“SHORT STORY” – podcast episode #5, Blank Page – Songwriting

Here’s a new episode of my other podcast : Blank Page – SONGWRITING.

Learn how to write a “short story kind of song”, about a specific character in a specific environment, as if your song was a 3 minute movie.

You can listen to the episode on iTunes or here :

http://blankpagesongwriting.podomatic.com/entry/2011-11-06T02_35_50-08_00

And here’s the transcript.

Enjoy! Marta

****

Hello! This is Marta Innocenti, welcome to Blank Page – Songwriting. Get over your blank page syndrome and write your own songs! Ready? Let’s go.

Try and write A SHORT STORY, AS IF YOUR SONG WAS A 3 MINUTE MOVIE.
As a writer, you can convey whatever message you want by PICTURING A SPECIFIC CHARACTER IN SOME SPECIFIC ENVIRONMENT. The listener will follow your story and in the end your message will be clear and much more interesting.

When you write a “short story kind of song” people will remember it easily.
So if I mention “Don’t stand so close to me” by The Police you will immediately say : “Oh, yeah, that song about the young teacher and the student with a crush on him?” Do you get what I mean?
By the way, my favorite line of that song is: “wet bus stop, she’s waiting, his car is warm and dry”.
That’s phenomenal songwriting in my opinion, just a few words and you get the whole idea: the difference of age, the attraction, the doubt. Sting could have written something like “hey, folks, sometimes you just can’t help falling in love with the wrong person, even if you know from the beginning that it’s not gonna work”. Instead, he turned this general statement into a short story and , yep!, there you are: at the bus stop under the rain, close to the teacher and his student, feeling sorry about their impossible love. Sting gotcha, you’re hooked.

When you write a “short story kind of song” MAKE SURE THAT YOU CAN SUM UP THE PLOT AND DEFINE THE SONG WITH A SINGLE SENTENCE. For example : do you know that song by Tom Waits called “Martha” ?
-”Operator, number please, it’s been so many years….”-
Yeah, that’s it, Martha, “h” apart, that’s my name, and I’m so happy that Tom chose my name for that beautiful song. So, can you sum up the plot in a sentence? Tom calls Martha on the phone 40 years after their love story has ended, regretting the time when they were young and happy and -most important- together. That’s a short story, because specific characters are involved and it’s a real phone call, you kinda feel you’re listening in on some private conversation, it’s much more intimate this way.
”Those were days of roses, poetry and proses, Martha, all I had was you and all you had was me….

Ok, as usual I’m going to make an example of a song that I wrote. I was looking back at my youth, thinking about high school, about how incredibly important that age is, when you live intense emotions, you know, all the drama about your first impulsive experiences of friendship and love…yeah, you know, the need to escape from your parents and what they want you to be.
So I wrote about two teen-agers, Kim and John, running away for a weekend: he steals his father’s car on a Friday night, they live their romance pretending to be free and independent, making blood promises they knew they couldn’t keep, and then on Monday morning they have to go back to reality. The song is called “Two days and three nights”.

Now it’s your turn, try and write a “short story kind of song”.
SPECIFIC CHARACTERS, SPECIFIC SITUATION AND ENVIRONMENT, AS IF YOUR SONG WAS A 3 MINUTE MOVIE.
Ok, that’s it for now. Thanks for listening to this 5th episode of Blank Page – Songwriting. Come visit my website www.martainnocenti.com and now, enjoy my song. I’ll talk to you soon! Bye Bye!

