December 30, 2007

music choices for lyrics

I had a lyric idea awhile back: "You/I got a heart but no brain... Lumber but no hammer/an apprentice with no master". (I haven't decided yet whether it will be in the first or second person). I then came up with some chords and a melody for it. But the melody and chords sounded familiar, and sure enough, I realized it was almost the same as another song someone else had written. I guess that song was in my subconscious. I was a little bummed because I couldn't use the melody and chords, they seemed perfect for the lyric. Not to mention that I would have to start over.

I have a bunch of music ideas without lyrics. I like to just fiddle around with the guitar and come up with music. When I get something interesting, I record it. So last night I started listening to some in hopes of finding one that might work for the lyric. After going throught the first 20 music ideas--not even half--I had 3 that might fit. So I went down to the basement and tried them out. One seemed to work the best. Interesting enough, it was in a minor key; the almost-stolen chords were in a major key. I actually like my chords and melody better than the one I almost stole!

-Rob

December 16, 2007

new song, early stages

I'm going to show my songwriting butt to the world in this blog. Here's a song in the earliest stages of development. Earlier today I was going to work on one of my many unfinished songs, but couldn't get motivated. I just wanted to play electric and loud. So I turned on an amp and grabbed my electric guitar, for some weird reason I started playing some rock-reggae music, Dm to Am. I immediately thought of some stream-of-consciousness free-writing I did about a month ago. So I dug it out, and started singing some of these lines to the music. Here's the lines-- no structure yet, no rhyme, etc. Just building blocks.

Too much traffic
Too much stress
Bright lights in my face
I can't see / I can't look away
I can't pass
running off the road
When did this start?
How did this happen?
What went wrong?
I thought I was smart
Doesn't make sense
Where's the essence?
Where's the root
Too many filters
It's all fake
It's all an illusion / delusion / mirage
lake in the desert
false attraction
noise and chatter
too many distractions
can't hear the music
too much chatter
I follow the leader
not my brain
too many salesmen
grabbing my arms
reaching for my pocket
too much greed
lying is respectable
everyone does it.

In the past, I would have started trying to assemble these into a structure, with rhyme. But as a result of the mentoring sessions I did with John Common, I'm gonna try to stay in the creative mode longer, and just groove on a few of the lines with the guitar, experiment with melodies and rhythms and chords. I'm open to changing anything. Might not end up as reggae. Might be acoustic. Might not be Dm-Am. I might keep the music and throw out all the lines and write a completely different theme.

I'll keep you posted.

P.S. - a lesson learned here: if it's time for your scheduled songwriting time, and you're feeling uncreative, lethargic and unmotivated, do it anyway. Do something. You never know what might happen. Put the time in.

-Rob

December 8, 2007

Your Last Day (poem)

My brother Mark died in Feb 2007 from brain cancer. His last days were spent at a hospice. I got this idea yesterday and wrote it down.

Your Last Day
by Rob Roper Dec 7, 2007

It was cold
and snowing, lightly.

You didn't open your eyes
You couldn't talk anymore
We talked to you
but we didn't know
whether you could hear us
We talked to you anyway
just in case.

But most likely you were dreaming
and the dreams were probably wild and exotic
All dreams are
Time and people and places
are juxtaposed, inverted
disassembled and reassembled randomly
It all makes sense in the dream
Then you wake up and think, "that was weird".

But of course you didn't wake up.

The next morning you passed away.
And the snow stopped falling
And the sun came out.

November 17, 2007

Songwriting is not work

I went to a 2-hour songwriting workshop today at Swallow Hill in Denver, given by songwriter Tom Kimmel. My personal takeaway was, stop using the term "work" when thinking about songwriting. I will no longer say, "I'm going to *work* on a song now". Work--ugh! Who wants to work? That's no fun. A song is not a *chore*; something to get done; something to cross off the todo list. From now on I'm going to say, "I'm going to *play* with this song". I'm going to "have some fun". On the surface it sounds like just different terminology for the same thing, but behind the terminology is a completely different attitude. When it comes to chores, I procrastinate. No problem with procrastination when it comes to fun. But more importantly, "work" and "play" use different parts of the brain. "Work" uses the logical, editor part of the brain, and "play" uses the creative, imaginative side. I think the reason I've been having trouble getting songs done is that I need to be in the creative mode more than the logical mode.

