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Between My 'Phones (youtube phase 1)


Lee Knight

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I started a thread about having an idea bank. I mentioned how cool it is to work Stick's challenges. And he responded with this:

 

 

Write a song with no stringed instruments (except maybe bass) so no guitar , banjo, uke.... lets hear you play some piano and do a nice song.... im not saying write an electronic song or a song out your comfort zone...in fact it should be a usual song for you.... but piano based.... you want a topic...hmmm... write a song about what music means to you (it doesnt have to be so literal)

 

 

Here's what I've come up with. Phase 1. Phase 1 meaning, now is a great time for comment, criticisms, ideas... it is very much a WIP.

 

[video=youtube;p0fgx59EyBQ]

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A nicely detailed portrait of quiet desperation, alienation and emotional dissolution. Once or twice I felt like I caught a couple of musical echoes of Elvis Costello's "Alison," although mostly it sounded like a Lee Knight song.

 

What did you think about the experience of writing on the piano as opposed to guitar? Last fall I made a point of writing a song on the piano (virtual, that is) and it actually led me to use a set of changes I don't normally use -- although once I had other instruments on it, it started feeling like any of my other songs to me. In the late 90s, when I was in my trip hop/downtempo phase, I would write the music and then come back and fill in lyrics -- but I often would switch to guitar to write those lyrics and then fit them into the typically electronica-dominated tracks. (Sometimes I'd just repurpose lyrics I already had.)

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Just beautiful. Really, really well done.

 

A couple of lyrical notes:

 

"Stretched out on my bed

drowning out this 'happy' home. (going for the irony makes this much stronger)

Eyes closed as notes entwine

where rhythm dances

and harmonies align." (harmonies align more than collide, plus it's a much better rhyme)

 

Also, in the 2nd verse, "and for the first time she wonders..." is unclear b/c of the line preceding it.

 

Finally, a spelling note: the final time we see the word 'phones onscreen, it's spelled "phone's."

 

But a beautifully crafted tune. Whoa! No kidding! Just great.

 

LCK

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What did you think about the experience of writing on the piano as opposed to guitar?


...it actually led me to use a set of changes I don't normally use -- )

 

 

Well, funny enough, I tend to use piano in the writing somewhere along the line of a tune anyway. It helps me to refine the melody. So, I'll typically hear it in my head, or consciously write it in my head, the refine it at the keys. Then move it to guitar. I'm not much for actually writing at the guitar. I usually arrange the guitar to what's in my head. So the writing isn't rally any different for me.

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A couple of lyrical notes:


"Stretched out on my bed

drowning out
this 'happy'
home. (going for the iron makes this much stronger)

Eyes closed as notes entwine

where rhythm dances

and
harmonies align
."
(harmonies align more than collide, plus it's a much better rhyme)


Also, in the 2nd verse, "and for the first time she wonders..." is unclear b/c of the line preceding it.


Finally, a spelling note: the final time we see the word 'phones onscreen, it's spelled "phone's."




But a beautifully crafted tune. Whoa! No kidding! Just great.


LCK

 

 

Happy over unhappy to tap the irony of perfect paradise, etc. That's good.

 

Not sure I like align over collide though. maybe I'm wrong. I like it colliding in his head. True, this is his sanctuary so we should contrast the internal harmony with the external chaos. So... my head says you're right but something about the image colliding in my imagination makes me happy. But that could very well be inconsistent and confusing. I'll mess with that. Thanks.

 

The bit about "she wonder's" I wrestled with it.

 

Why do you always overreacted this way

And for the first time wonder how she'll adjust

 

We have the suitcase landing down from the attic, someone says "you're over reacting" (most likely the one not throwing the suitcase) and then that same someone wonders how they'll adjust to the end. The someone we now know is her by the use of "she'll adjust". So... was it confusing or did it just feel wrong in its syntax? My eventual decision was that it worked and the syntax was more my theoretical observation and concern. But in the real world of song speak, it communicated the scene.

 

Did it not convey the action or was it truly confusing? I went back and forth.

