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enjambment or discontinuity


meandi

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i'm reading "tunesmith" by jimmy webb (wichata lineman/by the time i get to phoenix)

he's talking about the "unethical practice of carrying over the meaning of a sentence from the end of one couplet to another. the effect of discontinuity, only slightly anoying on the printed page, can be amplified to the point of distraction in a singing line."

I've always felt as a listener that this practice frequently added an interesting lyrical syncopation/uniqueness to a song.

i'm aware of the subjectivity of art but am interested in the thoughts comments of you gentlemen on this subject.

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Like most rules, this can be broken. But there are great advantages to having every line stand alone. I co-write and my co-writer has, from time to time, asked me to swap line positions to better fit a melody he has in mind. It's almost never a problem when each line is complete. But when you have line 'B' as a subordinate clause to line 'A' it's almost impossible to re-arrange them without a major re-write.

 

best,

 

john

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I had this problem with a song I posted here--it's toward the bottom of the first page. It seems to have worked, partly because the song is about drinking, so it's natural for the lyric to spill over across a verse. I think that, just like all of the other rules, this one can be broken to make a point. Breaking it because you don't want to think of a better way to do it is not as excusable.

 

At the end of the day, do you really want to take songwriting advice from the author of "MacArthur Park"?

 

(Actually, I got Tunesmith from the library after you namechecked it in another thread, and I'm really get a lot out of it.)

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Enjambment

 

Chicken Monkey - I was thinking of the thread about your last demo when I read this, but you beat me to the punch.

 

Jimmy Webb

 

When the only Jimmy Webb song I knew was "MacArthur Park", I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. I listened some more though, and while I do not unreservedly love Jimmy Webb, I do unreservedly think that "I Sleep in the Daytime" is one of the all time great songs, and that anyone interested in songwriting can learn a thing fo two from Jimmy Webb.

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as i stated in a previous thread i've only recently began to attempt to write my own lyrics as a way of making my music truely my own

 

even as a kid when i became interested in a new subject of any kind, the first thing i would do was to read what successful individuals within that area had to say about doing it well

 

much of webbs work is not musically my cup-o-tea

but there is no disputing his success as a writer & the fact that he obviously has a handle on the techniques involved in producing one "hit" after another

always something to be learned if i'm paying attention

 

in my musical listening i have everything from benny goodman & duke ellington to meshugga & superjoint ritual

if i listen with an open mind their is always an interesting progression, melody line, chord shape...something that can be studied & applied to my own compositions for a continuing fresh approach

 

same with mr webb & his most interesting book

 

in my own writing i seem to rely on 2 & 3 line phrases for complete thoughts rather having each single line stand on its own:

 

in yer mind ya still see yerself

where yer young yer wild

and yer free

 

where the road lays out before you

so many choices, which

way will it be (here is the discontinuity refered to...done this way to fit the arrangement)

 

ya search for wisdom & insight

some kinda light

to help ya see

 

so that if a "shuffle" is required to make it work i'm moving multi-line phrases within the work rather than single lines

 

this is what prompted my queery addressed in this thread

 

best to all

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Yeah, Webb's got a few clunkers, but he's got a ton of hits, and frankly. who am I to judge what the world wants to listen to? I'm really enjoying the book, and it's the best (and most thorough) book on the topic, and I've read my share.

 

Meandi, it looks to me like you're stuck on artificial line breaks. For example, why not just make the line,

 

in yer mind ya still see yerself where yer young yer wild and yer free"

 

without the breaks? I'm just starting the chapter on line breaks, so I don't know what Webb says, but I don't see why this wouldn't work.

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Webb's book is good, and his comments are generally right on the money. But enjambment being "unethical"? I think he's just employing a bit of hyperbole. Though his book is mainly for beginning songwriters, avoiding enjambment in song lyrics is solid advice.

 

As you progress in songwriting, you have to go with your own ear and sensibilities.

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Originally posted by Chicken Monkey

Yeah, Webb's got a few clunkers, but he's got a ton of hits, and frankly. who am I to judge what the world wants to listen to? I'm really enjoying the book, and it's the best (and most thorough) book on the topic, and I've read my share.


Meandi, it looks to me like you're stuck on artificial line breaks. For example, why not just make the line,


in yer mind ya still see yerself where yer young yer wild and yer free"


without the breaks? I'm just starting the chapter on line breaks, so I don't know what Webb says, but I don't see why this wouldn't work.

 

 

 

 

that's an execllent point...& i really don't have an answer as to why...have to think on that a bit

but your suggestion makes perfect sense

 

this is a hobby thing as well as a challenge i have placed in front of myself: to see if i can write lyrics & music which have the feel/impact on me that would make me want to listen to it if it were someone elses work...to be completely objective about it's subjective impact on me as a listener if that makes any sense to you

 

as a step in doing this the way i want to, i am ultimately writing the lyrics on tab paper & writing my chord shapes as well as my single note passages between chords & my solos as they develope with time, along with time measured out...a complete arrangement that could be handed to someone who has never heard the song & enable them to play it as well

no reason for doing this other than the thrill of accomplishment

 

so in essence my short stubby phrases as first written are in fact becoming linear as they are transferred to tab paper

 

excellent point

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