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#394081 - 02/03/17 09:49 AM [Songwriting] Rewriting
Guitarhacker Offline
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Do you rewrite your songs?

I'm curious to see how many actually do this. And if you do, do you do it just once or multiple times and in part, or the whole thing?

I tend to rewrite my songs, mostly in part. Keeping the good things and rewriting the things that don't work as well. This ties in closely with collaboration because a collaborator is a natural rewriter of the song. They see things differently and therefore can take your lines and rewrite them to improve them. But if you write without a collaborator, it's up to you to play the part of being your own worst critic. And, of course, rewriting your own lines and melodies is not a piece of cake. It's kinda like writing with a set of blinders on. It's hard to get out of that mindset that created the original song to see it from a different POV.

One situation that may make it easier is where you have written something that you felt was sheer brilliance. However, when you return to it the next day with fresher ears, you wonder what the heck you were thinking. I wish I had $10 for every time that happened to me. I have notebooks and computer files filled with those kinds of things. What you thought was good, isn't good, and it's probably even worse than that. That's a good time to scrap the bad parts and work on finding something that actually fits and works better.

One of my rules for writing is: Nothing is sacred. Anything that is written, can be deleted, edited, moved, or improved upon. It doesn't matter if I wrote it or a collaborator. If it's there, it can be changed to make the song better. I make this clear to my co-writers too and usually at the beginning of the write once we decide to work together. If I really, really like a specific lyric line, I will press to keep it, but it may be edited to one degree or another in the process. But in most cases, nothing is off limits or out of bounds. In my writing, I think I have pressed for keeping a particular line only a few times and on one that I recall, that line was the one that was mentioned by several folks who heard the song and took the time to comment. So sometimes it's worth trying to keep a line.

Quite often, and I have heard this said from other writers here in this forum as well as in songwriting circles, that the final version of the song that got recorded, sounded nothing like that first draft. I know from my own adventures in writing and co-writing that this is often the case. I recall one song with a co-writer that was bounced back and forth 7 or 8 times...with each of us making one or more changes per bounce...and then repeating that process some time later when we revisited that same song because we didn't feel it was quite finished. That song had somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 bounces and re-writes occurred at each bounce. Did that finally make the song finished? Not exactly... but then again, who ever really thinks a song is done?

Way too many writers seem to think that they can write so good, that the first draft of a song is the final, "it don't get any better than this", version and asking them to consider rewriting the song is akin to telling them their kids are ugly and their breath stinks. I have felt that way when I was first starting writing songs, so I do understand the feelings many folks have for their creations. Now, I look at my songs as simply the next, or most recent step in the journey, and the learning process.

As writers, and musicians, we should all be continuously working on our craft to improve our skills. No one wants to remain an infant.... babies learn to walk, talk, and do things better. So should we, as songwriters, strive to become better. And one of the ways we can accomplish this task, is to rewrite our songs.
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#394082 - 02/03/17 10:40 AM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
Charlie Fogle Offline
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With few exceptions, I rewrite everything. Even posts of more than just a line or two. Hardly ever a song that is not rewritten. (note this was edited in because I entered before rewriting.)

Charlie


Edited by Charlie Fogle (02/03/17 10:41 AM)
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#394105 - 02/03/17 12:36 PM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
chulaivet1966 Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Guitarhacker
Do you rewrite your songs? Way too many writers seem to think that they can write so good, that the first draft of a song is the final,


Well....I'm certainly not one of them. smile

Me...It would never occur to me to think that a first draft would be a keeper.

During first drafts, I will write out the initial ill conceived phrases (knowing I'll cull it later) just to make sure I don't lose sight or forget the idea of what I was trying to convey.
Then, I'll refine from there.....coming from 2 or 3 first draft re-writes with lines, cross-outs and notes everywhere at all angles on the pages.
Only I could read my chicken scratching....but, not always. smile

If I stick with the lyrical aspect of a new song it may takes me a few weeks to get lyrics/phrasing to my liking.

Carry on....



