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Learning to write
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
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Learning to write

Hello !

I would love to learn how to write songs, I always loved telling stories.

The problem is that, in french ( which is my "first language"), I can actually think of a lot of rhymes, multi syllables rhymes, metaphors etc... But in english, I just can't ? It's like my brain is not wired for that, everything that I do in the internet is in english, and even my movies videos etc, everything I watch is in english, but it's like I can't access that vocabulary for some reason, I'm really confused !

I really don't want to write in french, I'd just like to write in english, but I don't know where to even start ? Is it because my vocabulary is too poor ? Has anyone been in the same situation I'm in ?

PS : Not sure if that'd be a good example, I got myself the book "Writing better lyrics by Pat Pattison", but I'm stuck at the first " step " because I literally don't know what to write in english, it's like my brain can't find the words !

I would appreciate any input !

Thanks !
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
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Herr Weiss's Avatar
 

Bonjour Straw!

You must learn to THINK in English 24/7; not only when perusing the web.

If you scream AIE instead of OUCH when a breaks your nose; you still have a long way to go.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
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To be fair, a lot of Max Martin tunes make next to no sense and he did okay. Then there's old flat top the holy roller who come groovin up slowly with joo joo eyeball. There's also no rule that great songs can't be written in Frenglish. As for Pattison, the man's a guru. Follow his advice and grab the clement wood rhyming dictionary, thumb through it for your key rhyming positions, and then just backfill with whatever sounds neat.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
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@ Herr Weiss : It's already the case, but when I try to write, it's like my brain knows some words ( not a lot compared to french), but can't have access to that vocabulary.

And clearly I don't have enough vocabulary for Pat Pattison's object writing exercice, even tho I watch a lot of movies in english, how should I go about that ?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Straw View Post
@ Herr Weiss : It's already the case, but when I try to write, it's like my brain knows some words ( not a lot compared to french), but can't have access to that vocabulary.

And clearly I don't have enough vocabulary for Pat Pattison's object writing exercice, even tho I watch a lot of movies in english, how should I go about that ?
When you think in English -- do you hear the words in my your 'mind's ear'?

To be facile with rhymes (but don't forget, just as nothing says you have to write in English, there's no rule that says you must use conventional rhyme schemes), you have to be able move quickly from your jumping-off word to possible rhymes.

I came from writing mid-20th century modern poetry, typically with subtle and loose meter and maybe only some hints of internal rhyme, to trying to write simple folk and rock type songs. That was a big jump. To me EVERY rhyme sounded corny and forced. Not so much when I listened to other folks' songs, though, so I figured there was hope; maybe I'd learn -- and maybe I was simply too self-conscious.

I started with a rhyming dictionary (from the lending library). I renewed it once and then had to return it. After that, I just developed the 'routine' of quickly 'running the alphabet' looking for possible rhyming words. After a while, my subconscious mind got the picture and started supplying rhymes on its own, often enough.

Being too self-conscious and judging your efforts too harshly is very common for beginning writers. You sort of have to give up on being GOOD for a while until you can learn the basic fundamentals -- you're going to HAVE to write some bad songs. Writing is -- they say -- like getting into shape for a sport -- you have to build your (mental, songwriting) 'muscles' (the techniques you use to write) and then work to coordinate them when working to get it to all fit together.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
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@ theblue1 : I spent a lot of time speaking mostly english, so it kinda became the language I think in, even when I'm saying stuff and don't pay attention most of the time I will say it in english.

The problem is, if I'm looking for words to rhyme with another word, I will have some that will come up, but that's it, not a lot ( compared to french for example), even if I "know" the words, like if I head them in a movie or something I will understand what it means, I think it's just that my vocabulary isn't "good enough", and I understand that, and I'm willing to "fix that", I just don't know how ? I'm already watching movies & tv shows in english, what more can I do ?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Straw View Post
@ theblue1 : I spent a lot of time speaking mostly english, so it kinda became the language I think in, even when I'm saying stuff and don't pay attention most of the time I will say it in english.

The problem is, if I'm looking for words to rhyme with another word, I will have some that will come up, but that's it, not a lot ( compared to french for example), even if I "know" the words, like if I head them in a movie or something I will understand what it means, I think it's just that my vocabulary isn't "good enough", and I understand that, and I'm willing to "fix that", I just don't know how ? I'm already watching movies & tv shows in english, what more can I do ?
It sounds like you're doing a lot of the right stuff, actually. Maybe you're just impatient? (I know, I know: once one becomes an adult, one becomes ever more aware of the tick tick tick of life's clock.)

