(SAC Songwriting Challenge-epilogue)
Lookie! Lookie! I did it! I made it through Pat Pattison’s songwriting course!
There’s hope for me yet!
And there’s hope for Spring too! Morning coffee visuals in my backyard:
“A moment of satisfaction and hope before I’ve sunk into a funk or tizzy over something not worth a funk or tizzy.”
-Lyrics from my ode to coffee song “Morning Lover”
(SAC Songwriting Challenge-Week 6-FINAL!)
I see the light!
I made it! I submitted my final peer evaluations for Pat Pattison’s course this morn! This songwriting course has introduced me to a whole world of what I don’t know. But now I actually know what I don’t know, and what I should know. And knowing is half the knowing! Now when I discuss songwriting, I have new musical vocabulary as well as deeper definitions for common vocabulary like stable and unstable. I’m able to absorb song execution tactics with more profound saturation. I see a door to a valuable toolshed, a door beckoning me like freshly baked cake to a whole new world of songwriting. Knowing that door to the toolshed is there, and that I have access to it whenever I find the initiative to flick the latch, is as comforting as eating half that freshly baked cake and knowing the second half of the cake is there for dessert!
(SAC Songwriting challenge-Week 5)
Resistance is fertile and insidious and endemic. During this week’s songwriting assignment, I found myself quivering with defiance. Every moment was a battle of the nitwits (myself, me and I). Even my shoulder devil and shoulder angel were harmonizing, “I don’t wanna do it!” I managed to cough up an assignment submission, but resistance has now crept into my will to finish this blog entry.
I don’t wanna do it!
SAC songwriting challenge-Week 4
Oh man, during this week’s Pat Pattison songwriting lesson, I got lost by “industrial strength magnets” when a squirrel hopped upon my windowsill… or rather I was drawn vegetatively to the windowsill in hopes of luring a squirrel to hop on by and entertain me. This week’s lesson felt like someone forced me to go camping against my will. And camping is ALWAYS against my will. Ugh. Perhaps I’m over-exhausted from Canadian Music Week shenanigans.
To stress or not to stress… within music, means to analyze the syllables and whether they’re nouns or articles or verbs or squirrels. I tried sooooo hard to pay attention. Okay, to be honest, I can’t precisely qualify how deep my effort to pay attention was, for I kept winding up unconscious. I felt a tangible resistance to attention paying. It felt like the times I’d feigned attention while being scolded for something I planned to do again anyway. The stress was definitely ON.
I didn’t like it. So I shifted my attention to something else important to me: my next live show, for which I plan to perform new songs that are in various stages of incompletion. The most amazing thing happened! I was working with lyrics and– guess what! I found myself employing the tactics of syllable stress in my writing– and– I altered the chorus of one of the songs so that the chorus’s title was more defined! I couldn’t believe it! It worked! Pat Pattison’s songwriting tools had hoed their way into my songwriting process and it wasn’t painful or numbing! Weehaaaaahoooooooey! I believe there’s hope for me yet! I CAN use tools outside of myself! Needless to blog, I am thrilled with the prospect, and recharged with vigor! I feel like I’ve benefited from a long-needed nap! Yowza! Yowza!
And on the songwriting note– ha! Get it?! If you’d like to be among the first to hear these new songs, you should come out to Smiling Buddha Bar next week! There’s even some open mic slots, so you could play a song new or old as well! I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be a smack-on good time! Come if you can!
The Four Winds Collective smiles at Buddha Thursday April 4th 9pm!
This is an excellent recap of a truly valuable songwriting panel put on by SAC at CMW 2013. The session was ripe with sage advice, inspiring music and charming banter.
Canadian Music Week wrapped up last Saturday with a special SAC Words and Music DemoListening Session at the Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre. I have attended a few Date With A Demo sessions before, but this was by far and away the best yet, for a couple of reasons.
First, the 23 songs auditioned by the panel during the two-hour session were, as a group, of much higher quality than I had seen at any SAC session before; and second, because the panelists themselves, drawn from different sectors of the industry that are all relevant to aspiring songwriters, gave such precise prescriptions for making good songs great.
Moderated by SAC’s own Ania Ziemirska, the panel included Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter Melanie Doane; radio promotion and music director Andrea Morris; Juno Award-winning producer Gavin Brown; and internationally acclaimed producer-songwriter Brett Rosenberg. As Brown…
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(SAC Songwriting Challenge Week 3)
Wanna package?! I’m in an Expedia.ca commercial!
Oh, you’re back here and not surfing YouTube? My attempt to distract you has failed.
It’s time for me to confess another deficiency. In Week 3 of the SAC Songwriting Challenge, Pat Pattison started talking about C major triad root position 5th of the G tonic function overtones root position substitute… and I was befuddled to distraction and confronted with another disadvantage of mine: I don’t play an instrument outside of myself. Yes, I’m my own instrument. I use my face (mostly the mouth part) and my butt. But it’s not what you think. My mouth is the wind instrument. My butt is the rhythm section. As I shake it and swing it, drop to my knees and thump to the ground, I am my own percussion. This music theory had me skidding up against my shortcoming. I hadn’t felt so challenged since I’d tried to make coffee that morning before having had coffee. Not only am I coming from a place of zero songwriting technique, but I also lack the theory and techniques behind music. Bah! Luckily for me, the lesson turned to rhyming with words. I know about words. My favourite words from the lesson are assonance and fricative. Say them out loud for utmost pleasure!
I continue to struggle with the tools of songwriting… the analysis… the arrangement… but the operative word in this sentence is CONTINUE. I embrace the discomfort of evolution and will improve by it!
As P!nk says, “You gotta get up and try, try, try!” Ooh! Let’s get distracted by P!nk’s video for Try. I could seriously watch this a million times over and never tire, especially if I had a bag of chips at my side. Always with the chips. Sheesh!
