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Fatal writing mistake, but is it recoverable?
Old 1st January 2020
  #1
Here for the gear
Fatal writing mistake, but is it recoverable?

Happy New Year!

When I started writing lyrics and putting effort into them, I ended up with children's nursery rhyme type of melodies so I ditched that approach. Instead I used whatever lyrics that would fit an already finished song, while putting all focus on finding the right melodies, and you guessed it....... the chorus has a more suitable melody for the song, but the lyrics are straight cliché. I can't add or remove any syllables without completely altering the mood and rhythmic motif of the song and I don't want to change up the chords just to fit something new (for the same reason). Did I just shoot myself in the foot? What method would you use in this scenario?

Thank you in advance.
Old 1st January 2020
  #2
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
[. . .] What method would you use in this scenario? [. . .]
For inspiration, listen to Joni Mitchell and eschew The Eagles [1]?

It sounds to me from your description like you are making progress. However, you just may need to put more time/effort into lyrics. . .and it may be that collaboration with a lyricist is a reasonable solution.

Very difficult problems are interesting. . .as well as how our minds subconsciously work them out. Here is one tactic:

1. Articulate as best you can the problem you are having with the tune, or some section of it. Get to really know the problem very well - even if the solution seems impossible.

2. Move away from your own work to look at art, movies, literature, etc.

3. Go to sleep, and don't worry about it. But have something handy to write on - so that when you wake up if an answer [or partial answer] has come, you won't lose it forever. It is particularly useful to have something that you write on even if you are in the shower.

Answers to impossible problems often come more quickly than one would expect following this or similar tactics. However, some creative work just takes months or more of effort. Don't give up!


Hope this helps,

Ray H.


[1] No disrespect intended, I like both.
Old 1st January 2020
  #3
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
... the chorus has a more suitable melody for the song, but the lyrics are straight cliché.
At least you recognize that. Gives you a leg up on most people.
Old 1st January 2020
  #4
To get good at writing, one has to write. A lot. In prose writing, there's an old saw that you don't really start getting there as a writer until you've written a million words... (That's, like, 12 medium length novels.)

That, of course, is hardly written in stone, but the point is that you learn a new skill by plunging in and doing it. And then doing it some more.

The time for refining things and laboriously rewriting may well be farther down the road for you, when you are more sure of yourself as a writer.
Old 1st January 2020
  #5
Here for the gear
Thank you for all your responses. I'm going to bite the bullet and post the demo here. I think that listening to it will better demonstrate how serious the problem is. So here is the last chorus and outro.

Feel free to rip it apart in whatever aspect you please... I'm dying for constructive criticism.
Old 2nd January 2020
  #6
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayHeath View Post
For inspiration, listen to Joni Mitchell and eschew The Eagles [1]?

It sounds to me from your description like you are making progress. However, you just may need to put more time/effort into lyrics. . .and it may be that collaboration with a lyricist is a reasonable solution.

Very difficult problems are interesting. . .as well as how our minds subconsciously work them out. Here is one tactic:

1. Articulate as best you can the problem you are having with the tune, or some section of it. Get to really know the problem very well - even if the solution seems impossible.

2. Move away from your own work to look at art, movies, literature, etc.

3. Go to sleep, and don't worry about it. But have something handy to write on - so that when you wake up if an answer [or partial answer] has come, you won't lose it forever. It is particularly useful to have something that you write on even if you are in the shower.

Answers to impossible problems often come more quickly than one would expect following this or similar tactics. However, some creative work just takes months or more of effort. Don't give up!


Hope this helps,

Ray H.


[1] No disrespect intended, I like both.
Thank you. I'd like to make real progress though. My hands would be less tied for the verse, which would give meaning to the chorus (or would it?). The limited responses I got for this demo was that it is more of a "relaxation" kind of tune, ergo boring and sleep inducing. That is quite the opposite of what I intended it to be. It's meant to express infinite pain for bad life choices and do that in a way that hits the listener. Frankly I don't see any point of working on it if the chorus doesn't hit people in the chest the way it does with me. How can I make it better?
Old 2nd January 2020
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
Thank you for all your responses. I'm going to bite the bullet and post the demo here. I think that listening to it will better demonstrate how serious the problem is. So here is the last chorus and outro.

Feel free to rip it apart in whatever aspect you please... I'm dying for constructive criticism.
You're probably going to be frustrated by my response but... to be bluntly honest... I kinda like this track (above). I kinda really like it.

