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Thread: How did you develop as a songwriter ?

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    How did you develop as a songwriter ?

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    What got you writing songs in the first place and where along the line did you decide that your efforts were worth carrying on with ? At what point did you realize that it wasn't some mystical art reserved for a privileged and super talented few ?

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    Took me years to really try songwriting, after arranging a lot of choral music and pop songs for my old ensemble.

    I signed up for Berklee College's online beginning songwriting course thru Coursera (offered free at the time!) which gave me techniques to codify my storytelling, choose my form/structure, and learn more specifics about rhyming.

    After a job switch, I have had a lot more time to devote to composing over the past few years, played in a band for awhile, and managed to get a grant to write some accessible pieces for church choirs--Getting this kind of regular practice, I'm now comfortable writing in a lot of styles, just released my debut solo record, and am looking for opportunities to write for theater.
    I'm only competing with the person I was yesterday.

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    I started writing songs when I was about 16, and continued for many years. However, the songs then were naive, banal, full of cliches and not original enough to overcome their lack of appeal. I recorded them on reel to reel, and thought they were great at the time. But when I listened back I wanted to disappear into the floor. There is only so much cringe that one can handle.

    But in the nineties, in my day work I became involved in questionnaire design and business writing, the intent of which was to remove the content-free business-speak so prevalent at the time, and to produce forms, manuals and other written material in language that was simple, economical and to the point.

    This rekindled my interest in songwriting, to which I applied the same principles of simplicity and economy. But to that I also added originality, working hard to say things in ways that hadn't been said before. I don't write as much these days, spending more of my time on musical composition and arranging, but at least I can listen to the songs I've written and recorded and actually enjoy them.

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    In 1979 or 80 I bought a used Telecaster and wanted to learn to play. I had just broken up with my girlfriend and was in the dumps. I drove into a gas station where I knew a guitarist worked and asked if he'd teach me. He responded "There are a million guitarists for every bass player. Learn bass." I went that night to his house and within an hour was playing songs from The New York Dolls. We formed the first punk rock band on Long Island. Our name will never be mentioned again. But, it was pretty bad. We played for years, he joined the Air Force, I formed Frances Farmer My Hero. That's the name I've used ever since.

    I've grown bounds as a writer. But, being tone deaf is a big f***ing pain in the butt. Melodyne has helped with that problem to an extent. I work more on arranging parts now. If I ever get the two in sync, I'll make the recordings I have in my head. Arranging is much harder then putting chords to lyrics. That's the easier part. Fleshing out the proper melody is still difficult even with melodyne. Even though every song is different and almost demands a certain natural melody, making that melody change in progression of the song is something that most home recorders miss. Definitely myself included. But, home recording is a rewarding artistic experience if you can get 2 people to like the songs. I have my 2, so I'm satisfied.

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    As embarrassing as it sounds now, writing love songs for girlfriends in highschool is what got me started. 80's ballads FTW.

    Guitar lessons is what really de-mystified if for me. I'm a drummer, but I produce and do a lot of our bands guitar work on our recordings so that's why I started taking lessons.

    The theory I learned in guitar lessons is what made the biggest difference. My teacher gave me a lot of ideas for what progressions and scales to use when I want happy/sad/mad/weird and that's made a world of difference. I've always gone by feel and whack-a-mole, but I am much more intentional with patterns, how to do nice transitions/turnarounds, and couple those things with just being older and more patient, it's made a noticeable difference (I think)

    Can't come up with vocal melodies to save my life, so I leave that up to our singer who is phenomenal at it. I am really good with harmonies and adding tasty production elements though. I think...

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