****

The lyrics:
“TWO DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS” (performed by 12n -twelveNotes- acoustic duo www.12n.biz )
music by Marta Innocenti & G.Masino – lyrics by Marta Innocenti

John stole his father’s car that Friday night
He took his new guitar
Kim closed her parents’ door behind her back
she looked just beautiful
looking for something to regret
Kim and John were headed off to Never-land

Two days and three nights, escape for two days and three nights!
On a one way ride, on a one way ride.
Two days and three nights, escape for two days and three nights!
The one page of life they could rewrite
escaping for two days and three nights

His face was covered with her lipstick stains
that Monday would erase
They made blood promises they couldn’t keep but they were innocent
wishing their time would never end
Kim and John always belonged to Never-land

Two days and three nights, escape for two days and three nights!
On a one way ride, on a one way ride.
Two days and three nights, escape for two days and three nights!
The one page of life they could rewrite for two days and three nights
just for two days and three nights…
let them run away let them run away let them run … let them run away yeah
just for two days and three nights

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“Save your time” – podcast episode #4, Blank Page – Songwriting

Here’s a new episode of my other podcast : Blank Page – SONGWRITING.

It’s about how you can save your time when writing songs.

You can listen to the episode on iTunes or here :

http://blankpagesongwriting.podomatic.com/entry/2011-11-02T09_51_25-07_00

And here’s the transcript.

Enjoy! Marta

****

Hello! This is Marta Innocenti, welcome to Blank Page – Songwriting. Get over your blank page syndrome and write your own songs! Ready? Let’s go.

Today I’m going to help you SAVE YOUR PRECIOUS TIME. You know, it may take a long time to write a good song. So, my advice to you is this : don’t waste your time overproducing a lame song in order to make it sound good, it’s not worth it. FIRST OFF FOCUS ON THE MAIN STRUCTURE OF THE SONG AND THE MELODY AND KEEP FIXING IT UNTIL IT REALLY WORKS, forget about the rest.

Now think of the magic of the unplugged concerts, it’s taking the songs back to their true nature, that way the songwriting is naked -so to say-, and you can tell if it’s a great song or not.
Do you remember when Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi performed “Livin’ on a prayer” and “Wanted Dead or Alive” with acoustic guitars only at the VMA’s in 1989 ? it was a sort of slap in the face to decades of electric bass and guitars and powerful drums and multi million dollar productions.
If the song is written well enough, you can take all the other instruments away, perform it with acoustic guitar only and it will stand alone. Otherwise it means something is wrong.

That’s it: when you write a song, put it immediately to the test by playing it with acoustic guitar only, or with keyboard only. DON’T WASTE TOO MUCH TIME ON THE LYRICS UNTIL THE MELODY IS FIXED. FAKE ENGLISH WILL DO. KEEP ADJUSTING THE SONG STRUCTURE, CHORDS AND MELODY UNTIL IT REALLY WORKS.
A song works when teenagers can play it on the beach with their friends, or everybody sings it loud while driving. When people hum your song under the shower it has to make sense.
What is more : if you write a song this way, well, the sound or the production of your song can become old-fashioned in time, but the core of it, the melody, probably won’t. Just like people are still humming “Living on a prayer” when taking a shower nowadays.
Do you know what I mean?

So, be honest with yourself : focus on the core of your song until it really works.
FAKE ENGLISH AND ACOUSTIC GUITARS WILL SAVE YOU A LOT OF TIME! ALWAYS!
After that, only after that, get into a recording studio and produce your song, adding all the instruments and backing vocals that you need.

For example, I wrote the lyrics for the song “Women on the edge” included in the second record of (available on iTunes).
There’s a great emotional impact due to the topic and to how the song is beautifully sung and it’s far from being performed with acoustic guitars only here. But, it could be performed with acoustic guitars only. And it would stand alone. So, now listen to it once or twice and wait for the next time you take a shower. I’m sure you will be humming along…!
Ok, that’s it for now. Thanks for listening to this 4th episode of Blank Page – SONGWRITING, come visit my website www.martainnocenti.com and now, enjoy my song. I’ll talk to you soon! Bye bye!

