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Old 10-25-2012, 04:56 PM   #1
rocknrollstar
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Post music/lyric balance

To contrast the music I write for my band - rock stuff, usually catchy and short - I would like to explore my other influences such as Dylan and Waits - who in my mind are more lyrically driven over melody.

Trouble is, I find it hard to keep focus - as in I feel my more lyrically driven material lacks a good chorus/interesting structure.

Is there any way/tips anyone can give to make some sort of balance? Two good songs I can think of off my head that do what I mean are Dylan - I Want You and Tom Waits - Tango Till They're Sore.

Edit: how do I write winding lyrics whilst keeping it in a catchy song context. I should add that ideally most of these songs will just be me and acoustic guitar - drums and bass used sparingly, it's really hard as I tend to compose drums and bass as well, so there's room for dynamics. With just guitar and voice it's hard to keep it interesting - in my opinion.
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Old 10-25-2012, 06:11 PM   #2
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I would write the lyrics without much thought as to rhythm, rhyme (but try to have it rhyme, just don't make it control you), or melody, then take what you wrote and feel where the rhythm is, then take that and, based on the lyrics, try to put it into a melody.
Songs don't have to be ABAB style formate, with the same rhythm and melody in each line/verse. The hook and chorus are more important to be memorable over the verse. Try to be organic and free - Songs that are so structured may be catchy for a while, but then they burn out. That's what pop music is. If a song sounds like it's growing as your listening to it, that's a very good song, in my opinion.
This is all my opinion, take what you want, leave what you don't.
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Old 10-25-2012, 08:13 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macashmack
I would write the lyrics without much thought as to rhythm, rhyme (but try to have it rhyme, just don't make it control you), or melody, then take what you wrote and feel where the rhythm is, then take that and, based on the lyrics, try to put it into a melody.
Songs don't have to be ABAB style formate, with the same rhythm and melody in each line/verse. The hook and chorus are more important to be memorable over the verse. Try to be organic and free - Songs that are so structured may be catchy for a while, but then they burn out. That's what pop music is. If a song sounds like it's growing as your listening to it, that's a very good song, in my opinion.
This is all my opinion, take what you want, leave what you don't.




Some good points in there man - I know it sounds weird but most of the time in my mind, the songs come out quickly and tend to be in one,two maybe three go's at a push. Very rarely does my best material need redrafting - but I want to push myself.


Time for some free-writing. Now for something worth saying . . .
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Old 10-25-2012, 09:26 PM   #4
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It'd be more natural to write great lyrics that follow a regular rhythmic pulse and follow structured phrasing that complements the instrumental backing of the song.

Study a group called the Pursuit of Happiness. Moe Berg is a lyrical genius and can put forth catchy pop hooks all day long.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVQ_...ZtdfutT6NMiE9W9

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Old 10-26-2012, 12:58 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by axemanchris
It'd be more natural to write great lyrics that follow a regular rhythmic pulse and follow structured phrasing that complements the instrumental backing of the song.


boom. +10,000. i have never heard truly good lyrics (and i do mean NEVER) that did not employ this.
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Old 10-26-2012, 11:43 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by axemanchris
It'd be more natural to write great lyrics that follow a regular rhythmic pulse and follow structured phrasing that complements the instrumental backing of the song.

Study a group called the Pursuit of Happiness. Moe Berg is a lyrical genius and can put forth catchy pop hooks all day long.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVQ_...ZtdfutT6NMiE9W9

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My speakers are currently knackered, but I'll bookmark that link for later when I can find my headphones and get them a listen.


Just to clarify - when I have a song, usually I'll sort of speak sing - I tend to have a melody and some basic chords and just scat the syllables over it, then write lyrics later - is that what you meant?
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Old 10-26-2012, 06:27 PM   #7
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How you get there is fine if it works for you. But what I mean is that some "lyric" writers tend to have these sort of "streams of consciousness" that don't really conform much to conventional melodic structure in terms of natural phrases and stuff.

Here's a great example. It's a wonderful song, but it's *exceptionally* difficult to pull something like this off without it sounding like a steaming pile of noob songwriter bullsh!t.



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Old 10-26-2012, 07:26 PM   #8
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Man, that brings back some memories I don't think I've heard that song since I lost my "Vs." album back in the 90s. I loved that song I gotta get that album back. Thanks for posting that link.

