Sale: The Seven C's
By Bill Pere - 01/18/2005 - 05:02 PM EST
The essence of a great song is Communication...a song that Communicates can be a Commercial success and an artistic Classic. These three “C’s” are goals that every songwriter strives for, if they wish to touch others through their music. While navigating the route from creation to realization, there are four other “C’s” which can help you 'foresee' success. Remember that in the key of C, nothing is accidental.
The voyage from creation to realization has four stops along the way. Each has something specific to offer which is critical to the objective of coming up with the kind of song that can be called a Classic. These four points are: Creation, Craft, Critique, and Collaboration. Sometimes, in our haste to get from a great idea to a great song, we sail along at high speed, seeking shortcuts and bypassing one or more of these important harbors. The results often fall short of their full potential. For many writers, the sheer ecstasy of the creative process is so uplifting that the raw result of a burst of inspiration is considered a final result, when in fact, it gets you only to the first stop on the journey.
A song begins with tapping the creative wellspring inside to find the feelings, ideas, concerns, and dreams that are important enough to you to want to share with others. Through that miracle we call inspiration, an exciting new way of expressing these things reveals itself to you, and a song is born.
Whether a child or a song, birth is the start of a journey to maturity. The next phase, usually the most difficult, is the crafting process. A child’s early years involve active shaping of the
values and motivations that will define the adult. With a song, the initial expression of the idea is usually unpolished, particularly in the areas of Clarity to other listeners, Conciseness of expression, and balance between references to Concepts (love, truth, beauty) and Concrete things (cars, clothes, jewelry). The crafting process means tapping into the parts of yourself which are the complement of your creative side. i.e., your analytical self. Each word in a lyric must pass the tests of being metaphorically and semantically consistent (no apples among oranges), rhythmically correct (no misplaced accents), generally understandable (no sesquipedalian pedantry), easy to sing (no lines about the sick sheik’s sixth sheep), freshly rhymed (clear up and syrup, not moon and June). and many more.
Crafting is the first place where the art and science of song come together (the recording studio is another place). There are many excellent books on crafting, as well as seminars and workshops offered by several songwriter organizations around the country. You may find you are naturally comfortable with applying the techniques of crafting, or you may find it is a great effort for you. Each song needs a stop early in its life at the crafting dock. But how will you know how good a job you are doing?
When you find yourself asking that question, it’s time to move on to the next port of call. Like a teenager or young adult adjusting him/herself based on feedback from others, a song which has gone through some initial crafting is ready for critique. This does not mean playing it for your spouse or your pet. It does not mean playing it for someone expecting to hear anything but positive responses. It means playing the song for an impartial group of listeners and being open to whatever constructive input they may have to offer. It remains your final decision to take or leave as much of their advice as you wish, but it’s important to listen with an open mind. The critique process can help you with areas of crafting where you might not be fluent, and can also serve as a small scale exercise in test marketing. Just as our aforementioned teenager is not always going to get sound advice from peers (e.g., “Let’s get drunk tonight and go swimming”), the critique you get will have a mixture of valuable advice and fool’s gold. There are techniques you can use for determining what kind of critique to ask for and how to interpret the kinds of critique you get. These are addressed in our discussion of "Taking the Mystique Out of Critique".
Your song may spend some time on its journey ferrying back and forth between the crafting dock and the critiquing dock. With critique comes revision and with revision comes critique. You as the writer/artist are the ultimate judge of when you are done, but it’s important to make at least one pass through that loop. I've seen songs go through five or six cycles of revision and critique and watched their transformation from average to awesome.
The last stop on the voyage is one which is open 24 hours a day and is centrally located i.e., you can go there anytime from any other point. This is the Collaboration dock. Few art forms can benefit from collaboration like songwriting can. Songwriting, like parenting, is very complex and requires many skills (creativity, linguistic skill, analytical ability, music composition and arranging, electronic literacy, business sense, people sense, and more). It is rare to find one individual who has developed all of those skills to a high degree. Thus, a song must often be touched by many hands to become a complete package. A good collaborator can help you create, express, craft, package and promote your song. There are very specific things you can look for when seeking a collaborator, to provide the right complements for the skills you have and for areas where you need help. These are addressed in our discussion on "Taking the Labor Out of Collaboration"
To summarize, always look at your song as having a life which must be nurtured, refined, and guided to maturity before it can stand on its own. Getting there is a voyage across the “C’s” with specific stops along the way. The creative process is a beginning, to be followed by phases of crafting, and critiquing, with collaboration along the way as needed. The four C’s -- Creation, Craft, Critique, and Collaboration are a powerful combination of processes which add up to the most important “C” of all -- Communication. When this is achieved, your song can become a Commercial success and an artistic Classic.
Bill Pere is a recording artist, award winning songwriter, performer, and educator well known for his superbly crafted lyrics, with lasting impact. Bill has released 13 CD's , teaches private songwriting workshops and serves as Executive Director of the Connecticut Songwriters Association. Bill is an Official Connecticut State Troubadour and the 2003 national IMC Independent Artist of the Year. He is Founder and Executive Director of the LUNCH Ensemble (www.lunchensemble.com). Twice named Connecticut Songwriter of the Year, Bill is MBTI qualified, a member of CMEA and MENC, and helps develop young talent in songwriting, performing, and learning about the music business.
©2005 Bill Pere. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any way with out permission of the author. For workshops, consultation, performances, or other songwriter services, contact Bill via his web sites, at www.billpere.com and www.lunchensemble.com
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