****

The lyrics:
WOMEN ON THE EDGE – by Rezophonic ( www.rezophonic.com )
music by O.Riva/M.Zanotti/M.Riso – lyrics by Marta Innocenti

I’m working twice as hard as any man that I have met
and the beating of my heart is an earthquake in my chest
I got children to protect it’s a never ending task
walking to the moon and back every time they cry for help

love can transform lonely drops into waterfalls
oh Women on the edge for love oh Women on the edge for love

I’m no fairy, I’m no saint, Just a mother, just a wife
but it’s miracles I make in my ordinary life
all the magic that I need is in Mother Nature’s hands
hiding aces up my sleeve every time I cry for help

love can transform lonely drops into waterfalls
oh Women on the edge for love oh Women on the edge for love

far from the spotlight, women accomplish on time the “mission impossible” of life
far from the spotlight, women can always provide gallons of water under a desert sky
oh Women on the edge for love oh Women on the edge for love
just because of love.

“senses and actions” – podcast episode #3, Blank Page – Songwriting

Here’s a new episode of my other podcast : Blank Page – SONGWRITING.

It’s about using words appealing to the 5 senses and actions.

The FIVE SENSES in English are :  SIGHT, HEARING, TOUCH, SMELL and TASTE.

Now, listen to the episode on iTunes or here : http://blankpagesongwriting.podomatic.com/entry/2011-10-28T01_25_39-07_00

Then read the transcript.

Enjoy! Marta

****

Hello! This is Marta Innocenti, welcome to Blank Page – Songwriting. Get over your blank page syndrome and write your own songs! Ready? Let’s go.

Today I want you to focus on this : try to DEVELOP ANY ABSTRACT CONCEPT INTO SPECIFIC IMAGES that convey your idea. Use words and sentences that appeal to the 5 SENSES AND ACTIONS.

For example stop rambling on about the general concept of pain, unhappiness, sorrow, sadness, but find an image that your listeners will remember, just like this verse of “I’ll be there for you”, Bon Jovi.
You say you’ve cried a thousand rivers and now you’re swimming for the shore
You left me drowning in my tears and you won’t save me anymore.”

When describing efforts and struggle, you need to make the idea concrete by using verbs of action.
Check out this song by U2 (I still haven’t found what I’m looking for):
I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls, only to be with you”.

If you need another example, just listen to “Blowing in the wind”, in every single sentence Bob Dylan gives you a clear image to remember (a man walking a road, a white dove sailing the sea, the cannon balls flying, and so on). No wonder this song is a classic.

So, whenever you write a song, turn the general abstract concept into a clear picture. Search for words related to actions and the 5 senses .

Check the lyrics that I wrote for this song called “Madama Butterfly” (it’s by the rock band The Fire and you can find it on iTunes).
It’s about a naive young girl, that’s the reason for the reference to Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.
The singer tries to warn this girl about the danger and the evil of the world that she’s not able to see, she’s still too young and pure. So I wondered : how can I turn this concept into a clear image?
Here’s some of the sentences I used:
you’re a stranger to this world, living safe in your snowball, even snow will make you drown, when melting on the ground”
you’re surrounded by the wolves, you see only unicorns”

So, now, do you get what I mean? Pictures, images, actions, 5 senses. Always.

Ok, that’s it for now. Thanks for listening to this third episode of Blank Page – Songwriting, come visit my website : www.martainnocenti.com and now, enjoy my song. I’ll talk to you soon! Bye bye!

****

The lyrics:

MADAMA BUTTERFLY (by The Fire – www.thefiremusic.com)
music by O.Riva – lyrics by Marta Innocenti

Yeah, all right , yeah, all right, Don’t give up the fight Madama Butterfly *

You’re a bubble made of soap *
And this world will make you burst *
You’re surrounded by the wolves *
You see only unicorns *
You’ll get hurt, my little girl * Watch out ! Watch out ! *
When you find out * Will you break down ? * My Madam Butterfly * My Madam Butterfly *

You’re a stranger to this world *
Living safe in your snowball *
Even snow will make you drown *
When melting on the ground *
You’ll get hurt, my little girl * Watch out ! Watch out ! *

When you find out * Will you break down ? * My Madam Butterfly * My Madam Butterfly *
They’ll break your heart * They’ll let you down * My Madam Butterfly * My Madam Butterfly*

Bloody flower bloody flower… *

Yeah, all right , yeah, all right, Don’t give up the fight Madama Butterfly *
Yeah, all right , yeah, all right Don’t give up the fight Madama Butterfly * Butterfly * Butterfly *

“TELL THE TRUTH” – episode #2 – blank page songwriting

Hello! This is the second episode of my podcast “Blank Page – SONGWRITING” : “tell the truth”.