To the TS writing like Dylan. A respectable goal he's one of the best lyricist / songwriters. I would suggest write a ton. Spend at least an hour a day just writing lyrics. Try to spend the whole time writing. Don't spend an hour on two lines. Don't worry if 99% of it is total shit. It's the 1% of gold you are after. Eventually the shit will reduce and the gold increase.

Dylan would write a lot of his lyrics at a typewriter. He would write with rhythm and hear the song as he was writing.

Throw out your TV. Write, play your instrument, read, socialize with real people, have adventures, listen to peoples stories, tell your own stories.
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Old 10-26-2012, 08:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by axemanchris
How you get there is fine if it works for you. But what I mean is that some "lyric" writers tend to have these sort of "streams of consciousness" that don't really conform much to conventional melodic structure in terms of natural phrases and stuff.

Here's a great example. It's a wonderful song, but it's *exceptionally* difficult to pull something like this off without it sounding like a steaming pile of noob songwriter bullsh!t.



CT



I see what you mean now. That Pursuit of Happiness was pretty decent man, Pearl Jam one I see what you mean about the lyrics, but as an actual song didn't do much for me, but I respect it.


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Originally Posted by 20Tigers
Man, that brings back some memories I don't think I've heard that song since I lost my "Vs." album back in the 90s. I loved that song I gotta get that album back. Thanks for posting that link.

To the TS writing like Dylan. A respectable goal he's one of the best lyricist / songwriters. I would suggest write a ton. Spend at least an hour a day just writing lyrics. Try to spend the whole time writing. Don't spend an hour on two lines. Don't worry if 99% of it is total shit. It's the 1% of gold you are after. Eventually the shit will reduce and the gold increase.

Dylan would write a lot of his lyrics at a typewriter. He would write with rhythm and hear the song as he was writing.

Throw out your TV. Write, play your instrument, read, socialize with real people, have adventures, listen to peoples stories, tell your own stories.



Exactly what I'll do - I usually (in recent times) write exclusively to melody - time to get into old habits and do what you said. As for the last part I've had enough of people for the week - might learn this song (Skip James - Hard Time Killin Floor) that I've been listening to - take my mind of writing for a bit.
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Old 10-27-2012, 04:00 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rocknrollstar
Trouble is, I find it hard to keep focus - as in I feel my more lyrically driven material lacks a good chorus/interesting structure.


I see what you're saying but I don't think that has to always be the case.

If you're listening to a lot of early Dylan and Waits (and Cohen too) it will start to sound like that because there isn't much going on structurally. OTOH they do have some nice chord progressions and catchy melodies.

Partly it depends on the kind of arrangement you're going for. If you're going singer + instrument you need to be mindful of what your audience will put up with - less timbal variation tends to lead to people getting bored earlier. OTOH if you're going for lusher arrangements it's easier to pad things out because you've got more to play with, as it were.

All that notwithstanding though, it's entirely up to you how you structure your songs. If you want to write Desolation Row you're going to end up with 58 verses and a turnaround and there won't be much else going on. If you want to write Supper's Ready you're going to end up with lots of disjointed sections that you're going to have to make work together as a unit.
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Old 10-27-2012, 10:47 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Sleepy__Head
I see what you're saying but I don't think that has to always be the case.

If you're listening to a lot of early Dylan and Waits (and Cohen too) it will start to sound like that because there isn't much going on structurally. OTOH they do have some nice chord progressions and catchy melodies.

Partly it depends on the kind of arrangement you're going for. If you're going singer + instrument you need to be mindful of what your audience will put up with - less timbal variation tends to lead to people getting bored earlier. OTOH if you're going for lusher arrangements it's easier to pad things out because you've got more to play with, as it were.

All that notwithstanding though, it's entirely up to you how you structure your songs. If you want to write Desolation Row you're going to end up with 58 verses and a turnaround and there won't be much else going on. If you want to write Supper's Ready you're going to end up with lots of disjointed sections that you're going to have to make work together as a unit.


Come to think of it, a lot of those early works dont contain choruses and the like. On a related topic - I hear a lot of these early songs by Dylan are based on earlier folk tunes. Does anybody happen to have a link where both pieces are analyzed and it shows how this was done? Also if anybody knows where I can get some delta blues information ,e.g.. Sheet music, picking patterns etc that could be helpful, I can only find tabs.
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Old 10-27-2012, 12:23 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by rocknrollstar
Come to think of it, a lot of those early works dont contain choruses and the like. On a related topic - I hear a lot of these early songs by Dylan are based on earlier folk tunes. Does anybody happen to have a link where both pieces are analyzed and it shows how this was done? Also if anybody knows where I can get some delta blues information ,e.g.. Sheet music, picking patterns etc that could be helpful, I can only find tabs.


