Blog Entry

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Posted on: August 2, 2009 2:27 pm
 
My hope here is to create a place where we can discuss what makes a great songwriter, why they are great songwriters and to analyze the aspects of  the many different styles of successful songwriting. I think it is impossible to just name THE TEN BEST or some other form of that style as there are so many ways to measure success. Is it most popular, which is what I believe happens when you have TEN BEST format? If so, ABBA and MICHAEL JACKSON are the greatest  songwriters ever arguably. Is it quantity of songs recorded? If so, Neil Sadaka and Burt Bacharach could be the  greatest songwriters ever. Is it most influential? If so, Bob Dylan is superceded by Woody Guthrie as he was a great influence on Dylan, the Beatles are superceded  by Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones are superceded by Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, etc. Do songwriting teams get the same respect as individual songwriters who write both lyrics and melodies? I think the best way to do this is to talk about the different genres of songwriting individually. I have made many friends the last couple of years on the music threads who I think I understand pretty well and who I think understand me pretty well. While I think my taste is pretty diverse and that I possess a pretty deep understanding of musical history, I tend to be pretty mainstream and centered around the 1964-1980s timeframe in a lot of ways and I will offer my opinions in that manner. Others seem to be quite adept at filling in the gaps of having a greater knowledge of pre-BEATLE rock and roll and R&B music from Motown ands STAX. Some are more knowledgeable about writers like Townes Van Zandt and Warren Zevon  or country tinged bands like Gram Parsons. Some of you really seem to like narrative songs that are thought provoking from artists like Springsteen. I believe there is room to explore all these areas and they all deserve to be discussed, but not all at the same time. So I will propose some ground rules.

I will offer up various topics to discuss one at a time. Please feel free to offer up individuals you which to champion or lists of your favorites. However, please try to include a little dialogue about your choices.

I will generally try to comment on the entries made by those who wish to visit here and I invite all participants to feel free to offer their opinions of both agreement and disagreement. However, everyone MUST BE RESPECTFUL AT ALL TIMES . Remember, we are all stating opinions, not facts and I will remove any posts that are inflammatory.

I hope that this will be a long running forum and free flowing forum where everyone is comfortable enough to visit frequently and express their views. I’m using the blog format to control content  to a degree and to promote more in depth analysis of this great subject.

OK, enough of me pontificating. Thanks to anyone out there who reads this and chooses to participate.

Category: General
Comments

Since: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: August 3, 2009 1:51 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

you represent a far different age demographic from myself
True.  But our tastes in music I believe are not too different.  I also enjoy Tom Petty, although I wouldn't say I know him well enough to be able to make in depth comments about his songwriting.

I would, however, like to say a few words about Coldplay.  I believe that, unlike many bands of today, Coldplay is really in touch with their inner voices and what they want to sound like.  I think that is why I love their music so much.  For instance, I don't know if any of you have ever heard their song "Fix You."  () That is one of their best songs in my opinion.  I believe that anyone can write music, but if you want people to find a deeper meaning and really connect to a song you write, you have to first find the deeper meaning in yourself.  This meaning is different with each song you write.  Also, for a band to hit the big time, they have to know what they want to sound like, where they want to fit in.  For instance, after several years or so of so-so songs, I was finally able to do this with a song I wrote, and it turned out to be the best song I ever wrote.  Look at Pink Floyd.  Like (probably) EVERYONE in my generation, I was introduced to Floyd via Dark Side of the Moon.  If you listen to their earlier albums, such as Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets, the songs undeniably have a different feel to them, when compared both to their later songs AND other earlier songs.  I believe that this is because the band wasn't really sure, with these earlier albums, what they wanted to sound like.  They tried a lot of different things, from the eerie interlude of the title track on Saucerful of Secrets to songs such as "Bike" from the Piper album that almost seem like they were meant to be a joke.  Finally, with Meddle and Dark Side, they discovered their trademark sound, and this is part of what made Dark Side such a smash hit.

I'm not really sure if this is related, but I also believe that everyone has a favorite key signature or two.  Most of you probably don't realize it, and some of you probably don't even really know what a key signature is.  But if you were to list say, 50 songs you really enjoy listening to, if you're like me, probably a good portion of them will be in the same key or maybe 2 similar keys.  For instance, my keys are E major and Eb major.  A while ago I built a playlist of 33 songs that really mean a lot to me, and probably about half of them are in these two keys, including the song "Fix You" afore mentioned (it's in Eb).  I also believe that your key signature reflects your personality.  For instance, E major is commonly used in calm, quiet songs, and I am generally a calm, quiet, person.

This probably isn't really what you were thinking of fansince.  I don't really know where I was going with this whole post.  What do you think?  Does any of that even make sense?

I will definitely be back!

