Thursday, February 18, 2010

Getting out of the songwriting rut

We had been noticing that all the songs with the kids in SongCamp were sounding pretty much the same. To do something different, I brought my new Boss loop pedal. Not only can I record my guitar and add a lead, it also comes with a number of prerecorded drum tracks. The result, two totally different sounding songs.

In applying this to songwriting, I made the following observations:

1) Change the energy - Just adding something new to the mix, immediately changed the energy of the room. We were in uncharted territory. I've had this experience before with a new guitar, plugging in my guitar, or adding a capo.

2) New rhythm - A new rhythm, changes the landscape. Inspiration came from seeing something new. It pushed me outside of my typical safe comfortable patterns into a whole new world and a totally different song.

Can wait to see what we do different next week.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

SongCamp - Part 2

Based on last year’s experience with SongCamp, I signed up for another 9 weeks. Over half of the kids from last year signed up again and there continues to be a waiting list. Working with these 3-5th graders is a continual learning experience. Some of the lessons have been:
  • Write from where you are – After the earthquake in Haiti the kids wrote, “I don’t know what to think about Haiti, but I am thinking about you every day”.
  • Adding a second opinion – When writing about the Superbowl, the group sang the verse “AFC and NFC make history.” One voice responded, “some don’t care, like me.”
  • Start with a structure, but be ready to throw it out the window – For Valentine’s Day, we were struggling with names. So after two verses, we had the kids shout out names while Walt played the chords. Everyone got involved and there were lots of laughs and smiles. This may eventually be a bridge or just a great memory during the writing process.
  • It doesn’t need to be perfect – The best thing about kids ages 8-11 is that they don’t judge every line. The key is the writing flow and you can always come back and revise.
  • Collaboration/co-writing is essential – We have three adults that work together with the kids. Some of my best comments came after I was in the listening mode. Mary and Walt have jumped to my rescue when the group bogged down. Probably the best thing is that we have different strengths and styles that add to each song.

The biggest lesson for me has been just to have fun. I’m looking forward to the next six weeks of creating new songs.

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