January Meeting Recap
The Jan. 3 meeting went well — bla bla bla — but the showcasing and discussion of the monthly songwriting assignment was outstanding.
Mention “songwriting mechanics” to some amateur songwriters and you get a blank stare. Sounds too complicated, too professional, too hard to think about what I’m doing, too … not fun.
But in the 12 years I’ve been working with this group, I’ve discovered that I and many others were unintentionally using long-established methods and techniques without knowing they actually have names. For me, it was incredibly reassuring, confirmation that maybe I was doing something right.
The songwriting assignment idea proposed by longtime Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle member Sue Gartland (email@example.com) was to write a song that includes a pre-chorus. Not surprisingly, some members said they didn’t do the assignment and then work-shopped a song that included a pre-chorus.
– To understand why your song may need a pre-chorus — or why your brain knew better and wrote one without your knowing it — imagine what a familiar song would sound like without its powerful pre-chorus:
Find the last two lines lines at the end of each verse: “Imagine all the people / living for today” (lyrics change with each verse). Notice how the verse grows musically when the chord pattern shifts from repeating C/Cm7/F in the first four lines (chord changes are at the beginning of each bar) to F/Am/Dm7/F G/CG/G7 in the last two lines (chord changes occur twice in each bar). The changes lift the emotional value of the verse before segueing to C for the familiar chorus: “You may say I’m a dreamer…”
Now that you’ve discovered the pre-chorus in Lennon’s song, take it out. Sing the song to yourself without those lines: “Nothing to kill or die for/ And no religion too/ You may say I’m a dreamer …”
Musically and lyrically, the song works without a pre-chorus, just as your song might seem fine without that optional bit of songwriting mechanics. But is “Imagine” as strong of a song without Lennon’s use of a simple songwriting device that sets up a powerful chorus? What could a pre-chorus could do for your song?
A last week’s meeting, while shuttling between Nashville and Washington, Pa., member Jordan Umbach (firstname.lastname@example.org), backed on box drum by his brother Christian, silenced the room with a few of his newish contemporary country songs. The half-hour featured set preceded a robust open stage.
Next month, at the Feb. 7 meeting, in the featured slot for the first time witness the sharp piano pop sensibilities of Jon Eric (email@example.com).
And because “pre-chorus” went so well, the suggested February songwriting assignment takes another look under the hood at song mechanics. As proposed by Brian Junker (firstname.lastname@example.org), write a song that starts with the chorus. Hmmm.
– Leslie Gore “It’s My Party” by Wally Gold, John Gluck Jr. and Herb Weiner.
– The Beatles “Help,” Lennon/McCartney.
– “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks.
– Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” cowritten by Kevin Kadish;
See you soon,