 

Anyway, as always, great input. Your observations always get me closer or at least thinking differently.

 

Oh yeah, typo at the end there with the 's. Thanks.

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We have the suitcase landing down from the attic, someone says "you're over reacting" (most likely the one not throwing the suitcase) and then that same someone wonders how they'll adjust to the end. The someone we now know is her by the use of "she'll adjust". So... was it confusing or did it just feel wrong in its syntax?

 

 

Sorry, it just wasn't clear. Yeah, it was clear about someone saying "you're overreacting," but it's not 100% clear who says it or who the overreactor is. This section just needs to be tidied up a little, IMO.

 

Again, beautifully written tune. And the piano bits are amazing.

 

LCK

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Yikes! OK... so I went through the tune and looked for any lifts and I'm missing it. Unless you're referring to the And I'm "off", the note on "off" a sustained 6th of the scale over a IV chord. And Alison does do that. I could change the line easy enough to use a couple of notes on the word "off". The rhythm being 1, 2 and using the scale tones 1, 6!. Is that the spot or are there others? Yikes.


I love it if anyone is inclined to let me know other areas where I might have lifted a melody.




Well, funny enough, I tend to use piano in the writing somewhere along the line of a tune anyway. It helps me to refine the melody. So, I'll typically hear it in my head, or consciously
write
it in my head, the refine it at the keys. Then move it to guitar. I'm not much for actually writing at the guitar. I usually arrange the guitar to what's in my head. So the writing isn't rally any different for me.

I didn't think the "Alison" echo was problematic. I'd have to go back and analyze (and as you know, I'm not exactly Mr Theory) but I suspect you're right about where that echo comes.

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Lee this is perfect - i wasnt sure what youd do with just the piano but you nailed it and yeh it has that ben folds likeability/credibility

 

The only bit i was going to mention i think has been addressed by LCK

 

drowning out an unhappy home - for me it was the AN UNhappy that that clunky so was going to suggest MY unhappy home

 

Excellent song

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Mr Knight - you are excelling in your craft. I love the piano work and the vocal melody - I think they're superb, but..........

(This is my father about to come out in me with his, "But maybe you could do better").

 

As you posted the lyric about a week ago, my inner expectation had probably subconsciously anticipated music that matched the lyric.

What's happened is - in my mind, the piano and vocal melody, and overall mood and effect, has come up to the lyric, and then just kept going.

So I'm now hearing something that surpasses the lyric.

 

I hope this makes sense.

I could offer a tweak here and there on the lyric, like an opportunity in the pre-chorus to use something with the 'mouth' rhyme like, 'when there's discord in the house' so that you are setting up the language for the coming musical terms, rhythm and harmony in the chorus. There are those kind of small opportunities to explore. Some others in the verses.

 

However - I'm feeling this to be potentially a bigger song. The type of song that keeps Billy Joel and Bernie / Elton indifferent about their royalty cheques.

So just as George Harrison was going to use 'Handle with Care' for the B-side of a single release, I'm suggesting that the creator of a hit doesn't always know that they've created one.

 

This one of yours may be the song Lennon wrote in India (I forget the title - I think maybe the word 'natural' is in it) and shelved it, only to re-write with a completely different lyric years later -'Jealous Guy'.

 

These may just be the ramblings of a crazy guy, but the early morning sun is shining through my window, the blackbirds are singing to each other, and the rooster across the back fence is engaged in some belated crowing, telling me that in his opinion, I could be on the right track.

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Listening again (and again), I still think this is a grabber.

 

But I also think it might need a bit more of a clue as to what, exactly the space is. (Sorry, I know.)

 

The perfect place inside my mind,

I'm not alone.

I've got my music

in this space between my 'phones.

 

I know it sounds like too many words, but if you start the line I've got my at the end of the third measure and hit music on the downbeat, it'll work.

 

Here's how I hear it.

