OF THE NUTS & BOLTS
Volume 1 ~ Lyrics
- FOUNDATIONAL QUALITY & PURSUIT OF HONESTY
- BUILDING THE ELEMENTS OF OUR "WORKING" SONG
- DIGGING INTO YOUR LIFE EXPERIENCES
- YOUR FIRST TEMPLATE
Welcome to the Art of the Nuts & Bolts of Songwriting!
Songwriting is one of my passions and is found somewhere in my everyday life either sitting down with my guitar or running lines or melodies in my head while doing other activities. The process I use of discovery, building and finalizing a song is what I want to share with you. Why? because the elements of your building materials matter. So, let’s get started.
I don’t like to start at the top and work my way down primarily because what may seem like a small or non-important detail or element in your songwriting can quickly become a non-supportive structure to your song or even worse lead you straight into a road block better known as a writer’s block. To avoid this type of incident, I prefer to work from the ground up making sure every element of the “working song’s” lyrical structure is not only in alignment but built upon the stability of the solid ground of believability.
THE PURSUIT OF HONESTY
Now you may be thinking what does honesty have to do with songwriting. Well, the answer is everything whether or not you’re writing about a fictional or non-fictional character or situation. Let me show you how important this element is by using a quote I often use;
“If you can’t be honest with yourself your audience can’t sense, read or hear honesty in anything you present.”
The same is true for any actor whether on film or stage. Although they are playing a part or character, they make themselves believable to the audience by becoming honest about who they are as a non-actor and merging themselves into their interpretation of the character they are playing. This type of honesty includes taking inventory about their personal experiences to see if any part of it can be used in the character they are playing. Have you ever noticed when an actor isn’t convincing or in other words, you haven’t lost yourself in believing in the honesty of the character. Instead, all you see and are reminded of is the actor either isn’t that good or just couldn’t get into the role of the character they are playing. Well, the same is true when writing the lyrics of a song. Your audience will know if you’ve written it from your internal place of honesty about the character portrayed in your song.
BREAKING IT DOWN
One of the easiest ways to explain this is by example. So let's begin to lay out a few parameters of our "working" song with categories that are absolute and others that are fluid. To identify between the two let's use the legend;
(a) - Absolute. Meaning non changing
(f) - Fluid. Meaning can be changed
Building the Elements of Our "Working" Song
Meaning it's a work in progress.
(a) (mt) "Main" Theme: Prison
(f) (st) "Sub" Theme: Experiences; visual, reaction, pro action
Now it's time to dive in and look at our main theme of prison and choose what prison means to you. In other words, do you want to write about federal or state prison? Or, does prison mean something else to you? Although, we can come up with a long list for this series we will be only using the following examples;
A - Your office at work really isn't an office at all, it's a cubicle that makes you feel imprisoned by other employees that work too close to you.
B - Is it a relationship where you feel smothered or confined.
C - Do you feel like you're in prison because you can't get out on the weekend due to family obligations.
BUT BEFORE YOU CHOOSE THERE ARE TWO IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER;
1. It will be a foundational element in the construction of your song.
2. Your audience will know if you’ve chosen it from your internal place of honesty about the character portrayed in your song.
Digging Into Your Life Experiences
If you haven't actually served time in prison or a correctional center, this would probably not be your best choice. (I discuss in future series how I research topics that I haven't experienced and how to make it relevant in the song)
Let's say for the sake of this lesson you've experienced invasion of your space at the office. You can work with that by bridging it into our theme of Prison. How? by taking a deeper dive into the "Sub" Theme: Experience; visual, reaction & pro action
YOUR EXPERIENCES DO MATTER
At this point I usually jump straight into the category of reaction since it can give an array of options to write about. Here are a few I came up with.
1. I felt closed in, not enough space to move
2. At times felt like it was harder to breath due to too many people taking up oxygen around me
3. I worried about sweating too much around people who were working to close to me
4. Whatever happened to boundaries and respect of space?
5. I need to get away and escape from this tight space
WHEN I'M DONE WITH MY REACTION LIST I THEN GET TO WORK ON MY VISUAL LIST;
1. Smiling office faces with no clue of boundary perception
2. Multiple arm movements crossing into my personal space
NOW IT'S TIME FOR MY PRO ACTION LIST;
1. Quit my job
2. Hold an office meeting
3. Buy food (probably donuts) to sweeten their mood and then educate them about boundary protocols
4. Go to the boss with an SOS
5. Utilize sick days and go on a vacation
NOW IT'S TIME TO CHOOSE FROM OUR THREE LISTS AND I'LL GO WITH THE FOLLOWING;
Reaction: #5 - I need to get away and escape from this tight space
Visual: #1 - Smiling office faces with no clue of boundary perception
Pro Action: #5 - Utilize sick days and go on a vacation
Your First Template
The elements I’ve chosen from our category list of reaction, visual and pro action is the foundational building blocks of our “working” template. In other words, it gives us the direction we are going to be writing about. Which brings us to the next step.
FORMULIZING OUR DIRECTION
Although, technically we can place them in any order or section of our “working” song, it always pays to carefully think it through including what entices you to want to repeat its theme. And where in the song do we repeat the theme?... the chorus.
But first, let's lay out our song structure.
The Song Structure
Now we can see the beginning of our "working" song. And as simple as it is in this series, I've found it helpful to write it down so I can visualize it.
Working Title: unknown to date
Verse 1 / Chorus / Verse 2 / Chorus
(in a future lyrics series I will be discussing how to create a relevant bridge)
Now we can easily gravitate to pro action #5 as our chorus. Why? Because it gives us the action to the issue or problem that’s presented in visual #1 and reaction #5 as well as being a strong theme for our "working" song. And if we go with this scenario it would look like this;
CHORUS: Utilize sick days and go on a vacation (pro action #5)
At this point, we can now pick what we want to place into verse 1 and verse 2. I’m going to choose the following for this example;
VERSE1: Smiling office faces with no clue of boundary perception (visual #1)
VERSE 2: I need to get away and escape from this tight space (reaction #5)
Now It's Time To Line It Up
Smiling office faces with no clue about boundary perception (visual #1)
Utilize sick days and go on vacation (pro action #5)
I need to get away and escape from this tight space (reaction #5)
Utilize sick days and go on vacation (pro action #5)