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reaching a 'songwritng peak' and other musings.


Jimmy Chaos

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Ok. I was chatting with some fellow songwriters the other day and I was lamenting the fact that my recent work hasn't been as good as my previous work.

 

I think I've realised why. Permit me to show you... in the form of a graph.

 

songs.png

 

The realisation is that regular writing produced my best songs.

 

So the way i see it... it's like getting to 70 on the freeway. you've got to start from zero and build up the speed, when one is flying... thats when the wind starts to blow.

 

 

x

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I'm starting to think that more knowledge and skill with music leads to worse lyrics. I used to write great lyrics. I couldn't play the guitar for crap, but nobody cared. Now that I can play a little though, I'm not writing such great lyrics. I think it's because I have too much organization.. I used to tell stories over a simple riff.. Now I try to fit stories into a series of more complex riffs when I write.. I have to make more sacrifices these days. I think a lot of people experience this though.. IMO Ryan Adams music has gotten less lyrically important as is musicianship has increased.

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I'm starting to think that more knowledge and skill with music leads to worse lyrics. I used to write great lyrics. I couldn't play the guitar for crap, but nobody cared. Now that I can play a little though, I'm not writing such great lyrics. I think it's because I have too much organization.. I used to tell stories over a simple riff.. Now I try to fit stories into a series of more complex riffs when I write.. I have to make more sacrifices these days. I think a lot of people experience this though.. IMO Ryan Adams music has gotten less lyrically important as is musicianship has increased.

I know that feeling but I suspect it's simply cyclical -- and a matter of one thing filling a vacuum caused by a lull in another.

 

But I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. You can achieve a balance that allows you to go forward with both of them, in the long run.

 

I can honestly say that in most ways I'm both a better guitarist and, as far as craft/skill goes, a better songwriter than ever. (Admittedly, as a songwriter, I'm not living my subject matter, like I used to. But then, if I was, I'd be dead or worn out. Oh, wait... well, everything is explained. ;) At least I'm not dead. At least I don't think I am. But it would explain a lot.

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I will say I sometimes feel songwriting knowledge stunts creativity!

 

But it's just a feeling.

 

At the beginning I wrote (what I thought was) cool songs, and that was fun. Nice and easy, simple songs.

 

Then as I learned more, I started trying to get more sophisticated. And I liked the songs less.

 

But really, most great songs are simple.

 

So I went back to simple, and I'm having fun again (and I think the songs are getting getter again too.)

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I'm starting to think that more knowledge and skill with music leads to worse lyrics. I used to write great lyrics. I couldn't play the guitar for crap, but nobody cared. Now that I can play a little though, I'm not writing such great lyrics. I think it's because I have too much organization.. I used to tell stories over a simple riff.. Now I try to fit stories into a series of more complex riffs when I write.. I have to make more sacrifices these days. I think a lot of people experience this though.. IMO Ryan Adams music has gotten less lyrically important as is musicianship has increased.

 

 

 

So do you craft the music first and then fit the lyrics? I'm the opposite. I always write the words and find and fit a tune for them.

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Stack's on a roll today. It sounds like you should write more--the more you write, the more material you have to choose from. More crap, more gold. Go for it.

 

 

Yeah, the real question is: is the proportion of good songs any different than it was before? You might actually be writing better songs on average now, just fewer of them.

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The more you play the better you sound.........

 

The more you write the better you get at it.

 

Me? I've been on a heck of a roll for a year or so now with tunes coming one right after the other.....I'm peaking and I know it won't last.

 

But I definitely see an improvement in my writing, both lyrically and musically.

 

Is this fun.....or what?

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I definitely go through peaks and valleys in terms of both quantity and quality. Lately I feel like my quantity has gone down, my variety of different styles has gone down, but the quality of the individual songs is doing pretty well. I think maybe it's because I'm spending more time on each song.

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So do you craft the music first and then fit the lyrics? I'm the opposite. I always write the words and find and fit a tune for them.

 

 

For the most part, I used to sit down with my guitar and just play some repetitive circular simplistic riff and sing over it until I found something that worked. Then I would take the lyric sound I had just made and the one or two lines I got with the guitar in hand and craft a story on paper from there.

 

My songs used to be very vocally driven. The guitar was the canvas, the words were the paint..Vocally driven songs have almost no rules.. I could go any where with it.. now the guitar is becoming very colorful and more organized. The guitar is in the driver seat now and I am having trouble writing to suit it..

 

 

I'm sure I'll get the hang of it soon though..

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So do you craft the music first and then fit the lyrics? I'm the opposite. I always write the words and find and fit a tune for them.

 

 

For me, Sometime the words come first sometimes it's the music.

 

once many moons ago, when I had to do sixty days in the local jail for driveing offenses; I wrote a blues tune and did all the music in my haid. I wrote the lyrics down and arranged the music in my brain and when I got out I played it and it worked perfectly.

 

I finde that if I'm in a creative stall it's because I have'nt learned any new songs.

If my well has seemingly gone dry, I'll fill it up again by learning ten or twenty songs in different genres and by studyin' the lyrics and chord progressions and rhyming schemes(oh my) I'll have a whole new crop of ideas and patterns to work with.

 

thanks for lettin me share.

TD

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I will say I sometimes feel songwriting knowledge stunts creativity!


But it's just a feeling.


At the beginning I wrote (what I thought was) cool songs, and that was fun. Nice and easy, simple songs.


Then as I learned more, I started trying to get more sophisticated. And I liked the songs less.


But really, most great songs are simple.


So I went back to simple, and I'm having fun again (and I think the songs are getting getter again too.)

 

 

Ah. I don't agree with this (although, who am i to tell you how you are feeling?). Anyway, I think you're short changing the learning process here. When you learn something new, it takes a little while for it to go from self-consciously using and practicing the new technique to spontaneously using the technique. The more comfortable you become with a new technique the more it enters your "sphere of inspiration" as it were, where the technique serves inspiration. Before that can happen though you have to consciously try out the technique in order for it to become second nature. This is where patience comes in.

 

Anyway, go back and write "simple" songs and if you've internalized the new technique enough it will show up in what you used to call "simple" songs and you won't even realize it until you look over your song after the fact. That's how this stuff works.

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Stack's on a roll today. It sounds like you should write more--the more you write, the more material you have to choose from. More crap, more gold. Go for it.

 

Well said.

 

 

I find that I go on long droughts with no new songs, and I'll begin to doubt myself and think I'm losing inspiration. Then a day will come along and I'll bust out 2 or 3 new songs with good lyrics. Usually only 1 or 2 make it anywhere, but it's still a confidence booster. I write in spurts mostly, so sometimes it's hard to keep myself convinced that I can still write more good material.

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