In his Berklee College of Music songwriting course, Pat Pattison assures us that there are no rules, only tools. Phewf! Rule-free, everybuddy! Woop! Woop! And yet…
This week we learned to use the tools of lyric line lengths in the great strive for prosody (all things working together toward a common goal) to evoke sensations of stability and instability. Being a songwriter who usually just opens the channel and lets the song write itself while I eat chips on the couch, I found I was intrigued by the exercise of analytical songwriting and yet I stumbled over the process of using the tools.
I reminisced among myself and realized that I displayed the same work processes when I was a youngen’ (as pictured here with bangs on their own trajectory). I used to refrain from studying for a test so that I could test how smart I was “naturally”. I would whip my Math textbook across the kitchen floor in frustration when I couldn’t solve a riddle. My dad would enter the cyclone of calculus and ask, “Did you read the chapter that explains how to solve the problems?!” “No!” I’d shout, “I should be able to figure it out just with my brain!” To persuade my mother that she was putting me to bed too early I would plaintively explain, “Mom! I’m not even tired! I could win the human race with no running shoes on!” Clearly I didn’t need tools because I am my own tool. And what a tool am I!
With creativity I’ve always resisted analysis (Read: work)! I don’t wanna know what note I’m singing and what the 3rd harmony line is. I don’t wanna emphasize diphthongs. I don’t wanna explore each word in a scene and attach a motivational tactic to it. I don’t wanna consider the rule of threes. I don’t wanna create a lifelong backstory to a 10-minute scene. I wanna renegade communicate each individual moment from my heart! (Read: I don’t wanna practice and develop, I just wanna sit on the couch eating chips till it’s showtime!) Clearly I need to learn to sharpen the tool that is I and learn to use some tools outside of myself. Hopefully I don’t trip over them like I trip over myself. This course is a great start for me. 🙂
Thank you for so humourously (and humbly) sharing where the process is tripping you up. Work can kind of suck. But if it makes a beautiful product–so. worth. it. 🙂 Best of luck writing the song!
Hi Kat! I know what you mean about not wanting to over-analyze your art. I used to be proud of the fact that I didn’t study music formally, because I believed that I could hear things in a song differently, write hooks more organically…I don’t exactly think like that nowadays lol. For me, I’m going into Pat’s course with the mentality of adding a new tool to my songwriting toolbox–it won’t be my only tool, but I do believe that the more tools I have access to, the better, because it gives me new perspectives, approaches, and options, especially when I hit writer’s block!
Thanks for the support, guys! I shall struggle through it because it’ll be worth it! Must put down the chips! 🙂
Enjoyed your blog….and had some chuckles. You’re some kind of dynamo, all right. Add on the tools you’ll learn to use in this course; and watch out world!
Love your spirit and your blog! I can totally relate to struggling to balance the desire for spontaneous creativity and honing the toolbox so that (hopefully) with time the tools occur spontaneously while we are being creative…Oh and LOVE THAT PHOTO!
This is an awesome post and I fully agree with it! It made me laugh and also reflect. I’m slowly learning to put down the chips and put in the work.
It doesn’t surprise me you like to be “in the moment”. When you perform you feed moments to the listeners and we get caught up in your spell…the spell that is truly uniquely you… actually, you put the ‘you’ in unique! 😉 I bet that even just a tiny amount of time spent soaking up the tools (with chips in hand) will give huge rewards and you will then send out even bigger moments to your listeners. By the way, I hope they’re dill pickle! 😉
Haha! My faves are Zesty Cheese Doritos, Cool Ranch, Smart Food, sour cream n onion, ketchup, anything PC… oh I’m drooling over myself again…
Kat! I wouldn’t want you to be any other way than you are! I heard this great interview this week with a woman who figured out she could just start asking questions, and then sit back, relax, and let the answers come to her. Instead of looking for the answers all the time, she just asks the questions. So, you could say something like, what would my songs be like if I could be more analytical? And then you just sit back, eat a chip, and let the answer come. Well, I guess it would be more than one chip, because it’s a process and you have to be patient. It might take weeks actually. Are you OK with that?
Yes, Debra, I am totally okay with waiting around for weeks eating chips! ;p
I like this idea Debra. I’ve been doing something like this for the last few months every morning (after morning pages). 🙂 When I ask questions sometimes surprising answers pop up..and usually it just takes a few moments of silent listening, with pen in hand, to get a response (I haven’t tried chips in the other hand yet because it’s in the AM but maybe they would help too…). Depending on your state of mind though, you could have a field day with the questions. Does she say anything about asking questions that spark more positive responses? You wouldn’t want to ask “why am I no good?” because you may not like where your brain goes searching for the answer to that question!!
Oh, chips can be had in the AM, Ayns! ;p But seriously… this does sound like a great exploration to follow the pages! 🙂
You guys are the best!!! 🙂