Edited by chulaivet1966 (02/03/17 01:31 PM)
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#394186 - 02/03/17 10:25 PM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
Matcham Offline
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To me writing and rewriting are the same thing. I simply keep writing until I have a page of lyrics in front of me that I'm satisfied with in every way. There might be a few discarded verses along the way. There will certainly be a stack of crossed out words and lines.
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#394222 - 02/04/17 05:48 AM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
Janice & Bud Offline
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Other than some co-writes I've never been been completely satisfied with a write. But writing is a very small part of my life and that makes it easier to just move on to the next one. I'm so nonprolific that if I returned to writes I'd rarely ever have a song for Janice. And all things considered the only reason I write is for Janice to have a new song and for me to do the "production thing" which I do enjoy. I'm lucky in a zillion ways to be married to Janice and one of those is that I always know that even if I write a POS she will bail me out with her vocals smile

Bud
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#394232 - 02/04/17 06:25 AM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
Andy A - USA Offline
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Some folks have all the luck, Bud! That would be comfort-food for writing, someone you trust at that level and so talented!

I've never heard of a song ever written that was finalized at the first writing. Out of curiosity, I texted an in-the-know writing pro in LA and he said he knew of some "nearly" writes, but not one unscathed. If anyone knows of a successfully published/recorded song, I'd love to know the name.

I'm not all that, but more often than not, if I can't finish a 1st draft with at least 2 verses and a chorus it usually ends up in my Not Done file for cannibalizing later. The spark for that song is usually gone.

2 things someone told me that I really like; write the whole song free-flow, alpha and omega, maybe no bridge, but don't stop for rhyming. Keep the momentum.

Then re-write. And if there's a verse or the chorus that you just can't get finished, can't find a rhyme or the right cadence, remove your favorite line from it. It's probably the problem. Either trash it, or move it to a non-rhyming position. You can always add it back in wherever you want....
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#394242 - 02/04/17 07:12 AM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
90 dB Offline
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I'm rewriting right up until I hit the “Record” button to do the vocals. grin




Regards,


Bob
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#394419 - 02/05/17 05:41 AM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: 90 dB]
Guitarhacker Offline
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Originally Posted By: 90 dB
I'm rewriting right up until I hit the “Record” button to do the vocals.

Bob


Sounds like me... but you know, there's always "auto-punch".
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#394477 - 02/05/17 09:39 AM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
Sundance Offline
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Me too. Right up to the final vocal. I always record a scratch vocal with a rhythm track for two reasons - one to do the arrangement around and two so I can hear if the melody or lyrics need fixing anywhere so it sings better.
The very first thing I write on paper and the first melody that pops in my head is rarely what ends up as the song - it happens but it's rare.
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#394745 - 02/06/17 10:18 PM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
dcuny Online   content
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I was watching a short video talking about Aaron Sorkin, and this line struck me:

"You should try to work with people who are talented and aren't afraid to challenge your work in search of the best version."

Lacking that, you have to be your own best critic.
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#394879 - 02/07/17 11:37 AM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
jford Offline
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Herb, John Cage took your concept to the extreme one time (nothing is sacred and everything is on the table) and came up with his greatest hit:

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#394885 - 02/07/17 12:41 PM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: dcuny]
Will B - PG Music Offline
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Originally Posted By: dcuny
I was watching a short video talking about Aaron Sorkin, and this line struck me:

"You should try to work with people who are talented and aren't afraid to challenge your work in search of the best version."

Lacking that, you have to be your own best critic.


This is great advice! One of the hardest parts about collaboration is setting aside ego and listening non-judgementally to what your collaborator is trying to tell you.
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#394971 - 02/08/17 05:22 AM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
Guitarhacker Offline
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John, that was funny
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#397439 - 02/23/17 10:23 PM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Andy A - USA]
Al-David Offline
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Loc: Alabama, USA
I think this part from Andy's comment sunk in deepest for me:

"... write the whole song free-flow, alpha and omega, maybe no bridge, but don't stop for rhyming. Keep the momentum."

Just get the idea down and hone it from there. Without the idea, you have nothing to work with. As has been said over and over ... you can rewrite it however and whenever you choose to. But you have to have something to rewrite.

My nickel's worth (two cents doesn't buy anything anymore).

