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  • #16
    Originally posted by ted884 View Post
    Jimmy webbs book tells you nothing new other than whats already been said in countless other books.

    Heres a few examples
    fawm write a song every day for a month. Some of you on this post are recommending the same thing.
    Write for 10000 hours.
    persevere.
    learn scales.
    Find chord progressions. Nothing new about that either.
    learn music theory. Nothing new there either.
    speed write.
    Is any of this starting to sound familiar. The obove examples are the extent of whats in all these songwriting books and you tube videos.
    Yeah, those don't sound to me like a serious approach to the question, just the usual generic advice.

    It's possible that nowadays most books are like that. After all, we've been living for at least 20 years solidly into an era of amateurism, where everyone is told that success is all about "keep trying", inborn talent or luck. Truth is, investing in marketing is more effective than investing in knowledge, when it comes to sell a book.

    Perhaps the solution might be in looking for older books. There are several at my local library, so I'm going to have to check them out and keep you posted.

    As I mentioned in the original post, the only books I've ever read are the two-volumes Modal Jazz Composition and Harmony by Ron Miller. There the author goes really into musical concepts to talk about composition. And yes, he also presents a list of generic suggestions for artistic inspirations, such as go kayaking on a river, or basically exposing yourself to anything new and exciting... that's however just a single-page list, the purpose of which is helping yourself find something to say with your music (or any art), but does not replace the idea that you can learn how to say it properly. For the latter, his books talk a lot about things such as how to create a progress of melodic variations on a theme to balance between the expected and unexpected, how to use rhythm in melody to achieve a wanted feel, how to use cadences and achieve resolutions or closures, how to vary the song structure if it gets monotonous... that's the kind of stuff I am after.

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    • #17
      Li -

      You sound angry.

      First of all, your original question wasn't about making up melodies, it was about songwriting, and melody is only one part of that.

      Sorry, but I've just never seen a book on how to write a melody. If I knew of one, I'd tell you. If you want to learn music theory, there are plenty of books on that. Maybe that's really your question, and I just didn't get it.

      I don't know any songwriting how-tos either.

      I don't think anyone is trying to prove you wrong. I've simply never looked for a songwriting how-to book, so I can't name one. If Google can't help, you might be out of luck. But I'll bet you can come up with somthing.
      Last edited by Delmont; 07-01-2018, 04:03 PM.
      Del
      www.thefullertons.net
      ( •)—:::
      Sent on my six-string jumbo ukelele

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
        . . . And yes, he also presents a list of generic suggestions for artistic inspirations, such as go kayaking on a river, or basically exposing yourself to anything new and exciting. . . .
        That's just nonsense. Inspiration doesn't come from a kayak. It comes from your head.

        Yes, you might think of something good while you're kayaking, but that's no easier than thinking of something good while you're eating breakfast or walking down the street or rolling up to a red light or overhearing people talking in a diner. I'll bet a pinkie that fifteen percent of the world's favorite songs were written at bus stops.

        If Ron Miller wants to call thinking of something "inspiration," that's fine, but he's obviously at a loss (as I am) about how to teach people how to think of words or tunes.

        But - okay. Here's a writing tip from a master: Warren Zevon said that once you have a title, the song writes itself. It's true. Yesterday I was sitting on the porch gabbing with my wife about the mess in Puerto Rico, and the title "Blue Tarp Blues" entered my head.

        So after dinner, I sat down here a the computer and typed out three verses and a chorus. An easy idea (inspiration?), fifteen minutes of typing, and the words were done. Next time I have a guitar in my lap I'll make up some music. (Right now, I'm thinking it'll be a simple talking blues. We'll see.)

        I'm in four bands, and at least one, the jug band, will want to play it.

        Anyhow, I didn't need to wait until I was splashing around in a kayak to find inspiration. Whatever that is!
        Last edited by Delmont; 07-01-2018, 04:22 PM.
        Del
        www.thefullertons.net
        ( •)—:::
        Sent on my six-string jumbo ukelele

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        • #19
          Not angry.

          Originally posted by Delmont View Post
          That's just nonsense. Inspiration doesn't come from a kayak. It comes from your head.

