Monthly Archives: June 2008

The Songwriting Process – Part 2

Sometimes as a writer you hang on to an idea, afraid to let go because you fear there’s a chance you won’t find a better alternative.  This was the case with I Close My Eyes.  I felt reluctant to do a rewrite. It’s hard to make a lot of headway and then have to start over.  I hate feeling like I just wasted time on something that will never see the light of day.  I know, of course, that this is all part of the creative process.  Still the perfectionist side of me sighs every time I have to make major changes.

When I approached the project on the second day, I was pretty focused.  My goal was to rework the chorus to make it less generic and a little bit more interesting.   By changing up the bass line in the left hand, I was able to use a lot of the original chorus’ chord progression to create a greater emotional lift.  What was once F, Gm, F/A, Bb became F/A, Bb, Gm7, C.   I found that ending each phrase on the V (C) instead of the IV (Bb) just seemed a lot more pleasant.

Happy with the chorus, I resumed work on the verse.  I was slightly horrified to find that my existing lyric didn’t work.  The modified chorus created more energy, which necessitated an increase of tempo.  With the song a little faster, the verse of I Close My Eyes was just too wordy.  I remember singing through it a couple of times and feeling like I was writing something from The Music Man.  Ugh.

So out went the existing verse.  I struggled with keeping the existing theme with the new lyric.  In the end, the verses became a little bit more generalized.  I felt this was necessary in order to help listeners better relate to the song’s subject matter.  I hated scaling back the details.  At one point, I had a verse about being lost in San Francisco, and trying to catch my plane in time.  It would have made a really good story song.  It would also have made a really awkward musical number for a fireside.

What was funny about the whole rewrite was that it came pretty quickly.  I had a self imposed deadline of Saturday at 7pm in order to head down to San Diego for Father’s Day.  I’d also promised a friend that I’d send her the current version of the song.  Everything was a rush in order to finish the thing before leaving for the weekend.   I laid the piano tracks in one shot, and sang once or twice to comp the vocals.  Then it was a quick bounce to disk and upload.

Here’s the mp3: I Know It’s You v1

And here are the lyrics:

Verse 1

I’ll find some days I’m lost

Out on my own

And then by chance it seems

I’m heading home

And then I see

More clearly

Verse 2

And In my life there’s been

That lonely road

And without words it seems

That someone knows

Then I see

So clearly

Chorus

I know enough to say

That when life just goes way

It’s not from what I do

I know enough

To know it’s you

Verse 3

Then there are the times

I need some answers

And when I flip the page

It’s staring there

And I see

So clearly

Chorus

I know enough to say

When life just goes my way

I know it’s all from You

I know enough

To know it’s you

Bridge (solo)

Verse 4

And when I kneel to say

I feel so grateful

My heart just overflows

And I’m unable

To freely

Sing to thee

Chorus

I know enough to say

When life just goes my way

It’s not from what I do

I know enough

To know it’s you

Repeat Chorus

I listened to this version all the way down to San Diego.  Part 3 will detail the issues I heard during those listens and the changes made to the song upon my return.

The Songwriting Process – Part 1

I know it seems like I’ve been neglecting my blog, since my last post was at the beginning of month.  In reality, I’ve been been working on writing something to submit to EFY 2009.  Throughout all of this, I’ve been careful to keep notes of my song and lyric versions; I thought some of you would be interested in seeing a glimpse into my creative process.

My first crack at writing was around June 8th.   The original lyric idea came pretty quickly.  I decided to describe how life’s experiences help us understand that He cares about the details.  Elder Bednar’s classic tender mercies talk served as the concept. However as I started writing, the lyrics kind of took an interesting turn. There were a lot of rewrites to try and tighten up the concept before I ended up recording a demo.  Here’s what came about:


Verse 1

Crossing the other side to grow inside,

In my heart I know you can see me

Now on the other side, sometimes, I’m blind

In my heart I know you, can see me

Down on my hands and knees

Asking to help me see

Chorus

I know enough

That I can say

I’m close enough

To feel your strength

I close my eyes with you

Cause you see me,

And I see you too

Verse 2

Searching all through day

To understand,

In my heart I know you

Can see me

And when I feel I’m almost

Near my end

In my heart I know you

Can see me

Down on my hands and knees

Praying to give me peace

Chorus

Verse 3

Walking a lonely road

No help, in sight

In my heart I know you

Can see me

And through the midnight black

I see a light

In my soul I know You

Can see me

Down on my hands and knees

Praising my Lord my King

Chorus

Repeat Chorus

And here’s the mp3: I Close My Eyes

After I finished the demo, I was quite pleased with how everything turned out.   I wasn’t sure what to do next,  but I figured I’d come back to it a few days later and figure it out.

Well that Tuesday or Wednesday when I sat down to revisit the demo, it just didn’t sound right at all.   I liked the groove and the general chord progression, but the arrangement itself was too repetitive (lots of block chords).  I kept imagining what the sheet music would look like; if I had to play it myself I would have been incredibly bored. One other thing that bothered me about the arrangement was that the vocal range was just too low.  When I first wrote it, I liked having the verses melody in the lower registers because I thought it sounded indie-ish.    Well, on my revisit, it didn’t hold up so well.

Another issue I found was the the chorus’ chord progression.  Even though I found the chorus catchy, it just seemed a little generic.  As a songwriter, one of my greatest fears is that I will subconsciously regurgitate a song that I’ve heard in some previous setting.

The third thing that bored me was that the tempo was a little slow.  The emotion of the song was prevalent in the first verse and chorus, but since the tempo and arrangement didn’t vary much it started feeling monotonous.   I also had a hard time envisioning the tempo of the song working with my intended audience.

The last thing that I struggled with was that the lyrics weren’t focused enough even after all the rewrites.  Verse 1 is more metaphoric while verse 2 talks about the spiritual experience from a general perspective.  Finally, verse 3 can be intepreted both metaphorically and literally (I originally envisioned a stalled car at night, with the driver trying to find help).  This was one of the major problems.

I tried rewriting the lyrics a couple times, but the rewrites didn’t match with the imagery of the chorus.  After a while I got frustrated and just went to bed.   In part two, I’ll detail my second revision attempts.

A final note:  In preparation for this post, I listened to the mp3, and still found it catchy. I think I’ll keep it in my catalogue, although I probably won’t work on adding any additional instrumentation.

Copying yourself

So, during the last few days, I’ve been sketching out a couple of different melodies/chord progressions. And it was during one of these sessions that I went back to the prechorus chord progression from “Just Saying”, and just totally ripped it off. Not that there’s anything wrong with reusing your own chord progression…I just thought it was funny.

What’s cool is that this chord progression goes from fitting in perfectly within a new age piano piece, to a fifties pop-rock tune. I’ll have to get some guitarists to help me flesh the thing out. I also need to think up some lyrics (I’m not a lyricist, so coming up with words are like pulling teeth for me).

By the way, I’ll be traveling on business for the next couple days, so I won’t have a chance to upload anything until I get back.