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Issue No. 002

September 1, 2009

Welcome to the Inspired Song Alerts Newsletter!

Each month I'll try to bring you fresh and informative ideas on songwriting, recording, and music publishing.

I guess you'll have to decide whether or not the ideas I bring you are indeed fresh and informative!

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In This Issue...

1. Do You Resist the Rewrite?
The song rewrite may just be one of the most important aspects of writing a good song.

2. Writing a Contrasting Melody
How nursery rhymes can help you write an interesting, contrasting melody.

3. Recording a Demo of Your New Song
Make the best demo you can, but remember to keep the focus on the song.

4. Inspired Quote of the Month
A little boost to keep you going through those tough times!

Do You Resist the Rewrite?

If you've been writing songs for a while and are able to listen to them objectively, you're probably well aware of the importance of the song rewrite.

It's during the rewrite that the song really comes to life.

I used to resist the rewrite. Well okay, I still do. I do it though, because I've seen what a difference it can make in the end.

I used to think my songs were almost sacred things, immaculately conceived. If I wrote it that way, by golly, it's perfect! Yet when I listen to some of the stuff I wrote twenty years ago, it makes me cringe. Not all of it, but a lot of it.

I've been rewriting my new songs religiously for several years.

How do we go about doing this thing called the rewrite?

I first look at my title. Then I ask myself, "Is the entire song about what it claims to be about?" That is, does every line serve a purpose in the story?

If there are lines that appear to wander, I work on those first. I make sure that every line contributes to the story, and leads back to the title.

I have crossed out some great lines because they didn't fit. It's not easy to do. I console myself by writing all those great lines in a notebook called...

"Great Lines"!

I look through it now and then hoping for a spark. Sometimes I get one.

Next, I scrutinise each word in each line, and think of ways to make them better. I try to boil down the meaning even further than I already have.

I keep in mind I have a certain number of syllables to meet. Yet I don't want to have to rely on "and", "but", "um", "the", or any other filler words if I don't have to.

I try to cram in as much information as possible, in the shortest amount of words possible.

Then I make sure it sings well. I'm a singer as well as a guitarist. I don't like singing awkward lines! No one likes to listen to awkward lines!

I know when I've done a good rewriting job when I sing a new line and think, "I couldn't have written that. It's too good!"

One must always stroke one's ego.

Writing a Contrasting Melody

I subscribe to the school of thought that "Melody is King!" A masterfully crafted melody can make you laugh, cry, or feel any shade of emotion in between. It can evoke so many emotions, I sometimes wonder "What are words for?"

Of course, when a melody that powerful is matched with an equally well-crafted lyric, the results are amazing.

That's why we love to write songs!

Writing the perfect melody is not always as easy as it seems. Sometimes we get a little too complicated. Sometimes we remain a little too monotonous.

We must learn to balance the comfortable with the unexpected. A great way to do this is by writing the verse to sound quite different from the chorus/hook.

The greater the contrast between them, the better. The average listener needs to instinctively know, "This is the chorus!"

That might sound obvious, but I have heard many songs written by aspiring songwriters in which the chorus sounds like an extension of the verse.

By the time the second 'chorus' rolls around, I'm bored stiff!

Nursery rhymes can be a great tool for helping us write contrasting verse/chorus melodies.

Try this exercise:

Let's pick a nursery rhyme. We're going to use nursery rhymes because they have only one section, the verse. Also, everyone knows them.

Let's try "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star".

Sing the verse. Notice how it sounds complete all by itself? That's how verse, verse, verse songs are. They don't need a chorus.

We, however, are going to give it one!

Take note of the rhythm of the syllables. They are eighth notes. For our chorus we're going to completely abandon this verse rhythm. We need to write something totally different.

Let's try half notes. To do this the first note of the chorus should be held out for the same amount of time it takes to sing, "Twinkle, twinkle."

Follow this pattern, perhaps throwing in some quarter notes and maybe a whole note at the end.

Now, pick a different starting note for the chorus than the verse has. A higher one would be better, as it gives more impact. A major-third would be nice, as would an octave of the verse's starting note.

When you have something you like, sing through it. Does the verse lead nicely into the chorus? Is the chorus melody different enough from the verse? Does it feel as though it could belong in this song?

If you answer yes, you've got it.

Of course, you'll have to write some new lyrics. That however, belongs in the lyrics section!

Recording a Demo of Your New Song

As songwriters, we want to record the best demo of our song that we can. We should remember however, to keep the focus on the song.

It's very easy to get caught up in the recording process. I know I do. There are so many cool toys out there! More and more cool toys appear every day.

Recording has become so much easier and affordable than ever before. Unfortunately, it has also become easier to wreck a good song!

Unlimited track counts, an abundance of great-sounding MIDI instruments, and effects galore mean it's possible for the song to get buried beneath a sonic haze.

That doesn't have to happen if we remember to keep our focus on the song we are recording.

If we want to present our song in the best possible light, let's give it some breathing room.

Just because we can record 48+ tracks, doesn't mean we have to. Just because we have a great set of bagpipes in our library, doesn't mean we have to use them on our brand new punk-pop song!

Now is the time for restraint.

Start with the basics: Drums, bass, guitar, vocals. Maybe some keyboards. When we've got those sounding as good as we can, sure! Go ahead and sprinkle some sugar on top!

There's nothing wrong with adding some cool effects to the mix. In fact, they're essential for bringing out the best in a mix.

Just go easy on it!

Remember, less is more. (I always hated that saying, but I believe it's true.)

Focus on the song itself. It will tell you what it wants.

Inspired Quote Of The Month

"Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But man, there's no boundary line to art."

- Charlie "YardBird" Parker.

That's it for this issue of Inspired Song Alerts. Thanks for reading. If you liked what you read, please recommend it to your friends! They can sign up here.

Until next time, happy writing!

All the best,
Richie Gilbert

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