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Help! Opinions, Advice etc...


CM1269

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I've been trying to write songs for a while now and nothing is working. I never like my songs because I listen to people like The Doors, Bob dylan, Bruce springstreen, Elton john, Billy joel, and Tom petty whos progressions, melodies, and lyrics are so incredible. Does anyone ever like their songs when they write them? Does second guessing yourself always end up leading nowhere in the end? Im sure im on the right track with some things and my lyrics are good I know it. I can write a really nice poem that rhymes anytime i want but its putting music to it thats killing me... I can write good chord progressions but i suck at melodies and I get lost trying to put words to it... Please help what do you guys do to not get discouraged? Please give me all the advice you can... thank you

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I listen to a lot of the same stuff you do. In the case of an artist like Bob Dylan, or even Bruce Springsteen, a lot of their melodies and progressions are pretty basic. A lot of simple 3 or 4 chord songs, with a limited melodic range; not anything extraordinary. Their lyrics are usually the main focal point of the song. Dylan often just bases his songs on traditional folk and blues progressions, and often half-talks his lyrics rather than fully singing them. He also likes to stuff a lot of words into one line--sometimes sounds awkward, but that's just his style.

 

Artists like Elton John and Billy Joel (two of my favorite artists of all time, BTW) are a different animal--their music is much more based on the music and the melody; they are proficient, technically skilled musicians who have a fair degree of formal training in music. (Both studied classical piano at a very early age). To write songs in that vein, you don't necessarily need to be an expert, but a basic knowledge of music theory can really come in handy.

 

You seem to be saying you're main problem is coming up with melodies--to me that's a hard skill to be able to just learn. I think you pick it up simply by listening to a lot of music and absorbing it all. I wish I had more advice to you, other than to say keep at it. Ignore your own internal critic for the moment, and try just getting a song finished, regardless if you think it's good or not (it may not be as bad as you think). The more you do it, the better you'll get.

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First, don't judge yourself too harshly. We all write songs that dont' measure up to our ideals. Sometimes -- maybe usually -- one after another. It's part of being a writer, really. Eventually you may get to a place where you like more than you don't like...

 

We're all different, of course, but for me, the most important thing is to remember that there are TWO HATS I have to wear -- song writer and song editor...

 

When I'm writing -- I write. I try to get everything that first occurs to me down... I've lost too many ideas by stopping and trying to get one bit right before I've captured the first feel and general ideas of the song.

 

So, when I'm writing... I mostly write. If I feel a song... I don't stop writing until I've got as much in me out as possible. I ALSO don't erase/replace sections right at first so much as copy them and then modifiy them... sometimes I go back to a bit I thought I was going to throw away and fold it back in or use it somewhere else in the song. (And all the scraps and bits that get taken out of the song I'm working on get saved somewhere if there's the slightest spark to them.)

 

 

Then, when I've spewed out all that's gonna get spewed in the initial rush, I'll go back and gently refine... I say gently because a lot of times my first intuitive impulse may be trying to suggest something that I don't quite see yet.

 

Often, when I'm reworking/editing a song (typically right after I get done spewing) I'll find myself discovering inner associations and rhymes that want to come out or a hidden meaning or direction in the song. How much is accident and how much is sub-conscious machination? Hard to say... but I'll take a happy accident just as quickly as some gut level intuitive jump...

 

The important thing is to keep writing. If you write a "bad" song -- do NOT beat yourself up. EVERYONE writes bad songs (I'm thinkin' that's a safe bet, anyhow) at some point or other. If you associate negative self-feelings or a sense of diminished self-worth with writing -- it's just going to make it that much harder. Sometimes I'll write 5 crummy songs in a row... it might not be joyful and exciting but even if I'm instantly aware that they'll never get out of the woodshed, I still am glad I'm at least writing...

 

You need to reward yourself for writing with some pats on the back (but NOT with a fifth of burbon, a couple rocks, or a quick fix... many of us have been there and done that and by the time you pull yourself together the muses are off playing tag down in the park). Writing is hard work -- and the effort alone will pay off eventually in increased stamina and strength (as a writer) and, eventually, if you keep at it and try to learn from past work, in more and better product.

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i find i have a very similar problem as you do. at first i thought i was an ok writer and then i started to get into the stuff you're into about a year ago. i had only written 3 songs before that and came to realize they sucked. i then began to work dylan, young, and blue rodeo into my songs and thought i was doing pretty well. but i started to feel to repetative always using blues progs and the same sappy lines. i can't stand any of the songs i wrote even 6 months ago. what happen was i started to force myself to play stuff i just wasn't feeling and forcing myself to escape blues even though i now realize it is a huge part of the dylan type style. within the last month i have started to get it together and am feeling bettter about my writing. i think it's just a matter of time until something useful comes out, or you find what you need to do to write. i say in about a year i'll be able to write songs i like and can feel. i'm curently working on a piano piece that is coming together nicely. i find my only problem is that i tend to sound too pop, and not enough folk or blues or country to it. i also find it helps to go back one step further and listen to what the artist you want to sound like listend to. for example if you like dylan listen to woodie guthrie or big bill bronzy. of course you iwll interpret the music differently but the style will be more like something bob wrote than someone trying to copy bob wrote.

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