I did an experiment one evening a while back. I took a public domain song's lyrics, and I wrote music for it and recorded it. THEN... I listened to the original writer's music. It was fun to see what similarities and differences came from the same lyrics. The song is an old hymn and you can hear my rough version below before reading on.
Hear My Humble Cry (Blake Flannery version of Pass Me Not)
Now, listen to the original version of Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior Here. I think my version sounds more dark and desperate, which is how I interpreted the lyrics, but there are some similarities. On the "Savior, savior... " melody and timing match closely and sound like a crying out.
I also found out that the length of words and lines in lyrics, as well as the content of the lyrics, steers the direction music will go. Notice, I didn't write music that was extremely different, but it wasn't the same either. The content of lyrics only steers the musical ship in a direction. The exact place that ship lands could be different depending on the day you are writing music, but you'll still end up in the same country. I think I subconsciously write music to match the lyrical content, and the length of lines determines cadence, timing, rhythm, etc.
Musical influences are different for everyone. And the instrument you play is probably your biggest musical influence. That instrument has qualities that limit your creativity to be focused in a certain direction. I used a guitar instead of a piano, a
Personalities can never be the exact same in any two humans, and I believe songwriters write songs as unique as their personalities. If one person writes the lyrics and another writes the music, you are essentially blending personality and experience of both writers. This can create some interesting mixtures. Collaboration is a beautiful thing.
I was asked if I am still able to enjoy music even though I tend to analyze the music more than an average person. This is an interesting question that I have thought about before. I have never had to answer anyone though.
I'll never know whether I enjoy music more or less than anyone else, but there are a few reasons I think I enjoy music more than the average person. Here's my explanation:
1. I already have a predisposition to be affected by music on an emotional level. One of the main reasons I believe I have spent massive amounts of time playing instruments and writing songs is because I feel music like a drug. I am addicted, and if it was a destructive addiction, I would need an intervention. To prove this here's a poem by me from 2001. Wow, nine years ago!
Blake Flannery 12/2/01
Music to me is an addictive drug
It pulls my mind with a forceful tug
I find my pulse matching rhythms and beats
Sonic waves splash my brain in colorful sheets
2. Listening to Music is Work, but Work is Enjoyable. If you wonder if my brain is "working too hard" as I listen to music, soaking up what I can learn, you're wrong. I actually find enjoyment in thinking about music in a larger context, stealing ideas from masters, and being critical of what I believe to be uncreative crap. In other words, I get the inside jokes that are told in the language of music. I know when I'm trying to be tricked into liking a song, and I know when someone is being a nonconformist.
3. I Want another set of Ears. I enjoy music so much, that I believe music could enhance my mood and my enjoyment of life in general so much that I want an extra set of ears. I would have a soundtrack going for my life at all times, if I could still hear you talk at the same time. I'm listening to music right now. When I am doing something else like writing or doing dishes, I can still "enjoy" music much the way a "non musical" person enjoys music. I don't over analyze. I just enjoy in my subconscious or whatever you call it.
I doubt that songwriting ignorance is bliss. I enjoy my addiction to music, my work-like analyzing of music, and my casual multitasking listening. Whether I enjoy it as much as the next guy or girl may only be quantifiable by the number of hours I listen. I'm a human who is motivated by the rewards of pleasure. The evidence is mounting that I enjoy listening.
For those who are "burned out" from enjoying music. I either pity you for being forced to create until you no longer enjoy or I wonder what your motive for doing music was in the first place. Pride and money seem to be short-lived motivators for us musicians. Unfortunately, most of us won't get those desires fulfilled.
My motivation goes in this order: 1. pure enjoyment, 2. leaving a legacy, 3. money, 4. pride. In case you were wondering.
The Songwriting Process: Take a Step Back and Organize
There are certain steps that I take when writing a song that people may not know. Sure, some songs can "write themselves" and most songwriters can't explain the process. This is a chance to get into the mind of someone writing a song.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that's true, then a song cold be worth a million. The next step to writing a song (see the first step) is to make some sense of the story you want to tell. This is a story of love, and most stories of love don't make sense, especially since love is an irrational act.
I don't want to edit the story and make something up that isn't there, but at the same time, I want to capture something worth telling. If I can't convince myself that there is something important to say, then the songwriting process will be difficult at the least.
What I have done to further develop this song is to take the key important data that I already identified and put it into a convincing story of their life and love. You have to take a step back to do this, but it is beneficial to the song in that it makes the entire thing look like a whole connected piece. A painter might step back for a moment and imagine what the canvas will look like as a whole first. The painter may want to know that the picture will look balanced and that the colors used will blend or compliment other colors. The song is but a vague painting in my head, but here is my plan. This is my step back to say to myself, "Yes, this is a painting worth painting (song worth writing), and it looks balanced and goal directed."
FAIRY TALES- princess, castle, puffy dresses, shiny tiaras, knight in shining armor
She's a modern day princess. She has high standards, and she doesn't fall for just any night in shinning armor. She, like many princesses of old, must wait for her love, but in the end she knows this will make it all worth while. High standards are her strength. Anticipation builds, but to what?
CHANCE ENCOUNTERS- old school mates, gazes, seeing faces, not knowing names, not love at first sight, no formal acquaintance
Seeing is not loving for them, they must be acquainted. These two have been appearing and disappearing in each others' lives until it becomes an unmistakable truth that they must get to know each other better. They are revolving around their fate, and neither is aware that as they get closer their eventual collision is inescapable.
DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIP- hold hands, hug, heart flutters, butterflies, conversations, questions, long distance, praying, family, friends, love, faith, God, blessed
Both are finally woken to the fact that they are meant to be major players in each others' game of life. They feel the rush of emotion that comes with infatuation, but as they get to know each other, they find that they have a connection that they believe is stronger than the distance of thousands of miles. They still feel the rush of infatuation-like emotion after their anticipation of seeing each other builds and builds. They are blessed by the long distance because they get to feel the "falling in love" feelings over and over.
They hold onto their faith, draw support from friends, and pray to maintain their strength as they hold their breath for the next step. Confident in each others' love and God's love, and strong in their belief that they are meant to be, they use all the patience they have. The fate (kismet) that made them bump into each other is still at work, but no longer needed. Even in this time they are to learn something. There is a larger plan, and it isn't over. There is meaning to their lives, only God knows the rest of the picture that will be revealed in the future.
A few final thoughts about this song:
The song will likely end like a television show that flashes "TO BE CONTINUED..." because every day of everyone's life is a single episode of a series that always leaves you hanging to finish the story. That's what makes life interesting and worth living. Hope, fate, possibilities, kismet, are the unknowns that keep us all from killing ourselves.