As others have suggested above, I think, why not get a good (English) rhyming dictionary? And keep watching those movies and listening to English language songs, I guess, too.


One last thought: you seemed to indicate you came up speaking French. I listen to a fair amount of songs in French. (And not just because I currently listen to a lot of West/North African music, though there is that.) There are a LOT of Francophone listeners out there. (Me, well... my French has been going steadily downhill since the last time I was In that fine nation in the 1980s, during which I taught myself a little shaky conversational French. But I like to listen even when I seldom understand. It just sounds cool. )
Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
As others have suggested above, I think, why not get a good (English) rhyming dictionary?.
The net is far superior. There are multiple sites with near-rhyme listings (rhymezone.com), that expand what you'll get in a paper rhyming dictionary. Also some sites by lyricists (https://www.rappad.co/editor) that can have even more indirect rhyming options.

Last edited by newguy1; 3 weeks ago at 08:46 PM.. Reason: fixed incorrect link
Old 3 weeks ago
  #9
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The thing is, I don't think that is the issue, like outside of rhyming, my vocabulary in english is " trash ". It is so simple, I don't know some basic words because I don't use them in my everyday life, so I don't know how to actually get a better vocabulary. Like I said I can't even do the object writing exercice since my vocabulary is "that small", when I read other people's object writing, I don't understand a lot of words.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Straw View Post
The thing is, I don't think that is the issue, like outside of rhyming, my vocabulary in english is " trash ". It is so simple, I don't know some basic words because I don't use them in my everyday life, so I don't know how to actually get a better vocabulary. Like I said I can't even do the object writing exercice since my vocabulary is "that small", when I read other people's object writing, I don't understand a lot of words.
Au contraire mon ami
All your posts are in English and read perfectly fine.
Use what you have and get to it. Mix it up if you have to(English-French) there are no rules.
Oddly enough, sometimes when i,m putting a song together i occasionally gravitate to my esoteric French/Spanish delivery. Its nonsensical and meaningless but i like how it flows/feels because i find it more exotic. I dont have anywhere near your capability in another language and so i end up using only English, so i dont know why it happens. I find the French language to be a beautiful thing. French words have been used in Diplomatic circles because they get straight to the point....Communique-Detente-coup d'etat - etc.
English is mixed with European anyway, and a lot of French phrases, from "fait accompli to coup de grace"
Dont sweat it and and let it flow.
sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble, tres bien ensemble
Old 3 weeks ago
  #11
Macky has got a point.

For ANY writer, one of the biggest problems is letting the 'editor' part of your brain get involved in the writing process prematurely -- before the 'artist' part of your brain has finished working its mysterious magic. Try to let the artistic flow happen freely, try to capture all your thoughts and half thoughts and, then, and only then, when the inspiration for your song has faded, you can come back to what you've already scribbled down and whip it into shape. If there's a rough spot -- but it says what you're trying to say -- don't throw it out immediately. Try to rework it or say it in a different way.

Also, ANY writing you do will help any other writing you do. Writing an essay in French -- or English -- will actually help build your facility with combining ideas and that will help your songwriting and keep your mind agile. Writing a song in French, perhaps just for yourself or friends, can be great practice and you can learn a lot. You might even find that being able to write in English is not really 'all that' after all.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #12
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Herr Weiss's Avatar
 

Great thread!

I always have the melody before any lyrics; never went a different route. The music dictates the words, they complement each other. I affirm that both come "out of the blue", no time to think.

When we try too hard to come up with that "perfect" whatever, many times we are not successful and wonder why. It seems forced!

In the end, the simplest words and melody, is what wins hearts.


~HW
Old 3 weeks ago
  #13
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Yeah I had Macky's thought but didn't think to say it. Your posts display enough command of the language to write songs. I'd stop comparing yourself to those doing complicated word exercises, that sounds like its not your songwriting path, at least at this point in time.