November 1, 2007

The Solution to Writer's Block: write crap, have fun



I emailed a songwriter friend of mine, Kathy, and asked how she's doing. She replied:

*****

I'm Ok. Pretty tired. I need to schedule some more shows. I have been lazy. I also tried to write a song today. i am really haviing a hard time with my inner critic. i just don't like what I am writing and haven't got much inspiriation.
I am starting to feel like I won't write another song.

*****

I replied:

There's tricks you can do to overcome that, you know. :) The main thing is, take the pressure off, banish the critic; bound and gag her and lock her in the closet. Then let the playful, creative side of you just have fun, with no expectations.
Do something weird. Write an acapella song. Put the capo in a weird place. Start with a chord you NEVER start a song with. Try a song in DADGAD. Write a really stupid, corny song. Nobody will ever have to hear this stuff. Write a song that's so personal and depressing and suicidal that you would die of embarassment if anyone were to ever hear it. Invent a character and write a short story about the character. Write a poem. Write two poems. Just have fun. No expectations of any of this becoming a song. Consider it practice; exercises.

That's my advice, for what it's worth. :)

-Rob

*****

Then I wrote her again:

Kathy,

After sending you my advice, I remembered this. Following my own advice, I was sitting out on my front porch in the late afternoon/early evening, not long after Song School, and said I'm gonna try something goofy. I'll go through my notebook of observations, pick a phrase, and just start writing from it. About a year ago I would walk around my neighborhood with a mini-cassette recorder and just make random observations. One of those was "a window with no curtains". So I wrote that down on the tablet, and just started writing, with no idea where I was going to go. Here's what happened:

The Window with no Curtains
by Rob Roper 1st draft Sept 5, 2007

This window had no curtains
And the light was always on
You could see the furniture in the living room
an antique sofa
antique chair
coffee table
end tables
oil painting over the sofa

But I never saw anyone in that living room
You wondered if anyone even lived there?
They must always be in a back room-- a den, a "family room"
This must be the "formal" living room
For show-- not for human habitation
Seems like a waste
Like a museum
But a museum that no one ever visits

But still, they have to clean it
Dust the shelves
Clean the furniture
Sweep and mop the floor
Funny how a room without life still gets dirty

I want to break in when they go on vacation
invite a bunch of teenagers over
Buy 'em some cheap beer and cheap wine
Tell 'em to have a party
Get drunk, dance, have sex, vomit on the floor
Wreck the place
and least then it would have been lived in.

No, that's mean.
I should have empathy for these people.
I bet they're lonely.
I bet they have no fun.
I bet they're sad.
I should show up one night with a bunch of friends.
Knock on the door, invite ourselves in.
Bring some good beer, good wine, good whiskey.
We'll show 'em how to party
and be happy.
We'll use that room.
We'll dance and drink (but we won't vomit)
Get out the guitars and sing songs til 4 in the morning.

Of course it would never happen.
But now, when I walk past that house
And look in the window with no curtains
and the light on
and the undisturbed furniture
with nobody in it
I smile.

That will probably amount to nothing, but it gets the creative juices flowing, and it was fun!

-Rob

*****

Kathy wrote back:

thanks Rob! I will give it a try. I like the poem. It is good visualization. Kind of like a kid story, but with booze and vomiting.

*****

I wrote:

Yes, go write something stupid like that! It might get you going! This should be fun, not work.

-Rob

*****

Kathy wrote back a couple days later:

I never used the word stupid!! But I did write somethng that was just talking and not trying to be artistic. It felt better and now I want to write some more.

