Heart Drive And A Story To Tell

A lesson on how to REALLY write... ANYTHING

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Few of the lessons here on songwriting are very helpful. They tell you what to do, but not how. I'm going to tell you how. It isn't really as hard as people think, my twelve year old sister can write. That doesn't mean that it is good, but it is progress. There are three things you must have to write a song, or anything for that matter. This lesson is not limited to music. They are: 1) Heart 2) Drive 3) A story to tell We will work down the list and I'll explain each one. That is the best way to start. We aren't George Lucas, we don't start at the end and then go to the beginning. 1) HEART The key component to any writing is heart and emotion. Since we are on a music website, we will use that as an example. Every song you write must have a strong emotional basis. This is NOT gangsta rap. There is no heart in that. I don't feel emotion from "... Shot some thug in the street. Got green and felt neat..." There is no point to that. It isn't music, it's stupid. Emotion in music is closer to this "... And still I feel the same. Left with nothing but a name. In this I am lost..." (For the record, I just did that on the fly.) In the example, there is clear emotion. How you interpret that emotion is the biggest part. The biggest deal with this is to think with your heart, not your head. Don't worry about rhyme. It doesn't have to. Worry on content. 2) DRIVE Without drive you will get nowhere. This doesn't just retain to writing. This is just life. You can't go into a job interview without drive. You have to not only write the song, you have to see the song through to completion. You have to push to get it finished. You have to want it so badly that you will stop at nothing to see it done. That is how you will make it big anywhere. No matter what. 3) A STORY TO TELL This is the biggest one in my opinion. Even with the other two, if you lack a story, you will fail. It is also the only one that music and Gangsta rap have in common. They all tell a story. The quality of that story is a big factor. If it is a story about a duck, and it is a GOOD story, people will buy it. If it is a story about a duck, but you don't tell people it is a duck until the end, and it is a GOOD story, people will buy it even more. It doesn't matter what it is about, as long as it is GOOD. Let's go back to our gangsta rap example. We left off with him getting 'Green'. This could be anything. But to keep it at a decent content level, we will say 'Green' is money. And we continue, "... used my green to buy a new car. don't know why I payed, my homies are gonna laugh so hard..." See how stupid it gets. That, right up there, is most rap to me. Pointless, with a story. so we go back to our emotional line from any other genre, we left off with feeling lost. This happens all the time, we all feel lost. We don't all shoot peole in the streets. so we continue on, "... how could you do this to me. Let me standing in the rain, with only my shame. This becomes my lovesick lullaby..." Now we have a change in emotion that drives the story. We went from lost, to sad. With just those two lines, we can put the story together. It is a bad break up. Probably came without warning, and the clueless one, is left standing with his heart in his hands. This is the kind of story that drives deep, emotional music. This is how you need to go about writing. Not telling stories about shooting people and getting paid. No one cares about that. They care about emotion. This lesson will not get you on the fast track to fame. It is more like the carpool lane... or a bus stop. Follow the afore mentioned guidelines, and yes, eventually, with practice, you will get a good song. I can't do it for you. I can only give you the tools and a bit of advice. The rest is up to you. Work hard and stay thirsty my freinds, Adios for now.

16 comments sorted by best / new / date

    BillR87
    Even tho I agree with your opinion on rap music having no feeling and impact and whatnot I feel this is more of a ranting article than a lesson probably a better forum topic ae sorry for the harsh feedback man
    DrakeTheOne
    I see your point, but the point of the lesson was to deter people from rap and to give the three most important tips to songwriting.
    Gerblo
    Gangster rap is about a way of life. Just because you don't connect with the lyrics doesn't mean their bad, it just means that you aren't a fan of them. And although the themes represented in many of the songs is overused there can still be a good amount of emotion and clever writing in the lyrics. Rap artists like Chuck D, Eminem, and Rakim are generally considered some of the best lyricists of all time. Just because you aren't a fan doesn't give you the right to call it bad without any argument in your favor.
