I recently was asked to hold a songwriting workshop for Adults Learners Week and because it was a taster class I was only given one hour to do it. I decided that the best way to spend the time was to focus what makes good lyrics.
For me the words are everything in a song. They do not always have to be the most complicated flowery stream of consciousness but they do have to paint picture in my mind and if they are extra special invoke a feeling, taste or smell.
Tired, trite cliches and rhymes will leave me cold and, unless the music is such to override my disappointment, turning the tune off.
To stimulate the imaginations of the attendees I led them through an exercise which is similar to the thought process I use when I have a set of lyrics that need polishing.
This process has become subconscious now but initially it was a slow but I stuck with it because it got me the results I was happy to put my name to.
It forces the mind to keep working until there is a vivid picture and the ambiguity is removed from the work. This does not mean that my ideals are forced upon the listener but rather a strong picture that has a personal resonance with them is formed and songs that are personal to me can find universal appeal.
Regardless of whether you are a songwriter or not this is a good excercise as it trains you to look at the world a little differently. Simple and overlooked details are brought into focus and the miracles and wonders of everyday life become noticeable. You develop appreciation for the seemingly mundane.
For example. I asked each of the attendees in turn to tell me about the last meal they had.
Tony told me he had gone to a Turkish Coffee shop and had a cup of tea and cake. I asked him to tell me more about the tea.
'It was hot.'
'How do you know it was hot?' I asked.
He paused and looked at me not sure about where I was going.
I asked him again. 'What made you know the tea was hot?'
'Ahhh,' he said' 'there was steam coming from the cup'.
Now we were getting somewhere but I wanted to push him further. 'Tell me about the steam.'
'It's grey... Like clouds. It's wet.'
I could see that he was starting to see what I was doing as I sensed excitement in him as his imagination stirred.
'Which way are these 'clouds' moving? Think about what else moves this way.' I just needed to give home one last jolt.
'They are moving upwards. Slowly... like balloons.'
'Brilliant. Stop there and look at the words we have.'
Hot. Steam. Grey. Clouds. Wet. Moving upwards. Slowly. Balloons.
Can you see it too?
Although we had yet to form the actual lyric what I wanted to show is how an ordinary event can be painted beautiful.
This is where my mind goes most of the time not just when I write.
There is poetry in everything.
You will probably never see a cup of tea the same way again. :)
Thanks for reading