Thanks

*****

I replied:

Yes! and stupid is ok, if it gets you writing again!

*****

Actually, I can't take full credit for this advice. I stole it from Peter Himmelman. At his workshop at the Rocky Mountain Song School in 2004, a young girl said she had made an album, but was now suffering from writer's block. Peter told her, "write crap". He said it's important to keep writing, even if it's not serious. It doesn't have to be recorded, nobody has to see it. But it keeps you in practice. And you never know, while trying to write crap you might accidently write something good. I never forgot that.

The Importance of Detail in Songwriting

A new music discovery for me is a songwriter named Kevin Quain. Last summer, at the Irish Festival in Littleton, Colorado, I heard a great band called The Town Pants. They played a song called "Mr. Valentine's Dead", which I thought was great. I bought their cd with the song, and, upon reading the cd booklet, saw that it was written by somebody named Kevin Quain. I googled him, found his website, made friends with him on myspace, and bought his 3 cd's. Turns out this isn't the only good song he's written, he has a lot of great songs. But I want to use "Mr. Valentine's Dead" as an example of how the use of detail really helps a song. Here's the lyrics:

*****

Mr. Valentine's Dead
by Kevin Quain

Mr. Valentine's dead, and he's drinking Manhattans
singing a coal miner's tune
in his daddy's tuxedo, and Fred Astaire shoes
he's the best looking corpse in the room.

Mr. Valentine's dead, and the angels are waiting
down at the end of the bar
Well they're drinking martinis, and laughing at nothing
smoking Havana cigars

Chorus:
Have you ever seen dead men dancing so lightly?
Did you ever hear corpses who sing?
Mr. Valentine's dead, and the angels will take him
but not 'til he's finished his drink.

Mr. Valentine's dead, but it won't slow him down
He's determined to stay on his feet
And he bangs on the table, and orders a round
and pays with the gold in his teeth

Mr. Valentine's dead, and he's singing in Spanish
wearing a rose in his hair
Now the angels are howling, and drinking tequila
shooting their guns in the air

(Chorus)

Mr. Valentine's dead, but he still loves a party
He's always the last one to leave
And he hangs down his head, and cries like a baby
when the band's playing "Goodnight, Irene"

Mr. Valentine's dead, but he's never looked better
Tell the priest we won't need him tonight
Tell his mom to stop crying, and the band to keep playing
'cause the angels are too drunk to fly

(Chorus)

*****

Notice the detail. First of all, the guy has a name--Mr. Valentine. He's not having a drink; he's "drinking Manhattans". He's not just singing any old song, he's singing "a coal miner's tune". And so forth. To drive home the point, let's subtract all the details, and replace them with generic lines that essentially mean the same thing, and see how it affects the song:

Mr. Valentine's Dead - Rob Roper's butchered version with detail removed

A man is dead, and he's having a drink
singing an old folk song
in an old suit, and old dancing shoes
he's the best looking corpse in the room.

The man is dead, and the angels are waiting
down at the end of the bar
Well they're having drinks, and laughing at nothing
smoking expensive cigars

Chorus:
Have you ever seen dead men dancing so lightly?
Did you ever hear corpses who sing?
The guy is dead, and the angels will take him
but not 'til he's finished his drink.

The man is dead, but it won't slow him down
He's determined to stay on his feet
And he bangs on the table, and orders a round
and then he pays for it

The man is dead, and he's singing a song
acting silly
Now the angels are howling, and having drinks
acting reckless

(Chorus)

The guy is dead, but he still loves a party
He's always the last one to leave
And he hangs down his head, and cries like a baby
when the band's playing his favorite song

The man is dead, but he's never looked better
Tell the priest we won't need him tonight
Tell his mom to stop crying, and the band to keep playing
'cause the angels are too drunk to fly

(Chorus)

*****

It's still a pretty good song; there's still the humor of a dead guy who's still behaving as if he's alive, and the funny stuff about the angels. But not as good. Don't you miss the "Fred Astaire shoes" and things like that?

