Monthly Archives: September 2008

3 types of songwriters

Being a singer-songwriter means learning three crafts: songwriting, singing, and playing an instrument. I’ve noticed a difference in songwriters’ strengths and weaknesses depending on their background:

1. the musician
2. the writer
3. the singer

I’m generalizing, of course, but here are my observations about the strengths and weakness of the three types:

1. The musician got his or her start playing other people’s songs in bands. The typical example is a male guitar player. When he begins trying to write songs, his strengths are his knowledge of music, and of course his instrument. He can easily come up with ideas for chord progressions, rhythms, etc. His weakness is with singing, unless he’s always been singer and guitar player. And he’s almost certainly going to find lyric writing difficult, since he probably never did any creative writing; he probably never read, much less, wrote poetry. (I’m in this category).

2. The writer wrote a lot of poetry, and has kept a journal for a long time. I’m going to stereotype this person as a female. She decided she wanted to put her writings to music, so she acquired a guitar somehow, but didn’t take lessons. She noodled around and came up with her own chords, which can be interesting. But due to her lack of music knowledge, the songs tend to sound the same. Being creative, she may also come up with good melodies, but she’s not a trained singer, so she doesn’t sing very loud. More likely, she copies her favorite singer rather than develop her own style. Her strength is her lyrics. She knows how to write about the senses, with imagery, and metaphor.

3. The singer’s strength, naturally, is her singing. I’m going to make my example for this category a woman also. Her weaknesses, obviously, are her musicianship and writing. She’s learned to play guitar at a basic level, so she plays simple first position chords. And her lyrics are simple and direct. But, damn, can she sing.

Our three songwriters should feel no shame about their weaknesses; we’re all beginners at some time. They should only be ashamed if they’re not willing to recognize, and work on, their weaknesses.

1. The musician needs to read poetry, and then try to write poetry. He needs to start a journal and write every day. He needs to learn how to write in a creative way; to “show me don’t tell me”. And he probably needs to take singing lessons, and practice.

2. The writer needs to take guitar (or piano) lessons. She should learn to play a bunch of cover songs by some of her favorite artists. She’ll learn composing skills from learning the cover songs. And she probably could use singing lessons also.

3. The singer should take guitar (or piano) lessons, and read and start writing poetry, and start a journal.

So what do y’all think? These stereotypes are based on real people I’ve known. Maybe I’m over-generalizing based on just a few people?

-Rob

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New song – Falling into Heaven

Here’s another experimental song I’m working on. With this one, I started with a rhythm and chord progression on my Fender strat electric guitar, then started humming a melody, and during the musical refrain section, the words “falling into heaven” just came out. I didn’t know what that meant, but I liked the phrase, since we normally think of “rising” into heaven, not “falling”.

Later, while walking, driving, and hiking–especially while hiking–I had the music in my head, and allowed myself to just open my mind and allow anything to come out, no matter how absurd, and wrote them down. Later I arranged these weird phrases into loose verses. My “editor” tried to get involved and give the song a meaning, but I tried not to let him. I wanted to keep it open to different interpretations by different people.

It’s still a rough draft, I’ll almost certainly add and change some of the lines. I recorded a rough acoustic version and put it on my myspace site.

Falling into Heaven
by Rob Roper September 1, 2008

Lost and found and lost again
That’s the way you’ve always been
Running naked with the wind
Fall down, get up, fall down again

You’re falling…
into heaven.

Go outside, talk to the trees
Hear the wisdom in the breeze
Read a story to your cat
Walk around in a silly hat

You’re falling…
into heaven.

Hitch a ride, don’t ask where
Go to work in your underwear
Lay your head down on the ground
Listen to that pretty sound

You’re falling…
into heaven.

Give your spare change to a bum
Don’t ask what he spends it on
Take a hike, go off the trail
Get too drunk and land in jail

You’re falling…
into heaven.

Lost and found and lost again
That’s the way I’ve always been
You don’t have to rescue me
It’s the way I like to be

I’m falling…
into heaven.
I’m falling, falling…
into heaven.

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New song in progress – I Believe

Lately I’ve been experimenting with unconventional lyrical and musical styles. At least their unconventional for me. Unconventional in the sense of the song structure, rhyme or lack of rhyme, and so forth. I’m also striving for lyrics where the meaning isn’t completely obvious, and could be open to different interpretations. Here’s a draft of one tentatively titled “I Believe”. The music is also somewhat unconventional, and composed on electric piano, which I haven’t done before. Another thing I like about this one is that some of the lines are very short; there’s a lot of space between lines. I’ll record it soon and post it on my myspace site.

I Believe
by Rob Roper August 31, 2008

I believe
because I need to
It exists
because it must
Don’t bring logic into this
Don’t ask me for the proof
Don’t bring logic into this
I won’t think about it
I won’t think about it
I won’t
think

I believe
we have a choice
That one’s bad
so this one must be good
Don’t say anything bad about him
Don’t say anything bad at all
Don’t say anything bad about him
I won’t hear it
I won’t hear it
I won’t
hear

I believe
because I need to

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