Married to a Songwriter

My wife is a songwriter.  And, as she patiently explained to me this evening, I am not a songwriter.

I have written poems, short stories, a Twitter stream, even tried my hand at a screenplay once.  But I have no clue how to write a song.  There is something about dead lyrics on a page that stops me from ever seeing the potential song that could be written.  And since my last foray into music was a half-hearted attempt to learn to play jaw harp, there is not much chance of me bringing one of my poems to life anytime soon with some catchy rhythms and nice melodies.  I just do not have that talent.  My wife does.  And many of our friends do as well.

But it is still something I would like to explore.  I read my wife’s blog every day, looking for parallels between the songwriting scene and the worlds of creativity that I know more about (i.e., my college days of short-story writing, and my present-day occupation of software development).  Maybe I need to dig a little deeper.

I think what really got me thinking about this idea of writing lyrics was a recent post from her new blog – A Songwriting Scene Challenge.

The challenge is this:  Write a song with the name of a favorite book somewhere in the lyrics.  I thought, “That’s great!  I have lots of favorite books.”  And I can write poems, on occasion.  And I LOVE WORDS of all types.  But I still do not know how to build dead lyrics into a song centered around a favorite book title, even if it feels like I should be able to.

What do you think?  Anybody have tips on how to transition from non-songwriting writing, over to lyricist for folk-singing songwriter wife?

4 Replies to “Married to a Songwriter”

  1. What I mean by "dead lyrics" is that, when I write a line of prose or poetry, I know how to give it melody and rhythm as soon as I write it. It already exists as a finished whole once it is down on paper. But it seems like lyrics are different – at least to me, they don't usually read well without the music. You know – they seem awkward and you might not know quite where to emphasize or break a phrase until you actually hear the music to go with it. Maybe it's not so much a problem for someone who hears music more naturally, but for me it's a stumbling block and I lose interest in going further. I just have trouble envisioning somewhere that I want to go. Hope that makes sense..

  2. Aha! Yes, that makes sense.Oftentimes I think of the melody before or right after writing the first lines. If I don't, however, I still have some kind of a beat in mind. I know which syllables will need to be emphasized. That makes the lyrics alive enough to work with until the melody comes.Have you ever written slam poetry? I'd think that would translate better than most poetry into music.

  3. Which instrument would you write on? Obviously there's no set of rules to follow and the muse works differently for everybody … however my advice would be to not try to set a finished poem to music. Why don't you start with a good line or a couple thereof and try to set them to music and the combination will trigger new ideas. Develop music and words together, don't consider them separate entities.Like you I don't believe that lyrics are meant to be read "dry", as poetry. There meant to be sung and to go along with music. That's why I believe music & lyrics are best created together.Just my 2 cts. Whatever works for you …I recently gave an interview on this topic here

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