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It's About Time
By Danny McBride - 04/26/2002 - 02:45 PM EDT

By Danny McBride © 2002

Yes, it is about time- -time to ask: Did you write anything this week? Hope so. Writing every day is the only way. Some days will be better than others. They canít all be gems. Even the most brilliant writers have their duds. But the more you write, the better your average (you hope). Time will tell.

Okay, time out: Take baseball. A hitter who hits TWO TIMES out of ten is a rather mediocre player. But one who hits THREE TIMES out of ten is headed for the Hall of Fame- -no really- -as a member. Just think of it like that. If three out of every ten songs you write are great, YOUíRE headed for the SONGWRITERíS Hall of Fame- -no, not just to visit- -as a member.

Unfortunately in songwriting, actual averages are even lower than in baseball. Your results may vary. Some restrictions apply. Void where prohibited.

If you wrote a hundred songs and had THIRTY hits, that would be phenomenal. We call that Beatles or Porter or Ellington or Berlin or Dylan. I guess I just want to stress- -ooo, stressing, not good- -that the more you write the better your chances are of creating a gem. So continue writing in a timely manner.

Now let me ask you this about what you wrote recently. Was it in 4/4? Iím almost willing to bet it was. It seems that these days EVERYTHING (almost) is in 4/4. Not true with any of the aforementioned phenoms. Have we forgotten everything else?

Pop music ALWAYS used to have variations - -3/4 & 6/8 the most common- -and there are still some, but not many. One of the reasons the remake of John Lennonís Hide Your Love Away by Eddie Vedder jumps out of the radio at you is that itís NOT in 4/4. The Beatles messed with time a lot. Remember We Can Work It Out? 4/4 but with a taste of 3/4 in the bridge. How about Within You Without You? Count that one for yourself!!

My favorite morning radio program here in LA - -actually itís syndicated from New York- -NO!! Not Howard Stern!!- -uses old rock instrumentals as "Bumper" music- - those snippets of tunes used to go in and out of commercials. Green Onions by Booker T & The MGs is a favorite. So is Lonnie Mackís Memphis. But so is Dave Brubeckís Take 5. Yes kids- -itís in 5/4, in case youíve never heard it. But unlike Pink Floydís Money- -which always sounded kind of pretentiously herky-jerky with its "7" feel"- -actually 4 plus 3- -Brubeckís 5/4 swings. (Did you know that Lee Greenwoodís country anthem God Bless The USA has a measure of 5/4 in it? Just one- -toward the end.)

Now Iím not saying that all of a sudden every dance record is going to drop 4/4 for something quirky- -although if anyone wants to know how, just dig up Blondieís Heart of Glass and see what itís like when itís done right. And, yes, country music will always have a waltz, but only by REAL country artists like George Strait- -None of these newer rock poseurs will deviate from the old 4/4 butt-scootiní line dance. (Hard to believe that Buck Owens introduced the "Fuzz-Tone" guitar effect- -as in The Stonesí Satisfaction- -to country music in a waltz- -Whoís Gonna Mow Your Grass? Wink Wink.)

When I used to audition musicians for projects - -I donít need to anymore - -Iíve got a pool of "A-list" players to pick from here in L A- -I always picked 3/4 and 6/8 tunes for trying out drummers and bass players. Most looked at me as though I had two heads, figuring weíre NEVER gonna play this feel. Right. Maybe not. But I needed to know as a songwriter that the resource was there in case it was needed.

And what YOU need to know as a songwriter is that these resources ARE there for you to use. Yes, the old 4/4 (or 2/4) will always be the most common time signature, as it seems to be somehow in time with our human biorhythms- -or something- -(even thought the human heart beats pretty much in 3/4- -lub dub [pause] lub dub [pause] lub dub [pause] lub dub). It just feels good to dance or pat your foot in "4".

But as a writer, donít limit yourself to 4/4. Try other things. Even if you never use them to write anything of note (sorry), it will expand your creative horizons.

Okay- -Speaking of time- -Mine is up.

See if you can find the "1" and take it from the top.

-30-


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