          Yes, you might think of something good while you're kayaking, but that's no easier than thinking of something good while you're eating breakfast or walking down the street or rolling up to a red light or overhearing people talking in a diner. I'll bet a pinkie that fifteen percent of the world's favorite songs were written at bus stops.

          If Ron Miller wants to call thinking of something "inspiration," that's fine, but he's obviously at a loss (as I am) about how to teach people how to think of words or tunes.
          As I wrote previously, the kayaking is just one example from a single-page list of activities that Ron Miller is casually mentioning as stuff you could try in your life to get an artistic inspiration. It is ONE page in a 2-volumes book of many hundreds of pages, and it is the only less-than-serious page. I don't think Miller has necessarily tried kayaking himself, he was just thinking of a bunch of examples of activities or experiences that probably most people have never tried out. The whole point of that page is just the message that, while you can study compositional techniques to help you turn what you want to say into music, such thing (what you want to say) comes from life, and if you need an inspiration on the what, you can try doing something new, or at least you can try doing something usual but more mindfully, and maybe that'll give you something new to say.

          It is understandable that for some people this may seem nonsense. Perhaps you don't need to have anything to say at all, you could just craft music itself: if that's a musician's view, he'd just look for good-sounding notes, no meaning is necessary (for example, you could sit on a piano and play 3 random notes, then build from them -> crafting without an external inspirational idea). However, when you say that a title is all you need, to me it sounds you are not really doing it differently, you start from a subject (a few words... you could even just open a dictionary on a random page) and try to express it with music. It doesn't make less or more sense than doing something, looking at something, smelling something, tasting something etc. and trying to turn your feelings or sensations into music.

          All these are valid ideas but only for finding what to say with your music (or painting, or poetry...), then learning how to say it musically is the subject of the books I am talking about.

          BTW music theory is another thing, albeit related. It is more about the description of music, not about the creation of it, and in fact it is generally assumed well-known in composition books.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
            Not angry.
            Good! Maybe disappointed that there are no books or that we can't name one?

            Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
            . . . As I wrote previously, the kayaking is just one example . . . .
            Yes, I know. You made that clear.

            Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
            . . . from a single-page list of activities that Ron Miller is casually mentioning as stuff you could try in your life to get an artistic inspiration. It is ONE page in a 2-volumes book of many hundreds of pages, and it is the only less-than-serious page. . . .
            Yes, I assumed that from what you said.

            Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
            . . . I don't think Miller has necessarily tried kayaking himself, he was just thinking of a bunch of examples of activities or experiences that probably most people have never tried out. The whole point of that page is just the message that, while you can study compositional techniques to help you turn what you want to say into music, such thing (what you want to say) comes from life, and if you need an inspiration on the what, you can try doing something new, or at least you can try doing something usual but more mindfully, and maybe that'll give you something new to say. . . .
            Yes. I got it. But it's not true. You don't have to do something out of the ordinary to have an idea worth expressing. Franz Kafka wrote after working all day in an insurance office. Raymond Carver wrote in laundromats. Emily Dickenson wrote in her bedroom and back yard.

            Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
            It is understandable that for some people this may seem nonsense. Perhaps you don't need to have anything to say at all . . . .
            We all have something to say. It's not a matter of need. Humans are wired to say things.

            Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
            . . . you could just craft music itself . . . .
            The music, yes. The words, no. Most people have both words and music in our heads all the time. The work is getting it out of our heads and into the world. So you're looking for an instruction manual on how to do that.

            Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
            . . . if that's a musician's view, he'd just look for good-sounding notes, no meaning is necessary (for example, you could sit on a piano and play 3 random notes, then build from them -> crafting without an external inspirational idea). However, when you say that a title is all you need, to me it sounds you are not really doing it differently . . . .
            What I meant was that if you want advice on how to get started on a song, Warren Zevon, who wrote a lot of successful songs, had that one suggestion. Like kayaking, it was an example. There are countless ways to do it.

            Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
            . . . you start from a subject (a few words... you could even just open a dictionary on a random page) and try to express it with music. It doesn't make less or more sense than doing something, looking at something, smelling something, tasting something etc. and trying to turn your feelings or sensations into music.

            All these are valid ideas but only for finding what to say with your music (or painting, or poetry...), then learning how to say it musically is the subject of the books I am talking about. . . .
            Exactly. Zevon was offering a concrete how-to, and I was passing it on to you. Again, there are lots of ways to do it.

            Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
            BTW music theory is another thing, albeit related. It is more about the description of music, not about the creation of it, and in fact it is generally assumed well-known in composition books.
            Thanks for clarifying. It helped.

            And so - on with your quest! Let us know what you come up with.
            Last edited by Delmont; 07-02-2018, 04:02 PM.
            Del
            www.thefullertons.net
            ( •)—:::
            Sent on my six-string jumbo ukelele

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            • #21
              PS - It occurs to me that a lot of how-to books on creative writing have exercises that can just as well be used by any artist, including song writers. If you Google creative writing books, you'll find a bunch of them.

              They all have different approaches, of course, so there might be something that fits your style.
              Del
              www.thefullertons.net
              ( •)—:::
              Sent on my six-string jumbo ukelele

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Delmont View Post
                Good! Maybe disappointed that there are no books or that we can't name one?
                But there are! I've already found many listed in our local library. I'll grab a couple during the summer and I will come back to this thread to share my opinions after I've read them.

                Rather than by lack of suggestions, I was disappointed by the kind of answers that just want to prove that the question is wrong, at the same time pretending the question was something else than what I actually asked for. But you know, the web is full of questions "how do I do this?" that only get responses "why do you want to?" or "you just can't". They are a waste of time.

                Originally posted by Delmont View Post
                Yes. I got it. But it's not true. You don't have to do something out of the ordinary to have an idea worth expressing. Franz Kafka wrote after working all day in an insurance office. Raymond Carver wrote in laundromats. Emily Dickenson wrote in her bedroom and back yard.
                What do we know about what they were thinking? Boredom is sometimes a very favorable condition to wander with your mind into creative ideas! Maybe Kafka was daydreaming of kayaking all the time

                Originally posted by Delmont View Post
                We all have something to say. It's not a matter of need. Humans are wired to say things.

                The music, yes. The words, no. Most people have both words and music in our heads all the time. The work is getting it out of our heads and into the world. So you're looking for an instruction manual on how to do that.
                Sure we all have something to say, but as you say, it's not easy to get it out into the world. But again, in thread I am not looking for "instructions" or suggestions on that part of the work (as in creative writing books). I am instead looking for the second part of the work i.e. the more technical side of the writing process. To attempt a (risky) comparison to writing a novel, I am not looking on how to make up the story, but rather on how to use words, sentences, rhetorical figures, structure etc. to achieve a certain feel or make it more effective.

                Practical example, as if I were to write a detective mystery story: not looking at the side of how to figure out an awesome and original mystery, but rather how to present it in the form of a book once I already have it, for example how and when to reveal parts of the solution.

                Professionals do this all the time, in music as well in other fields. For example in television: first there is the task of finding a subject for a new series; then there is the process of turning the subject into a whole tv series using characters, plots, screenplay etc. It is still very much a creative process, nobody follows a strict "formula", but neither they just do it randomly, inspired by some elusive "genius".

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post

                  But there are! I've already found many listed in our local library. I'll grab a couple during the summer and I will come back to this thread to share my opinions after I've read them.

                  Rather than by lack of suggestions, I was disappointed by the kind of answers that just want to prove that the question is wrong, at the same time pretending the question was something else than what I actually asked for.
                  Aha! Now I get it.


                  Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
                  But you know, the web is full of questions "how do I do this?" that only get responses "why do you want to?" or "you just can't". They are a waste of time.
                  Ouch! Painfully true!

                  Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
                  What do we know about what they were thinking?
                  We can only guess. That's why I focus on what I'm thinking. What anyone else is thinking is a mystery.

                  Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
                  Boredom is sometimes a very favorable condition to wander with your mind into creative ideas! Maybe Kafka was daydreaming of kayaking all the time
                  I think he was daydreaming of cockroaches and cruel punishments.

                  Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
                  Sure we all have something to say, but as you say, it's not easy to get it out into the world. But again, in thread I am not looking for "instructions" or suggestions on that part of the work (as in creative writing books). I am instead looking for the second part of the work i.e. the more technical side of the writing process. To attempt a (risky) comparison to writing a novel, I am not looking on how to make up the story, but rather on how to use words, sentences, rhetorical figures, structure etc. to achieve a certain feel or make it more effective.
                  E.g. rhyme, meter, assonance, symmetry, correspondences, alliteration, and the volta.

