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Rewriting
By Tim Ogle - 08/09/2006 - 12:29 PM EDT

Another month has passed in Music City USA and I’m having to focus on just what I want to share with you all this month.
no, no, no...

Music City USA is full of experiences just waiting to be discoverd by the songwriter living in it’s bowels....
no, no, no

Let’s talk about rewriting this month. You can see above you can always find a few ways to state whatever idea it is that you originally have. Songwriters must ask themselves what the best way to state their ideas are. This brings us into the sensitive area of rewriting. Those phrases that we nurse for hours or days at a time. The lead in to our chorus that we’ve used for the past 4 months while working on the same song. Let’s face it folks, our words are very important to us, we like what we are saying, we like the way certain phrases go together but can we admit that we should push ourselves to critique our own work.

I discovered the concept of rewriting while reading several books about songwriting. I have to admit that I didn’t fully grasp the concept until my ear opened my eyes. I found myself thoroughly impressed by some of the phrases and pictures that my fellow writer’s were using while performing at writer’s nights. I wanted to be good at finding those phrases and rhymes too. I didn’t begin having any luck with improvement until I began trying to imagine how I would restate some of the lines in songs that I thought I had finished.

I’ve been working on a song called Small Things for a few years. Below is the first two original lines of Small Things:

Riding down these long old roads
Stopping town to town for a show

I loved the way those two lines rolled off of my tongue and went with the music. I sung those lines to Small Things for over a year. Then I began to understand what “Crafting” really was all about. Although “Riding down these long old roads” was acceptable, was it the best opening line to my song? Did it create a mood? Did it create a picture? The most important question was: Are these just words I put to music? I think it was during this dilemma that I took one of the biggest personal steps in my approach to songwriting. I wanted to do more than create songs. I wanted to craft them. I began to play with ideas and words to create a picture and Voila! oneday it became:

Watermellon morning sky
I kiss you and the kids goodbye

These are words that begin to paint a picture and set a mood. I’m drawing people in, I want them to see what I’m feeling and saying. “Watermelon morning sky” is an odd phrase, but it works and it has a paintbrush quality to it. These are things that matter in songwriting. These are the jewels you find when you begin the process of rewriting your material.

The long term effects of rewriting my opening lines opened the door to almost a full rewrite of the whole song “Small Things”. It allowed me to change stale lines that I had from being words I put to music to becoming a well crafted song. I have even thought about changing the title of the song due to more possibilities that have opened up in the rewrite. There have been a few times that I thought I was finished with Small Things, but I’m currently in the process of evaluating what I have now.

Let’s talk about things we can do to help us decide if we should rewrite some of our songs. It has been my experience that performing songs by myself AND at writer’s nights help me critique what I have created. Performing and attending writer’s nights also has compelled me to revisit some of my songs because I noticed that they could be better due to hearing how well someone else was doing. Yes sometimes people will give you compliments on your songs, sometimes they won’t. I encourage you to ask yourself why you are getting either response. The live performance gives you a chance to hear your song too. Performance allows you to hear what your song sounds like while glasses are clunking down on a table and the crowd is bubbling with conversation while you’re on the stage pouring your heart out. It is an important experience to go through and in my opion a necessary part of becoming a good songwriter.

Rewriting is not an original concept on my part. There are many songwriters that beleive in the rewrite. Rewrites should also address issues of syntax, pronoun use, and refining statements to a straight forward message. The best thing about a rewrite is, if you don’t like what you have rewritten you can use what you originally had anyway. If you don’t rewrite, you will be robbing yourself of one of the best tools you have for clarifying and developing your songs into well crafted art instead of words that are merely set to music.

On a side not some of you have asked about hearing some of the songs that I have written. I will try to work on having some of them recorded and posted before my next column. Until then my emailbox is open to your questions or comments as always.
See ya ‘round the playground!



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