Another challenge that was totally out of my usual experience of music: Write a song for advertising that is “childlike, light and playful”.
Yay for co-writers! The songwriting part of this challenge was a breeze – thanks to Todd Wandio (the most fun I’ve had on Skype in while). Todd & I bounced ideas off each other, divided up the parts we worked on and came up with the 60 second song we were looking for. The real challenge for me became the logistics and technology – recording our ideas separately over 3000 km apart and across three time zones, updating software so it was compatible, figuring out how to share such large files. But we did it!
One big thing I’ve realized about this songwriting challenge is that the challenge doesn’t all lie in the songwriting itself. I’m learning a lot about tools I can us to facilitate writing, collaboration and recording. I am actively listening for specific musical characteristics that makes a song work (or not). This week’s learning curve successfully climbed – ready for the next challenge!
I love how one of my fellow song challengers, David Keeble, describes the musical mood swing: from “a real visit from the song fairy” to “Nice music – but it’s a mystery to me why I thought it was so great last night.” I’ve certainly had those moments.
Maybe this is one role of the co-write: the initial enthusiasm and seed of an idea is expressed and then – just as you start to doubt its value – the baton is passed to a co-writer to add their layer of creativity and keep the songwriting momentum going. I was starting to get discouraged by the collaboration piece (or lack thereof) – it’s hard to know how to navigate a virtual room of over 100 individuals and guess who would be a good musical match. I forged ahead, writing on my own and (very bravely, I thought) posted a rough draft of a song for Challenge #1. Well, that helped. Suddenly, I feel less invisible, I got great feedback, and maybe there’s a co-write in my not-so-distant future. I even took the song out for a spin at an open mic in Toronto this weekend.
As for the Week Two Challenge – Write a Top 40 Pop Song for Rob Wells: “Think Selena Gomez. Think Demi Lovato. Think big. Think hits.” These singers are so outside my usual listening and playing spheres that it took a good deal of effort to steer my imagination in that direction. I did some listening but found I didn’t relate to the messages or the musicality of these songs. I had to think of pop artists I enjoy for inspiration (Katy Perry, Pink) for inspiration. What can I pull from the genre that I could use in my own song? My conclusion: Simple chord structure, catchy chorus, and a melody that showcases the singer’s skills. Oh yes, and remember to have fun!
The first challenge – before even thinking about song structure, lyrics, or harmonies: picture who will be singing the song and create from there. Now – pitch a song to Matt Dusk. It certainly takes it from an exercise, a mere limbering up and flexing of our musical muscles, to something very real!
I tend to write songs that stem from personal experience or sentiments I just have to express, a sort of catharsis. When I took an on-line songwriting course presented by Pat Pattison I was introduced to techniques to help me create a song instead of just singing the ones that were bubbling out of me. It was a very interesting creative process that felt more like a game than therapy.
It is only the first week of the S.A.C. Song Challenge and I’m already being pulled from my well-worn patterns. First – I am writing a song for someone else’s voice, in someone else’s chosen style instead of my own. I tend to do subdued better than groove. But it feels good to stretch. Second – I am encouraged to collaborate, to co-write a song – with musicians I have never met! I have taken my first tentative steps forward by drafting a playful, jazzy song (lyrics & melody) and inviting instrumental and rhythmic input from others. I am excited to see how it will turn out – and also overwhelmed that in less than 4 days we will be into a new challenge demanding a new focus, a new feel, and another song.
For the next 6 weeks I’ll be using this space to blog about the S.A.C. Songwriting Challenge. If you’d rather not read about my adventures in songwriting land just click on the Stages, Circles & Jams tab above and you’ll be taken to my usual open mic reviews.
I really have no idea what is expected of me except that I am to write 6 songs in 6 weeks, collaboration/co-writes encouraged. I don’t doubt that I can write 6 songs – I hope I can write 6 songs I like.
Before even setting eyes on the first week’s assignment I have immersed myself in the S.A.C. Challenge by sampling all the musical clips posted by my fellow songwriters. I am struck by the age range (from a 12 year old songwriter to folks with 40+ years experience playing & writing music) and the many different musical styles represented.
The possibility of collaborating intrigues me but I’m not quite sure how it works at a distance: A sort of musical pen pal with notes and ideas flying back & forth? Or does one present a semi-finished project and ask for specific assistance (help with a bridge/harmonies/instrumental break)?
Ready to write!
This will be an experiment in writing on demand as opposed to when a song comes to me. Looking forward to learning…