Not sure I can help with the links to analysis sites, but I know Dylan was very influenced by Woody Guthrie's music so it wouldn't hurt to listen to some of his stuff. Dylan's first album covers Gospel, Dick Burnett, Scottish folk music, English folk music, and Blues.

I can't tell you much about early American folk (my knowledge of it is virtually nil), but as far as British folk goes you could do worse than check out the Child Ballad, Broadside and Roud Folk Song indices.
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Old 10-27-2012, 10:29 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Sleepy__Head
Not sure I can help with the links to analysis sites, but I know Dylan was very influenced by Woody Guthrie's music so it wouldn't hurt to listen to some of his stuff. Dylan's first album covers Gospel, Dick Burnett, Scottish folk music, English folk music, and Blues.

I can't tell you much about early American folk (my knowledge of it is virtually nil), but as far as British folk goes you could do worse than check out the Child Ballad, Broadside and Roud Folk Song indices.

I don't know Dick Burnett and am dubious that Dylan was directly influenced by Scottish or English folk. He was an American Blues and Folk singer. No doubt there are bound to be some English and Scottish folk influences in American folk traditions but I am certain any such influence on Dylan was indirect.

As you mentioned Woody Guthrie was the biggest single influence on Dylan. One of the first songs that Dylan penned was "Song for Woody" which appears on his first album. Woody came from the country/folk and the dustbowl blues scene. The dustbowl blues is set in the great depression and the great migration to California (if you enjoy Steinback then check out the Grapes of Wrath to get an idea of the circumstances that gave birth to the dustbowl blues.) Dylan was also influenced by early American blues singers like leadbelly and bukka white and other such. I don't think he saw much division between the blues songs and the folk songs. It was about passing songs around and handing them on from person to person. Whether they were traditional songs passed down from an English, Scottish, or African origin they were to Dylan songs of America.

Interestingly I found a couple of quotes that might give some insight into Bob Dylan's frame of mind in regards to lyrics, melody, rhythm etc.:

"If you take whatever there is to the song away - the beat, the melody - I could still recite it."
Bob Dylan 1965

"It's the sound and the words. Words don't interfere with it. They punctuate it."
Bob Dylan 1977

"I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I'll die like a poet."
Bob Dylan 1978
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Old 10-28-2012, 06:28 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 20Tigers
I don't know Dick Burnett and am dubious that Dylan was directly influenced by Scottish or English folk. He was an American Blues and Folk singer. No doubt there are bound to be some English and Scottish folk influences in American folk traditions but I am certain any such influence on Dylan was indirect.


In terms of direct influence I expect you're right, but if you have a look at the tracks on his first album you'll see exactly what I wrote: Blues, Gospel, Scottish folk, English folk and a Dick Burnett tune. Have a look on Wiki. The links to the various tracks he covers are there.

All I meant was that if you're interested in a particular tradition it can be helpful to dig into where that tradition came from. Even if the influence isn't direct you can still hear it in the odd place; a bit like archaeological ruins buried under a hill it forms part of the landscape.
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Old 10-28-2012, 10:20 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sleepy__Head
Not sure I can help with the links to analysis sites, but I know Dylan was very influenced by Woody Guthrie's music so it wouldn't hurt to listen to some of his stuff. Dylan's first album covers Gospel, Dick Burnett, Scottish folk music, English folk music, and Blues.

I can't tell you much about early American folk (my knowledge of it is virtually nil), but as far as British folk goes you could do worse than check out the Child Ballad, Broadside and Roud Folk Song indices.



Hey man, thanks for all this great information. Currently listening to some Guthrie and early blues the now whilst researching folk music closer to home.


Quote:
Originally Posted by 20Tigers
I don't know Dick Burnett and am dubious that Dylan was directly influenced by Scottish or English folk. He was an American Blues and Folk singer. No doubt there are bound to be some English and Scottish folk influences in American folk traditions but I am certain any such influence on Dylan was indirect.

As you mentioned Woody Guthrie was the biggest single influence on Dylan. One of the first songs that Dylan penned was "Song for Woody" which appears on his first album. Woody came from the country/folk and the dustbowl blues scene. The dustbowl blues is set in the great depression and the great migration to California (if you enjoy Steinback then check out the Grapes of Wrath to get an idea of the circumstances that gave birth to the dustbowl blues.) Dylan was also influenced by early American blues singers like leadbelly and bukka white and other such. I don't think he saw much division between the blues songs and the folk songs. It was about passing songs around and handing them on from person to person. Whether they were traditional songs passed down from an English, Scottish, or African origin they were to Dylan songs of America.

