I like variety of tastes
I am not sure that I hate any music. I think variety and appreciation of different styles of music is good for creativity and novelty.
Tasting music for me is much like tasting food. Some recipes and presentations of foods are very good, while other combinations of ingredients and presentations are horrible.
Music can be seen as a combination of musical ingredients. If I want to taste some blues, then I will likely hear some call and response, 12 bar progression, expressive improvisational solos, and feeling in the vocals. This is one of my favorite musical foods, just like the way I like Mexican food because of the ingredients that usually make up those dishes.
I dislike some specific groups and their own specific styles, but it is more difficult to say I hate an entire genre. A lot has to do with how the music is presented. I can enjoy heavy metal, if it has sweet guitar solos. I can enjoy country music if it tastes authentic. I can enjoy pop music if there is smoke in the singer's voice and spicy dynamic changes. Jazz has it's own distinctive taste, but some Jazz is too difficult to digest. I prefer my Jazz "cool."
I believe that we all have our own tastes for music that don't match any other person's exactly. If I had to choose between no music at all and music that I say that I dislike now, I would probably choose the music I dislike. I think music is a need for me just like food. I need it to survive and be well. I could survive with music I don't like for a while, but I would feel malnourished. So, the music I dislike is the music that does not nourish my souls thirst for expressive, interesting, sensible music.
Writing music that is tasteful for others is another challenge in itself. Having to think of what others might want takes a producer's mind, not just a creative songwriter's mind. In my work here with EngagingMelodies I aspire to choose good ingredients, style, and present tastefully, because I am preparing the meal for someone else.
I have read only two books on songwriting in my life. So, as far as formal education of songwriting, I am lacking. I picked up some things from each of these books, but I don't think either gave me any great skill that I wouldn't have otherwise.
What these books did for me was make me hypersensitive to the songwriting techniques used by those artists I enjoy. As I listen to a song, I analyze how the verses are formulated to go with the chorus. I ask myself why the artist chose certain words, or made things vague. So, the time since reading the books may be more of an education than the time of reading each.
Some books about songwriting are better than others. In this case, Writing Better Lyrics was what I needed most. I am a more natural music writer, but it was difficult for me to make the transition to seriously edit my own lyric writing. What you have to learn to do is cut out the crap, revise, and then cut out even more crap. If there's anything left, then you have a song worth keeping.
One common thing that amateurs like me often do is write lyrics that don't match perfectly with the meter and length of time for each line musically. I am still working on this, and I think mistakes in this way can actually enhance song lyrics. The professionals seem to do this naturally.
Luckily, I have kept both of these books to look over when I need to go back and do some revision. Unfortunately, neither of these books will create inspiration or motivation to write, so they are more like objective feedback than anything else. I have always been the type to jump in without reading, and that's the best way to start a song. Sometimes a song can stand alone unedited, unrefined, and uneducated.
Music for me is about feeling, not logic and education. The feeling in music should always come first, because if it's not there you have nothing worth hearing. However, logic and education can make writing more efficient and effective. I still have a way to go with both feeling and education, but I have a humble start.
A Custom Anniversary Song
My next custom gift song is due in December, and it is for an anniversary gift of a woman who is in the Philippines to a man who is in Australia. The lady wants a song that captures some of her blog posts. The first thing I like to do when writing for someone is try to identify a major theme. After reading a couple of her blog posts, and taking notes, I have identified some keywords.
Here are the keywords I collected from her writing:
FAIRY TALES- princess, castle, puffy dresses, shiny tiaras, knight in shining armor
CHANCE ENCOUNTERS- old school mates, gazes, seeing faces, not knowing names, not love at first sight, no formal acquaintance
DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIP- hold hands, hug, heart flutters, butterflies, conversations, questions, long distance, praying, family, friends, love, faith, God, blessed
Then, the overarching theme I found was FATE... and this fate ties together this irrational-like thinking of fairy tales with the real world difficulty of living in a long distance relationship. Fate is what makes even the most difficult time of our lives take on a more important meaning. Fate brings us together over and over, until we are slapped in the face with an unarguable fact that there is meaning and promise to what is happening.
The Plan for this Custom Anniversary Song
I would like to use fate as the ultimate theme in the song, and I will attempt to use the story of Charm and Aaron in order to back up the idea of fate in their lives. Then, because it is an anniversary son, I will attempt to make the entire thing relevent for the rest of their lives. This is the task at hand, so if you have any ideas, suggestions, or want to make any other comment, feel free to give me some more perspective.
