writing a song

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Benny and Family

1 jun 2002 17:39:2301-06-2002
Me and my playing friend are starting to try and write a song. Any
ideads from you folks???
Any structure ideas? We want to remain bluegrass slanted, with a banjo
in there somewhere.

Steve Harder-Kucera

1 jun 2002 18:58:3201-06-2002

Here's how I do it. (One of the ways at least)

I assume you are referring to a song with lyrics. For me, the music
tends to follow the feel of the lyrics.

I start with the germ of an idea. I am working on a song that has to
do with how jaded we get as we get older. The theme is how everything
looks so cool through the eyes of a child. As we get older, the things
that used to fascinate us become boring and we just ignore them. In
this case, the character of the song has a kid of his own and starts
to once again see life through the eyes of a child.

There's a beginning, middle and end. I used to be a wide eyed
innocent, I grew up and got jaded, I became a parent and regained a
sense of wonder again.

Stream of consciousness time. Start writing down all the things a kid
sees and how they interpret them. Go nuts at this point and whittle
things down from there.

Do the same thing with each concept of the song. Write out your ideas
with no regard to rhyming or song structure. Just get all your
thoughts on the table. Pick out the brilliant ones and take if from

By now you have a story or concept, perhaps a message or two, and a
bunch of ideas, metaphors, and phrases to create the song with. Look
at them and consider new ways to say the same thing. Look at the
lyrics of Rank Stranger for example. Instead of saying "when I was
young" the lyrics say "in youth's early dawn". Great lyric!

There are some great rhyming dictionaries online. Use them if you have
written a great line and can't seem to find rhyming words. Type in a
word and it comes back with all kinds of rhyming words. You can use an
online thesaurus to get ideas as well.

Take everything you have so far and start to distill it down into a
song. You will probably now see that you have some killer lines and
some fairly weak ones. Dissect every line and word so that you aren't
using too many or too few words.

Play your song for people you know and try to get some HONEST
feedback. Watch them to see if you are getting the emotional response
you were hoping for.

Of course, you may be asking about writing an instrumental song. If
so, disregard all of the above. :-)

robb grant

1 jun 2002 19:18:4201-06-2002

Steve Harder-Kucera wrote:

> Of course, you may be asking about writing an instrumental song.

Which would be called a tune by us sticklers. Writing tunes: think of
all you know. Now don't play that.


Chuckk Hubbard

1 jun 2002 21:32:2301-06-2002
I like this method too. The more you immerse yourself in the language of
something without regard for the ultimate end product, the more comfortable
you'll feel when decision-making time comes. When you try to streamline
everything and focus only on the credible, you cut out part of the process.


"Steve Harder-Kucera" <st...@betterwaywebsites.com> wrote in message

Benny and Family

2 jun 2002 01:48:4502-06-2002
Great stuff!!!  Yep, the idea had to do with lyrics.......How about structure regarding verse/chorus???  No need to structure this?????  I can't seem to formulate how the tune should "proceed".......
Thanks again,

Steve Harder-Kucera

2 jun 2002 02:06:1502-06-2002
On Sun, 02 Jun 2002 05:48:45 GMT, Benny and Family
<banj...@swbell.net> wrote:

>Great stuff!!! Yep, the idea had to do with lyrics.......How about
>structure regarding verse/chorus??? No need to structure this????? I
>can't seem to formulate how the tune should "proceed".......
>Thanks again,

Kind of depends on what you mean. If it's a question of how many
verses to sing before singing a chorus, that kind of depends on the
song itself, instrumental breaks, etc.

But if you are referring to the thematic aspect of the chorus and
verses, the chorus tends to reinforce the overall theme of the song,
the verses tend to propel the story along. Look at Old Home Place as
an example:

It's been ten long years since I left home
The hollow where I was born
Were cool fall nights make the woods grow fast
And foxhunter blows his horn

I fell in love with a girl from the town
Thought that she would be true
I ran away to Charlottesville
And worked in a sawmill or two


What have they done to the old home place
Why did they tear it down
And why did I leave the plow in the field
And look for a job in the town

Now the girl ran off with somebody else
Tariffs took all my pay
And here I stand were the old home stood
Before they took it away

Now geese fly south when the cold winds blow
As I stand here and hang my head
I lost my love I lost my home
Now I wish that I was dead


What have they done to the old home place
Why did they tear it down
And why did I leave the plow in the field
And look for a job in the town

The story line progresses via the verses; Beginning, middle, and end.
The chorus focuses on the overall theme of the song; Guy whining about
his tough luck. No matter where you put the chorus in the song, it
doesn't kill the story itself. You could open the song with the
chorus. The verses really need to go in the proper order though (at
least in this case).