MM



Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: August 2, 2009 11:55 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Very well said Fans.
I couldn't agree more.
Tom Petty has been one of my favorite songwriters/musicians since I first heard him with Damn The Torpedoes in 1979. That is one of those "instant classic" albums that don't come around very often.
Of course then  I went back and bought his first two albums and every album he's put out since.

I can honestly say that I love his solo work just as much as his stuff with The Heartbreakers. Full Moon Fever is incredible! Not a bad song on there!
But the album that I listen to most by Tom petty is one that you didn't mention Fans.
It's his latest album, - another solo effort - called Highway Companion. It came out in 2006 and I just can't get enough of it. It's got ballads, fast songs, fun songs - you name it, it's on there.
Jack, Big Weekend, Saving Grace, and Flirtin' With Time are my personal favorites from that album. But really I love the whole thing!




Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 2, 2009 9:12 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

Thanks for visiting MUFF.  I haven't crossed paths with you in a while so I'm really glad to see you here and I look foward to your contributions as you represent a far different age demographic from myself and several others I hope to see here. ROCK ON!!!



Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 2, 2009 9:10 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

      
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;      TOM PETTY


I’ll start with a little dissertation on Tom Petty.  Tom Petty writes songs in a similar vein to Bob Dylan, only they are condensed versions. And his nasally singing style sounds somewhat like Dylan, nobody has a better snarl when they sing than Tom Petty. And this attitude is reflected in many of his songs, such as I WON’T BACK DOWN and YOU’RE JAMMING ME. Petty has recorded songs in many different styles from the whimsical GIRL ON LSD to the hard rocking REFUGEE. Unlike many of the songwriters who started in the 70s, Petty continues to make quality records and  relevant songs such as THE LAST DJ. He has made great records both within the group confines of the HEARTBREAKERS to solo albums like WILDFLOWERS. He is also one of the main contributors to the TRAVELING WILBURYS, refusing to be intimidated by being surrounded by some all time greats such as George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Bob Dylan. Has Stevie Nicks ever recorded a better song than STOP DRAGGING MY HEART AROUND? Tom Petty has been a prolific songwriter, but has recorded remarkedly few average songs considering how many songs he has written. And while he occasionally collaborates with Mike Campbell, his guitarist from the Heartbreakers and the producers of most of Petty’s albums, the vast majority of the songs are all Petty. As a guitar player, I am amazed at the seeming simplicity of many of his songs and how they don’t all sound like retreads of the same thing despite containing many of the same chord progressions. Also surprisingly, while his voice is not really a great musical instrument, he seems to know his limits and manages to be instantly recognizable without sounding redundant. Petty is able to write songs about everyday common people, YOU DON’T KNOW HOW IT FEELS, and beautiful love songs ,THE WAITING. He is able to paint visual images with his lyrics with songs like INTO THE GREAT WIDE OPEN. My greatest compliment for Tom Petty is that he has always resisted the  trap of so many songwriter who enjoy commercial success and start to write songs from a “formula.” While Tom Petty is not THE BEST AMERICAN SONGWRITER ever, he is good enough to deserve  a place on the Mt Rushmore of AMERICA’S BEST SONGWRITERS.




Since: Apr 15, 2008
Posted on: August 2, 2009 7:42 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

No time to write a thoughtful comment now but I will DEFINITELY be back!  I am kind of a songwriter myself, so I am looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say!



Since: Dec 13, 2007
Posted on: August 2, 2009 5:26 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

I found the blog!
I have added it to my "quicklinks" and plan to visit here often.
Even when I don't have time to respond I'm sure this blog will provide plenty of great reading material.
Hopefully we can get even more than just our "regulars" to respond in here.
Looking forward to it Fans!
Hopefully I'll be back later with some "words of wisdom".



Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: August 2, 2009 2:45 pm
 

THE ART OF GREAT SONGWRITING FORUM

I think a good place to start is with GREAT NORTH AMERICAN SONGWITERS OF ROCK AND ROLL.  I would include people like BOB DYLAN, JOHN FOGARTY, BOB SEGER, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, J0HN MELLENCAMP, TOM PETTY, NEIL YOUNG, BILLY JOEL, JACKSON BROWNE, MARVIN GAYE, OTIS REDDING, JAMES TAYLOR, CAROLE KING, LEON RUSSELL, TOM WAITS, WARREN ZEVON, WILLIE NELSON, HANK WILLIAMS II, ROY ORBISON, etc in this catagory. These are all songwriters who rarely collaborate with others, preferring instead to write both lyrics and melodies. I consider this catagory COMPLETE SONGWRITERS.  This list off the top off my head is pretty diverse and not even close to being complete or all inclusive. Instead it is just a starting point for discussion and should be added to by similiar artists I have overlooked at this time. For my own taste, I prefer to pick a particular one of these artists to make a case for why I think they are a great songwriter and will do so in my next post. Until then, feel free to comment on these or any other artist that fits these parameters.


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