For many songwriters--including me when I started out-- the second, butchered version is closer to what we write, at least on the first draft. I've learned to run my songs through a "detail filter", and if there's no detail, to add some. For example, instead of saying, "I was walking down the street", say "I was walking down Maple Street". Instead of saying, "It was morning", say "It was seven in the morning" and so forth. Instead of saying, "an old man", say "Mr. Valentine". It's more interesting, don't you think?

-Rob

October 30, 2007

The Artist and the Editor

Songwriters like to talk about the two elements of songwriting, sometimes called inspiration and craft, or the "creative" and the "editor". This correlates to what we call the "left brain" and "right brain"; the creative side of the brain and the logical side. Call it what you want, but the reality is, both are needed to write a song.

In the last year, I've started several songs, but they remained unfinished. I had a musical idea, a few good lines, a rhythm and melody--all of which I liked-- but couldn't seem to get the song finished. Those last few lines just didn't come.

I figured, OK, the creative part of the songwriter has come up with music and some lyrics, now it's time to hand it off to the editor. The editor worked many hours trying to get the songs finished, but just couldn't do it. The artist became impatient and frustrated with the editor: "Hey, I did my part. Why don't you do your job? I need this song done. Now!"

But, in hindsight, I think that the artist turned the songs over to the editor prematurely. The artist had more work to do. The artist needed to experiment with different melodies, different chords, different lyrics, maybe even a different theme. The artist was trying to make the editor do things that the editor isn't capable of. Only after the emotional core of the song is worked out, with the melody, music, rhythm, and at least half the lines, can it be handed to the editor to polish and finish. The artist was slacking. Typical artist.

Put another way, I was unconsciously trying to take shortcuts. But in trying to take a shortcut to get the song done, I was actually causing the process to take longer.

I want to thank fellow Denver songwriter John Common for helping me figure this out.

-Rob

October 22, 2007

Things I wish someone had told me about songwriting

I wanted to write songs when I was 18. But I didn't know how. And didn't have anybody to go to for advice. I didn't have any friends who were songwriters. No one in my family was a songwriter. There were no websites and blogs. No books on songwriting, no workshops, no songwriting schools.

I wish somebody back then would have told me these things:

1. Like any other art or craft, you have to learn it, and practice. Songwriters aren't "born" (well, maybe some are). Most will tell you that it's the result of hard work.

2. You have to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run. Don't expect your first songs to be great. You learn by doing. Frustration and self-doubt come with the territory.

3. Schedule songwriting sessions. Be disciplined. Show up for work. Put the time in...

4. ...but don't pressure yourself to accomplish anything in those sessions. Have fun, enjoy it. If you put the time in, you *will* get results.

5. Seek out other songwriters. Make friends with them. Ask for advice. Ask for constructive criticism.

I wonder how different my life would have been if someone had told me those things when I was 18? Maybe if I write them here, someone else won't have to figure them out on their own.

-Rob

September 20, 2007

Self-doubt

For myself and other beginner writers, there's a self-doubt demon, conscious or unconscious, that telling us, "You're not really an artist. You're not really a writer. A writer is Hemingway, Yeats, Twain, Faulkner. You call yourself a writer? Ha! You're not in that class. Who are you trying to fool? Do something useful."

That self-doubt demon is evil. You have to confront him, punch him in the stomach, kick his teeth in. He's holding you back from doing what will make you happy. Of course you're an artist! Of course you're a writer! If you weren't, you wouldn't be trying to find time for it! Yes, you're not a Faulkner--yet; that's because you haven't put enough time in. And maybe you'll never be that good. So what? You're still a writer, you're still an artist. This is what you do.