Interestingly I found a couple of quotes that might give some insight into Bob Dylan's frame of mind in regards to lyrics, melody, rhythm etc.:

"If you take whatever there is to the song away - the beat, the melody - I could still recite it."
Bob Dylan 1965

"It's the sound and the words. Words don't interfere with it. They punctuate it."
Bob Dylan 1977

"I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I'll die like a poet."
Bob Dylan 1978



So he's really a melody man? shit, that's almost a slap in the face lol


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Originally Posted by Sleepy__Head
In terms of direct influence I expect you're right, but if you have a look at the tracks on his first album you'll see exactly what I wrote: Blues, Gospel, Scottish folk, English folk and a Dick Burnett tune. Have a look on Wiki. The links to the various tracks he covers are there.

All I meant was that if you're interested in a particular tradition it can be helpful to dig into where that tradition came from. Even if the influence isn't direct you can still hear it in the odd place; a bit like archaeological ruins buried under a hill it forms part of the landscape.



Just to add to this, I'll happily research any leads, when it comes to music consider me nosey so nothing is out of bounds. Thanks for all the help guys, currently looking for sheet music of Skip James' Crow Jane, I can find other transcriptions but not his, pretty incredible stuff.
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Old 10-28-2012, 02:16 PM   #16
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the periphery guy charts out a vocal line then mixes and matches lyrics to fulfill the melody and he's pretty good
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Old 10-28-2012, 05:21 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by rocknrollstar
Hey man, thanks for all this great information. Currently listening to some Guthrie and early blues the now whilst researching folk music closer to home.


Ah! You're a scot!

Well in that case:

http://www.scottish-folk-music.com/

The people who got me listening to folk were all English with one notable exception (see if you can spot it): Fairport Convention, then Richard & Linda Thompson, Martin Carthy, Davey Graham, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Steeleye Span & Tommy Potts.
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Old 10-29-2012, 03:58 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Hail
the periphery guy charts out a vocal line then mixes and matches lyrics to fulfill the melody and he's pretty good



That's sorta similar to what I do now.


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Originally Posted by Sleepy__Head
Ah! You're a scot!

Well in that case:

http://www.scottish-folk-music.com/

The people who got me listening to folk were all English with one notable exception (see if you can spot it): Fairport Convention, then Richard & Linda Thompson, Martin Carthy, Davey Graham, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Steeleye Span & Tommy Potts.



Thanks for the site man, when I get some down time I'll have a browse around that and see whats going on. I just started a new job today, but have been learning Carl Martin's version of Crow Jane and Girl From the North Country - so I'm playing guitar for an hour before I need to get things ready for work tomorrow.


Btw my knowledge is fairly limited on those people who you've listed, but for some reason Tommy Potts doesn't sound very English, so I'll guess him.
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Old 10-30-2012, 04:00 AM   #19
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Tommy Potts was a very highly regarded (by those in the know) Irish fiddler. Get hold of The Liffey Banks (his only recording), but familiarise yourself with more standard versions of the tunes on it before you listen to it because otherwise you'll be completely lost.
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Old 10-30-2012, 04:32 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Sleepy__Head
In terms of direct influence I expect you're right, but if you have a look at the tracks on his first album you'll see exactly what I wrote: Blues, Gospel, Scottish folk, English folk and a Dick Burnett tune. Have a look on Wiki. The links to the various tracks he covers are there.

All I meant was that if you're interested in a particular tradition it can be helpful to dig into where that tradition came from. Even if the influence isn't direct you can still hear it in the odd place; a bit like archaeological ruins buried under a hill it forms part of the landscape.

Yeah i get what you're saying and it is quite interesting. It's interesting to see how songs evolve and change as they are handed from person to person and how they are reinterpreted and rewritten yet the essence of the song remains.

I am very familiar with Dylan and his first album is the album of his that I have listened to more than any of his other albums.

Looking at his influences it is also interesting having a look through "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" (his second album). In contrast to the first album in which there are only two originals The Freewheellin' Bob Dylan is mostly originals with only two covers. However those songs he did write often borrow heavily from traditional songs - either melody, some turn of phrase, or a lyrical concept that Dylan develops. It can be intesting to look at the original traditional songs Dylan was influenced by when writing his original songs for this album and comparing them to the Dylan originals.
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