Alan (Alan & Di)
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#397466 - 02/24/17 06:57 AM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Al-David]
chulaivet1966 Online   content
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Loc: West coast
Originally Posted By: Al-David
"... write the whole song free-flow, alpha and omega, maybe no bridge, but don't stop for rhyming. Keep the momentum."
Alan (Alan & Di)


I took a song writing class in college (1975) and he suggested the same approach.
Write it out as a story form first and then edit to put it into a lyrical/rhyming form to one's desire.

I don't always write with that approach but the concept has stayed with me.

A good weekend to all....
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#404631 - 03/30/17 04:14 PM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
puzzlevortex Offline
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Registered: 03/30/17
Posts: 2
i think writing songs is pretty similar to writing a paper or story.
You just make a rough draft, then keep revising it until its done.
But, i personally dont go back to songs that i've finished.
My favorite part of writing stuff is making new stuff, so once i'm done with something, im done.
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#404636 - 03/30/17 05:08 PM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: puzzlevortex]
HearToLearn Offline
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Originally Posted By: puzzlevortex
i think writing songs is pretty similar to writing a paper or story.
You just make a rough draft, then keep revising it until its done.
But, i personally dont go back to songs that i've finished.
My favorite part of writing stuff is making new stuff, so once i'm done with something, im done.


Welcome to the forums, and I agree. Personally, I find it healthy to be able to move on. Great input!
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#404713 - 03/31/17 07:55 AM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
David Snyder Offline
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Loc: North Carolina


When I am writing, I try and set the mood in my studio so that I go into kind of a trance when I am writing a tune, and it all get’s kind of mystical. I might light some candles or do whatever it takes to go into that “other world.” When I am in front of a mic with headphones on mumbling out the lyrics to the track I am definitely on Mars, usually with my eyes closed going onto deep space nine. The songs that I actually like that I have written usually come in about 10 minutes complete when I am floating untethered in outer space.

Then, when I have the mysterious part captured, I will spend about 2 days tweaking it, and there could be hundreds of small changes. Once in a blue moon, there are none.
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#404838 - 04/01/17 06:53 AM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Guitarhacker]
Noel96 Offline
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Registered: 10/31/08
Posts: 13203
Loc: Australia
David,

My songwriting plan of attack is at the opposite end of the universe to yours. I approach everything I do with various strategies in mind, depending on what I'm setting out to achieve.

I'm at my most creative when I'm developing the first draft of material. This is usually a verse and could be a draft of lyrics or simply 150-200 words of sense-based prose about a chosen topic.

As others above have mentioned, it's best not to worry too much about rhythm and rhyme initially. I do that too. When I have a sequence of ideas in place, rhyme and lyric rhythm follow.

Once the above is done, the editing phase begins. This is where I look to strengthen my words. Some of the things I consider include...

  • Verb tense: is it consistent throughout the section?
  • Are there enough long distance lyric relationships?
  • Do the lyrics sufficiently develop in emotional strength as the song progresses?
  • Are there better word choices than the ones I have?
  • Do I have the words sitting on notes that have the correct melodic stress?
  • Have I chosen the best point of view?
  • Can I take any of the 'tell' lines and make them into 'show' lines?
  • Are there any places where I can find words that strengthen sonic flow using alliteration, assonance, consonance?
  • Do I have long vowel sounds on sufficiently long notes?
  • etc.

I admire people such as yourself who can home in on creativity. For me, it has to be analysis and method all the way. My brain doesn't function properly with any other approach.

Regards,
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#404878 - 04/01/17 01:46 PM [Songwriting] Re: Rewriting [Re: Noel96]
David Snyder Offline
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Registered: 08/29/14
Posts: 3740
Loc: North Carolina
Noel,

I guess that proves there is more than one way to write a song!

smile

It's funny, what you have described is EXACTLY the approach I use when I am writing a book, or a short story, or something like that, either fiction or non-fiction, something in prose.

But in Music, I go the opposite direction. First and foremost I am trying to go that that mystical, spell-binding place where crazy lives. smile

I am looking for a certain kind of energy. Once I find that energy, and the thing has a pulse, then I start breaking it down. For me the analytics come last, as an editing phase.

This is very interesting though, how different people use different approaches. Extremely interesting.
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