A couple years ago, at Song School, I went to a class by Beth Nielsen-Chapman. She's been making a living as a songwriter in Nashville for 25-30 years. She said (paraphrasing), "Everyone has had unique experiences, and so everyone sees the world in a unique way. Therefore, only you can write your songs. No one else can." This had a huge impact on me. On the one hand, it means that the greatest songwriters--the ones that I admire the most--can't write my songs. Even with their craft and experience, they don't see things the way I see them. That's a powerful feeling. On the other hand, it's an awesome responsibility. It means that, if I don't write these songs, they will never be written.

Of course, the self-doubt demon is still there. Even after knocking him out, he gets back up and sucker-punches me when I'm least expecting it. It's a constant battle, but I think that half the battle is being aware of his existence, and knowing that he's wrong.

Songwriting Discipline

I've learned that, just like exercise, you have to schedule songwriting (or any kind of writing). You can't take the attitude that's it's optional; something you'll do "if you have time". You'll never have time. You have to make time. It has to be scheduled, and you have to be "religious" about it. And you must defend it from all attackers--wives, kids, friends... but mainly from the enemy within yourself.

Yourself? Yes, yourself. My brother Greg, a writer and English professor, is grappling with this problem. Why don't you schedule time to write? Because, he said, "it seems self-indulgent rather than important and essential."

Of course that's nonsense, as he knows. If you're a writer--even a beginner writer, then it's important and essential for your happiness.

But like exercise, you need to set achievable, realistic goals. Maybe you shouldn't say "I'm going to schedule an hour a day". That's too big a departure from your current routine, so you could be setting yourself up for failure. Try something less that's more easily achievable. For example, 20 or 30 minutes, 3 days a week. You can increase the time later if you want. But regardless how short a time it is, it should be a regular schedule. For example: "On Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday morning I will write from 6:20am to 6:50am."

You'd be surprised what you can accomplish in 1/2 hour, or even 20 minutes.

I'm not a morning person, so getting up early 3 days a week to write just isn't going to happen. I know that. I work a day job, so after I get off work at 5pm, I go exercise on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (also Saturday and Sunday). Then I take a shower, and write from about 6:30pm to 7:00pm. Then I have dinner. So I schedule both my exercise and my songwriting, one after the other. I also schedule a longer session on Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

Another thing I learned: don't set any goals or expectations for your writing period. For example, DON'T say, "I'm going to finish the song I started 6 months ago in this session." If you do that, you won't finish it, because you'll be feeling the pressure, and then you'll beat yourself up about it. The only thing you have to say is, "I am going to write during this time." If you schedule time and write, then things WILL get accomplished eventually.

-Rob

September 18, 2007

Working on Multiple Songs

When I get stuck on a song, and can't seem to make progress, I leave it, and work on another one.

I used to think this was a bad thing; a clear sign of an amateur songwriter, if not a personality defect. Surely a real songwriter wouldn't give up when they hit a block; a real songwriter would stay with it, overcome the obstacles, and finish the song. Last fall I got frustrated by the fact that I had so many songs in an half-finished state, that I told myself, "You cannot start any new songs until you finish some of these." I figured that would motivate me to get them done. It didn't help. It just made me feel worse about myself, or at least about my songwriter self.

I wrote Denver songwriter John Common about this, asking for tips on how to speed up the process of finishing songs. He replied, "The only trick I've learned is to simultaneously be working on 15 songs ALL THE TIME. That way, when one dead ends, you've got 14 others waiting for attention." Good advice.

At the Rocky Mountain Song School, someone asked songwriter Darrell Scott essentially the same question. Darrell said (I'm paraphrasing him), "Be patient. It will come when it's ready. Don't beat yourself up about it."

Work on 15 songs all the time. Don't beat yourself up. Be patient. Those are my songwriting mantras now.

Disclaimer: I know some people like to work on one song, and one song only, until it's done. If that works for you, cool! Do whatever works.