    BillR87
    I dont even see why rap musicians would visit this site anyway no point in lessons on how to make loop tracks haha
    sammoman101
    fairly decent if generic advice. but, as said above, there is no need to keep voicing your opinions on rap music. there are rubbish rap songs, as there are rubbish rock and pop songs. (rebecca black is not rap). try to expand your musical horizions, listen to wretch32, rizzle kicks. there is nothing worse than musical snobbery.
    DrakeTheOne
    I didn't commit any snobbery. I simply mentioned that There is very little emotion and drive in rap music. In truth, not even rap, but more specificaly Gangsta rap. I do listen to artists such as Eminem and snoop dog. But I don't understand what the point is to the same thing used over and over a gain in the same way. I wasn't just bashing rap. I was basshing all emnotionless or pointless music. My horizons are expanded more than you would know. To assume that I was bashing just rap is the reason I posted this. I was just singleing it out. It became my example. The lyrics I came up with on the spot could be used in ANY genre. Next time try harder to read into the thoughts instead of the text itself.
    Ibanez1995
    Some people like listening to the same drum beat for four minutes and listening to some guy talk about how hes running out of any but not limited to the following; money, women, drugs, friends, etc. Love, the generic rapper.
    AKayne47
    That's totally bunk. You're really bashing. Anyone with half a mind and half a heart can see this is disrespectful.
    Rochafella
    Just becuase you don't like gangster rap doesn't mean the whole genre is poor. They story tell about their life growing up in a bad area rather than growing up in a quiet suburb. I like the way american rap lyrics flow, that style can be used to create really clever lyrics for rock songs
    DrakeTheOne
    Rochafella wrote: Just becuase you don't like gangster rap doesn't mean the whole genre is poor. They story tell about their life growing up in a bad area rather than growing up in a quiet suburb. I like the way american rap lyrics flow, that style can be used to create really clever lyrics for rock songs
    This is true, But very few people can mamge that.
    midnightwolf369
    Before you say that he is just bashing rap, truly read his words, hes sharing a lesson here that anyone can learn from, let your emotions guide you and fight for the things you want even if its just to write a song, have that drive to do so. I also agree with him about gangster rap, i like some rap, but it isnt music, its lazy. Okay they are talking about growing up in a bad area, well there are better ways to do so, Jonathan Davis the lead singer of Korn grew up in a funeral home with an abusive mortitian as a father, and he doesnt sing about shooting cops, and degrading women with his lyrics.
    Cacophonaut
    I felt this lesson had very little to teach me and served as little more than a soapbox for the author's musical bias and, to be frank, poorly thought out compositional theories. To boil the entire process of writing down to three elements, one of which (drive) goes without saying, is reductionist and absurd. Of rhyme, you merely say "don't worry, it doesn't have to". No advice on how to proceed if one wished to implement it, no commentary on what to do if you don't want to rhyme, or why rhyme is unnecessary. And emotion is, while necessary, not sufficient to produce art. Oscar Wilde said "all bad poetry springs from genuine feeling", which is not the same as saying all genuine feeling produces bad poetry, obviously. There must be some feeling, or you wouldn't be writing, but writing songs is more than just pouring out your emotions like an adolescent diary entry. You must give them structure and form, you must make them worthy of other people's attention, craft them into something worth hearing. You never touched on how to do this, rather, you merely said "have emotions? Great! You can write songs! Just dribble every sentimental, vague thing that occurs to you onto a page, and everyone will sit up and take notice!" It is quite simply not that easy. And as for the unwarranted amount of time you spend attacking a genre of music you dislike; it is spurious and self-indulgent. Hip Hop as a genre is a pool I doubt you have explored past the radio-friendly and well-known, and contains diversity in style and content, yet you seem content to slander the whole based on your obviously limited experiences of a few artists. Take this example from the Dlek track "Spiritual Healing": "Blessed are the meek who reek in honesty true green lie in botany, they're hawking me from high atop the food chain deciding who to blame for each and every heartless act weight of elements exact I