 

The first line/measure of the chorus comes in 1/2 beat after the downbeat (divide the down beat in two, doing a bit of back phrasing), so that the per in perfect comes in on beat #2. Sing the rest of that line -- place inside my -- then the second measure has mind hitting right on the downbeat, which is a 1/2 note, followed by four quarter notes -- I'm nah-ot a-. Then the third measure has lone landing as a quarter note on the downbeat, then a rest (a 1/4 note + an 1/8th note). Then you have 3 quarter notes to sing I've got my, and on the downbeat of the 4th measure you'd sing the first syllable of music, followed by in this space between my... and land the word 'phones on the downbeat of the last measure.

 

This probably makes no sense, but I gave it a shot.

 

The only other way to show you what I mean would be for me to sing along with the track.

 

But I don't know if you think this is a necessary change. (I do, obviously.)

 

LCK

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Listening again (and again), I still think this is a grabber.


But I also think it might need a bit more of a clue as to what, exactly the space is. (Sorry, I know.)


The perfect place inside my mind,

I'm not alone.

I've got my music

in this space between my 'phones.
...



...but I don't know if you think this is a necessary change. (I do, obviously.)


LCK

 

 

Usually I'm very much into spelling things out so they are clear. In this case though, I feel that using the term "my music" or even the word music, will detract from what does work already. When Stick mentioned I write something about my love of music, my immediate reaction was, "Oh crap!". Because what came to my mind first, as much as I love it, was Broadway musical. And while I have a very wide window of enjoyment for musical style, when the pen hits the paper and I go into the studio to emote... (sorry for the pretension), ultimately it's got to connect with me for real for it to connect, hopefully, for any listener. And as I began digging deep, it became clear this song was about me in one sense and about my daughter in another. And it is for real.

 

And I come from a place of irony and black humor as means of communication. As mild or subtle as it might be. MUSIC! just screams of Peter Allen belting out a tearjerker in lame unitard. No disrespect to Mr. Allen.

 

So I figure, if the demographic that misses that this is referring to music, doesn't get it, they'll still get the sincere idea of isolation in a crowd (three's a crowd?) and escape. In other words...

 

I really don't want to to use the word music.

 

But! Your passion for polishing has rubbed off on me (get it?). But I think I'd really need to hear further input from others regarding that very specific point to want to change it. One thing that occurred to me was the now obvious correlation with Brian's In My Room. Maybe changing the location of "sanctuary!" might work at this point. But for me, between my phones is a very personal and pointed image and fact. For my daughter too. Her case, the 14 year old with iPod listening to her mix of Led Zeppelin, Beatles and modern pop hits. Crossed legged on the bed with earbuds and drawing as mom and dad "work it out" downstairs.

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Maybe "in this space" for title also?

 

I hate the title, "Between My 'Phones". It doesn't flow at all. So help me here Mr. Stickman. You and I are from different eras, no doubt. I notice a lot of leeway with younger writers with regards to titling. I wouldn't be surprised to see a young writer call this tune above "The Womb" and marvel at how the listener will make the connection and go, "Whoa, right! the womb. Right!" :)

 

So with the leniency afforded today, I'm hopelessly behind the curve. For me, my instinct says, between my phones. But now, with Lee's post above, and the tendency to bury the in-eloquent phrase, am I even going the right direction with Between My Phones. Then again, I suspect the phrase means something to the crowd here. And where do you abandon sincerity of intent for a wider audience?

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Really nice Lee!


I have one suggestion... and that is to lose the highhat stuff when it's just piano. I think it would be more intimate and natural to just have the piano solo.

 

 

Good catch. I was wondering of someone would. It's there to bury unfortunate click bleed from my piano tracking. Years of live work have made my hearing less than right. In other words, I crank the phones. But I hear ya. (what?) Maybe a pedal hat just on 1/4s would be more appropriate and still bury the click. Unfortunately, I put a delay on the ckick so it would do a fedback CLICK-tick-tick-tick thing to help me groove pre drums.

 

Good catch.

 

Maybe a loose shaker down to the point of the bleed and no louder...

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And where do you abandon sincerity for a wider audience?

 

 

Wherever possible.