-Rob Roper

Non-Linear lyric writing

When I first tried to write songs, I tried to write them in a "linear" way; that is, start with the first line of the first verse, then the second line, and so forth. Don't start the second verse until the first verse is done, don't start the third verse until the second is done. Maybe the chorus would be written before the first verse, maybe after. But I would try to write the song sequentially.

The problem with that is, if I got stuck on, say, the third line of the first verse, then everything came to a halt. But also--and perhaps more importantly--the lines tended to be pure narrative, and not very interesting.

A couple years ago I changed my method of lyric writing. I would first free-write about the subject to flesh out my thoughts and generate interesting words and phrases. Then I'd develop lines from those phrases. At this point, I have no idea whether these lines will be in the chorus or verse, or which verse, or what order in the verse. I'm just trying to generate good, interesting lines. Sometimes I find lines which rhyme, and I wasn't even trying to rhyme them. That's a bonus to this approach-- the rhymes sound unforced and natural, because they are.

I then start arranging the lines into a structure; into verses, chorus (if the song has one) and bridge (if the song has one). Of course, with this I usually only end up with half the number of lines I need. I have several songs at this stage of development right now. My current challenge is to find better ways of getting those remaining lines. But, when I *do* get the song done, I find that the lines of the song are stronger when I do it this way.

I call this "non-linear" songwriting, because I don't try to write the song sequentially. It's more like gathering pieces of a puzzle and then assembling them together.

I'm sure "linear" or "sequential" songwriting works for some people. If so, by all means continue doing it! The only "rule" for songwriting is to do whatever it takes to write a good song. But if you are using the "linear" method and struggling, you might want to try my "non-linear" method and see if that helps.

-Rob Roper

September 12, 2007

On downloads and "piracy"

As a songwriter and performer who would love to be able to quit his day job and make a living playing music, I thought I'd give my opinions on the downloading and "piracy" issue.

First thing I'd like to say is, regardless of how you feel on the issue, it's a losing battle. It's like illegal drugs and illegal immigration. You can't stop it. That's just a simple fact you have to face. People are going to obtain music without paying for it. You can condemn it, rage against it, but you can't stop it.

As a songwriter, I know how hard it is to write a good song. I know how much time goes into it; the self-doubt, the frustration. So I understand that songwriters would like to get paid for their efforts.

However, I would also like to point out the advantages that performers often ignore in their rants against "piracy". I'm a songwriter and performer, but I'm also a fan; a music consumer. I don't know how many times a friend has burned a cd for me, or emailed a song by people that I had never heard of before. As a result, I've gone to see them when they come to town. I never would have gone if my friend hadn't engaged in download "piracy" and turned me on to them. That was one less ticket they would have sold. And I've then gone and purchased cd's by the band.

That brings up another point. There have been times where a friend has burned a cd for me so I can check out a band. I liked it so much, I went out and bought the cd. Why? Because I wanted the booklet; I wanted the lyrics, I wanted to see who played what instruments, etc.

So "piracy" has advantages and disadvantages for the performer: on the one hand, cd sales are lowered by people who download songs. On the other hand, cd sales and live performance ticket sales can be increased, due to the increased exposure of the artist.

The recording industry is less than 100 years old. I think it was in the 1920's that the Victrola was invented. What did performers do before that? There were no records, no cd's, and no mp3's. The only way for performers to get paid was by... performing. So, in the extreme case that nobody ever again pays for recorded music, performers have simply come full circle. (Although, unlike performers before 1920, they now sell t-shirts, caps, g-strings...).

Of course there's the question of songwriters who don't perform, but write songs for others. Again, I ask, what happened before the recording industry was established? The "professional songwriter" is a creature of the recording industry. Of course, classical music composers were paid for their compositions. But in popular, or folk music, I don't think songwriters were paid. And their songs weren't copyrighted; nobody knew who wrote the old Irish or English or American folk songs. That's why the author of these songs is always listed as "traditional".