retain no tact and spit the pure fact mixed with blood from split tongue collapsed lung only help to breath diseased atmosphere expect me to adhere to your bullshit code of silence speak till dawn of violence they say that no man's an island... Ive watched the youth, and kids is wildin" I don't see any bitches and bling in there, nor any exhortations of violence, nor glorification of cynical consumerism and greed. Instead, he attacks the hypocrisy of religious leaders who use holy texts to control. There is heart here, as you would hear if you listened to the track: the speaker is enraged by a corrupt political and social convention and feels oppressed by it. It is also, by a long long way, a better piece of poetry than the half-assed lines you made up without thought and called them "emotional". Another example comes from something much closer to what you might call the cultural origins of hip hop: the situations and attitudes of young inner-city black men found in Nas' landmark record Illmatic: "we were beginners in the hood as five percenters but somethin' must of got in us cause all of us turned to sinners now some, restin' in peace and some are sittin' in San Quentin others such as myself are tryin' to carry on tradition keepin' the schwepervesence street ghetto essence inside us cause it provides us with the proper insight to guide us" I dare say you have little conception of the mastery of syllabic form exhibited here, the use of internal and external rhyme, the inventiveness of the language, the complete absence of cliche and unoriginality. From a poetic standpoint alone, this is an unbelievable piece of writing. Another thing you probably don't get is that the reality of a lot of the places the artists live and exist in is harsh and unforgiving. Have you ever seen The Wire? Its like that. We are talking about people who deal with abject poverty and the daily threat of violence. Is it any wonder the art that is produced tends to be very preoccupied with material acquisition, with violence, with protecting yourself? Of course, there is a lot, a real lot, of bad hip hop, made by unintelligent people, which glorifies this violence and greed, but a great deal still is more of a reaction to it, which is critical and regretful of the state in which they and the people they know exist. Look at these lyrics from "Changes" by 2Pac: [i]"I see no changes wake up in the morning and I ask myself is life worth living, should I blast myself? I'm tired of being poor, and even worse I'm black my stomach hurts so I'm looking for a purse to snatch cops give a damn about a negro pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he's a hero give the crack to the kids, who the hell cares? one less hungry mouth on the welfare first ship 'em dope & let 'em deal the brothers give 'em guns, step back, watch 'em kill each other "it's time to fight back", that's what Huey said two shots in the dark, now Huey's dead I got love for my brother, but we can never go nowhere unless we share with each other we gotta start making changes learn to see me as a brother instead of two distant strangers and that's how it's suppo
    Cacophonaut
    ....[cont] and that's how it's supposed to be how can I ever take a brother if he's close to me? I'd love to go back to when we played as kids but things changed, and that's the way it is" Surely you can see the heartbreaking anguish at the state of the world expressed here? If you wanted heart, and you fail to recognise it in these words, then you perhaps need to redefine what you consider "heart" to mean, because this is it. He feels so depressed at the world he lives in that in the second line of the song he considers suicide. The fifth line encapsulates so perfectly the actuality of the reasoning behind the criminality you recoil at hearing about in hip hop: "my stomach hurts so I'm looking for a purse to snatch". The voice here is perhaps a disembodied representation of the man-in-the-street, rather than Shakur himself, and the ironic juxtaposition of the two ideas, hunger and theft, casts a bitter light on the unfortunate situation that leads to this kind of theft. And yet he dares to hope for a better world: "I got love for my brother, but we can never go nowhere / unless we share with each other". He isn't advocating beating up and robbing people, he wants the world Luther King Jr envisaged, but accepts, with a heartbreaking shrug, that the circumstances are otherwise. I challenge you to be unmoved by this.
    theoddchild
    My kneejerk after reading was something similar to Bill up top there, but after some more thought it's clear that I got something I need from your article. It sparked a tiny fire inside somewhere... I dunno. Thanks for keeping things uber-basic, some of us need to hear it once in a while!