So it’s Friday, December 19, 2008 and we are closing the office here at Beachwood Recordings til the new year. I’ll be posting thru the holidays, just not with my usual schedule of three posts a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I don’t want you to come back from the holidays and have too much reading to catch up on.
The other day I was talking about songwriting and I have one more exercise for you all to implement during the holidays and/or perhaps afterwards. This one is different than I have ever suggested and different than I have ever tried, so I’ll be doing this same exercise just to see what shows up.
What they call the Great American Songbook is, essentially, the songs of the last century, written in the thirties and forties with perhaps a little fifties thrown in. It was the time of the Big Bands and orchestrations; a time when a song had to be very carefully written with all the expertise and due diligence of Bach’s two part inventions.
Melodies had to be interesting, chord progressions innovative, and lyrics had to be amazingly tight, with utterly NO false rhymes, something that abounds in today’s writing. It was, I believe, a much more disciplined time with regard to songwriting and it was so restrictive and careful that I believe it was part of the cause of the backlash that was rock and roll. That melding of rhythm and blues and country music, rockabilly.
In any event, and whether you like that style or not, it required some very careful lyric writing and here’s what I am suggesting today. Take one of those classic songs from the thirties or forties, something that you have known all your life, if only peripherally, and write another verse to it, using the same meter and the same exact rhythm and accent that made these songs what they were.
Let us say you choose My Funny Valentine. Okay, here’s the first verse:
My funny valentine
Sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable
Yet you’re my favorite work of art
Okay, now here’s the assignment. Write another verse to that melody and using this verse as a template, do not stray from the rhyme scheme or the meter or the melody. See if you can do it.
I guarantee when and if you come up with a verse as well written as that one, you will have a whole new appreciation for what these fellows did on a regular basis.
There are no false rhymes (a false rhyme would be, for instance, “time” and “shine” a true rhyme would be “time” and “rhyme” or “line” and “shine” Rap music is jammed with false rhymes; Much easier to do and much less impressive to me.
And they not only had these rhymes, but they had internal rhymes and rhyme schemes that went much further than the end of each line. Notice that the third line and the sixth line rhyme.
Pick whatever song suits your particular fancy and write one verse like that...make it conform to what the original writer conformed to and please send us some of these in the comments. This will be fun, instructive and, I promise, humbling.
Til next week sometime, I wish you luck, and I hope that you all have a happy holiday and that the new year brings you more joy and positive life than the last eight years have brought, tho that’s not a difficult wish to make come true.
See you in a minute.