This is a great point. Couldn’t agree more. Wish I had that awareness, or at least more of it!
Re: Lucinda: Absolutely agree that many of her tunes (most?) are really simple structurally. Yet so many of them are simply amazingly great. I think that’s a combo of “hook awareness” and “having something to say”, which is my other big weakness.
I’ve wondered about this myself. In college, I had to take a music theory class because of my minor in music technology, and I actively learned as little as possible. I felt adamantly opposed to the idea of “correct” chords or harmonies or ways of writing music. I avoided learning about songwriting. There’s still a part of me that shows its teeth when confronted with songwriting tips or advice. I guess I have a fear that it will take away some of my potential to be original.
However, I think that this is an irrational fear. There is a difference between having something to say, and having the skill-set to say it. Adding to that skill-set doesn’t change what we have to say. I’ve said before that, “we may resent that we can’t change who we are, but the gift is that we can never lose it.” The more I study other people’s songs, and learn about music theory and songwriting, the closer I come to discovering how to say what I want to say. I naturally take what I like and leave the rest. It’s important to remain in the driver’s seat and always think for yourself. And I’m a huge believer in making an earnest attempt before seeking instruction, (unless it’s dangerous haha,) but yeah more knowledge is a good thing I think.
In my case, I consider myself and good songwriter and a good guitarist, but have always felt a crutch to be the vocalist I am working with and the drummer. These two have always been a hindrance when it comes to cutting the right song.
Unfortunately, I can’t do either well, so I have to rely on other people.
I totally get that Evert… I’m just talking about that initial spark, that first motivation where the light bulb turns on and you say to yourself, hey, that would work as a song… Realizing that the germ of the idea is worth fleshing out.
That’s the part that I experience really rarely-- although after hanging out with this bunch here for the past almost 4 years, at least I experience it at all! Never did in all the years before, I was strictly an interpreter of others’ songs on my guitars. So I’m not complaining, just wish I had that facility to the extent some here clearly do…
I Understand the conflict very well I did 2 years of jazz-school, (not that I have much to show for it, but…) and there a lot kids, including me, who where so desperate to being original or wanted to play off the scales, but we hardly even knew the existing scales and chords, and far from knowing them by heart. A teacher reminded us of how to keep it simple and stick to the basics. His teachers kept saying to him for years and years, to keep it MORE simple, even, more simple, you’re doing to much, keep it more simple. Even when he was a 5th year graduate. He said, before you want to go and explore side tracks, its good to have a very good understanding of the basics. It has to be a second nature, THEN you can play stuff you re not supposed to play at specific spots, and still make it work, cause you KNOW what you are doing. I wish I was lol
When those guys did a teachers concert, you saw them coming in an halve hour in advance with some books with jazz standards, and started discussing which songs they where gonna play. Halve an hour later they started playing, and made new “jaw-dropping” songs on the spot. There where a few of them who where in my eyes VERY creative in there phrasing and how they used tensions in there chords and substitution chords to create whole new dimensions, but what they all had in common, was an insane knowledge of the basics.
i guess the intention with which you put yourself behind learning curtain things is the most important if you don’t want to loose yourself in the process.
Having more vocabulary doesn’t limit your ability to express yourself. If you know what you want to say and have the means to express it, you’re going to still deal with your influences and bend them in your direction. Nothing wrong with that.
@Jon-Jon Would have been extra funny, if YOU where one of them lol
But I know what you mean @Descent. Especially my first band, but actually every band I had has made me feel like that. Not to say I’m some one special or anything, far from. But how much energy and hours I had to spend until now to explain what I consider not THAT hard, or crazy ideas or structures. So frustrating !
Every once in a while you get across an amazing musician that you just click with. I jam with this keyboardist and you don’t even have to tell him anything, he picks out the chord progressions by ear. Only if it sounds off we fine tune it, and that doesn’t happen a lot.
Also, I’ve been lucky in some bands to have a guitarist that you immediately develop language with and you can read each other’s minds. My band previous to this was like that.
I play extreme metal…or maybe should say played…as I am on to more mellower genres.
Trying to explain off beat crash stops or more interesting approaches to song openings usually found on European band’s music has been a nightmare. Most drummers had this “moooooo” look on their faces when it came to asking for something that didn’t fall right down on a 1 or 3.
As of now we have a song that switches 7/8 to 4/4 for the chorus and the drummer is dying on the 7/8 and keeps on playing these 4/4 transitions that add a note, then wonders what’s going on. I’ve counted, done click and God knows all kinds of explanations, yet this keeps going on, so I just moved on, it’s a battle I don’t fight at this point.
This one’s all about agendas, even thinks he’s band leader and songwriter. So one day to mess with him during songwriting as he wanted a riff changed to sound more “expressive” (or whatever), I actually played the exact same riff three times, the same, and asked about which one of the 3 changes he liked best, he picked number 2
I woudn’t have thought twice about doing these tricks in my younger days, but working in a studio has taught me that as long as you placate the customer the right way, that’s all that’s needed as it is simply an ego trip (or they might be tone deaf).
I remember reading “the Diaries of Mixerman” and the part where they had the record co. mook in the studio and they gave him a big knob tube compressor (disconnected) and had him dial in the amount of “cool” on the record
My songwriting doesnt suck, my voice doesn’t suck and my guitar playing i feel is good…
But my recording quality, my ‘one take’ approach and my rushed untalented (lack of) mixing ability make my stuff average/shit