As hard as I’ve tried to get back into writing fiction – taking a class from the Las Vegas chapter of RWA and reading No Plot, No Problem – to motivate myself to join NaNoWriMo for the month of November, I just can’t do it. I’m too far gone when it comes to music these days and I’m dreaming of upgrading my studio.
I’m pretty sure I won’t really be doing NaNoWriMo – oh, sure, I’ll continue to write the tome I seem to be working on when the mood strikes, ie, a scene or emotion comes to me that I must write down. Maybe because these days music is my main focus. And that is quite a juggling act.
In Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure, published by Berklee Press, it says this about writing lyrics upfront, right in the introduction, the first page of the book:
You will have no trouble learning about lyric structure. It is simple, just like juggling. When a juggler keeps four balls in the air at once it may seem like magic, but there is no magic involved. The juggler learned by throwing one ball up and catching it, throwing and catching, stopping and starting the motion; always gaining greater control over the movement of the ball. Then came two balls, then three, throwing and catching, stopping and starting, with greater and greater control.
As a lyricist, you must learn to juggle four balls.
1. How many phrases does it have?
2. How long is each phrase?
3. What is the rhythm of each phrase?
4. How are rhymes arranged?
And that’s just the lyrics. Then there’s the music, and music production. Each piece requires great skill, learning the craft, and practice. And then they all must work together – prosody, that’s what it’s all about.
The Flame, Leonard Cohen’s last book of poetry (and more), arrives on Friday. I can’t wait to read it, especially after reading some of the poems in the sample. I got the hard cover because some books should be read in print.
I love that his songs started out as poems. My first song submitted for professional feedback to a NY Broadway composer started out as a poem and he led me down the path to making it a song.
In Nashville, “writing to title” co-write sessions are scheduled – they have nothing to do with poetry but the good news is everybody in the room gets songwriter credit. (Two NSAI mentors loved one of my “hooks” but somehow my story wasn’t the usual Nashville story and it didn’t go anywhere).
In Confessions of a Serial Songwriter by Shelly Peiken, she laments today’s songwriter in L.A. being relegated to “topliner” – the person who is called in to write the melody or lyric or maybe just a hook or phrase. The “producer” provides the “backing track” and gets 50% of writing credit and the rest is divvied up according to some sort of formula.
But you know what? This is what you get when a society decides that humans can be created the same way – sperm donor meets egg donor meets surrogate and somehow the couple who purchases all of this genetic material becomes the “parents” and a “family” is created.
I don’t see much difference in creating a human and in creating a song today. Very sad with many consequences with this type of thinking. But that’s the world people have shouted into being. At least for now. I pray that people will come to their senses some day.
“All my kids play the drums,” my father said during the early days of discovery after we made our first adult contact. (My father was serving in the Naval Air Force overseas when I was born and before he returned home, my mother had broken up with him via a “Dear John” letter and married somebody else.)
Anyway, back to the drums. This was quite an illuminating moment for me because drums had always been my “guilty secret.” I mean, what kind of nice girl loves the music to the “Stripper” as played on that Gillette commercial? lol! Me, that’s who. I could never understand this draw to the drums until that moment.
I’d discovered my family’s whereabouts through the Internet before social media existed. The first contact was with one of my father’s brothers. He was the one who said, “Welcome to the family. Now that you know you’re a Holmes, you’re going to want to pay attention to music.”
I’d always loved music, sang in the school choir, even soloed, had taken piano lessons, become quite bored with the scales, my step dad taught me a few chords on the guitar, and the school music teacher insisted I take some kind of instrument because I had such a great “ear.” I chose the violin – ick! If only I’d known the drums were my instrument – lol! Or at least beats as this former Disco queen is discovering all kinds of EDM.
I saw this article about favorite words written by one of my favorite writer friends, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, on Twitter this morning. We were in the same Chick Lit writing group back in the day. Anyway, her post sparked this blog post about my favorite words and why.
I first became aware of having favorite words in the first grade. A classmate of mine named Lucy obviously loved the word “Lucy” because she’d write “Lucy Lucy Lucy” all over the place.
But my favorite words were “said” and “David.” This seemed really strange to me. Why “said?” Why “David?” I liked the sound they made. The beat of the “d.” It wasn’t until I met my father’s family, who happen to all be musicians, especially drummers, that I understood first of all, why I loved the drums so much (“All my kids play the drums,” my father said), and why I loved “said” and “David.” (The story of that meeting was published in Myths of the Fatherless.)
If you listen closely you can hear that “said” and “David” sound like drum beats. So my love for words wasn’t really about being a writer and lover of expressing those words. No my love for words was about the sound they made. The drums. Music. And that’s why I switched from pursuing writing fiction solely to broadening out to songwriting and learning all I can about producing modern Electronic music. So many drums. So many sounds.
