Thursday, August 26, 2010

Do Songwriters Have It Easier?

My first songwriting endeavor was when I was nine years old.  My cousin and I decided we were going to start an early 90’s pop group.  With side ponytails and florescent microphones in hand, we went on to compose our first top 10 masterpiece entitled ‘Electric Heat’.

I think it went something like:

‘Electric Heat!  You can feel it going through your boooones’
‘Electric Heat!  You can make some of your oooown’
‘Electric Heeeeeat!’

As you can see here, what once seemed savvy and sexy to our nine year old ears now sounds more like a rather odd jingle for indoor heating.  We sang it with heart, though.  You can be sure of that.

Anyways, a good book paints a vivid picture, introduces us to people, situations, and emotions that we might otherwise have never felt.  I realize now that those books are the result of a writer’s imagination, thousands of words, hundreds of pages, a little luck, and twenty pairs of expert eyes that make it into what it is today.

A songwriter only has to come up with a few dozen words.  But it’s not a song unless it accompanies music.  The work it takes is probably about the same as writing a book and I know the music business is just as tough if not tougher than publishing.

I think the most important factor in any art form is its ability to convey a message or feeling of its own accord.  It might be the work of an author, or many authors.  But the created story has to be able to stand on its own two feet and do what it was created to do.  Sometimes even more.   

It’s no wonder how much we cling to music and photos, or paintings.  A picture is worth a thousand words after all.  And listening to a song is faster than sitting down to read a book.  - Like a ‘quickie’ escape. 

 Have any of you attempted to write songs (music and all) and did you find it harder or easier than writing a book?  If you were on a desert island and had a choice between your ipod filled with music or your favorite book- what would you choose?

44 comments:

Sharde(Shar-day) said...

I've never attempted to write a song. Trust me, the world is a better place because of it.

As far as the music or book thing goes, I'd definitely have to go with music. Only because I'd get tired of hearing my own voice:-)

Sharde

Ted Cross said...

I've written a couple of songs, but it is really hard, especially to get the accompanying music right.

I'd go with the book, since the battery would die on the iPod, but if I had one that would never die I'd have to choose the iPod. After all, I have my entire music collection on it. If you allowed me to take my entire book collection, it would beat the music.

Old Kitty said...

Gosh - songwriting!?! Well done you! I'm finding poetry writing very difficult so I don;t think I'll foray into the songwriting thing anytime soon!! I'd plump for the books on the dessert island but I will miss music!

Take care
x

Vicki Rocho said...

Uh, nope. No way, no how. Songwriting is an entirely different ball of wax and I've got my hands full enough as it is.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

One of my favorite movies is Music and Lyrics, and I love the line (I can't remember exactly, but something like): You can take all the books in the world and all the masterpieces and not one of them will make you feel as good as fast as, "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it's cold outside, I've got the month of may."...
Although I LOVE books, music is an entirely different ball game. (and yes, I have tried writing a couple songs. :D)

Will Burke said...

I've played in a few bands where the song-writing was more collaberative, so the pressure is less, but the relationships are marriage-like -- taxing and fulfilling. Stories are all mine, untill I pass it off to editors, so the creation is a different kind of personal.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

No way can I choose over those! I adore them both. And yes, songwriting is way easier ;o) It's easier to protray emotion without having to find the exact words, because the music can make simple words tell a thousand instead.

Slushpile Slut said...

LOL! An indoor heating jingle..too funny! I don't think I've ever written a song but I have written and had some greeting cards published...they're so much easier, but books pay better :)

I would def choose my ipod

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've created some new tunes on my guitar, but none with lyrics.

Matthew Rush said...

I have written lyrics once or twice, but that's not the same because I have no idea how to compose music (as in what notes, key and tempo those words would be sung in) so in reality they're just poems. So I think poetry is easier than novel writing, but I don't know for sure about music.

Jen said...

This one is tough, I find that writing a novel I'm able to get out all the details I desire, writing 80,000 words is much easier than writing a short story, or a song.

At least for me. I find shortening things is very constricting for me. To each their own!

Laura Marcella said...

I used to write songs all the time when I was a kid! Oh, they were a little less awesome than your little snippet here! :)

If I was deserted on an island, I'd choose my favorite book to have. The ocean's waves would be perfect enough music for me!

