervals, the shapes of good phrases.)

Rules about chords are perhaps less intuitive, but also more easily laid out as formulas: keys, I-IV-V, etc. In a sense, this is the most mechanical aspect of songwriting. Some chord sequences are "inspired" (very satisfying to play without melody or lyrics attached), but none are really original; all the great ones have been done, and probably been used many times (and will be used again).

Style -or generic idiom - is another factor. Do we want the song to be a country song? Or a blues? Or a metal song? Or jazz? Rules obviously apply here - but anyone who plays those styles regularly knows the relevant rules intuitively; they probably don't even think of them as "rules". If you tend to play in one genre all the time, then your song will automatically follow those rules (you will struggle to write a song in an unfamiliar style).
 

JonR

Member
Messages
14,844
On the topic of great lyrics carrying a song (as with above examples), I think Richard Thompson can often match Dylan for writing narratives that draw you in and sweep you along.
Here's one of his best:

BEESWING

I was nineteen when I came to town, they called it the Summer of Love
They were burning babies, burning flags; the hawks against the doves.
I took a job in the steamie down on Cauldrum Street
And I fell in love with a laundry girl who was working next to me

Oh she was a rare thing, fine as a bee's wing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child, oh she was running wild
She said "As long as there's no price on love, I'll stay.
And you wouldn't want me any other way"

Brown hair zig-zag around her face and a look of half-surprise
Like a fox caught in the headlights, there was animal in her eyes
She said "Young man, oh can't you see I'm not the factory kind
If you don't take me out of here I'll surely lose my mind."

Oh she was a rare thing, fine as a bee's wing
So fine that I might crush her where she lay.
She was a lost child, oh she was running wild
She said "As long as there's no price on love, I'll stay.
And you wouldn't want me any other way"

We busked around the market towns and picked fruit down in Kent
And we could tinker lamps and pots and knives wherever we went.
I had a feeling we might settle down, get a few acres dug,
Fire burning in the hearth and babies on the rug.
She said "Oh man, you foolish man, it surely sounds like hell.
You might be lord of half the world, you'll not own me as well"

Oh she was a rare thing, fine as a bee's wing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child, oh she was running wild
She said "As long as there's no price on love, I'll stay.
And you wouldn't want me any other way"

We was camping down the Gower one time, the work was pretty good.
She thought we shouldn't wait for the frost and I thought maybe we should.
We was drinking more in those days and tempers reached a pitch,
And like a fool I let her run with the rambling itch.

Oh the last I heard she's sleeping rough back on the Derby beat,
White Horse in her hip pocket and a wolfhound at her feet.
And they say she even married once, a man named Romany Brown,
But even a gypsy caravan was too much settling down.
And they say her flower is faded now, hard weather and hard booze,
But maybe that's just the price you pay for the chains you refuse.

Oh she was a rare thing, fine as a bee's wing,
And I miss her more than ever words could say.
If I could just taste all of her wildness now,
If I could hold her in my arms today,
Well I wouldn't want her any other way.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HApy-Xoix-g

One of those songs that make you feel like it's your own experience he's talking about. But I doubt it was even his own experience: most of it must be fiction (given that he's been a professional musician since 17). That's genius songwriting.
 
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