Week #2 – Songwriting Boxes
I’ve completed the first week of the songwriting course and it’s already been really interesting. The first assignment–to write out the structure of a song’s lyrics based on the idea of boxes that fit into boxes until we reach the ultimate, overarching message or the largest box that contains the others–is based on first deciding on a song’s title.
That is the first thing that threw me. I’m the type of songwriter who writes the song and then titles it later. I often default to the main lyric for the title, which usually comes from the chorus or refrain lyric that repeats and gets stuck in my head. I used to title my songs based on what the band started to call them in rehearsal. They’d say, “Are we going to practice that new ‘XX’ song?” (because “XX” was a word in the chorus that was repeated a million times). Then, of course, I knew that this was what the title had to be. There are still times, though, when I finish a song and I’m just not sure what I should call it. That’s when I try to seek out my “six best friends” to help me name it–of the human variety, not the question words!
(That’s a reference to part of the lesson where Pat Pattison jokes that songwriters need to call on our six best friends for help but that he knows we, as songwriters, might not actually have six best friends. The look on his face when he said that made me laugh out loud. I guess we are hard to get along with sometimes, us songwriters! Then he goes on to say that you can call up your six best friends called “who, what, where, when, why and how” and they’ll help you paint the backdrop of your piece. Of course, that’s just good solid writing advice for any kind of writer.)
I’ve chosen the title “Love Needs No Dictionary.” It’s the tail end of one of the pieces that I wrote in my blog series that chronicles my courtship and relationship (and now marriage and co-parenting) with my partner here in China. To be honest, the whole saga could become a novel, but I’m interested in taking this small piece of the story and distilling it down into a concise song. To me, that’s the ultimate challenge and beauty of songwriting: saying little but meaning much.
And on that note, I should try being succinct with these blogs too! I’m looking forward to week #2.
Bring it on.