Tamara Narayan said...

I once composed a jingle for an imaginary talk show hosted by my stuffed animals--I had just gotten a tape player/recorder. No, I won't embarrass myself by writing the lyrics here.

One book or a catalog of songs. Hmm, I'll take the book, no the songs, no . . . tough call.

Theresa Milstein said...

As a teenager, I attempted poems and songs. All disasters!

While a novel has so many components to it in order for it to be good, sometimes having to get it in fewer words is the real challenge. As an example, I think excellent picture books are a work of art. They're harder than writing a nice long novel too!

Natalie said...

I dabbled in songwriting as a teenager too. I wasn't good at it. :) I would pick the book every single time. I like music, but it's not as vital to my life as reading.

Lenny said...

hi miss katie! i love your electric heat song! ha ha. i use to make up silly songs and it made my family crazy for having to listen. ha ha. we got lots of music at our house all the time. for me writing is lots harder than making up a song. on a desert island id want to listen to books so i could get all caught up on the ones i didnt read cause of being so busy having fun.
...hugs from lenny

MT said...

I'd pick a book over an IPod, but I guess it depends on the book.
And I have tried writing a couple of songs, but stories come easier.

Have a great weekend! :)

E. Elle said...

I think songwriting and fiction writing are equally difficult. You have a lot more space to tell a story or evoke emotions in a novel than you do in a song. Plus, the music needs to fit the lyrics JUST RIGHT for the song to work. They're both really challenging but I love them anyway.

I'd probably want my iPod full of music... mostly because I don't HAVE an iPod... and also because I can write the books I want to read. (I'm banking on the deserted island being the same as the "Lost" island, so I'll have paper and pencil available to me.)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I've never tried to write a song, but I would choose my favorite book, no question!! Great post! :-)

Talli Roland said...

I wrote a few songs when I was younger - I used to love it! :) Thanks for the reminder... I'm giggling now thinking about them.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I used to write lyrics, but not a chance I could write music!

Nicole L Rivera said...

I find that when I sit down to rip through a first draft I'd recently completed I find myself envying songwriters. I think about how much quicker they can whip out a song. What a week at max? (I'm not sure bc I wouldn't know how to write a song and put it to music to save my life). But, a novel takes months of writing, re-writing, editing, and thats not to mention the query process which is dreadful all on it's own. So at about the editing part a song will come on TV, or a commercial for Talyor Swifts new CD, and I roll my eyes at how easy they must have it (although I'm probably completely wrong).

Anyway, if I was stuck on a deserted Island I would want the book. There is nothing like the escape of the story world.

Jolene said...

Harder and easier. It's too different an experience for me to compare. Music is just as rewarding but at times more frustrating.

Shelley Sly said...

Haha -- I love the Electric Heat song!!

I write songs... well, I used to all the time as a teenager, and now only write them occasionally. I can't even compare it to a novel. To me, that's two different types of writing right there, both with their own challenges.

Cheree said...

I write both stories and songs... I actually find it harder for songs because you need to get the story out in such a limited number of words, then there's the music and both needs to work together or it would sound cheesy.

Jemi Fraser said...

I've written poetry, but I'm not able to put it to music. I WISH! I'd love to be able to songwrite.

Hart Johnson said...

I guess... i couldn't WRITE a song... coming up with lyrics for music already written might be alright... but I think music layers more things at the same time, even if it is significantly shorter than even a short story. The words, sure, but also the beat, melody, harmony, repetition...

There are song writers who are such good story-tellers they don't even NEED a good voice (Bob Dyllan for instance) but there are others who play with different elements and the words are nonsense. The Paramore song Crush has a middle stanza about just needing something to fill space. Nirvana does the same with one of their Never Mind songs. But the music carries it. Hell, one of Led Zepplin's songs confesses "I'm only joking, I just needed something to sing" in the middle. So I could do the lyrics thing... if I worked with a brilliant musician... but if it is only ME, I couldn't do a melody and harmony for anything... No skill whatsoever... In fact I can't even write a short story. It takes me FAR too long to lay out my plot and let people know my characters.

Slamdunk said...

I have no musical talent so "no" songs attempted by me.