Some people think that writer's block is the most difficult part of writing a song, but I beg to differ. From what I understand, writer's block is when you have an idea about what you want to write about and you can't get started. I think the most difficult part comes a little earlier.
The most difficult part for me comes when I can't conceive something worth writing about, or when I don't care enough about what I will write. So, for me, the most difficult part comes when I lack the motivation to feel strongly enough to write. It's more apathy and lack of inspiration than not knowing where to start.
I think this is why I enjoy writing songs for other people so much. I can read a few lines someone writes to me in an e-mail and get a world of empathy going for that person. Then I can channel my own imagined picture of that person's life into a song, because I truly believe the person is interesting and worthy. When I look at my own life, I have trouble glamorizing it to the point where a song flows out of me.
I don't think songs need to be written about ourselves all the time, and I like change of perspective in songwriting. For example, Mark Knopfler wrote a song called, "Boom Like That," which tells the story of Ray Kroc who got McDonald's restaurants to become an establishment of fast food. For Knopfler to do that, he had to empathize with Kroc, know the historical context, and understand Kroc's nature.
So, instead of writing selfish poems about myself my whole life, I want to branch out and write about other people. My writer's block is inspiration and motivation, and the rest comes natural. So, do you have some inspiration to tell me?
What I Listened To When I Was Young
I didn't write my first complete song until I was about 18, but the influences I had started much earlier. I have a dad who liked to jam to the oldies station (50's and 60's rock and doo-wop). I have already written about the oldies songs that make me smile on another site, and I am confident to say that the singable melodies and hooks I heard from the oldies have shaped my thirst for a good melody.
My Family's Influence
My brother liked to listen to The Beach Boys and Paul Simon and my Mom liked to play guitar and sing folk stuff. Mom is pretty creative, and my brother, Darin, has a natural musical ear talent where he can pick out and play anything on the keyboard that he hears in a song. I have to count them as influences because they have each written songs too, although I have become more obsessed about it. My older sister, Denise, although she didn't write songs, won a poetry contest and modeled for me that poetry can be a cool art. somehow I think I ended up a blend of everyone's influence, and I am grateful for my family influencing my songwriting.
I probably have the entire family to thank for getting me through the 1980's without exposing me to horrible music, and allowing me to subconsciously soak up some really great stuff.
When You Lose Your Virgin Ear
The end of what I would call my early songwriting influences was when I started taking piano lessons in second grade. Once formal music lessons start, you start learning a little music theory, and you start to listen to music with a critical ear. You know if someone is singing off key, out of rhythm, or other problems. Now, I have such a critical ear that sometimes I can't just enjoy a song for what it is, and sometimes I wish I could go back to before I learned what I know now.
Piano was my first instrument, and I still feel affection for keys even though I am prone to pick up the guitar more often now. I would consider the instrument that a person plays as an influence on his or her songwriting, because you get used to hearing certain tone, timbre, and dynamics.
What This Means for My Songwriting
The main thing that all this means is that I tend to like folk poetry lyrics, oldies-like melodies, Beach Boys song arrangements, and I value a variety of instruments in my songs. Maybe these are natural tendencies that I picked up as a child while my brain was growing and going through the pruning process. My own family helped my brain decide what musical skills I would likely need as an adult.
Where Are My Clients?
There's a really cool thing you can use to track your website's statistics. It's called Google Analytics. I looked at some stats for this website trying to find out what parts of the world are viewing my content here. Here's what the map looks like.
The things that I notice:
I learned a lot from my last client, Liat, who told me that I basically use the word "awesome" in the wrong context and way too much, which is awesome to hear. She was an awesome client, by the way.
I also had to look up words and pronunciations of words as we corresponded, especially if I wanted to use the word in the song. Luckily, Liat was o.k. with my "foreign" use of the English language and my American dialect.
So far, if you count clients and those who they give their song to, I have written for people in four different countries. That's awesome, swell, neat, good, or whatever you like to say in your English speaking country. I have the people to thank who allowed me the pleasure. I look forward to being pen pals with more AWESOME people from other countries.
