Week #3 – Song Stability

Happy Belated St.Patrick’s Day!

As the third week of the free Coursera songwriting course comes to a close, I find myself thinking the words stable and unstable a lot. (I’ve also stared at Pat Pattison enough in these past two weeks that he’s appeared in my dreams a few times, but that’s an unrelated personal instability issue!)

We’ve been learning about the significance related to the number of lines in sections, which I find interesting as I’ve never really been a “line counter” in my writing. I’ve played lots with line length with my songs, often enjoying messing with it to achieve unusual rhymes. I’ve always loved how extending a line to be slightly longer will create what I call a “musical cliff” that makes it impossible not to feel like you’re going to fall off into the next section. Pat Pattison refers to this as “creating instability to make you move forward” and I completely understood it immediately. It’s like musical inertia; once it’s going, it’s hard to stop!

But, considering number of lines in a section–both the extending AND the subtracting of lines for effect–is something I haven’t consciously done in my writing. While driving this week, I’ve listened to the radio and have been counting lines in the songs I’ve heard to see the effect it has. A brilliant exercise! He’s so right.

Aside: do you know there are 65,000 people taking this course around the world right now? Wow!

Last week, I was on the run with my song “Love Needs No Dictionary” but I stepped away from that one to present a song that just flew out of me this weekend, a little like a speeding vehicle throws a short-legged pedestrian on impact—ouch! (That pedestrian is me.)

Speaking of more personal instability, I went out with my friend on Saturday night and had a few St.Patrick’s Day “Mohitos” — nice tall glasses filled with very green mint and rum, among other ingredients. I admit that I’m not a big drinker. The night got darker, the music got funkier, the laughter got louder with every sip. I was out much later than I should have been for a mother of a 14-month old child who wakes up way too early every morning calling “mama”!

The next day… wow. I’d forgotten that part. A night of fun creates a weekend of recovery and here it is Monday night. I’m only just starting to feel less like a leprechaun whose been the victim of a musical hit and run. Remind me never to wear green tights again.

So, I wrote a song in Mandarin, which is probably a big “no, no” for a course in English, but it’s what happened. It includes an “unstable verse” that “moves forward” into the chorus. Instead of the verse being a predictable 8 lines, this one is a 7-lined verse, so instead of adding a line (my habit), I subtracted a line and the piece has a different version of that cliff-hanging feeling I spoke of above. It really does drive us into the chorus, I think. A speeding vehicle style chorus.

I admit that this 7-line part only happens in the middle of the song. Otherwise, the other verses are a predictable 8 lines each. I really wanted that line to be central to the song—the regret line—so that’s why I only did this technique once in the piece. So, since the assignment only pertains to this unstable/stable technique regarding number of lines, I only recorded the section that includes the technique. The link is here.

The rest of the song is written out below, for your interest. I translated it on the right, but tried to keep meter and rhythm in mind in the translation for the sake of the poetry. So, the translation is not 100% accurate word-for-word. The rhyming is not always there, either, but that’s another step in translating lyrics that takes patience and time, sometimes re-ordering sections to make it work. I admit that I love the challenge of writing in two languages. Exciting times ahead!

Keeping with the previous lessons of creating a story or a journey in the piece, the song starts with the attitudes that drive a person to drink in the first place and the motivations behind wanting that release. Then there’s a transitional bridge (the point of a bridge, after all, which is to take us from point A to point B) that takes the listener past the end of the night and into the next day—the morning after.

The final verse that follows the bridge and then goes into the final chorus is what I used for the assignment (in bold below). I believe I’ll probably link up the choruses at the end and repeat them (one of my favourite techniques for grooving out as a band is the repeating chorus at the end) but the audio example doesn’t reflect that.

And, fyi, there are probably some Chinese errors in it yet as I haven’t double checked it with a native speaker and so there’s likely some slight editing to do, but… how can a recovering mother be blamed for the roughness of draft #1 in her third language? Right. I’m cutting myself some slack.

My heritage is Irish. Even with the hangover, I consider myself to have been lucky this weekend—four leaf clover style lucky. A new song sneaked into my head between the headache and the spins. Hurray!

Enjoy!