The closer it gets to April 1st, the more overwhelmed I am about trying to do CampNano (novel), NaPo (poems), and LogicProX (music production) classes. It ain’t gonna happen. 🙂
Something’s gotta give and it’s going to be CampNano. Ouch! I have such mixed feelings about it. I’ve been trying to write both music and novels but, really, they use two different sides of the brain and it’s tough switching back and forth.
Oh sure, I sometimes see a scene and I’ll write it down and that’s fine. And sometimes writing is not only a much needed break but a break from so much technology. (Learning signal flow in Logic Pro reminds me of Mixed Signal Design Flow back at Cadence in the glory days so yes, I can do it eventually). But I don’t think I can sign up to officially pursue it all at once. Not really.
I’ve been gearing up for writing 30 poems in 30 days for #NaPoWriMo this April but I’ve just learned of #CampNaNoWriMo (April version of #NaNoWriMo–Novel Writing Month). Something has got to give! After #FAWM (February Album Writing Month), I’ve decided that perhaps I should give my ears a break and write a novel and poetry instead. I can gear back up for 50/90 (50 Songs in 90 Days) from July-October.
I’ve never been a fan of these writing challenges before but, somehow, where I am in life is leading me to loving them.
I’d just joined TAXI, I still have two months of NSAI membership, recently enrolled in a Logic Pro X Music Production class and got some new killer speakers, so I am feeling a bit guilty about putting music aside to focus on other writing. But, I tell myself, it’s only for one month. I still have time for 50/90, and I still have time for the TAXI Road Rally in November.
Let’s see how this year plays out.
I started out with GarageBand and there’s something about it being so approachable, especially for females, that really moved me forward in my music production career. And why I post that quote in my header. More women need to be empowered to engage in this male-dominated industry.
A few outstanding women who have helped me in some way are Dot Bustello, a former Apple employee and Logic Pro expert. She talks about becoming “one with Logic Pro,” because it (or your DAW of choice) is your instrument. You must practice like you would a piano or guitar. I’m still working on this — so much to learn! Logic Pro is what I use most of the time now, although sometimes I still pull up GarageBand to get some tracks down when an idea strikes me. And I’ve also dabbled in Ableton Live and ProTools.
Another female-empowering woman is Berklee Professor Erin Barra who teaches Ableton Live.
And then there’s the Azalea Music Group’s “Empowering Women in Audio Recording & Production Clinic” coming up in Nashville, which looks to be amazing. Wish I could be there!
I don’t know what made me do it, maybe it was listening to the fabulous music on the Music City reality TV show, or maybe it was the rejection email for “She’s Not That Good” proposal, which was a relief because I totally wanted to take the story a different direction, but I started thinking about Joan Jett and how my character should be on that trajectory. I listened to “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” and had to record a bit of chorus as inspiration, thinking rock might be my genre.
In last night’s TAXI TV show with Grammy award winning music producer Rob Chiarelli as guest, my ears perked up when he talked about the stages you go through in your music. That you start imitating some of your favorites before you move onto creating your own music of that calibre. I think I’m still in the imitation phase. My own music isn’t quite there, although “Everybody Lies” is close.
My version, vocals on chorus only, music from free Karaoke site:
February is over and I managed to reach the FAWM goal of writing 14 songs in 28 days. Woo hoo! I wasn’t sure I wasn’t going to make it. I pushed myself so hard I exhausted myself and had such pain in my neck for a few days, I could barely move.
Four years ago I enrolled in my first songwriting class with Berklee College of Music just to see what my agent meant when she said, “Your writing has a poetic, almost lyrical rhythm to it.” Was I a songwriter? I wasn’t sure I could write one song, let alone 14 in 28 days. So, that’s quite a personal accomplishment for me.
In celebration, I finally joined TAXI.com and was inspired by these words of fellow “passenger” Sherry Marcus Milano:
If you could wave a magic wand, what wisdom would you impart upon all musicians who have dreamed of a career in the music industry, but deep, down inside, thought it was an impossible goal?
I’ll share the wisdom my Dad passed to me: “The dream the burns within you could not be there if the fulfillment of that dream were not built in with it.” We all come with a purpose, and it usually sits in the center of that dream. When there’s something you love to do that brings you pleasure and satisfaction, something you can do almost effortlessly but you always want to learn more and get better at doing, and it’s something you do without thinking about getting paid for it, PAY ATTENTION. If it brings thoughts like “If I didn’t need to make money, this is what I’d do all day,” that’s your purpose, your calling, your place! Find ways to get paid to do it in some form, even if it requires study, training, or having side jobs while you build. The voice that says it’s impossible is just fear, something I call False Evidence Appearing Real. The voice of the heart only knows love, so love yourself enough to go after what calls to you, and you’ll be surprised how doors will open. The most important relationship you’ll ever have in this life is the one you have with yourself.
Now I just need to figure out if I’ll be ready to attend the Road Rally in Los Angeles this November or wait a year and go to SoCal for my birthday instead. Which would be the better gift?