The S.A.C. Songwriting and Blogging Challenge 2013 is underway, and I am just one of many dedicated songwriters from all across Canada taking part in the Coursera Songwriting Class with Pat Pattison over the next six weeks. Every week I will share my thoughts and experiences from the weekly songwriting lesson.
Let me first give kudos to Coursera and Pat Pattison for developing such and engaging online experience as a platform to lead this course. Gaining access to this high level of clarity, organization, and structure first hand, already has me intrigued about the many other online courses available through Coursera.
Lesson 1: The Journey of the Song
The first week of Pat Pattison’s Online Songwriting Course sets up the premise that our most important job is to keep the listener interested throughout the entire song. To do this he introduces the concept of storyboarding our song using boxes to illustrate a beginning, middle and end, and describe how the story will flow forwards while staying connected to the title and move us towards the WHY of the song.
I must admit that the way the exercise was described seemed much simpler than when I sat down to actually do it. It didn’t feel natural at first to describe how the song would go without writing it, but once I likened it to building a structure to tell the story, much like I do as a designer, I could see that the decisions would lead to several scenarios for how to approach the song. Fantastic! It gave me the sense that I could challenge a song idea a few ways before settling on the most appropriate direction that served the song idea the best.
So Assignment #1 was just that, pick a title for your song and using the boxes technique describe how the story would move forward. Establish a point of view for the song by answering the questions: who is talking, to whom, and why? Also take the opportunity to establish when and where this is happening.
I chose the song title “The Good Old Days”, a scene set outdoors on a porch swing one warm summers evening. The dialog is being exchanged between a Husband and Wife. The Husband wants his wife to know the impact she has had on his life and reflects on “The Good Old Days” and all the things that he thought were important before his wife came along. It’s a simple angle, and I see the opportunity for lots of imagery in the reflections of the past, but I also imagined that the story could gain more weight if perhaps the wife was dying or deceased, and he was having this conversation at her bedside, or her gravesite. These are options I now have for writing the song, because I was able to create a structure before it was written.
I chose “The Good Old Days” because it tied in with a song idea I had written down in my hook book, that had no framework: “Harley’s, Horses and Hard Times”. I had no WHY for the story before, but thanks to this lesson, I believe that I do! So i’m looking forward to writing this song.
What a great start! Next up… Lesson 2: Stopping and Going