I've worked with some French writers and they're often after a certain multi-layered depth to the lyrics, they'll drive themselves crazy sometimes (as everyone does). If you're coming from that place trying to do the same in English it will be tough, but the good news is that's unnecessary. People respond to truth told in meaningful melody. The truth can be super simple. It could even be you have an advantage with a more limited and direct English vocabulary, if you can harness it right. Sing your truth to meaningful melodies using the words you know, and gradually build up your vocabulary over time.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #14
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badmark's Avatar
I've written a small numbers of songs in Spanish, which is my second language through having lived there. What it sounds like you're trying to do is thinking of what you want to say in French then trying to translate that into English in your head and not finding what you want and getting frustrated. Too much work. What Herr Weiss says in #2 is quite true, you have to build a separate English-speaking box in your head and go straight there, The American writer Stanley Elkin said that he wrote the way Paul Klee painted, by taking a line for a walk. Don't worry too much about the 'content', just hang out with some words in English that appeal to you.

The most recent song I wrote in Spanish was a couple of weeks ago, when, uh, the Br**it thing was making me think, jeez, I dunno if I can face writing in English anymore. It's called 'La Enésima Guerra', which in English would have the thoroughly clunky and unsatisfactory title 'The Umpteenth War', the Spanish phrase just popped into my heard while I was working on a tune in search of a title. The Spanish of my lyric is probably not hugely grammatically correct, tant pis as you might say.

Maybe take a look at some Phoenix lyrics and how they've developed?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #15
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Thanks to all of you for your tips, and I understand what you mean, that my english is good enough to tell my stories in a simple manner, I think why I obsess with hard words , metaphors etc, is that I'm a huge fan of Andre 3000, and as you may know if you know him, he's one of the best songwriters period, and I just dream of becoming like him, and I am looking for the " right path " to do so, I'm not impatient , I know I didn't even start ! All I did was write some rhymes, ideas stories ( without rhymes) etc ! Nowhere near his experience and career !

I also know that there's an audience for French songs, I am part of that audience as well, I just much prefer english songs for some reason, and ofc my dream of being in the same song as Andre 3000, wishing for that to come true as well ! Ahah
Old 3 weeks ago
  #16
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badmark's Avatar
Best of luck! Don't overlook Big Boi. Speakerboxxx
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
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NeverTooLate's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Straw View Post
The thing is, I don't think that is the issue, like outside of rhyming, my vocabulary in english is " trash ". It is so simple, I don't know some basic words because I don't use them in my everyday life, so I don't know how to actually get a better vocabulary. Like I said I can't even do the object writing exercice since my vocabulary is "that small", when I read other people's object writing, I don't understand a lot of words.
From where I stand you write perfectly fine and you can express yourself with ease. But I think I get where you're going and even though I'm no expert at this perhaps I can share something of value to you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by badmark View Post
I've written a small numbers of songs in Spanish, which is my second language through having lived there.
Never ever ever underestimate this. Never. It might seem like a detail but trust me on this one: it's not. What it seems to me is that you're actually trying to both think AND FEEL in english. The best way to get to that point is to live amazing experiences that force you to create amazing memories in that "second brain box". I know is not that easy to just get on a plane and spend 6 months doing it but I can assure you that you'll come back home a different person.

My girlfriend is currently entering the world of screenwriting. That demands so much of her she just watches movies all the time, reads scripts in between and makes a living teaching english. And we might travel to the states soon to boost that urban vocabulary a bit. We are both from Argentina and living in Buenos Aires at the moment but we've both travelled and we tend to keep our connections pretty fresh through social media. We keep talking and writing and having skype sessions.

And all these things just add to those never ending hours of lyric reading and analysis and internal debate and blah blah. It all creates a kind of "ecosystem" so as to allow my english speaking inside box to have fun. Or to cry out. It generally just cries out stuff. And then I try to make it fun hahaha.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Macky View Post
Au contraire mon ami
All your posts are in English and read perfectly fine.
Use what you have and get to it. Mix it up if you have to(English-French) there are no rules.
This is fantastic. You need to get your own voice to sing confidently. And besides doing awesome songs there are simply no rules to it. Start today. New words and expressions are coming your way but your style defines you. Experiment. Make it memorable.

Cheers!!
Old 1 week ago
  #18
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@ NeverTooLate : Thanks for your input, and I see what you mean, sadly it's hard to find people that speak fluent english in my country, If I can get enough money I'd like to go to the US and spend a month there, maybe take some courses as well, but for now I can't ! I'm watching movies listening to songs, reading lyrics etc for now ! Ahah
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