                  Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
                  Practical example, as if I were to write a detective mystery story: not looking at the side of how to figure out an awesome and original mystery, but rather how to present it in the form of a book once I already have it, for example how and when to reveal parts of the solution.
                  Yup. In the book publishing industry, that's called a tip sheet. Some are highly specific.

                  Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
                  Professionals do this all the time, in music as well in other fields. For example in television: first there is the task of finding a subject for a new series; then there is the process of turning the subject into a whole tv series using characters, plots, screenplay etc. It is still very much a creative process, nobody follows a strict "formula",
                  Actually, they do. I took a screenwriting class once, and the entire semester was on the formula for structuring a screenplay. Pure how-to.

                  That was years ago, and I still can't watch a movie without barking "Set-up!" (the first seven minutes, approximately, in which the main elements of the movie are alluded to or hinted at) "Plot point!" (separating the three acts of the comedy or drama) "Pathetic fallacy!" (it almost always rains at movie funerals, and thunder means someone just said something portentious) "Montage!" (that musical sequence of short clips strung together to signify the passage of time), and "Tracking shot!" (in which the camera follows the characters a long distance in a single take.

                  Robert Altman even made a movie that followed the formula to make fun of it: The Player.

                  Originally posted by Li Shenron View Post
                  but neither they just do it randomly, inspired by some elusive "genius".
                  Thanks for spelling that out. It makes a lot more sense now. Looking forward to seeing your list.
                  Last edited by Delmont; 07-05-2018, 06:58 AM.
                  Del
                  www.thefullertons.net
                  ( •)—:::
                  Sent on my six-string jumbo ukelele

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Wow, a long thread in the Songwriting Forum where folks actually really get into a topic and write long entries that are actually read! Applause!!

                    Part of the problem, seems to me, finding books along the lines of what Li has suggested, is only the rarest of pop songwriters who has the vocabulary and the literary background to write about their craft. It's different in the classical world. I turn to classical types and the occasional jazz type when looking for stuff to just read and soak up this and that.

                    Some actual suggestions for reading (I'm sure all easily found on Amazon):

                    Steve Reich - Writings on Music 1965-2000.

                    Charles Mingus - Beneath The Underdog

                    Leonard Bernstein - The Joy of Music

                    And here's a suggestion specifically about melody - pick up a decent text on counterpoint. Someone in this thread was mentioning the lack of books on how to write a melody - well, that's pretty much what Counterpoint is all about. It's rules, rules, and more rules - lead the voices this way, not that way. Not "inspiring", but makes for great exercises and above all, teaches your ear to hear what you're really doing in melodic movement. One of the less-unloved Counterpoint texts is the one by Walter Piston simply titled "Counterpoint".

                    About melody, or any other kind of writing - there is a sort of black box moment in the creative process when your brain is somehow coming up with an "idea". And there's other parts of the brain and maybe nervous system that can feel it when an idea has legs, has potential. This is mysterious stuff and I kind of hope they never figure out how the human brain does this. Not everyone seems to be able to do this. And no one can do it all the time on demand. And there's the occasional melodic genius to baffle and amaze the rest of us. Go watch Amadeus again for a refresher on this notion.

                    On the other hand, in times when I've been totally uninspired, I've just loaded up Sonar, put up a staff view, and randomly poked eighth notes up and down the staff. That becomes my melody and then I figure out how to harmonize it. Usually, no matter how uninspired I started, I get something usable by the time I've messed around with the random notes and made some sort of sense out of that raw material.

                    nat
                    Last edited by nat whilk II; 07-06-2018, 02:37 PM.

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                    • #25
                      I have to confess I did not read all the posts here. I did scroll down, and saw no actual books listed. I just did an Amazon.com search and got only a handful of titles. But, there are some resources in print.

                      Something else that may have already been mentioned would be to study songs by specific songwriters. A couple of years back I did this with Burt Bacharach. I transcribed several of his songs - "Alfie" and "Promises Promises" among them. Using your ears to figure out how a given song works can help to absorb what is going on in a song.

