Tag: SAC (page 1 of 2)

SAC Regional Writers Group – Guelph ON

sac_logoUp until this week I have stayed away from the songwriting groups that some of my musical friends frequent. My justification: I generally work on a song until I am happy with it and once I’m happy with it, I don’t want well-meaning suggestions about how to change it. It would be like suggesting another name for my child. And if I’m not happy with it, why would I perform it for others when it is clearly not ready?

I think participating in the SAC songwriting challenge shifted this mindset. First – instead of songs that came from a very intimate place of experience and emotion, the songs were assignments. “Write this style of song, with this tone, for this audience, for this voice.” That made it easier to step back from songwriting and look at it as a craft, not just a vehicle for personal expression. Second – writing a song a week for six weeks did not leave me time to edit lyrics or improve the song structure as much as was needed. So, I was left with six songs that need attention. (Actually just five – I wrote one that I like just the way it is.)

Prepared with a song in just the right state (not too rough, but not a fait accompli) I set off for the SAC regional writers group in Guelph with a few copies of lyrics. The group (facilitated by Peter Light) seemed a good size; large enough for some variety, small enough for every songwriter to be heard. After each song was played we went around the circle and heard feedback from every person. Sometimes listeners contradicted each other with their advice, other times there was agreement about what did or didn’t work in the song.

I liked the feedback I received. Most of the suggestions were great and I could see how even small changes could improve the song. One big surprise: almost every person wanted my poignant little uke song about heartache and loneliness to have a happy ending. There was one other female songwriter in the group – she and I were the only ones who wanted to preserve the longing, unresolved theme. Different target audience? Or did the ukulele bring out the romantic in those men?

I found this to be a great learning experience. To search for a SAC regional writers group in your area visit http://songwriters.ca/regionalgroups.aspx  I would suggest it particularly to musicians who tend to write alone. You never know, an exercise like this could be a gateway experience to co-writing!

[SAC Guelph Regional Writers Group, West End Rec Centre in the Parkwood Gardens Community Room, 21 Imperial Road South, Guelph; 2nd Wednesday of the month, 7-9pm]

Songwriting Challenge – That’s All Folks!

Six songs in six weeks – I did it! And I even like some of them.
Here are a few observations in response to Lily Cheng’s (SAC Communications & Social Media person) questions about our Songwriting Challenge experience.

I do think I needed to be better prepared with respect to the technology I’d need to participate fully. A large chunk of time I had set aside for songwriting was spent surmounting technological obstacles, due either to lack of proper gear or lack of knowledge. I wasn’t expecting that and found it frustrating. I did get some good advice from fellow songwriters in the challenge that helped me (almost) catch up.

I started off trying to read everyone’s posts and listen to everyone’s songs. I soon realized that there was not enough time to do this each week so I listened to excerpts here and there. Maybe 100+ songwriters is too big a group to really interact with everyone.

As much as each new challenge seemed like a shock – What?! I’ve never written a [fill in the blank] song before! – it was also freeing to be able to write for someone else’s voice, try on someone else’s perspective, imagine songs in different settings. It allowed me to stray from my usual earnest folk song style. Instead of drawing from personal experience, I could play make-believe, be a different persona and see where that game lead me.

Listening to other participants’ songs was both stimulating and intimidating. Such talent! And so many interpretations of the same challenge. Meeting fellow songwriters – both virtually and in person – was a big bonus for me. Thanks for the long-distance collaboration, Todd Wandio, and thanks for visiting Elora, Mikalyn & Michael. I have appreciated the words of advice & encouragement from both James and Debra, our songwriting coaches, as well as other participants.

Would I do it again? I found it more time consuming than I expected and had trouble keeping up with the challenges alongside my work schedule. I might do a similar challenge if I had an arrangement with a friend who could do the recording/mixing for me and I’d be able to focus on the songwriting and performing.

It’s been a couple of weeks since our last song was posted and yet people are still connecting on the song challenge FB page. As much as it was time consuming, demanding & challenging folks aren’t quite ready to let go of the virtual community created in the past few weeks.

I wish my fellow songwriters many visits from the “song fairy” and continued creative success. I’ll watch for your names in liner notes, movie credits, Juno nominations…

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Challenge #6: Write the next great holiday song

This week Lily Cheng (SAC Social Media rep) asked – “do you feel creatively drained or revved up wanting more”?

I feel it was a little like childbirth – definitely worth it but very glad it’s over! I’m looking forward to returning to a low pressure musical environment. I don’t mind drafting a song in a week. A whole song might come in an hour! But then I like to sit with it for a while, sing it in the car, rewrite it, add harmonies, get comfortable with it, before I would say it is finished. Once the challenge is over I may take a step back do just that with some of the songs I have drafted in the past 6 weeks.

I wrote a Christmas song a couple of years ago that, for me, captured the spirit of the season. I wasn’t sure I had another one in me but then I thought I’d try something different. For this challenge, I decided to write a holiday song without using the word Christmas. It is sung by someone who is pining for another person and can only think of all the Christmas symbols and traditions they won’t be enjoying, a kind of “Blue Christmas” feel to it. The temperatures the past few days have been in keeping with a Christmas-themed song – cold and snowy. I’ll submit a sketch of the song this week but hope to build on it between now and December.

Challenge#5: Love, Lust, Hate, Danger

This week’s challenge: A song featuring Love, Lust, Hate, Danger for a new TV series based on Lizzie Borden. The musical examples provided were funky, often stripped down and simple yet haunting. I tried to go for a subtle and sinister feel with my song Darkness.

Every week I seem to learn something, yet not the thing I thought I was going to learn. Based on some great advice from fellow song challenger Michael Hay I found myself an audio interface for recording with garage band. Still not studio quality but eons away from the last song where I sounded like I was down a deep well with walls made of tin. After posting a first draft I followed some advice from song challenge coach Debra Alexander (some of which was echoed by James Linderman). I slowed the pace and moved the pulse of the song from the chords in the treble to the bass. Even those small differences changed the feel of the song.

Would love to play and polish it some more, but onto the next – and final – challenge!

Challenge #4: Write a Country Song

Write a country song for a young man – no mention of wife, kids, or “bro country”- yet another character stretch for my writing mind. I tried to stay away from the moonlight-trucks-drinking-sugar shaker themes but I do have one reference to a country road. The hero of my song knows he’s more than the brand he drives or drinks. I’d kind of like to meet him…IMG_6153

This week the pressure of the songwriting challenge got to me. How can I possibly create a new song, in a genre new to me, polish it enough so that it is performance ready and somehow record a decent version fit for public consumption in one week? My answer for this week: apparently I can’t. I got the song written by Saturday night, practised and recorded a rough version on Sunday. But a rough version is all I can do this time around. A full workday coupled with technology stumbling blocks means there is no time left to improve on it. So – I offer it for feedback from my fellow songwriters, shelve it for later consideration, take a deep breath and get ready for Monday’s new challenge.

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