Now -- that said -- I couldn't make out any of the lyrics except for the 'throw it all away' refrain (or call and response or whatever one would want to call it).

But that highlights a kind of paradox, sometimes the least specific lyric is the most universal. Burned by too many years of A-T, I almost tuned out when I heard the heavy processing on the vocal, but, dang it, that airily delivered refrain kinda drew me in. Draw this out a few minutes without getting too repetitive (the refrain is candy, you don't want to eat too much candy in one sitting) and keep it vague, and I think you got something.


Of course, that doesn't really address the broader problem you feel you're facing. You can't bury ALL the lyrics ALL the time. (Well, you can, actually, I can think of a few 4AD bands from the 80s that went a ways in that direction and did OK.)

You might well find a peer critique/workshop type situation (3DW or online) helpful -- but you can also 'self-mentor,' too. You have the advantage that you know you have some general issues you feel you need to work on.

Here's my general advice (and reflects my earlier comment): Write a lot. Write all the time. A lot of it is NOT going to be any good. Some may be worth refining, working with a bit, but if you're at the start of your 'serious' lyric writing, keep blasting forward. (And by 'serious,' I don't necessarily mean going all T.S. Eliot on things, I just mean you getting serious about writing, even if it's 'silly love songs.' Hell, Eliot's biggest 'hit' ended up a FLW musical. )

The more you write, the more you turn the best of it into songs, the more adept you'll become at writing and the better they'll get. Take delight in the small improvements, pat yourself on the back. Be a little proud. But keep writing!
Old 2nd January 2020
  #8
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
[. . .] My hands would be less tied for the verse, which would give meaning to the chorus (or would it?). [. . .]
I was indeed hoping - while listening to the clip - for the verses to provide context that will solidify your intentions and meaning for the chorus.

Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
[. . .] It's meant to express infinite pain for bad life choices and do that in a way that hits the listener. Frankly I don't see any point of working on it if the chorus doesn't hit people in the chest the way it does with me. [. . .]
Relaxation isn't the right word for the vibe I got. Maybe 'loss' or 'regret' or 'pain' [not certain, just maybe]; but the clip didn't 'hit me in the chest' [as you say]. In addition to missing context of the verses, the reasons were [for me] more tied to the arrangement and musical constructs that you employed [or didn't employ]. . .rather than the lyrics.

Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
[. . .] How can I make it better? [. . .]
It has been useful to me to study [among other things, and in no particular order]:
  • Storytelling. Great stories connect emotionally - helping people contextualize 'your ideas' as if they were 'their own ideas' - those ideas become reality to the listeners.
  • Compositions and arrangements by other musicians that I find effective. . .even those that don't match my own style or goals. Sometimes inspiration and results are immediate, sometimes not; but over time, associated skills accumulate.
  • The works and creative processes of artists in other art forms: Film Makers, Sculptors, Painters, Novelists, Poets, etc.
  • Psychology and how the creative mind works. I've used edX, Coursera, etc. for years for this [and many other topics of learning].
  • Technically great recordings. It is amazing how much emotional impact great recording, mix, and mastering adds to a composition.

As implied in my initial response, listen to artists who are great at storytelling and quasi-prose. I mentioned Joni Mitchell. Try Edith and the Kingpin, for example. Pick up on how such artists fearlessly wander into creative lyric - and especially how they leverage musical constructs to strengthen interest and tie emotion to the story. This particular tune may or may not do that for you. Find tunes that do. . .even if they don't specifically match your styles or goals.

Like @ theblue1 , 'I kinda really like it'. - your clip, that is. And I don't see your lyric in isolation as 'a fatal writing mistake'.

What specific sources are you using for inspiration with this particular issue or associated learning now to grow your skillsets?

Keep working on it - you are the artist! Make it appeal to you.


Best wishes,

Ray H.
Old 2nd January 2020
  #9
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
I'm going to bite the bullet and post the demo here.
Heh. You're a little bit like my wife.

HER: I suck at cooking.

HER: I've really effed up this sauce.

HER: Could you taste it and tell me how to correct the spicing?

ME: Okay, sure.

ME: This is actually really yummy.

HER: I thought it was, but I need to be told.
Old 2nd January 2020
  #10
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
Thank you for all your responses. I'm going to bite the bullet and post the demo here. I think that listening to it will better demonstrate how serious the problem is. So here is the last chorus and outro.

