Tales of 14-Songs-in-14-Days: A ringer

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by Jan Seides
Wednesday 24th April, 2013, 8:28pm

Technically, this isn’t a 14-songs-in-14-days tale, though it still has to do with songwriting and with Pat Pattison and all the other usual earmarks.  We have a new 14-day challenge coming up on May 1st, though I won’t really be doing it until June.  I and several others begged off, partly because of the story I’m about to tell.  Also, my new CD will have it’s official release celebration on May 17th — at Joe’s Place, MLK and Chicon, 7 – 9 pm — and I feel like my time would be better spent preparing for that.

However, for at least one other person that declined the next challenge, it’s because Pat and Berklee School of Music offered an online songwriting class for FREE.  My favorite price.  It was though a company called Coursera, and it was very well put together.  And I’m about to tell you all about it and send you the two songs that came out of it.

We have actually already done one 14-day challenge this year, but it was about putting together effective metaphors, and I made it to Day 10, before real life took over.  It was grueling, requiring a lot of thought, and even more time.  I’m sure it was good for me, it was that painful.  Maybe one day I’ll go back and finish the other four days, mostly because it took such effort to get that far.  But I’d rather write songs….

So ….

The class was 6 weeks long, and involved putting to use the ideas that Pat presented in each of several lectures for each week.  For example, the first week was about describing a song idea in a series of boxes, each larger than the one before, and each concluding with the chorus idea in a way that made the chorus pay off bigger each time. It was also about identifying different points of view in examples of popular songs, and then trying them out in one’s own songs.  There were quizzes along the way, to make sure the student was getting the point, and then at the end there was an assignment involving the boxes.

I didn’t particularly care about getting a grade for the course, though later that did become an issue for me. I wanted to do well and get something out of it, after all.  But at the end of the first week, despite several hints that this was the case, I discovered that what I thought was the due date actually was not.  It had actually been the day before.  This happened because on the stated date, Monday, March 11th, the window closed at 9 AM.  9 AM?????  I’m a musician! The only reason I know there’s a 9 AM is because it’s on my clock.  Though not necessarily in bed, I’m usually not functional before 11, and even that’s iffy.  I haven’t been actually awake at 9 AM since I stopped having to take children to school …. a long time ago.

So I missed getting in the first assignment.  We weren’t supposed to write an actual song for it, just outline one in boxes, and just write the chorus and maybe the first verse.  In fact, I had been so intrigued by the idea for this one,  that I had most of the song.  Since I was kinda ticked off that the window closed that early, and since living well is still the best revenge: I went ahead and finished the song.  I ended up using it for the next assignment. There’s a link to it at the bottom of this post.  Recording is quick and dirty.  Garage Band. You know how that goes.

The next few weeks were spent variously on identifying different types of rhymes, and learning to use them in a song.  Pat generously offered to allow us to look on while he put the concepts into practice.  It had boxes, rhyming worksheets, choice of tones, lots of preparatory stuff. At one point, I thought to myself “This is pretty mathematical.” which (from me) is not a compliment…..

But then, he started to actually flesh out the song. Amazing!  Wonderful lyrics that not only suited the idea, but felt exactly the way I believe he intended us to feel.   “This way you don’t ever have to have writer’s block”,  he remarked during one presentation. I thought, “I don’t believe in writer’s block anyway!  I learned during the first 14-day challenge that songs are literally everywhere….oh wait!  The 14-day challenges were Pat’s idea too”.

Now the course is over.  I turned in the last assignment, designed to make the students use all the skills they’ve learned, and evaluated five of my fellow students’ efforts (We had to do this after each assignment.)  I’m waiting to see what five of my cohorts had to say about my efforts.  I know several others of the students personally, and wondered if I’d run into them during the 6 weeks.  Pretty unlikely. There were 65,000 people from all over the world taking this course is what I heard!

The results of the last assignment are also linked below.  (Same caveat about the recording quality.) So I got two new songs out of the 6 weeks.  Not bad.

One Tiny Step



Category: Music, This ‘n’ That, Uncategorized

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