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Progressive Songwriting...


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So I don't know if it's just the ADHD but I have this obsession for writing the most complex music I can. Key changes, odd time, poly rhythms, dissonant chords, weird structures and style changes, and whatever else I can do to make a song as complex and unusual as possible. It's not that I don't respect and enjoy more tranditional forms of songwriting, but something within me just wont let me do it. It's always been what I do, (and don't get me wrong here, I truly enjoy what I do) but I've started forcing myself to focus on the beauty of simplicity and am finding no satisfaction.

 

Does anyone else have this 'problem'? We all have songwriting techniques we use and abuse, do you believe you use those techniques as a matter of habit or because it's what inspires you?

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I find that if I feel stuck in a rut, then I change my listening habits. I'll hear something and (maybe not immediately) it'll affect my songwriting.

 

IME I've found that some of the most sophisticated, complex stuff can often be reduced to just a voice and/or an acoustic guitar (or piano) & it still retains its beauty. If it can't, then the complexity was just window dressing. YMMV.

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I'm not sure I've heard anything you've done so I don't know what level of complexity and dissonance you're talking about. My songwriting generally seems traditional but I like to pepper it with unusual bits (sometimes dissonance, sometimes odd time) that threaten to tip it over but I reel it back in again. That's my overall formula. (Ram (rsadasiv) very perceptively sussed this out when I posted my album last year.)

 

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the approach you're taking. More power to you. I've often wanted to go the route you describe. The time isn't right for me yet. I'm of the belief that there are really very few out there experimenting and so I salute those who try, regardless of whether I connect with it or not.

 

(Re-reading your description makes me think of Mr Bungle or John Zorn's Naked City.)

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Yes, I have a similar problem. But I think in my case, it stems from my lack of technical knowledge and ability. I can't really do simple but effective melodies cause I can't play any instrument for that long without screwing it up...so I layer and layer and layer track upon track and eventually it comes out sounding like a classical orchestra, sometimes with odd dissonant chords (which I do love), and other such things that most might consider odd...

 

And I don't mind that, but I would like to do more simple NORMAL music too.

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Yes, I have a similar problem. But I think in my case, it stems from my lack of technical knowledge and ability. I can't really do simple but effective melodies cause I can't play any instrument for that long without screwing it up...so I layer and layer and layer track upon track and eventually it comes out sounding like a classical orchestra, sometimes with odd dissonant chords (which I do love), and other such things that most might consider odd...


And I don't mind that, but I would like to do more simple NORMAL music too.

 

 

...so play an instrument simply, until you screw up and repeat the simple part. this is simple.

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So I don't know if it's just the ADHD but I have this obsession for writing the most complex music I can. Key changes, odd time, poly rhythms, dissonant chords, weird structures and style changes, and whatever else I can do to make a song as complex and unusual as possible. It's not that I don't respect and enjoy more tranditional forms of songwriting, but something within me just wont let me do it. It's always been what I do, (and don't get me wrong here, I truly enjoy what I do) but I've started forcing myself to focus on the beauty of simplicity and am finding no satisfaction.


Does anyone else have this 'problem'? We all have songwriting techniques we use and abuse, do you believe you use those techniques as a matter of habit or because it's what inspires you?

As long as you're not in it to sell a 25 million units, I don't see anything at all wrong with making the kind of music you enjoy.

 

Now, I will say, as an on-again-off-again fan of progressive pop I've heard a lot of stuff that was complicated for the sake of being complicated and, unless there's something else going on there, it doesn't do much for me. (First time I saw ELP, for instance, I was excited; third time I couldn't wait for Emerson's endless noodling to be over.) Of course, as a fan of classical and modern orchestral music, I've heard a few pieces that seemed to get lost in their own pretensions (I've got probably 135 or so orchestral concerts behind me, so there's gonna be some dross), but, interestingly, there's a lot less of that than you might think -- that actually gets performed. Getting 70 or 80 highly trained (and paid) professionals together to play some overly-clever work that no one including the composer's mother could care about is not a way to keep an orchestra running and the hall filled in tough times.

 

 

When I first started writing, I thought all my songs had to be mini-epics, at least 5 to 10 minutes long and filled with metaphysical, literary, and mythological references (which I would snatch pieces of shamelessly from the works I was supposed to be studying)... Those songs were insufferable. :D

 

A few years down the road I started taking a real look at some of the classic songs from the immediate and distant past, with a special attention to classic songs by guys like Hank Williams (grandpa)... it was a real revelation because guys like Williams could nail it in 2'20".

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So I don't know if it's just the ADHD but I have this obsession for writing the most complex music I can. Key changes, odd time, poly rhythms, dissonant chords, weird structures and style changes, and whatever else I can do to make a song as complex and unusual as possible. It's not that I don't respect and enjoy more tranditional forms of songwriting, but something within me just wont let me do it. It's always been what I do, (and don't get me wrong here, I truly enjoy what I do) but I've started forcing myself to focus on the beauty of simplicity and am finding no satisfaction.


Does anyone else have this 'problem'? We all have songwriting techniques we use and abuse, do you believe you use those techniques as a matter of habit or because it's what inspires you?

 

 

I consciously try to avoid "progressive" elements, but I'm not against complexity. I almost never have tempo changes, the song structures are usually fairly traditional and the melody is quite straightforward. On the other hand, I almost always have poly-rhythms, I spend a lot of time thinking about textures in the arrangement and I do consciously try to add some unusual harmonic elements to the song. I very seldom let a song out of the house which is all in one key, but I very seldom change keys inside a structural section. I think of each song as having a unified style, but I don't think that is always readily apparent to members of the audience.

 

It really depends on the song though. I've done plenty of guitar/vocal or piano/vocal recordings that I was happy with (at least at the time I recorded them - for all of my songs after about a week I think they are utter crap, and after about a month I usually think "well, there is something there, but certain aspects of this song just suck ass").

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"I don't respect and enjoy more traditional forms of songwriting"

 

No wonder you won't comment on my stuff YOU BA$T@RD! I can't write anything but traditional stuff? It comes pouring out of me like urine from a homeless man on the streets of the inner city... I always say, you don't pick the song, it picks you? You are merely a vessel... And in my case? A vessel filled with waste byproducts? Like in the Austin Powers scene where he drinks Fat Bastard's stool sample?

 

I don

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