Feel free to rip it apart in whatever aspect you please... I'm dying for constructive criticism.
I like it. Immediate response was that it felt like a intro/false half chorus.
This may seem an odd song to reference but the Beatles Help has a short intro which isn't repeated. Same chords as chorus but condensed with different a melody.

https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab...p-chords-17269
----
So with that in mind, I would try using the first 16 secs as an intro. Then experiment with longer chord intervals in the new chorus and see if a new/similar melody comes up, utilising the 'throw it all away" line.
------------
Failing that, the main vocal line you have now in the chorus, could be treated as backing vocals. Then try out a new main melody that works with it.
my2c
Old 2nd January 2020
  #11
I'll double down on that storytelling aspect. BUT... storytelling does NOT have to be straightforward (or even necessarily recognizable as a story)... it doesn't have to have a 'plot' or even events... BUT... a songwriter who simply tells the listener how he (or his protagonist, more to the point) is feeling isn't likely to engage the listener in the lyric much... Just stating, for instance, "I'm sad" -- instead of trying to make those feelings come alive for the listener by drawing him in with a bit of story, or a bit of poetry (metaphor, simile, wordplay etc) or showing parallels to his own life, or giving him a recognizable situation to act within and react to... that's not likely to be as effective or provide a lyric/emotional hook for the listener to grab onto.
Old 2nd January 2020
  #12
Here for the gear
Thank you for all of your responses. I removed it for now and going to post the finished product when it's done.

To summarize:

- the refrain, 'Throw it all away', seemed to be the part that people liked the most, and it's best to use it sparingly ("too much candy")
- the first half isn't very audible nor as exciting as I imagined it would be... it shall be redone and give it context through the verse
- tone down the delay and reverb on the vocal
- the arrangement and structure could be better

Sometimes I feel that song writing requires Einstein level thinking and I'm falling short, but your suggestions and kind critiques are encouraging me to finish the song.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Macky View Post
I like it. Immediate response was that it felt like a intro/false half chorus.
This may seem an odd song to reference but the Beatles Help has a short intro which isn't repeated. Same chords as chorus but condensed with different a melody.

https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab...p-chords-17269
----
So with that in mind, I would try using the first 16 secs as an intro. Then experiment with longer chord intervals in the new chorus and see if a new/similar melody comes up, utilising the 'throw it all away" line.
------------
Failing that, the main vocal line you have now in the chorus, could be treated as backing vocals. Then try out a new main melody that works with it.
my2c
Wow! Much appreciated!!! I owe you guys a million, seriously.
Old 2nd January 2020
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
Thank you for all your responses. I'm going to bite the bullet and post the demo here. I think that listening to it will better demonstrate how serious the problem is. So here is the last chorus and outro.

Feel free to rip it apart in whatever aspect you please... I'm dying for constructive criticism.

I don't see a link or a URL.
Old 2nd January 2020
  #14
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Papanate View Post
I don't see a link or a URL.
Hi Papanate,

No worries, I'm going to reupload it along with a newer one. Please give it a couple hours... or days.
Old 3rd January 2020
  #15
I just thought of a properly snappy answer to the original question...


The only fatal error is to stop writing.


Ok... I'm done now.
Old 3rd January 2020
  #16
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
Happy New Year!

When I started writing lyrics and putting effort into them, I ended up with children's nursery rhyme type of melodies so I ditched that approach. Instead I used whatever lyrics that would fit an already finished song, while putting all focus on finding the right melodies, and you guessed it....... the chorus has a more suitable melody for the song, but the lyrics are straight cliché. I can't add or remove any syllables without completely altering the mood and rhythmic motif of the song and I don't want to change up the chords just to fit something new (for the same reason). Did I just shoot myself in the foot? What method would you use in this scenario?

Thank you in advance.
LOL, Lucas, Spielberg and Cameron made a fortune of writing that!!!!

Just do it!!!
Old 3rd January 2020
  #17
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
I just thought of a properly snappy answer to the original question...


The only fatal error is to stop writing.

This is the best advice you'll get. Or as my literary hero Kerouac would say: ". . .
after all what do I really know about it except you’ve got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict."

Writing is one of those things that seem effortless, since ya know "pen to pad, one word following another." You'll get discouraged, but don't let it derail you.

Also read as much as you can. Like Steve King said, if you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or tools to write.