2 jun 2002 11:05:4302-06-2002
hi Benny

Learning to write songs is like anything else artisticly, the more you do
the better you get, and some folks are more gifted at it than others.
Writing songs involves 2 major portions, a melody and a lyric.
While pure music conveys a spirit and can tell a story on its own, youre
average joe only listens for a lyric, they dont listen to music as a
musician does.
When you can marry a great lyric, matching it to the spirit of the music
thats when a song has empowerment to touch lives, and thats when music is at
its finest.
The melody has to be original and may or may not include a chorus, and or a
The chorus should differ in melody and structure, ( vary in length) from the
refrain ( verses) of the song.
The chorus needs to be musically the strongest part of the song as well.
A bridge is differant from both of these, and usually walks back into the
The lyric is the story of the song. Verses or the refrain tell the story and
the chorus brings a special meaning, summarizes or puts a spin on an idea
the song is trying to tell. The chorus needs to contain the "hook" for the
song lyric.

You may want to start with something simple like doing a parody song, along
the lines of that
"Ghost Chickens " song someone posted here a few days ago.
Homer and Jethro were superb at doing that. I loved that one they did
about not sinking the Bismark.
"We sailed with Captain Tuna, the chicken of the Sea" LOL

Have fun

and good pickin to you

"Benny and Family" <banj...@swbell.net> wrote in message

Shortnin' Bred

3 jun 2002 03:47:4903-06-2002
I like the AA or AB songs. In the AA songs like "Boil Them Cabbages," every
alternating verse would be an instrumental break. In the AB songs like
"Angel Band," very the instrumental backup for the A part and throw in an
occasional AB instrumental break, normally right before the last AB set. I
also like to throw in an occasional long lick after the verse or chorus.

I don't know if that's what you were looking for.

If you are talking about writing the tune and lyrics, there are two ways I
do this.
1) I pull out a harmonica, kazoo or some other item where I can hear a
simple tune very easily and just start making noise until it starts sounding
good. I then decide on if it's going to be an AA or AB song then determine
the time signature. I count out the beats, divide by normally 4 and then use
this number for writing the lyrics for each line, that is provided that each
verse has 4 lines. Each number gets a syllable or planed rest.

2) I write a multiple stanza poem with strong assonance and alliteration
with around 4 lines and 8-15 syllables in each line. I then try to come up
with a tune that would sound appropriate with the lyrics. Vowels and strong
consonants need to receive special attention, especially the ones that
correlate to the assonance and alliteration.

The title of the song can be placed at the beginning of the chorus in the AB
I then decide on licks for intro, tags, etc. and determine when the
instrumental breaks will occur.
I hope you all understand. I can get more specific if need be but it gets
hard to describe.

"Benny and Family" <banj...@swbell.net> wrote in message

Bob Miller

3 jun 2002 07:39:0503-06-2002
Steve, I know this is a nit but, I've heard all sort's of  words for the 3rd line of the 1st verse of this song.  It just doesn't come out very clear on most recording.  You have it as;

"Were cool fall nights make the woods grow fast"
I think the correct words are;
"Where the cool fall nights make the wood smoke rise"

I know your point was how a writer should structure a song.  Again, just a constructive nit about the wording....

Steve Harder-Kucera

3 jun 2002 09:51:3203-06-2002
On Mon, 03 Jun 2002 11:39:05 GMT, Bob Miller
<bluegr...@earthlink.net> wrote:

>Steve, I know this is a nit but, I've heard all sort's of words for the
>3rd line of the 1st verse of this song. It just doesn't come out very
>clear on most recording. You have it as;
>"Were cool fall nights make the woods grow fast"
>I think the correct words are;
>"Where the cool fall nights make the wood smoke rise"
>I know your point was how a writer should structure a song. Again, just
>a constructive nit about the wording....

That was a good nit...

Actually I just cut an pasted the lyrics from a google search without
really looking at them.