The recording industry is worried about downloading. Screw 'em. These are the people who kept a lot of creative people out, and controlled what got recorded, and who got on the radio, and who got to tour and play live. We still hear the remnants of the "music industry" on corporate radio today; radio that plays the same 10 crappy songs all day everyday. They dominate the airwaves--but not the internet.

Now, thanks to digital technology, a "nobody" like me doesn't have to beg for a recording contract. I can record music at home of reasonably good quality, and make it available to whoever wants it. So, if the music industry, as we know it, dies, I say, good riddance.

So download my songs, pass 'em around to friends, I won't ask how you got it or if you paid for it. I'm honored that you like my music and want to tell other people about my songs. Come see me play live. Buy a Rob Roper t-shirt or g-string. Then, if you really like my music and would like to help me quit my day job and devote myself to music fulltime, pay for a cd or downloads. That makes you a "platinum" fan. :)

So pardon my rambling, I'm still sorting out my views on this subject. I'd love to hear what others think about the issue and my views, both from a music consumer standpoint, and a performer and songwriter standpoint.

-Rob Roper

September 10, 2007

Jeff's Songwriting Blog

I was inspired to create this blog partly because of Jeff Oxenford's songwriting blog. He has a lot of good stuff on his, check it out: http://jeffsongwriting.blogspot.com/

September 8, 2007

songwriting and movement

I drove to the mountains west of Denver yesterday and went for an afternoon hike. One of the advantages of living in Denver is that I can go from being in the middle of the city to a mountain trail in 45 minutes. I took a cd I had made of musical ideas and listened to it on the car stereo while driving into the mountains. Sometimes I'll sit with a guitar--electric or acoustic--and noodle around. I always record those noodlings--or I do now--I've lost so many good ideas because I didn't record them. When I collect about 20 of them, I'll burn them to a cd. Nothing fancy; in fact, very crude. Then I'll listen to them later, and see if any of them might be a good match for some lyrical ideas I've written.

Anyway... I was listening to some of those while driving to the mountain. One I had come up with 2 years ago, I started singing a melody--la-la's and nonsense, and started getting some lyrical ideas. The stuff started flowing out, and reminded me of a lyrical concept I had a couple years ago. It's weird; if I'm sitting at a desk with a pen and paper, this doesn't happen. I have to be moving. Even though I'm sitting while driving a car, for some reason, I get ideas while driving that I would never get sitting at home.
It's not very efficient; I have to sing these ideas into a mini-cassette recorder, and then transcribe them to paper when I get home. I wish I could get the same ideas sitting at my desk at home, but unfortunately, it doesn't work that way for me, I have to be moving.

Once I got to the trailhead and parked my car, I started hiking. I get a lot of ideas hiking. I bring my notebooks and song folders with me in my backpack. If I don't want to stop hiking I use the mini-cassette recorder (that's old technology, I know; if I wanted to be modern I'd use a microphone with an ipod).

I jog 4-5 days a week to try and keep the fat off. I get ideas jogging. That's the worst--can't bring a notebook and pen while jogging, and can't really bring the mini-cassette recorder either. I have to hope I remember the ideas when I get home.

I wrote the chorus to "Invisible Prison" while hiking, and the verses while jogging. The chorus to "When They Go" came to me while walking around the neighborhood on a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon. The melody to "The Screwup Song" came while jogging. The lyrical concept behind "Let it Go" came while driving (no surprise, given the second verse). A considerable part of the lyrical development of "A Special Request" came while hiking. Guess that explains why I don't get as much songwriting done in the winter...

-Rob Roper

September 6, 2007

Welcome to my Blog

Welcome to my google blog site. Yes, I'm belatedly joining the blogging fad. I'll probably use this mostly for music--to comment on what I've learned about songwriting, recommend musical artists I've discovered, and such. I might comment on politics, but probably not. I find that the political blogsites just become an insult contest; nobody ever convinces anyone to change their mind. So I'll probably stick to music, but never say never...

-Rob