In this episode I use a couple of adjectives formed with the suffix -ful :  MEANINGFUL (important, significant) and TRUTHFUL (honest, straight).  Can you think of any other similar adjective ? For example : wonderful, useful, successful, grateful, faithful, colorful, careful, hateful, awful, beautiful, joyful…

Ok, now listen to this episode on iTunes or here:   http://blankpagesongwriting.podomatic.com/entry/2011-10-27T03_55_54-07_00

and read the transcript.  Enjoy, Marta

****

Hello! This is Marta Innocenti, welcome to Blank Page – Songwriting. Get over your blank page syndrome and write your own songs! Ready? Let’s go.

My first piece of advice is very simple: always tell the truth, your personal truth. When you write a song, TALK ABOUT SOMETHING THAT MEANS A LOT TO YOU AND SAY SOMETHING YOU TRULY MEAN.

When I first listened to “The show must go on” by Queen I was moved by it, the song is so deep and meaningful. The lyrics, the music and Freddy’s voice combine perfectly to convey that message.

Or think of “Marry me” by Train, no wonder that song is the soundtrack of every wedding now, and it’s not just because of the title. When he sings: “I promise to sing to you when all the music dies” you can tell he really means to be by her side forever.

Or do you remember “18 till I die” ? Bryan Adams could sing that because he’s actually looked 18 his whole life, but, what I mean is that the song is simple, genuine, 100% fun.

So, whenever you write a song, put your personal truth into it. Your own experience, your ideas, your true feelings. When people listen to your song, it will take them a second to realize if what you say is fake or trivial. On the contrary, if your song is truthful, people can agree with it or not, but they will not skip it or forget it that easily.

Check this song that I wrote for my Acoustic Duo TwelveNotes (www.12n.biz) : the title is “Partner in Crime”.     We’re the king and the queen of the view we can see from the balcony…”

The main idea for this song is the word girlfriend, “GirlFRIEND”. Thinking about my husband, I realized that he’s my best friend and I’m his best friend, we have been sharing our passions (such as music, of course) and we have dealt with big problems side by side. Friendship is the core of every long lasting love story in my opinion. This is my personal truth. Every time I sing this song I can feel the same happiness I felt writing it, ’cause I kinda…you know, see the movie of the life we have lived together so far. Everything I say is true: for example: the amazing sunsets on the hills from our balcony, our motorbike, and the black and white keys of the keyboard are the reason for the name of our duo (twelveNotes). And, well, yes, I also mention the hard times we went through when my husband was fighting leukaemia. I included the sentence “omnia vincit amor”, that is latin, it means Love Conquers All, that was the sentence I kept repeating myself to find the strength to carry on until my husband finally recovered.

So, now, do you get what I mean? Talk about something really meaningful to you and tell the truth. Always.

Ok, that’s it for now. Thanks for listening to this second episode of Blank Page – Songwriting, come visit my website www.martainnocenti.com and now, enjoy my song. I’ll talk to you soon! Bye bye!

****

The lyrics:

PARTNER IN CRIME (by 12N – twelveNotes-)

music and lyrics by Marta Innocenti

We’re the king and the queen of the view we can see from the balcony

of the sunset on the hills, of a milky way ceiling

we’ve been feeding a dream

and we know what it means to sweat for each step

well we made it happen in the end oh yeah!

Yes Man! I’m your Girlfriend, I’m the Best Friend that you ever had

Yes Man, that’s right, I’m your Partner in Crime

I’m the mirror you need to remind you the warrior you can be

I’m the music that you hear with a speedy heartbeat

And the road’s getting clearer riding together the same motorbike

We keep playing all the keys, both black and white oh yeah!