Writing Custom Gift Songs: My Adventure
You don't just wake up and decide you want to write custom songs for other people. It's a progression of steps, but I want to mention what I have learned from writing songs for people I know and people halfway around the world. And I want to share how someone like me could get to the point where they want to do what I want to do, write custom gift songs and custom music.
Here are 5 things I have found to be true about writing songs for other people:
1. Everyone has a story worth telling, but most people don't get to have their own song written about/for them.
2. Even if you think your life is boring, it probably isn't if you really think about it. And I love making people think about their own lives.
3. Sometimes you might have a feeling that a couple doesn't have much of a chance to stay together based on what they tell you for their song, but you go ahead an write it anyway. Then you hear months later that they broke up. Then you're glad it wasn't a wedding song. True story, believe it or not!
4. Some people want to know all the details of how the song is written/produced, and others could care less. Some people are extremely grateful and helpful for the work you do, writing lengthy emails and giving you awesome feedback and suggestions. Then others just want to get something for free, never look back, and never give any real feedback.
5. Words can describe a person at least as well as a picture, and music makes the description more emotional. You can feel like you have met someone when you get to interview them in a personal way.
My Journey to Custom Songwriting
When you write your first song, and it all works together well, you feel like you have become a magician and that you now have a new superpower. You write another few songs and read a few spell books (songwriting books) to hone your skills.
That magic feeling begins to go away as you write another and yet another song. Then you realize that your newer songs are, for the most part, better than the first bunch you wrote, and so on. You write about personal experiences which relate to you, but find that these songs don't necessarily relate well to everyone around you. Some do and some don't.
At some point you start to want to write songs that are entertaining for others. It's like having your magic wand and playing with it for a while and realizing it's a lot more fun to share than to use only for yourself. Plus you believe that if you write a song for someone else, it might be a more awesome thing for them to experience first hand, since they may have never had a custom song written about them.
So, you survey your friends and family, and see if anyone wants a song written for their wedding or other special occasion, but you don't want to hard sell people to get some practice on them and you know it might be a little awkward to get personal with someone when you solicited them to write the song in the first place.
Finally, you turn to the internet to get clients, and you learn to get a picture of what someone is like without ever meeting them. This is a new skill and goes beyond the songwriting skill in itself. It's a human connection. This is what I am learning the most. I am a student of human behavior and spirit, and I am eager to learn. That, is what songwriting and art is all about anyway.
Why Buy a Custom Gift Song
You might wonder why you would ever want to buy a custom gift song for someone instead of some other kind of gift. There are a ton of different things you could buy someone that seem like good gifts.
Here are 10 reasons you might want to go with a custom gift song, instead of something else. Feel free to add to the list with your own comments
10. It Won't End Up in a Garage Sale Next Year: It's pretty hard to think of a gift that can't be broken, can be used unlimited number of times, and doesn't take up any space. Your custom gift song will be safe from a destiny in the garage sale.
9. It's Unique and Personal: You probably have never received your own gift song, and if you have, you're part of a small minority. You can use this opportunity to show someone that you are creative in finding just about the most unique gift you could give someone.
8. Everyone Likes Music: Even though people can be picky about what they listen to, most people will tell you that they enjoy music. So if you have no idea what a person's tastes are, try a musical gift.
7. It's Way Better Than a Greeting Card: So you might be wondering what you would write in a greeting card for your anniversary or other occasion. Problem solved! Your custom song will speak for you.
6. It Proves that You Put Thought in Your Gift: Are you trying to impress someone and show them that you are a thoughtful person? You'll be hard pressed to find something more thoughtful than a customized gift song. This is especially true when they hear that they lyrics are about them.
5. You Get to Feel What it's Like to Be a Songwriter: Have you ever wondered how a song is crafted word by word and note for note. You will get a good taste of this process with your custom gift song.
4. You are a Long Way Away: Maybe you are living in a different city, state, or country. Maybe you work a different shift. Either way, your loved one will have a something to bring comfort to his/her soul when he/she misses you.
3. You Can Say it's "Our Song:" Many couples use the term "our song" when describing their first dance song or another special song, but most couples don't get to really mean that the song is "our song." Have a song that is really about you, all of it.
2. You'll Be One Step Closer to a Custom Gift Album: Buy a single custom gift song, and you are one track on your way to having an entire gift album. Talk about cool!
1. You Can Share it on Facebook With Your Friends: "Listening to my own custom song" will be a status update that's sure to get some responses. Post a link and make people jealous.