Lesson 4: Making It Move (Yes, i’m catching up.)

Another round of awesome video lectures from Pat Pattison’s online Songwriting course produced a valuable lesson in the role music plays in creating motion, and how motion supports e-motion. As songwriters, our job is to marry the meaning of language (the clever words we write) to the emotion of music (the feelings we are trying to evoke), enhancing both so that we Preserve the natural shape of language.

Rhythm in the lyric is created by arranging stressed and unstressed syllables. Prosody (there’s that word again) is enhanced when the syllabic rhythm of the lyric matches the melodic rhythm to support the emotion of each lyrical phase. Simple right? Well, maybe after a little practice!

I love the masterclass series of videos Pat included in this week lessons. I came across them a few years ago on youtube, and found them to be a great tool in thinking about the performance of our songs, and ensuring they support the intended lyric. I highly recommend you add them to your video library!

This weeks assignment was to map out the syllabic rhythm of the verse and chorus we created last week, and set it to music, speaking or singing the appropriate stresses and match it with the corresponding melody.

Here is my assignment set to music:

Assignment 4I’m quite happy with the way it turned out, and it was very interesting using the map of my stressed and unstressed lyrics (as i wrote them first) and building the melody from there. then i sketched it out again in my notebook to make sure my stresses were falling in line with the melody, and tweaked here and there until it was all working together. I suppose it might not always go in this order for every song, but it really worked for me in this case! I could see the huge potential for using this technique in my songwriting moving forward… (get it? moving.. forward hehee)

once again hear are the lyrics:

stable verse

–       –      –      /    –    –       /        –     –      /        /
She had me calling her name from the first glance
–       –       –      /     –   –    /    –    –    /          /
She had me stealing a kiss at the first chance
–       –      –       /      –     –       /    –    –      /      /   –
She had me counting the days till our next hello
–       –      –         /    –     –      /   –   –   –     /       /
She had me spending my pay till I was flat broke

unstable chorus

–        –      –     /    //  –   –    /         /     –     /  –    –    /
She said the currency of love trades a million to one
–     –     /    //  –   –     /     –      /          /       /  –
In the currency of love you might break even
/       –       /   –       –        /    –       –       /     –        –      /
Spend your nickels, your quarters, your pennies, your dimes
–      –        /  –   –     /     –        /     –     /
If you’re lucky in love you might do fine
–    –       /  //   –   –    /
That’s the currency of love

I’m a little behind on keeping you up to date with my progress and learnings from Pat Pattison’s Online course on Songwriting. It’s been pretty eye-opening taking this course amongst a huge community of songwriters (63,000 if you can believe it!) to say the least, and i’ve learned so much already.

This week was all about rhyme schemes and rhyme types. There are six rhyme types (perfect, family, additive, subtractive, assonance, and consonance), that much like line lengths, have a role in supporting stable and unstable ideas, and create varying degrees of resolution. Yes, everything has a purpose grasshopper.

Pat says: Rhyme schemes, can also help create a feeling. They can be symmetrical, like aabb (e.g., win/spin/turn/learn) or abab (e.g., win/turn/spin/learn), creating stability. Or, they can be asymmetrical, like abba (e.g., win/turn/learn/spin) or xaaa (e.g., win/turn/learn/yearn), creating levels of instability. All by themselves. So your choice of rhyme scheme makes a difference. Ask, “Is this verse’s idea stable or unstable?” and construct your rhyme scheme accordingly.

So taking this into consideration along with our lessons online length from last week our assignment was to create a stable verse leading into an unstable chorus. This was my submission.

Song Title:
The Currency of Love

stable verse
She had me calling her name from the first glance
She had me stealing a kiss at the first chance
She had me counting the days till our next hello
She had me spending my pay till I was flat broke

unstable chorus
She said the currency of love trades a million to one
In the currency of love you might break even
Spend your nickels, your quarters, your pennies, your dimes
If you’re lucky in love you might do just fine
In the currency of love

verse: aabb (perfect, and assonance/subtractive rhyme)
chorus: aabbx (assonance/additive rhymes and a surprise shorter line length with no rhyme at the end)

The song title was one i’ve had in my hook book for a while, with no clear idea of where it would go. But with a little pressure and an assignment to do, i was able to start the journey. I’m still thinking there is an opportunity to extend the two main ideas in my current verse to another verse (ie: verse 1: all about first glance/ first kiss, verse 2: being flat broke).

No time to record it to music with Canadian Music Week going on here in Toronto. Not sure how i managed to fit it all in, very ambitious, but it was well worth it! So many great artists performing nightly, and a packed house for Songwriters Summit. Already looking forward to next year! I’ll leave you with a few pics from the experience.

Did i mention that i’m also gearing up for the release of my first EP in May! Ya…. its a bit busy around here.

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I wanted to express my thoughts about Wonder Women VI, while I’m still warm with the energy that rose from the stage of talented artists ranging from singer songwriters, to spoken word, to visual artists, to stand up comedians. It felt like the intensity grew as the evening progressed and emotional waves washed over us with every new performance, audience and artists knit together, lifted each other up and roared with empowerment. This day, International Women’s Day we celebrated our differences and common ground, this day we celebrated our strengths and our weaknesses, this day we embraced each other as mothers, daughters, friends, lovers, and independent artists. It was an incredible culmination of strength, conviction and love, and I was honoured to participate and bear witness.

A mountain of gratitude must be erected for the awe-inspiring commitment and enthusiasm of Arlene Paculan and Kat Leonard towards a week of successful concerts and free workshops, and the grand finale that was International Women’s Day and the Wonder Women Concert to spread empowerment through art!

Check out the full gamut of awesome performers that made this event a huge success!

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.

Week 1

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