Yes I will never forget the whisper of death In that room of the hospital

But we painted the walls with the colours of love

Cause we knew : ‘OMNIA VINCIT AMOR’

and bad weather may come and the angels may fall

we got each other !

Write the lyrics of YOUR song !

Hello everybody!    You know I’m a singer and a songwriter,  so I decided to create another podcast to tell you all about how I write songs.

You can listen to the first episode here  http://blankpagesongwriting.podomatic.com/entry/2011-09-27T06_37_57-07_00

Learn how to get over your BLANK PAGE SYNDROME.  By the way, do you know what it is?  Ok, imagine you have a blank page in front of you and you have no idea of what you could write about.  A white piece of paper and your mind goes blind! Ok, that’s the Blank Page Syndrome,  every writer has to deal with it from time to time…

Do you think that writing songs is only a matter of INSPIRATION ? Being in an inspired mood can help, but it takes a lot of  work  in order to find the perfect words to match the melody of your song. And it takes a method.

Listen to the first episode of “Blank Page -Songwriting”, here’s the transcript.  Have fun!

Marta

*****************

Hello! This is Marta Innocenti, welcome to BLANK PAGE – SONGWRITING.
Let’s talk about how to… “Write the lyrics of your song”.

 1 – Point number ONE : first of all you need to decide the main TOPIC.
What will your song be about? Love? friendship? family? politics? having a dream? Choose any subject you’re interested in and let’s get started!

2 – Point number TWO : decide the main IDEA regarding the topic you chose.
If the subject is Love, which particular aspect of Love are you going to describe in your song ? It could be : the joy for a new love? how love changes people? Or the end of a love story. Well, the main idea is the core of your song, so define it clearly in your mind and focus on that.
Attention: you’re gonna need a title, connected to this main idea. So, start thinking about what the title could be while working on the following points. And let’s go on!

3 – Point number THREE : choose the KEY WORDS
Write down some key words, strictly connected to the main idea, its environment, its development. Write as many words as you can, even though they don’t make any sense to you now, they will surely feed your creativity.
Notice how many words connected to the main idea you can hear in “Thriller” by Michael Jackson : midnight, dark, scream, killer, horror, night creatures, demons…
Try and find catchy key words. For instance, Paul McCartney and Steve Wonder…they talk about “Ebony and Ivory”, concerning black and white keys of a piano in order to convey the message of tolerance between black and white people. Striking, isn’t it ?
Another catchy key word is Umbrella, in the famous song by Rihanna. The main idea is -you can count on me- and that’s how it is conveyed: “you can stand under my umbrella”.

 4 – Point number FOUR : choose the POINT OF VIEW
If you want the listener to be really involved, use the first and second person, I and You: “it’s MY life, and it’s now or never, I ain’t gonna live forever…” Bon Jovi – “I’m a creep…” Radiohead – “I will try to fix you…” Coldplay
If you prefer the listener to be an observer of someone else’s reality, you can use the third person: Ricky was a young boy, he had a heart of stone, lived 9 to 5 and he worked his fingers to the bone” – “18&life” Skid Row.
You can also mention the names of the characters of your song :
Michelle, ma belle…” Beatles – “Gina dreams of running away, when she cries in the night Tommy whispers baby it’s ok…” “Living on a prayer” by Bon Jovi. – “Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light…” Police
In order to make the audience recognize into a common message, or feel part of a group, you’d better use WE : “We are the champions, we are the champions…” Queen – “We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones …” USA for Africa

5 – point number FIVE : select words connected to the five SENSES and to ACTIONS
Find adjectives, nouns, verbs, adverbs connected to sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste or to actions. The audience must feel what you’re saying and actually see it as if it was a movie.
For instance: “BLEEDING LOVE” by Leona Lewis. The pain she feels is described as a physical wound : I keep bleeding, keep keep bleeding love, you cut me open”.
Notice this verse of “YOU GOT A FRIEND” by James Taylor. Every word recalls an image you can see or something you can hear or feel : “If the sky above you should turn dark and full of clouds and that old north wind should begin to blow”