                      3 titles from an Amazon search:

                      Melody in Songwriting:Tools and Techniques for Writing Hit Songs (Berklee)
                      Melody - How To write Great Tunes
                      Melody Writing and Analysis
                      https://soundcloud.com/david-goethe/tracks

                      Dave's ,YouTube channel

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by nat whilk II View Post
                        Steve Reich - Writings on Music 1965-2000.

                        Charles Mingus - Beneath The Underdog

                        Leonard Bernstein - The Joy of Music
                        Originally posted by davd_indigo
                        Melody in Songwriting:Tools and Techniques for Writing Hit Songs (Berklee)
                        Melody - How To write Great Tunes
                        Melody Writing and Analysis
                        Have you already read these books yourselves? As per the original purpose of this thread it would be great to compile a list even if small, but we should prefer books that some of us have at least read through, although not necessarily studied in depth.

                        I have checked out a two-tomes book from the local library and it looks promising. It starts maybe a bit too simple (to the point of feeling dumb) but I have browsed through it and noticed how it gets progressively into more and more complex concepts. But I'll have to read all of it at least before sharing a valid opinion. Ideally, I'd actually have to use it and see if I can earn some improvement from it, but that could take years.

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                        • #27
                          I've not read the books I listed. My impression is that your are looking for a solution all tied up in a package - in this case a book. I'd say the things one needs to do to improve their song writing are study and work. You mentioned (above earlier) being dissatisfied with "keep trying". I will submit that "keep trying" translates into "keep honing your craft".

                          Many things are simple to say - not so easy to do. Like, exercise regularly and eat a plant based diet. OK, simple, the chore is in the doing it.

                          Most importantly, to my mind, if you want to be a really good songwriter - work on your ears. As I said about about transcribing Burt Bacharach. Learn Beatles songs. Learn to play some of them by ear. I have a "Beatles Fake Book" - only the melodies and chord symbols - you have to figure out the chord voicings (you do know about chord voicings right ?) with your ears. Listen to how the bass line works with the guitar parts - learn the bass parts by ear. Analyze the vocal harmonies by singing along with various harmony parts. Notice how the various elements work together. The Beatles learned by trial and error, struggling to come up with something interesting. Take things apart and observe how they work. Can you hear chord progressions, root movement, chord inversions ? Have you studied the nuts and bolts of how harmonic movement works ?

                          If you don't like the Beatles, choose some examples by other artists that you really really admire.

                          I did study a book in counterpoint about 40 years ago: Preliminary Exercises In Counterpoint by Arnold Schoenberg. Although I recommend it highly (it's a method with writing exercises - you learn by doing) I don't think it would help you with songwriting.
                          Last edited by davd_indigo; 07-12-2018, 06:53 AM.
                          https://soundcloud.com/david-goethe/tracks

                          Dave's ,YouTube channel

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                          • #28
                            I forgot to mention that on Amazon there are a couple of books: Songwriters on songwriting. Easily searched.

                            And I'll point out the obvious - there is the music and there are the words. Two different disciplines to learn about.
                            https://soundcloud.com/david-goethe/tracks

                            Dave's ,YouTube channel

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Originally posted by davd_indigo View Post
                              I did study a book in counterpoint about 40 years ago: Preliminary Exercises In Counterpoint by Arnold Schoenberg. Although I recommend it highly (it's a method with writing exercises - you learn by doing) I don't think it would help you with songwriting.
                              Here it is... an answer to the actual question. Thank you! Perhaps the book is not presented as a songwriting book, but from the title, to me it appears it is definitely relevant.

                              The other 3 books you mention might also be good suggestion, but I rather wanted to hear what other people have actually read, and their own opinions on such books. Because if I just wanted dry titles, I know how to use Amazon or Google myself.

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                              • #30
                                The counterpoint book is for developing musicality. IIRC Schoenberg said he wrote the counterpoint book to help students (he was teaching at USC in California) develop their ears. Developed ears will help your overall musicality, which in turn should help songwriting.

                                You sparked my curiosity, and I pulled Jimmy Webb's "Tunesmith" off the bookshelf. I have the book but never read it. The book is loaded with ideas. Also interesting anecdotes.

                                If you decide to buy Schoenberg's book, Sheet Music Plus seems to have it in stock ($20). For some reason Amazon doesn't seem to have it (except for a few used overpriced copies).
                                https://soundcloud.com/david-goethe/tracks

                                Dave's ,YouTube channel

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