April 19, 2008

Another new song, 1st draft

Following up on my earlier blog, "The Songwriting Process is Weird", I've written a 2nd and 3rd verse for the song. So here's the first draft lyrics, I will post a rough cut on my myspace site, myspace.com/rroper, so you can hear the music.

No Title Yet
by Rob Roper 1st draft April 19, 2008

She took off for Biloxi, with a banjo on her back
and left me here in Denver, trying to understand
I heard thunder in the distance, but I never thought it'd rain
and now you say, you'll be ok

Chorus
But try and explain that to my heart
It cries when it's left out in the dark
Like a child, it wants to have its way
everyday, and feel no pain
(hey-hey-hey)

Well, I've got a friend, all she does is cry
'cause he won't return her calls, and she don't know why
She showed me the pictures, of that beach in Mexico
I tried to say, you'll be ok, (but she said...)

Chorus
Try and explain that to my heart
It cries when it's left out in the dark
Like a child, it wants to have its way
everyday, and feel no pain
(hey-hey-hey)

Most good things come to an end
That's the way it's always been
Just listen to your brain, it's easy to explain
So what's wrong? Just move on

Chorus
But try and explain that to your heart
It cries when it's left out in the dark
Like a child, it wants to have its way
everyday, and feel no pain
(hey-hey-hey)

April 15, 2008

The Songwriting Process is Weird...

...but I'm starting to accept that, and even like it.

You may have noticed I haven't written any love/sex/relationship songs. Of course, that theme comprises probably 90% of all popular songs. That's partly why I haven't written any, I figure the world doesn't need anymore of them. Why write the same songs that have already been written 1,000,000 times by 1,000,000 songwriters? But I have done some free-writing on various past relationships, and even started putting some lines together. I thought I should do at least one.

I was trying out some lines with different types of music, not finding anything that seemed to resonate well. I then put on a cd of my "library" of music ideas--stuff I'd come up with and recorded so I wouldn't forget, sometimes years ago. One was on a mandolin. Upbeat, simple I-IV-V chords. I started to fast forward to the next idea, then hesitated. Hmmm... something about that. The girl in question was into bluegrass music... and maybe the music shouldn't be slow, shouldn't be minor key, the subject matter is dreary enough... let's try it. So I grabbed my acoustic guitar instead of the mandolin. The music on the mandolin was in D. I replicated it on the guitar. Then I remembered seeing a songwriter friend of mine, Ed Skibbe, performing recently, and it seemed on 2/3 of his songs he used a partial 5-string capo on the 2nd fret, for a drop-D simulation in E. I had one of those laying around, hadn't written a song that way before, so I slapped in on there. Bingo. That was it.

Once I had music that seemed right, what do you know? The lyrics started falling into place. Got a chorus--a good chorus too, if I do say so myself--and the first verse written. Some of my best stuff, I think. Here it is as it stands now:

Verse 1:
She took off for Biloxi
with a banjo on her back
And left me here in Denver
trying to understand
I heard the thunder in the distance
but I never thought it'd rain
And now you say
You'll be ok

Chorus:
But try and explain that to my heart
It cries when it's left out in the dark
Like a child, it wants to have it's way
Everyday
And feel no pain
Hey hey hey

Now for the second verse. Another weird thing happened. I'd written all sorts of other lines about the girl in question. But something said to me: you've said enough. Talk about somebody else now. I thought of a friend, and started writing about one of his experiences. Then I ran into another friend, and decided her story was better. I'll write that one for the 2nd verse.

Then I'll have either a bridge or a third verse where I summarize the theme--talk about how illogical the "heart" is; how the "brain" can accept that something is over and move on, but the heart won't listen. That's the plan now, it could change. Hell, the first verse and chorus could get changed, too! Gotta keep an open mind...

Weird how this songwriting works. But now I say, "bring on the weirdness".

April 11, 2008

Capturing Ideas: songwriting technology

Every songwriter knows that ideas--lyrics, melody and such--frequently come at times when you don't have a guitar, pen and paper handly, much less a multitrack recorder. But if you don't get them down, they're long gone and forgotten.

For a few years I carried a mini-cassette recorder in the car with me, because, oddly enough, I would get ideas for lines or melodies while driving. Of course I have a notebook (or notebooks), for free-writing and such. That was good for capturing ideas, but if I wanted to record a demo, I'd have to setup the microphones and my multitrack recorder.

Last December I gave myself a Christmas present: an Edirol R09 handheld digital recorder. I highly recommend it. It's easy to use, and the fidelity is great--of course, WAY better than a mini-cassette recorder or a boom box. In fact, the built-in microphones are good enough to record a concert. You can record to either .wav or directly to .mp3 files, then just transfer the files to your computer with a USB cable. I put two new songs that are in the first draft stage on my myspace site (myspace.com/rroper). I recorded them by simply setting the Edirol on the music stand next to the lyric sheet, and recording voice and guitar at the same time.

By the way, I'm not being paid to promote the Edirol R09. There are other similar products by Zoom, Tascam, Sony, etc. I can't say if those are better or worse. I suspect they're all pretty good.

Yesterday I got new cellphone, the Palm Centro. It has an application called "Voice Memo". The fidelity is crappy, but I think it will be fine for capturing lyric ideas if I don't have my Edirol with me.

April 5, 2008

New Song - You Could Have Had Me

I started work on this a few months ago, then forgot about it. I found it in my songwriting folder yesterday, worked on it yesterday and today, and got it to a first draft state. I'll record a crude version and post it on myspace for feedback.

You Could Have Had Me
by Rob Roper 1st draft April 5, 2008

You could have been happy
You could have had me
But you went for him
And I was just a friend
So I have no sympathy
For your latest tragedy
Why can't you see?
You could have had me

You like the pretty ones
Won't consider the other ones
But they don't need you
They get bored and they leave you
You wouldn't give me a chance
Now he's left you at the dance
Still you don't see
You could have had me

Oh, you say you'll change
But I know it's not true
You see, I understand
Cause I'm just like you

Soon you'll recover
And you'll find another
And he'll do you wrong
And you'll write another sad song
And I'll sip my beer
But I won't shed a tear
Cause you'll never see
You could have had me

Stepping back and looking at the lyrics myself, I see no detail or imagery, no similes or metaphors except for the metaphor about leaving her at the dance. But I worry that's a cliche. I'll try it out at some gigs and open mics the next couple of months, and continue to tinker with it.

-Rob