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. 🙂
Think outside the box! There’s a box?!
Yes, there are several boxes, according to Pat Pattison’s songwriting devices for developing ideas that build a dynamic musical ride. The concept begins with three boxes, the sizes of which increase as the story progresses so that the first fits into the second and the second fits into the third. That third box contains and contextualizes all information that came before. Get it?
So what to put inside each box to propel an enthralling journey? Well, there are a few tools you can develop with. For example: Box 1 holds the past circumstances or feelings, Box 2 holds the present circumstances or feelings, and Box 3 holds the future circumstances or feelings. Or perhaps Box 1 holds information about you, Box 2 holds information about your mailman, and Box 3 holds information about what kind of package you’d like to receive from your mailman. Get it?
Do I get it? Perhaps I don’t even get it and I’m in fact on a course to flunk the course? Nah. How can I flunk something that doesn’t involve math? Wait. Is music theory coming up? Um…
You know what? I highly recommend taking a Pat Pattison Berklee course for yourself if you’re a musician or non-musician, a songwriter or non-songwriter. If you’re a human– and if you’re reading this you probably are or have a human helper– I think you’ll get a lot out of listening to Pat speak. Pat dispenses his knowledge with an easygoing and engaging finesse that is spiced with the subtle hilarity that makes your heart smile as your mind pulses with information upload. It’s like watching an A&E show in the era before reality-TV pollution, when you could learn something new about subjects known and unknown.
Exercise Week 1: We are to fill 3 boxes with ideas that propel a story based on the song title we chose from a list of options. I chose the title Fool’s Gold because it immediately brought to my mind an image of a dulled gold wedding band and the idea that some people fall for a false sense of security and bliss through marriage. Perhaps often lovers are duped by the belief that through marriage they will never be lonely, they will change their partner’s erroneous ways, and they will live happily in the ever after. Of course, all of that can happen but it’s not because of a band of gold. It’s because of a heart of gold. In my boxes I’m exploring the ideas that surround striving for and being patient for the value in the pure gold instead of settling for fool’s gold. Get it?
That was my exploration in Week 1 of the Songwriting Challenge with Pat Pattison. Stay tuned for weeks 2 through 6!
I signed up for another SAC (Songwriters Association of Canada) blogging challenge! This time we are taking Pat Pattison’s 6-week online songwriting course through Berklee College of Music. Our first blog should answer these questions:
1) Where are you in your songwriting journey? Who me? I am Kat Leonard and I consider myself a bit of a hack songwriter because my songwriting process in the past has been to open up that great channel to the universe and let the song enter me from beyond while I eat a bag of chips. I’ve been songwriting for a little over 5 years. I sometimes write songs that will be entwined with monologue or standup material into a fuller show with a theme or storyline. My greatest hit to date is Jockstrap, where I proclaim my unwavering desire to be Johnny Depp’s Jockstrap. That song came easily. 2) What do you hope to gain from this challenge? In addition to growing alongside an inspiring and nurturing community of artists within SAC and Berklee, I hope to gain valuable songwriting theory and tools so that I develop a solid foundation of skills with which to create effective music. So here we go! Stay tuned for scintillating details of the progress! www.KatLeonard.com
Music normally captivates me in three ways:
1) The sound: the melody and ambience of simple tones or intricate chords dancing together in a magical arrangement
2) The lyrics: the words, specific or all-encompassing, that articulate, commiserate and motivate
3) The voice: The unquantifiable features of a singer’s tone and expression that speak to me irrationally and profoundly
Lily C captivates me in all three categories on Reaching For Sunlight. This is Lily C’s debut English album and it is described as, “a collection of songs that reflect her journey to stay hopeful despite challenging circumstances.”
Reaching For Sunlight is joyful and beguiling pop music woven from sonic layers that lull and enliven. It has rousing pep, addictive rhythms and penetrating depth.
The lyrics are enlightening, empowering and everlasting. It may not be fair to extract lyrics from their song bed, but many of these are so powerful on their own that I had to list some of my favourites.
“…in my hurricane of grief can you show me how to breathe…”
“…just when you think that you’re gonna die, that’s when you realize you’re made to fly…”
“…I’m reaching for sunlight like city flowers do…”
Lily’s voice is like hard candy: sweet and solid. It’s like whiskey licorice.
While listening to I Am A Bee, I swore I was soaring on the breeze with butterflies until someone walked in the room and I realized it was just me bouncing in my office chair.
Come Back To My Love affects me most intensely. My heart is struck in all three categories– sound, lyric and voice. The lilting piano notes lure me in off the top, and Lily’s supple and raw vocalizing clinches the enchantment. Every time. I could listen to her vocalization after the bridge on repeat forever. It’s like she’s singing in my ear, whispering, speaking directly to me while I lay on a couch crumpled in defeat. She’s the wee Fairy of Trust lulling me to the belief that everything will be ok; her metaphoric arms first cradling and comforting me before picking me up, dusting me off, and guiding me to stand again on my own with more strength than I had before. If I were to do a cover of a Lily C song, it would be this one!
Listening to Lily C’s music is like starting your day off with a good breakfast: being nourished with your favourite cereal fortified with familiarity and optimism and sweet wee Lily bits that beam up at you through the milk, coaxing you to have a glorious day no matter what comes your way. I think Reaching For Sunlight is a masterwork and I recommend you check it out! www.lilyc.com. Lily also has a pretty inspiring blog: Take A Deep Breath.
I look up to Lily and look forward to more music from her.
I also look forward to sharing the lineup with her at the upcoming Wonder Women V event August 8, 2012 at 7:30 at Celebration Square in Mississauga. But more about that later…
…until then, may the music always play!