ANSWER TO DON FROM VANCOUVER

11 December 2011

Don from Vancouver asked me if I would be his songwriting teacher type person. I wrote him back and I thought maybe I should post it on top because, well nobody would see it otherwise.
So here is my reply
Hey Don, writing is still a mystery to me. You can’t teach it or learn it. All I think I know is you either have it and hone it or don’t have it. You should know pretty soon if you have it. It’s pretty obvious. A hallmark of “Having it” is being able to stop thinking and allowing that primitive voice to shout out of the darkness.  It has nothing to do with IQ or thought. Just ones ability to switch off. So someone like Paul Simon who seems super intelligent and technical as a human is still able to do that vital switch off…

Kind of like holding your breath and diving to the sea floor. 3 and 4 year old kids who have just started speaking and haven’t yet developed their internal voice do it naturally. They say whatever comes. They don’t edit. As for lyrics, the longer i do this, the more I feel it is more about rhythm plus tone (melody) than about language. If the melody is otherworldly and awesome then your lyric will emerge from it and the song will seem to write itself. There are writers who start with a lyric. This is cool if the lyric came from the sea floor but when they are thought out and laboured over it can sometimes feel like jamming a square peg into a round hole when they try and add the melody they have their heart set on. You know? Anyways… I am gonna sleep now. Hope this answered your question.

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7 Responses to “ANSWER TO DON FROM VANCOUVER”

  1. Mighty says:

    This is so rad. Awesome post.

  2. Gudrun says:

    I had my “deep sea” experience on a Hurtigruten ship sailing through a dark Norwegian winter night, aurora up above. It all came together and I wrote a book.

  3. the boy with no name says:

    Thanks for this Fran! I’ve been writing songs on piano and guitar since i was 19 (i’m 22 now) and it usually comes just like that. I say word that don’t even exist.. i don’t know if it sounds good cause i haven’t showed it to anyone but some tunes are catchy to me. I wrote about 200 songs but my question is : how do you force yourself to finish a song, to say that it is done? I can’t do that!
    thanks for reading andfor your blog!
    can’t wait for the next record :)

  4. Amanda says:

    what if you don’t have it? So then you just throw in the towel when trying is futile and that’s that? Makes me sad. How can I love music so much, feel it break my heart over and over, move me, move my insides and yet not be a part of that force?

  5. Don says:

    Thanks for the reply Fran. I’ll keep diving, trying to reach that sea floor, can’t quite hold my breath that long yet but I’m working on it. Happy Christmas, All the best in 2012.

  6. Carolin says:

    hi all, me and my friend use to write songs together. I start with the lyrics because I’ve always been a kind of poetic person. Then I’ll give them to my friend and he starts adding a melody just by playing a bit on his guitar. We’ve got three songs so far and it feels so good having made this experience together. I love expressing myself or something which seems really important to me through the lyrics. You can always rely on music. Thanks for sharing, Fran.
    xoxo Carolin

  7. Amy Humphrey says:

    In my opinion, being a songwriting teacher is like being a lovemaking teacher: both are things you have to figure out for yourself by experimenting, making awkward mistakes, and maybe doing things you’ll later look back on with embarrassment. ;-) In either case a person has to figure out what feels best to them and then practice to refine it.

    Ultimately what matters is the goal of the songwriter, and achieving that goal is the measure of success. If you want to write music as a form of artistic self-expression, then as long as you are true to that in your writing you have succeeded. If your goal is to make a lot of money by writing something formulaic for Music Row or whatever, then…well…I’m sure there are algorithms and scientific data you can study to come up with a hit, but I’m not sure I would call it artistic and your chances of success – and self-fulfillment – are much slimmer.

    Each person is unique in their own way and I think their songs should reflect that. Otherwise every song would sound alike! As long as your music makes YOU happy, that’s what matters most, and if other people like it, too, then all the better! Listeners can tell when you’re coming from a place of honesty and vulnerability.

    Oh, but no one asked me! And dang it, those hairdos in that video!! Wow!

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