 

Look, I had a professor at film school who could spot a writer putting his own personal {censored} into a scene every single time. And he would always tell us to snip out that crap. And he was always right (except when it came to my scenes).

 

I hated him! I hated that he would do that. And I hated even more that he was right.

 

I don't know. From a philosophical perspective, songs aren't ours to own. They're not about us. What's personal and specific becomes universal as long as the song has some hook that we can attach our own personal feelings onto. For instance, my parents were very happily married, so I don't relate to your song from that perspective, but I do relate to the feeling of wanting to shut out the world and listen to music.

 

You pointed out yesterday, in the FIT, how deeply you were affected by Peter, Paul Mary's version of "In the Early Morning Rain." It's doubtful that Peter, Paul or Mary were ever standing drunk, in the rain, early one morning outside their local airport, too broke to buy a ticket home, and too drunk to be allowed on the plane even if they had the money to fly home. (It may not have ever happened like that to Gordon Lightfoot either, at least not exactly.) It's also doubtful that even a tiny fraction of people who've heard that song, and loved it and related to it, have ever been in that exact same position. But when they sing that song, they're very connected to it emotionally.

 

That said, the guy in the song is very specific about what his dilemma is. He tells us very clearly that he's at an airport instead of forcing us to guess. "Out on runway number nine big 707 set to roll..." may not have been enough of a clue for everybody hearing that song in 1964 (when Lightfoot wrote it). So he adds another line, "This old airport's got me down..." He's not stingy with details because, "Hey, man, it's my story. Let everyone else figure it out for themselves."

 

In your song you're being artful with how you paint the details of what's going on. You've given us some of the elements of music: rhythm, harmony, etc. But it all relates back to music because it's music that we crave at times of solitude and solace. So what's wrong with using that word? I know the word got a bad rap from Barry Manilow's "I Write the Songs," but still...

 

Anyway, enough pontificating.

 

If you blanche at the thought of using the word music, give us something else.

 

Example, instead of "the perfect place inside my mind -- I'm not alone." How about:

 

"I've got Bob Marley and the Stones, I'm not alone..." or something similar?

 

LCK

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Lee this is perfect - i wasnt sure what youd do with just the piano but you nailed it and yeh it has that ben folds likeability/credibility


The only bit i was going to mention i think has been addressed by LCK


drowning out an unhappy home - for me it was the AN UNhappy that that clunky so was going to suggest MY unhappy home


Excellent song

 

 

You know... I think MY unhappy home is it. The irony of just "happy" might be asking too much of the listener. It still has a lot of syllables but you've made it work by removing the hard to negotiate 'anunhappy'.

 

Have I mentioned how hard this was to sing? It literally took me 8 hours. Emotional, technically difficult for me, and making the lyric phrase right. So frankly, I'm not super excited about going in and redoing it... but I will. Cause this is a WIP. A difficult one, but so what. Right?

 

So anyway, don't pay attention to my kicking and scratching at suggestions. I'm just processing it all.

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Wherever possible.


Look, I had a professor at film school who could spot a writer putting his own personal {censored} into a scene every single time. And he would always tell us to snip out that crap. And he was always right (except when it came to
my
scenes).


I hated him! I hated that he would do that. And I hated even more that he was right.


I don't know. From a philosophical perspective, songs aren't ours to own. They're not about us. What's personal and specific becomes universal as long as the song has some hook that we can attach our own personal feelings onto. For instance, my parents were very happily married, so I don't relate to your song from that perspective, but I do relate to the feeling of wanting to shut out the world and listen to music.


You pointed out yesterday, in the FIT, how deeply you were affected by Peter, Paul Mary's version of "In the Early Morning Rain." It's doubtful that Peter, Paul or Mary were ever standing drunk, in the rain, early one morning outside their local airport, too broke to buy a ticket home, and too drunk to be allowed on the plane even if they had the money to fly home. (It may not have ever happened like that to Gordon Lightfoot either, at least not exactly.) It's also doubtful that even a tiny fraction of people who've heard that song, and loved it and related to it, have ever been in that exact same position. But when they sing that song, they're very connected to it emotionally.


