writers only

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

(Words and Music by)

The revenue pie has shrunk, and recording artist's names are showing up with greater frequency in the space traditionally reserved for songwriters. Some of these folks weren't even in the room when the song was being written. Some were brought in to "finish" the song at the last minute (last 1/2 verse). Most aren't very good, and frankly, I'm embarrassed for them.

Now there are some country artists who can really write, and we know who you are. Keep up the good work. To those who can't, but do (or don't, really) I say, "Let me just write you a check. If you're going to hold a portion of my songwriter royalties for ransom because you need additional income to keep your record deal, let's get something in writing (the attorneys could surely use the work, too). Give me an address, I'll do the math each quarter and drop a check in the mail. Just keep your name out of my parenthesis. It's my house, and the sign on the door say's 'Writers Only.' It took me a long time to get here, and humble as it is, I've earned the distinction. Me and my song-writing buddies were just minding our own 'business' hanging out in our parenthesis and you start showing up.

Most of you are nice people, but it's our club and you're not invited. It's just business right? Ok. Fine. There's the door. The check's in the mail."

Sondheim Advice

In his new book, "Finishing The Hat", theatre composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim states in the Preface: "There are only three principles necessary for a lyric writer: Content Dictates Form, Less Is More, and God Is in the Details- all in the service of Clarity."

He also has a lot of things to say concerning 'true' (or 'perfect') rhymes' usage over 'near' (or 'false') rhymes. Especially when writing for musical theatre: "All rhymes, even the farthest afield of the near ones (home/dope), draw attention to the rhymed word; if you don't want it spotlighted, you'd better not rhyme it. A perfect rhyme snaps the word, and with it the thought, vigorously into place, rendering it easily intelligible; a near rhyme blurs it.

A word like "together" leads the ear to expect a rhyme like "weather" or "feather". When the ear hears "forever", it has to pause a split second to bring the word into focus. Like a note that's a bit off pitch, a false rhyme doesn't destroy the meaning, but it weakens it. Using near rhymes is like juggling clumsily: it can be fun to watch and it is juggling, but it's nowhere near as much pleasure for an audience as seeing all the balls- or in the case of the best lyricists, knives, lit torches and swords-being kept aloft with grace and precision." -Decide for yourself.


-the shapes within the container as well as the container itself.
-the "rules of the game" on the page.
-an extension of content.
-the arousal and fulfillment of desires.
-follows function.

Naked Co-Writing

"When writing, think like a lover. The bad lover, like the bad writer, perhaps because of a preoccupation with self, is essentially inattentive, doesn't listen, doesn't anticipate. Or, just as bad, proceeds by rote, first this thing and then the next, and therefore leaves no opportunity for discovery or departure."
-Stephen Dunn "Walking Light"

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