Matt Griffin

3 jun 2002 23:03:2003-06-2002
Randomly, some things I try to do (and I consider all rules to be breakable)
include keeping all the metaphors consistent (if I set a song in the woods, I
try not to end up singing about brick walls or whales), try to keep the persona
of the song the same throughout (make sure all my pronouns agree; try to avoid
singing I in one line, we the next, and they the line after that i. e. keep in
mind what point of view the song is from). Once I have a melody pretty well
set, I make sure the song is in a key it's comfortable to sing in (transposing
is sometimes necessary). If I have a narrative (story) song, try to make the
refrain or chorus or bridge or all three fit logically into the narrative. I
try to make a song all about one thing, and I try to be really definite as to
what I'm singing about. None of that "literary" opaqueness for me. Besides, I
have a hard enough time remembering my lyrics. This, of course, is less likely
to happen in bluegrass idiom. I write stuff I absolutely believe in (here's
one I broke the rules on recently. I know it's a rock song, but the Kinks have
this wonderful song called "Victoria", which is written from the point of view
of a turn-of-the-twentieth century British colonialist No way the song's
author could possibly relate to this guy in everyday life, but the song is
really touching. I heard a story from one of my co-workers where her
ex-husband disowned one of their daughters because she was pregnant by a black
man. I made the attempt to write a song from the father's point of view, even
though I think that's a pretty reprehensible attitude to have. The whole time
I was thinking of the Kinks song. I don't believe I got to nearly the place of
sympathy Ray Davies got to, but I like the results. Don't know how much I'll
play it, though, for obvious reasons.) I will almost always try to vary the
length of at least one verse, to keep the form of the song from sounding
cookie-cutterish. I mess with major & minor chords, alter voicings, add the
occasional seventh or flatted fifth or whatever for tonal variety, but try to
do it without sounding "arty"... What's the most natural way to add a tritone
(augmented fourth) to a song? Just have to find the right interval in the
scale. Vary my rhythms between verse & chorus. They should compliment each
other, and I almost never like it when the verse is in waltz time and the
chorus is in common time, or other such frippery. that's too extreme and it's
very difficult to make a flow happen between those sorts of changes, though not
impossible. It's really only necessary to shift an accent or cut the rhythm in
half, or some such thing.

I like to give myself assignments. One of my best songs was written with the
proposition that it should have two completely different choruses. The
structure goes like this:

Chorus 1
Chorus 2
instrumental verse
Chorus 1
Chorus 2

Another time, I chose to try to use words I don't usually use -- I came up with
lines like "hope is some unstable isotope" or rhyming "dishes" with "broccoli
knishes". Also, I've tried to write songs that are less than one minute long.
The important thing to remember is that a song can be anything, really. Write
one really good sentence, pick two chords at random, play the chords, sing the
sentence some way or other, take a solo now & then, and hey! guess what! it's
a song.

There's some of the "tricks" I use... hope some of 'em help you out.


4 jun 2002 09:53:2904-06-2002
>You have it as;
>"Were cool fall nights make the woods grow fast"
>I think the correct words are;
>"Where the cool fall nights make the wood smoke rise"

I don't know if there are any "correct" words to that line. I've heard "Where
the cool fall nights make the home fires bright" as well
Paul Vander Woude
Chicago, IL

Born to Tinker
Forced to Work


4 jun 2002 11:37:5104-06-2002
Im Artikel <3CFC2DF8...@earthlink.net>, Matt Griffin
<deed...@earthlink.net> schreibt:

>Chorus 1
>Chorus 2
>instrumental verse
>Chorus 1
>Chorus 2


My favorite song that I ever wrote also has this structure. The choruses have
the same melody, but a variation of lyrics that comes together to "reveal" the
situation as the narrator sees it by putting the two together.

My question is whether your two choruses, which you say are completely
different, also have different melodies.


Matt Griffin

4 jun 2002 11:54:1204-06-2002
Different melodies, different rhythms, different chords. I wasn't sure I could
pull it off when I sat down to do it, but it works really well. people keep
telling me it's my "hit".

Shortnin' Bred

4 jun 2002 12:23:1704-06-2002
Is the last chorus a true and complete chorus or a tag, a partial chorus to
end the song?

"Jstone999" <jsto...@aol.com> wrote in message


4 jun 2002 15:31:2304-06-2002
I thought the line was this:

"Where the cool fall nights make the woods glow bright"

- cool nights, frost, and color change in leaves, evoking autumn.


Marc Andrew McClure

28 jun 2002 22:59:3828-06-2002
relyin' on your own ideas is what makes music Grow! Write your own song...
if ya don't like it ----- WRITE ANOTHER ONE UNTIL YA DO!!
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