Keep at it. You'll get there.
Old 5th January 2020
  #18
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
the chorus has a more suitable melody for the song, but the lyrics are straight cliché. I can't add or remove any syllables without completely altering the mood and rhythmic motif of the song and I don't want to change up the chords just to fit something new (for the same reason). Did I just shoot myself in the foot? What method would you use in this scenario?
I tend to start with melody, then obvious cliche lyrics (whatever first comes, to get the ball rolling, for me its important to keep moving and not get stuck till the whole thing is mapped out), then the process of going in and making all the lines and words cool (which is by far the longest and most difficult part of the process).

You're doing the first two steps. Try taking the third step.

For example the first lines of this song. . .

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5JoevPnnZw/

. . started super generic, I just wanted to get the general idea down as quickly as possible in a way that worked with the melody.

ok let's break up
its not what I want
i thought you were the one
but i was clearly wrong


Then I went in to make it feel cool to me

10-4 its a stop
yeah it ain't what I want
I thought we were a lock
but i was clearly wrong


Those few changes take it from cliche and old sounding, to fresh and in line with how I actually talk. But I don't get hung up on "oh no that's cliche" the first pass where I'm trying to get the idea out while I still have the initial spark. I get the general idea down with as many cliches and bad lines as necessary to get the general idea out of me, and then make it my own in an editing phase that comes later.
Old 8th January 2020
  #19
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A promise is a promise. It's basically identical to what I removed, but with the exception of including an instrumental pre-chorus (?) and what I pictured as the verse. The delay & reverb have been slightly decreased as well.

Bottom line is that I tried to apply most of your suggestions, and they didn't work out due to my own limitations. Although I focused years on theory, but song structure (as modern pop; modern as all the way from Beatles to latest pop songs) is like a totally new subject to me. To give you a glimpse of how far off I am, I had to google verse vs chorus chord progressions the other day. Yeah, I'm VERY far off. Maybe one day.
Attached Files

end-gameIE.mp3 (2.44 MB, 324 views)

Old 8th January 2020
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
A promise is a promise. [. . .]
Thanks, I liked the first sample - and liked this one even more as it exposed a bit more of what you are after.

Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
[. . .] your suggestions [. . .] didn't work out [. . .]
That's great too. You have a nice tune here. A lot of things won't work out. Just keep after your goals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
[. . .] Yeah, I'm VERY far off. [. . .]
Nothing could be further from the truth. Keep after it and make your dreams come true.


Very best wishes, hopes and expectations for your success. Go get 'em!

Ray H.
Old 8th January 2020
  #21
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by I. E. View Post
Happy New Year!

When I started writing lyrics and putting effort into them, I ended up with children's nursery rhyme type of melodies so I ditched that approach. Instead I used whatever lyrics that would fit an already finished song, while putting all focus on finding the right melodies, and you guessed it....... the chorus has a more suitable melody for the song, but the lyrics are straight cliché. I can't add or remove any syllables without completely altering the mood and rhythmic motif of the song and I don't want to change up the chords just to fit something new (for the same reason). Did I just shoot myself in the foot? What method would you use in this scenario?

Thank you in advance.
I have always been able to surmount that challenge.

It's a play now pay later proposition to be sure, but one that also holds the key to overall success.

You see, the music and melodies, if they are making a strong enough statement should tell you what the lyrics are.

All cohesive artistic statements (I hate using that ******' term, but whatever) will suggest parallel statements in other mediums, that is to say, the music it's self is your writing prompt.

I did an entire record (Except for one track) in 2015 that was written like that, I didn't like having to sit down with my "temp" topline, and figure out what the hell was trying to get out, and......wow, the HOURS......starin at the page.....staring....staring...nothing....staring....oh look it's nighttime......staring, is it getting light out? Shoot me....staring......THERE IT F$CKING IS!!!!!!!!

But the results were ALWAYS up to my standards, and thematically, I had to stretch out.

I think the BIG PROBLEM....and I believe there is only one problem in songwriting, is people trying to push and shove their way to what THEY WANT.

Usually, it's they want to "Be" this other artist and they will fight the song tooth and nail to try and get it into the coffin after they choke the life out of it.

In my years at this, I've realized that you need to 1. Show the F$ck up, you need to BE THERE with your pen and paper (I'm not into writing on computers) and let the songs swirling around out there know you are open for business. 2. Things will go a lot smoother if you start seeing yourself as a mid-wife and not as God. Let the song be what it is...because if it's any good, it already "is".

