Monthly Archive for April, 2009

How To Write Songs

Mileage may vary, but here’s what I do.

I play a set of chords, sometimes only one or two, sometimes as many as four or five, and repeat them until I get a sense of the mood that they create.

Then I start singing. I try and sing notes that match the chords, working by ear. I don’t always know what I’m talking about at first. But I come up with a first line, and then I do a second line that rhymes, usually using the same melody with a slight variation.

Verse: Once you have four or eight lines, you have a verse structure. You can just repeat it, creating additional lyrics that tell your story, and that’s a song. Period. You did it!

Refrain: To give your song slightly more structure, maybe have the last line repeat in each verse, and that can be the title. Like, oh, I don’t know, “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind.” Something like that?

Chorus: You could also write a chorus. Same procedure, just pick new chords or rearrange the order of the ones you’re already using. The words are the same each time, which makes this part of the song easy to sing along with. Hence the name “chorus,” as in, “everybody join in now!” When you have a chorus, it usually contains the title of the song.

Bridge: same process again, just come up with yet another chord progression. In a 3-4 minute song, this section only happens once. It gives relief from the earlier parts of the song that have repeated a few times already, and maybe looks at whatever you’re talking about from a slightly different angle. Or it can be instrumental.

A couple of song structures:

Verse
Verse
Verse
Verse
Verse

or

Verse
Chorus
Verse
Chorus
–> bridge
Verse
Chorus

I recommend learning songs you like. Memorize all the words and the chords, and practice ’til you can perform it all the way through, singing and playing. You’ll learn new chord progressions this way, get a sense of structure and appreciate when lyrics are easy to sing versus when they’re harder to sing.

Also, if you learn to play your instrument really well and pick up some music theory, that will help a lot.

Just don’t get hung up thinking you have to learn 5,000 songs or become an awesome pianist before you can start writing. Jump right in. Keep it simple. Also, be kind to yourself. It’s really cool that you’re creating something. That’s enough.

Hope that helps!

Iowa Tour & Webcast Wrap-Up

So the webcast show from my office last night felt strangely like a real show, a heady mix of “I’m playing for 30 to 100 people!” and “I’m alone in a room, talking to myself!” You can watch the archived video here or below.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be up eeeaaarly to travel to Iowa, where I’m playing at colleges Monday – Thursday. My last tour out that way was in February of ’08 and I’m looking forward to seeing what April looks like in the driftless lands. Off to pack. Talk to you later!

Live Webcast Tonight!

I’ll start playing at 7 pm Eastern Standard Time. You can watch it here, or go to my Ustream channel to text in comments and requests while you watch.

Streaming Show This Friday

Something a little different this week. At 7 pm EST this Friday April 24, I’m going to set up a webcam in my studio and stream a live performance on UStream.tv. I’ll play from about 7 to 8:30 pm, and you can tune in from wherever you are.

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/tad-dreis

Charlotte folks? Charlottesville folks? Hong Kong? All places I haven’t visited in far too long. And this won’t be the same as a real live show, but at least I can splash a little sweat on the camera and help make it more viceral for ya.

Also, I want to try making this as interactive as possible, so I’ll be taking requests at my Ustream page. If you want to, go write “Woooo!” on my wall and I’ll give you a shoutout on camera.

The other neat thing about this is that since I’ll be in my own studio, I’ll be able to play some songs on instruments that I don’t usually travel with, like piano and mandolin. This also could lead to a few epic fails, but that’s still entertainment, right?

On Sunday, I’m heading out for a series of shows in Iowa. If the venues have internet access, maybe we can stream those, too. Letcha know. See you Friday!

The Bird Feeder

Let’s catch up: last week, I played four shows in Pennsylvania and attended the APCA Northeast conference, where I got to play a showcase and meet a whole bunch of people. Now I am holed up in North Carolina again, setting up shows and mailing out posters for my upcoming Iowa tour.

As part of my promotional efforts, I’ve set up an easy-to-download MP3 collection called “The Hedgepig Years” on my music page. Go get it!

In other news, I’m apparently better at music than graphics, or maybe just a little overwhelmed. Artwork is slow in coming together for the new album. We’ll get there. In the meantime, I’ll release little tidbit treats like the song included in my podcast last month. Missed it? You can check it out here.

Alright! Gotta get back on the phone and followup with all the schools I met last week. Cheerio!

PS: oh, and I also taped a quick cover of the song “It Was An Accident,” by Don Conoscenti to help promote a fundraiser that folks are running for him. Don is one of my favorite singer-songwriters and is recovering from a mountain biking accident. For more info, visit www.donconoscenti.com.