That said, the guy in the song is very specific about what his dilemma is. He tells us very clearly that he's at an airport instead of forcing us to guess. "Out on runway number nine big 707 set to roll..." may not have been enough of a clue for everybody hearing that song in 1964 (when Lightfoot wrote it). So he adds another line, "This old airport's got me down..." He's not stingy with details because, "Hey, man, it's my story. Let everyone else figure it out for themselves."


In your song you're being artful with how you paint the details of what's going on. You've given us some of the elements of music: rhythm, harmony, etc. But it all relates back to music because it's music that we crave at times of solitude and solace. So what's wrong with using that word? I know the word got a bad rap from Barry Manilow's "I Write the Songs," but still...


Anyway, enough pontificating.


If you blanche at the thought of using the word music, give us something else.


Example, instead of "the perfect place inside my mind -- I'm not alone." How about:


"I've got Bob Marley and the Stones, I'm not alone..." or something similar?


LCK

 

 

While I do get your points and want to make the tune more universal, and will work on it, "I've got Bob Marley and the Stones, I'm not alone..." or something similar?" is very far off the track of where I wanto to go with this. And while I realize you're throwing out ideas to stimulate thought, the nature of the ideas seem to be in a very different vein from my perspective. Specifically regrading the word music or being too literal on the subject for my taste.

 

In your song you're being artful with how you paint the details of what's going on. You've given us some of the elements of music: rhythm, harmony, etc. But it all relates back to music because it's music that we crave at times of solitude and solace. So what's wrong with using that word?

 

I didn't like the Doobies song Listen To The Music for the same reason. I wouldn't know how to go about it. It's not me and I don't want it to be. Rhythm and Harmony are only present in music. I don't feel I'm being overly arty here. You've got headphones and rhythm and harmony. I don't think there is anything obtuse about this. Maybe I'm wrong.

 

Should American Pie say Buddy Holly somewhere? Why not just spell it out? See what I mean?

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Perhaps you haven't noticed the pain
and
irony in your voice when you're singing about "some perfect paradise?"


LCK

 

 

I have. Felt it too. And that's why your suggestion makes sense. And I might employ it. I'm wrestling with spreading the irony out throughout the song. It almost feels like bad timing. Like I'm going back and explaining the punchline. I'm going to be looking at this closer...

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I didn't like the Doobies song Listen To The Music for the same reason.


Should American Pie say Buddy Holly somewhere? Why not just spell it out? See what I mean?

 

 

The problem with the Doobie Brothers tune is it wasn't very musical.

 

About Buddy Holly, right. McLean called it "the day the music died," which was artful (not artsy), yet untrue, else how would McLean himself been able to write the song -- any song -- if music itself died when Buddy Holly did?

 

LCK

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About Buddy Holly, right. McLean called it "the day the music died," which was artful (not artsy), yet untrue, else how would McLean himself been able to write the song -- any song -- if music itself died when Buddy Holly did?


LCK

 

 

But whoa... you're suggesting he might have made it better by avoiding the bit that was "untrue". That's part of the beauty of his lyric. It seemed like it died for him that day. Hyperbole. We get that. Overly scrutinizing these things can rob them of their magic. Don't you think?

 

The day... the music... died for me personally but not everybody else and not really for me forever it just seemed that way at the time.

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Harmonies align is it! Way better. Thanks LCK

 

I'm going to give Drowning out this happy home a shot as well and see if the irony works stretching it this far. One way to find out. It will most certainly sing better.

 

I'm going to try and drop the instrumental coda and just end with the last lyric.

 

And the 2nd verse, I'm getting lots of positive feedback that the back and forth of he said she said of overreacting and suitcase landing etc. works as is. It doesn't matter who said what and highlights the ludicrous nature of these arguments. I like the way that sections plays and communicates the chaos of marital strife.

 

And I'm going to leave the chorus as is until something better hits me between the eyes.

 

And my wife and I getting back together.

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