The Ballad of Songwriting

Well, it’s Sunday and I’m amazed that I spent at least a little time with most of the things on my vacation to-do list. Mass Effect, TV shows, books, Peggle, Palette-Swap Ninja, WoW, drums…a few 360 games got the shaft, as did the secret projects. But the thing I’m stoked about is that I finally made progress on songwriting.

I’ve been blocked for a while. I feel like I’m learning to walk, and I am frustrated that all around me people run. So I have spent a lot of the last few months considering what’s in my way, and finally pushed through it this week. I have a ton of song ideas — basically little stories I want to tell — but not a lot of riffs or chord progressions to go with them. Everything sounds like something else. But hey, you are dealing with a musical scale where the notes can go together any way you want them to, but certain transitions keep showing up as pleasing to the human ear. Of course other people will have found them. You can’t avoid that and I’m starting to believe you shouldn’t try to. After all, when I hear Fountains of Wayne or XTC and say it sounds Beatlesque, that’s not a criticism. That makes me want to hear more because they are putting together chords in a similarly pleasing, vaguely familiar way.

I am not ready to share anything yet, since the priority is simply writing them, not recording them (except for quick and dirty demos so that I don’t forget how they go — despite some theory classes, I can’t read music, let alone write notation). But I do like where it’s going and I feel like there’s a little momentum now. I have one written that I’d like to revisit and polish, then this new one that came together pretty quickly. And then it’s into the big pile of ideas where I think I basically have to start snapping parts together and see if they fit. It’s very Lego. You just keep swapping elements in and out until you have created something that you’re proud of.

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