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Lyrics as poems, poems converted to lyrics

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Postby andygetch » April 21st, 2012, 3:54 am

Thought I'd start a discussion on whether you feel song lyrics should be an interesting read on their own (poem, story, speech, etc.) or whether they must be tied to the other elements of a song. Comments or any questions?
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Postby EzraplaysEzra » May 7th, 2012, 10:09 am

I think songs are better if they convey an idea without giving the listener too much information to process. There are some good songs with a plot line: Penny lane, Hurricane, The women who was also a mongoose... But, most songs with plots to follow are terrible. The only thing worse is a song with a message. Putting an anecdote to music is the sign of a very poor song writer in most instances. Most people are not nearly as clever or interesting as they think they are. Get an idea, work a feel around it. Don't write a story then give it a sound track. Sometimes it work, usually its horrible. Unless your are writing popular country music, than you want a plot line and a clever hook and the ideal out some is meant to be horrible.
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Postby EzraplaysEzra » May 7th, 2012, 10:11 am

By the way, Ben Hurr meets Paul Westerburg; great. Not really accessible, your music, but I dig what you're doing.
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Postby andygetch » May 7th, 2012, 7:50 pm

Thanks for the comment and the listen! McCartney, Dylan, Dead Milkmen! The examples you cited had great hooks as well. I can see both sides of the topic. Most of the songs I have written started as lyrics, then fumbling with music from there. I seem to do better starting somewhere else besides lyrics. You are correct that in the Ben Hur & Paul Westerberg song (which BTW started off as a title idea and a riff based on the way Charlton Heston introduced Paul), the references and inside jokes are lost on most everybody, but I'm basically writing for me anyway.
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Postby Nick » May 8th, 2012, 2:55 am

They both tell stories, it's just a matter of who fills in the details. In a book the author does, in a song the listener does. Both should be full of detail, the song's detail is more like painting a picture of a scene rather than describing the action.
Both should logically move from beginning to middle to end, though the song needn't necessarily follow a story arc, it can progress using the music rather than words.

I'd write more but I haven't had coffee.
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Postby EzraplaysEzra » May 8th, 2012, 4:38 am

Nick wrote:They both tell stories, it's just a matter of who fills in the details. In a book the author does, in a song the listener does. Both should be full of detail, the song's detail is more like painting a picture of a scene rather than describing the action.
Both should logically move from beginning to middle to end, though the song needn't necessarily follow a story arc, it can progress using the music rather than words.

I'd write more but I haven't had coffee.


Go get some coffee!
Not all authors "fill in the details". I think the absence of detail is what often separates art from anecdote. I'll give you some leeway though, whenever someone states things like: songs should... and music should logically.... I sense a brain that is caffeine deprived. Most rules apply to bad song writing, good song writing has no proven formula.
Looking at this as a forum for amateur writers, I think using a formed plot line as the basis for a song is bad advice.

This reminds me of the example of Hemingway excepting a challenge to write a story with only 6 words;
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Postby Nick » May 8th, 2012, 5:20 pm

I'll disagree that songwriting has no proven formula. Formulaic pop makes millions of dollars a year following the exact same set of rules. It all depends on what you as a listener consider good.

Here's a few other rules as an example

The first or last line of the chorus should be the hook.
The title should also be the hook
The song should be between 3-4 minutes
The hook should appear at least once in the first 60 seconds.
Perfect rhyme is a no-no

I could give you a bunch more concerning structure. There are lots of rules regarding songwriting, that doesn't mean you can't break them, but you can't ignore them either if you want to be successful.
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Postby EzraplaysEzra » May 8th, 2012, 9:36 pm

Success, I don't care what rules your following, The Black eye Peas are not the natural evolutionary progression from Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. There was a nefarious intervention along the way and the creative types got pushed aside in favor of musicaccountants who capably intercept the diaries of teenage girls and divulge perfect pop hooks from them, taking care to ensure the hooks fall in the first 60 seconds of the song and it runs no more than 4 minutes. Or else risk the coma like effects of the music wear off.
Now some will say; Aha! but the blues is formulaic music and Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly as well. But you can't compare blues music to modern pop, The blues was roots music based in oral tradition and it was composed loosely and went mostly unrecorded. The formula of the blues was born of familiarity and folk tradition to make it easy to recognize and understand. Buddy Holly and the Beatles and everyone else were emulating traditional R&B because it was new and exciting. Today's pop doesn't harken back to traditional music, it isn't nodding in effigy to Robert Johnson. Pop music formulas exist as the pervasive species today because its a successful marketing strategy and it can be mass produced for pennies on the dollar. And yes, many credible artist have songs that follow the formula, I do, I use them all the time when I'm deliberately trying to make a song or part of a song accessible, but I use it for affect not idiom. Early rock and roll embraced the R&B formula but it quickly expanded into thousands of other rock sub-genres many of don't conform to formulas, but not on the radio. On the radio it never expanded it was just refined to its basic sub structure where it could be reproduced over and over again. The reason pop reigned supreme is not because most people prefer it, it's because it is the easiest product to package and format.
Now, maybe I'm bitter (I'm not), maybe I just don't understand the finer nuances of My Humps, maybe I'm out of touch. Perhaps, I am an austere elitist who listens to Trout Mask Replica and sm*kes gr*ss (no comment) and uses words like "austere" and thinks everything not produced on tape is anti-pedantic and un-listenable. But I am a song writer and a successful one (hundreds of people have my albums... um, my free albums) I appreciate writing and love it and work at it endlessly. I suppose self expression has boundaries and measures of success that I have never really cared to ponder but to hear someone describe the rules makes me feel like a horse who is having the automobile described to him. Suddenly, being a horse doesn't seem so great.
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