Songwriting Process: Part 2 (The... Other Stuff?)


This is Part 2 of my exploration of the song writing. You can find Part 1 here.

Ok, so I let the song bounce around in my head for a day. That was enough for me to start getting antsy and impatient to starting playing it and trying it out, and I ended up back at the theme of playful mockery.

I played it a few times, sort of humming and getting a feel for the rhythm of it, then got started writing. I usually write songs in English, but occasionally I write songs in French. My French has gotten rusty over the years, but I still derive a fair amount of pleasure from writing in another language. It's a good way to shake up themes and rhyme scheme and symbolism in your writing, I think, even if it's a bit child-like or sloppy. Again, no reason to fear mediocrity or failure.

Here's what I ended up with.

Toi, Tu T'es Moqué de Moi Toi, tu t'es moqué de moi

Mais quand meme tu me manque

L'amour embattant, embrouilée

Au point d'avale un pistolet

Mais no, ne t'inquiète jamais

ne t'embête de rien

Il suffusait de t'aimer bien

Je traine la memoire en bas de l'escalier

En cherchant d'un valet fort

Les valises sont trop pour mon effort

Eh bien, c'est clair

Tu m'as laissé a l'enfer

Mais ne t'inquiète pas

J'adore la chaleur!

So, this is my first skeleton of a song. Even if you don't speak French, you can no doubt hear me struggling to find the melody in a number of places. It'll probably take me a couple weeks to lock it down. Also, I usually perform songs with other musicians, and it's not the end of the world if I don't have every note locked down— even if I did, they'd be unlikely to play it note for note, and I much prefer it that way. I play jazz, not classical music. On the topic of playing with other musicians, most people I play with aren't particularly interested in singing in French. So, for this song, I translated it to English. It would perhaps be more accurate to say I converted it to English, since a translation would completely lose all of the rhythm and syncopation I wanted to have originally. Going back and forth like this is akin to rewriting the lyrics, and I think it's a good exercise in helping make sure I'm expressing what I want, getting all the meaning in. Here it is in English.

Tu T'es Moqué de Moi (English?)

You made me a fool every day

But I miss you anyway

This love is a muddle, a puzzle

A siren's call to taste the muzzle

But wait, there's no need to fret

No reason to feel rough

To have loved you was enough

I'll drag the memory away

in search of a strong valet

Just wait— you know how much this baggage weighs

So let's snip this one off neat

you left me dangling in hell

but never fear

I love the heat!

And that's that. It only took the 25 minutes or so between recording this and posting for me to hate quite a few of these turns of phrase here. In particular, "you left me dangling in hell". I'd probably try something playing on cold feet, which rhymes nicely and relates to the hell/heat symbolism a couple lines down. Same for the "muddle, puzzle, muzzle" bit. Could be fun to jam all those near each other, but I don't think it works as written now. Rhymes! That's another thing. I really love a good old-fashioned hokey rhyme scheme. In high school and college, I was really into the idea of less restriction along those lines, being drawn more to free verse rhyme (although I was still conscious of counting syllables). If I end up writing more verses, my usual process is to count syllables and then make sure each line matches. That makes it really easy to copy the melody over to new lyrics. After that's nice and comfy, I'll make modifications accordingly. OK! That's it! That's my foundation for writing a song. Next comes several years of playing it and tweaking it as I go along. I'll get insight from other musicians, from other songs I hear, from people's reaction when I play it live, everywhere I can. Maybe you'll hear it at a show sometime soon!

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