Not to stray too far off topic, but when I lived in Nashville, I was surrounded by people who wanted to be entertainers and songwriters. Everyone from the police officer walking the beat to the guy at the bagel shop to the financial planner--they all moonlighted with a dream of making it big.

You would think some of their talent would have rubbed off on me...

Candyland said...

I have written many a song and it's easier for sure. And I couldn't live without my music. Ever.

Amanda Sablan said...

There is no way in hell I could write a song. I'm just no good at condensing things. /:

But if I WERE marooned on a deserted island and I had to choose between a book and music... well, I think I'd go with music. I could listen to my favorite songs for hours and not get bored, whereas I'll eventually grow tired with reading. At least for a little while.

Laura Pauling said...

No, I've never attempted. But I'm sure like writing, it's its own art form. My songs would be pretty bad. I'm sure.

Clara said...

Oh I so did! Soooo many! But it was mainly a fun hobby, I never took it as seriously as writting =)

LTM said...

my husband writes songs... They have titles like "Kiefer Sutherland's Mother" and "That Dog'd Bite You." Oh, and his "(not a) Train Song."

I once co-wrote a song w/college boyfriend who was in a band. HE was like a jingle writer, man. Song a second... I think it just depends on which way your creativity flows.

I personally think Electric Heat is right up there w/Electric Youth! ;p

Elana Johnson said...

I have never attempted to write a song, but I love the amount of emotion that can be packed into such a short space, into so few words. That's what I strive to do with writing.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I've tried to write songs, thanks to high school music classes. They are hard though...no room for embellishment. Maybe I should give them another look. Migh help with the writing.:)

Kelly Dexter said...

Great question! I'd have to go with my favorite book, because I would want to be transported somewhere familiar.

Also, your song does sounds like a jingle for air conditioners! It's adorable.

Summer Ross said...

I haven't tried songs- but I do poetry and sometimes its kinda of like a song. I would take a book with me.

L'Aussie said...

I think both are jolly hard. Often music lyrics are deconstructed in HIgh School and likened to poetry. Some are very good, some less so, but the same can be said about what we write..:)

T.J. Carson said...

hmmm. I think writing a song is harder than writing a book. It has to express so much in a multitude of ways, not just on paper, and in a short amount of space/time. A book is waaaaaaaaaay easier!! I tried to write a song, wrote maybe 4 lines then realized I couldn't play an instrument, so I ate some ice cream instead.

I'd choose the ipod if I were stranded on an island! The same old book is nothing compared to the human voice.

careerminded05 said...

ipod or book? That's a tough decision. Both would never get boring because in my opinion a good song is like a good book you discover something new every time you revisit it. Can I have the ipod with a notebook and pen?

miss ali said...

hmmmmm! excellent question! i think that's the best "stranded on a desert island" question I've ever heard! hardest for sure.

i think i would end of dying before i made the choice. purely as i am terrible at decision making.

Walter Knight said...

I knew a local kid you had a band and wrote songs. Kids at our small town high school even played his music on stereo in their cars.

But he had the same problem as writers. How do you market your song and music to a larger audience?

Write query letters? Get an agent? It was impossible. So that kid sells cars now, and the band is gone. But, they were good.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

When I realized there would be copyright issues using an Aerosmith song in my novel, I wrote lyrics to a song I could use instead (half of which were recently edited out). It's not as easy as it sounds to write a song, and at least I didn't have to deal with the music when I wrote it. That would have added further challenge, especially since I have played an instruement in years.

Erin Kane Spock said...

I've tried some song writing. I wrote 3 partial songs on the piano while I was in High School. They all sounded very similar and suspiciously like songs from Les Miserables.
They were full of angst and dreaming dreams. Not good songs.
Now that I make the correlation, I wonder if my books read suspiciously like some of the authors I read/studied? I mean, I did go through Avon books and come up with a basic 'formula' before I started outlining book one. It's my own story, but I followed genre standards by writing in 3rd person past perfect and include shopping, close female friends, a bad guy, and paced the sexy bits in a certain way.
That's disconcerting. Man, I hope I have my own voice and I'm not just mimicking.
BTW, I think writing is easier for me personally because I am driven to do it. With me and writing music, I was just trying on a personality that didn't fit.

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