I'm not saying write stuff you don't like, (Although the more you can stay the hell out of judgment of any kind until the thing is WRITTEN the better it will be for you) You don't have to jump at every idea just because it's there, it should be a match.

I'm wondering if perhaps you aren't married to a certain theme or even have a concept you are insisting on?

If so, I would ditch it and ask the song what the hell it WANTS to be.

There is so much struggle in songwriting, but anyone who's ever had a hit or sustained success (I have) will tell you, it's the ones that just "Show up" that are MONEY.

In a way, it helps to remember that YOU are the enemy, the more you can take "You" out of the equation the easier and better things get.

For many, however, songwriting is "all about THEM" (I can't stand "selfy" songwriting)...I don't like these types of songs and don't understand them when I hear them, so maybe there's a totally different process going on there.
Old 9th January 2020
  #22
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by RayHeath View Post
Thanks, I liked the first sample - and liked this one even more as it exposed a bit more of what you are after.



That's great too. You have a nice tune here. A lot of things won't work out. Just keep after your goals.



Nothing could be further from the truth. Keep after it and make your dreams come true.


Very best wishes, hopes and expectations for your success. Go get 'em!

Ray H.
Thanks for the kind words and encouragement.
Old 9th January 2020
  #23
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by terrible.dee View Post
I have always been able to surmount that challenge.

It's a play now pay later proposition to be sure, but one that also holds the key to overall success.

You see, the music and melodies, if they are making a strong enough statement should tell you what the lyrics are.

All cohesive artistic statements (I hate using that ******' term, but whatever) will suggest parallel statements in other mediums, that is to say, the music it's self is your writing prompt.

I did an entire record (Except for one track) in 2015 that was written like that, I didn't like having to sit down with my "temp" topline, and figure out what the hell was trying to get out, and......wow, the HOURS......starin at the page.....staring....staring...nothing....staring....oh look it's nighttime......staring, is it getting light out? Shoot me....staring......THERE IT F$CKING IS!!!!!!!!

But the results were ALWAYS up to my standards, and thematically, I had to stretch out.

I think the BIG PROBLEM....and I believe there is only one problem in songwriting, is people trying to push and shove their way to what THEY WANT.

Usually, it's they want to "Be" this other artist and they will fight the song tooth and nail to try and get it into the coffin after they choke the life out of it.

In my years at this, I've realized that you need to 1. Show the F$ck up, you need to BE THERE with your pen and paper (I'm not into writing on computers) and let the songs swirling around out there know you are open for business. 2. Things will go a lot smoother if you start seeing yourself as a mid-wife and not as God. Let the song be what it is...because if it's any good, it already "is".

I'm not saying write stuff you don't like, (Although the more you can stay the hell out of judgment of any kind until the thing is WRITTEN the better it will be for you) You don't have to jump at every idea just because it's there, it should be a match.

I'm wondering if perhaps you aren't married to a certain theme or even have a concept you are insisting on?

If so, I would ditch it and ask the song what the hell it WANTS to be.

There is so much struggle in songwriting, but anyone who's ever had a hit or sustained success (I have) will tell you, it's the ones that just "Show up" that are MONEY.

In a way, it helps to remember that YOU are the enemy, the more you can take "You" out of the equation the easier and better things get.

For many, however, songwriting is "all about THEM" (I can't stand "selfy" songwriting)...I don't like these types of songs and don't understand them when I hear them, so maybe there's a totally different process going on there.
A real hit songwriter, eh? Thank you so much and I'm honored.
I do have a concept and theme that I'm trying to stick to. That sentence about seeing yourself as a mid-wife rather than God got me really thinking. I won't argue that it isn't true because I've witnessed the same thing with my music (instrumental) along the years. It was always a fight against the ego; believing that X and Y songs were better than people would give credit to. That has toned down recently and I'm gaining more objectivity with each day, but still a long way to go.

However, that is for the instrumentals...without lyrics or vocals. I have no idea how to tone down that ego monster for the lyrics, and let me tell you, that monster screams. I could take a million ideas from my own life, the ups and downs, and especially the life I had prior to my health deterioration. It's almost impossible to imagine this ego being locked up and to take 'me' out of the equation. Not that I couldn't think of and fabricate a story of someone else, but I can't do it with the same passion as you can hear it in the "throw it all away" refrain. That really came from the heart. So where does one start?
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