6 – point number SIX : pay attention to the SOUND of the words.
You have to adjust everything you’ve been writing so far according to the melody, searching for the best solutions about rhyming too. Make your song catchy by using assonance or consonance or alliteration whenever you can. It’s difficult but absolutely necessary.
Think of “FAME” soundtrack. Check how rhyming is important to make this chorus more emotional and easier to remember :
(Fame) I wanna live forever, I’m gonna learn how to fly
I feel it comin’ together, people will see me and cry
(Fame)I’m gonna make it to heaven, light up the sky like a flame
I’m gonna live forever, baby remember my name”

7 – point number SEVEN : use REPETITIONS
knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door…” Bob Dylan (Eric Clapton’s version)
Some words or lines have to be repeated in order to make the song easier to remember : “let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be…” Beatles – “can’t read my, can’t read my, no he can’t read my poker face” Lady Gaga
You’d better include also some catchy tricks such as :
Ehh Ehh “Hey soul sister” by Train – Ohhh Ohhh… “With or without you” by U2 – eheheheh “Don’t you” by Simple minds.
Remember that you can use repetitions according to the structure of the song, you can open each verse with the same word, or use the same line in every bridge, so that it will be easier for the audience to get familiar to your lyrics from the very first listening. Check out “She will be loved” by Maroon 5 : the same sentence is used in the second verse and again after the special before the final chorus.
Tap on my window knock on my door, I want to make you feel beautiful”

8 – point number EIGHT : keep it EASY and UNIVERSAL
People need to recognize themselves and their lives in your song, so say something easy to understand but not trivial, say something interesting but not too specific.
Every breath you take” by Police : the song is about the obsession of a man who can not accept that a love story has ended. But 99% of the audience will consider it a love song, because the words used are not too specific. That gives the song a double meaning and it makes the song more popular. Pretty smart ! “Every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you”
First verse is crucial to get the audience attention. So be careful and pay particular attention to the very first words you use. Quoting The Police again, that’s how “Message in a bottle” begins: “Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, Another lonely day With no one here but me”.
Take a moment to think of the kind of audience this song is addressed to, choose the right words also according to the kind of music you’re dealing with and the medium age of the listeners.

 9 – POINT Number NINE : choose a smart TITLE
If the title is smart enough, it goes beyond the meaning itself of the song.
Such as : “The final Countdown” by Europe- used every year in December
or “Last Christmas” by Wham- considered a Christmas song but it is about a love story ended badly.
Remember that nowadays songs are searched for in alphabetical order (on the iPod, in computers, and so on) so it’s better to choose titles beginning with the first letters of the alphabet !

10 – point number TEN : put your song to the TEST
Let someone listen to your song once or twice without explaining anything.
The following day ask this person about your song. Does your listener remember what the song was about? Which sentences and words does he or she remember? If you think it’s necessary change some lines to make your song easier to remember.

So, now it’s all up to you! Write your own song, following the 10 rules.
1) TOPIC.
2) main IDEA
3) KEY WORDS
4) POINT OF VIEW
5) words connected to SENSES and ACTIONS
6) SOUND and RHYMING
7) REPETITIONS
8  keep it EASY and UNIVERSAL
9) TITLE
10) put your song to the TEST

Let me add one important suggestion.
Don’t worry if the song you’re writing doesn’t seem a masterpiece to you and don’t stop writing just because you’re afraid your song won’t be perfect.
Like any other kind of human artistic expression, writing songs is useful to the writer in the first place. Right, first of all to us writers, because that’s how we get to know ourselves better, we feed our creativity and imagination, we learn how to express our feelings and opinions, we search for our style, we develop our personality.
Every song you write is important, because it is the sum of your ideas and it is shaped by many decisions you are forced to make.
So enjoy every single song you write, since it’s going to tell you , for sure, something about yourself.