 

NANSHOU 难受 (means: not feeling well)

Note: bolded sections below are what I submitted for the assignment

VERSE 1

wo tai nan shou 我太难受 (I really don’t feel good)
wo xinqing bu hao, wo shui de bu gou 我心情不好,我睡得不够 (I’m in a bad mood on too little sleep)
wo tai nan shou 我太难受 (I really don’t feel good)
wo chi de tai shao, wo he de bu gou 我吃得太少,我喝得不够 (I’ve eaten too little and I need more to drink)

CHORUS 1

gei wo ping pijiu 给我一瓶啤酒 (give me a cold one)
jinwan hui hen niu 今晚会很牛(tonight’ll be awesome)
wo zhen bu guan ni shuo sha 我真不管你说啥 (I really don’t care what you say)
wo queshi bu wanmei 我确实不完美 (I’m certainly not perfect)
lao de bu guan shei 老得不管谁 (But I loudly reject)
juede wo yinggai zhang da 觉得我应该长大 (anyone sayin’ I should act my age)

VERSE 2

wo tai nan shou 我太难受 (I really don’t feel good)
wo gan de tai duo, wo lei de bu xing 我干得太多,我累得不行 (I’ve been working too much, I’m worn too thin)
wo tai nan shouwo tai nan shou 我太难受 (I really don’t feel good)
wo zhi xiang wangji suoyou de shiqing 我只想忘记所有的事情 (Tonight I just want to forget everything)

CHORUS 2

gei wo ping pijiu 给我一瓶啤酒 (give me a cold one)
jinwan hui hen niu 今晚会很牛(tonight’ll be awesome)
wo zhen bu guan ni shuo sha 我真不管你说啥 (I really don’t care what you say)
wo queshi bu wanmei 我确实不完美 (I’m certainly not perfect)
lao de bu guan shei 老得不管谁 (But I loudly reject)
juede wo yinggai zhang da 觉得我应该长大 (anyone sayin’ I should act my age)

BRIDGE

guo le yi wan shang, 过了一晚上 (the night passed me by)
wo fa xian tian kuai liang 我发现天快亮 (until the dawn hit the sky)
wo zhongyu hui jia ranhou shui le yi huir 我终于回家然后睡了一会儿 (I finally went home and I slept for awhile)
xianzai di er tian 现在第二天 (The morning after the night)
wo dui jiu you yijian 我对酒有意见 (Beer no loner tastes right)
wo tai nanshou (I really don’t feel good) *Also a shorted section creating a “spotlight” for the main line of the song

(instrumental bit)

VERSE 3

wo tai nan shou 我太难受 (I really don’t feel good)
tou teng de hen lihai, dui wo geng wenrou 头疼很厉害,对我更温柔 (My head is pounding, be gentle with me)
wo tai nan shou 我太难受 (I really don’t feel good)
wo gaosu ni yidian shiyu dou mei you 我告诉你一点食欲都没有 (I can’t even think about food right now)
wo tai nan shou 我太难受 (I really don’t feel good)
wo shui de tai shao, wo he de tai duo 我睡得太少,我喝得太多 (I’ve not slept enough and I drank too much)
wo fashi wo yongyuan bu hui zai zuo 我发誓 I swear that I’ll never do that again—ever!

Chorus 3:

gei wo ping kuan shui 给我一瓶矿水 Give me some water
jinzao hui hen lei 今早我很累 This morning I’m tired
wo zhen bu guan wo qi bu qi 我真不管我起不起 I just don’t care if I get out of bed
wo queshi bu wanmei 我确实不完美 (I’m certainly not perfect)
lao de bu guan shei 老得不管谁 (But I loudly reject)
dui wo you renhe kanbuqi 对我有任何看不起 Any and all kinds of disrespect

Repeat Chorus 2

Repeat Chorus 3

Tag for Outro

wo tai nan shou 我太难受 (I really don’t feel good)
wo tai nan shou, nan shou 我太难受,难受 (I really don’t feel good, feel good)
wo tai nan shou 我太难受 (I really don’t feel good)
wo tai nan shou, nan shou 我太难受,难受 (I really don’t feel good, feel good)

 

Again, to hear what I recorded, go here!

Until next week,

Signed: The leprechaun who needs a booze helmet

(ES)

P.S. Rum is dumb.

Week #4 - Rhyme Time
Week #2 - Songwriting Boxes

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