Writing Better Lyrics

August 24th, 2010 Jonny Kaine Posted in Books No Comments »

I’m only about a third of the way through reading Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison but I’m already sure it’s worth it’s purchase price because it’s really opened up my mind as far as how to approach writing lyrics.

It’s given me a sort of framework that I believe I can use to write lyrics that are both meaningful (to me and to others) and that work in a song (this is important, poems are not lyrics – we always have to remember that lyrics are to be sung.)

… And The Rant Begins …

Too often I think people have this crazy idea that should just know how to do something. That real talent comes “naturally.” That’s such bullshit. Everyone who is good at anything has studied it in one way or another. This attitude gives people an easy excuse to quit.

“Oh, my lyrics aren’t as good as Bob Dylan’s on my first try, I might as well give up.”

“My music sounds like crap compared to Mozart, I’m done with this.”

If you really want to do something, you have to put in the time to learn how to do it. And it’s not all just about “being creative.” Creativity doesn’t mean that much without having some clue about what you’re doing. Not to say that you have to be a total expert of all things music theory to make great music, I don’t think that’s true. But knowing some technical stuff definitely helps.

And even if someone doesn’t know the names for something, that doesn’t mean that they don’t know it on another level. For example people often make a big deal about Lennon & McCartney not knowing how to read music and not knowing technical music theory stuff. Sure, that’s true. But they definitely knew a ton about how to construct great songs from their many years learning how to play hundreds of other people’s songs before they wrote their first hit.

And while I think it’s true that creativity without some clue as to what you’re doing doesn’t mean much, I also think it’s true that knowing the technical stuff on it’s own doesn’t mean anything either. You have to have the spark of creativity too to make something that’s truly special. That’s the thing, you can’t have just one or the other. You need to learn how to do something, and then you’ve got the ability to let your creativity take over (if you’ve got any.)

I know this has turned into a bit of a rant, and it echoes some of the ideas from an earlier rant “What People Call Talent…” but I really think it’s important. So many people have this crazy idea that if they aren’t born knowing how to do something that they shouldn’t bother. Nobody is born knowing how to do anything. Nobody.

“People make a great mistake who think that my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to compositions as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not studied over and over” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

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Guitar Man

July 19th, 2010 Jonny Kaine Posted in Books 1 Comment »

I just finished reading a book called Guitar Man about a 34 year old English man who is inspired by Davey Graham’s “Anji” to try to learn how to play the guitar well enough to do a live show within six months.

It’s a non-fiction self narrative sort of deal and it’s filled with lots of interesting history about the guitar and great interviews with all kinds of different guitarists (Johnny Marr, Les Paul, Davey Graham, Bert Jansch, Dan Auerbach, T. Model Ford, and more.)

I found it to be simultaneously hilarious, interesting, and inspiring. If you’re at all interested in playing guitar (especially if you are a beginner or someone who has played a bit but never taken it real seriously) I think you’ll probably love this book like I did. I definitely recommend it.

In fact, I loved the book so much that when I looked the author up (Will Hodgkinson) after I was done reading it and found he had a book called Song Man (which looks to be a similar theme but with the focus being songwriting instead of playing guitar) I wasted no time ordering it on Amazon (it should be here in a few days.)

And the book has got me getting serious about my guitar playing again. I’m one of those types who has been playing guitar for a long time but never really bothered trying to take it to the “next level.” This book inspired me to start pushing myself a lot harder to get better.

Actually part of the reason I’ve not been updating this blog as much as I thought I was going to be is that lately my attention has been more on making music than on recording it. Although, I’m quite certain I’m going to be getting my head deeply into recording at some point in the future and the recording related entries will start coming a lot faster.

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What People Call “Talent” Is Actually…

July 5th, 2010 Jonny Kaine Posted in Books, General No Comments »

This Is Your Brain On Music (which I recently finished reading) mentioned something called the “10,000 hour rule” which I first came across while reading Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. What is this “10,000 hour rule”? The idea behind it is that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a true expert at anything (anything that requires a great deal of skill that is, I don’t think anyone would claim it takes 10,000 hours to master tic-tac-toe.)

In This Is Your Brain On Music, the author (Daniel J. Levitin) references this rule when talking about people’s perception of “talent.” When most people see someone performing with a great deal of skill (example: Eddie Van Halen playing a guitar solo) they think “wow, that guy is so incredibly talented, I could never do that.”

People seem to want to think that people are born with such skills but the truth is that kind of skill comes from long hours of practice. There is no one who has that level of skill without putting in the hard work.

This is not to discount genetic factors entirely. Certainly there may be some people who are more predisposed to certain types of skills, but all of the scientific evidence (read these two books for the details) shows that time spent practicing is far more important than genetic factors.

Sadly, it’s doesn’t seem to be the case that all practice is created equal. The general rule is that the earlier you start practicing the more effective it seems to be. When people think of a young person as being extremely “talented” at something it’s really because they started practicing at a very young age (because they have an adult mentor, consider that Mozart’s father was considered to be the best music teacher around.) Children can often pick up new skills with more ease than adults.

That said, regardless of your age I believe that if you really want to be great at something, then it’s very likely that you can be. There’s probably nothing stopping you but your own lack of resolve (aka laziness.)

It’s this resolve that really what sets the “talented” apart from the rest of us. They have a true dedication that has pushed them to practice until they become a master.

Finally I want to leave you with this nugget of wisdom I took from This Is Your Brain On Music: Successful people tend to fail far more often than unsuccessful people. I think when you consider this in light of what it takes to become a true master then it becomes clear that failure is really just a lack of trying.

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Front-Back Mix (Reverb)

June 15th, 2010 Jonny Kaine Posted in Books, Mixing No Comments »

I’ve just started reading a book titled This Is Your Brain On Music which was written by a musician turned producer turned neuroscientist named Daniel Levitin. I’m really into learning about the science of music at the moment. I’ve recently read two other books on this topic: Musicophilia & Music, The Brain, and Ecstasy.

It’s a very good sign that I’m going to really love this book that on page two of the introduction I’ve already found something in it that “clicked” with me to the point where I want to share it here.

This little tidbit may be quite obvious to most of you reading this, and it probably should be obvious to me but for whatever reason I never quite thought about it like this.

The author was talking about listening to music on headphones for the first time and he wrote about how he could clearly hear “the placement of the instruments both in the left-right field and in the front-back field (reverberant) space.”

It’s that bit about thinking of the “front-back field” in that way that got my attention. This is something I already know really (a dry sound is more up front while a reverb sound is farther back) but yet it still seems like a revelation in a way. Like something that will help me when I’m doing my mixes. To think not only in left-right terms but in front-back as well.

What this really leads to is thinking more clearly about when and how to use reverb. I’ve already been experimenting with different amounts of pre-delay on my reverb lately and how that can make a huge difference in the sound. And reading this makes me want to go further with this experimentation.

As you can surely tell, this blog post is not really meant to be a “how to” lesson from me (like some of my other posts are.) This is more about a cerebral thing just to get you thinking (and to try to get whatever I’m thinking more clear to me.) I love thinking about mixing in different ways. I think that this can help open up new possibilities.

It’s important to be open to learning new things and to be open to looking at what you think you already know from new perspectives. To never think you have it all figured out. I’ve noticed that some people are inclined to thinking they’ve got it all figured out when they’ve really only scratched the surface and this keeps them from progressing. Don’t fall into this trap! (I say this to myself as much as to anyone reading this entry.)

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December 8th, 2009 Jonny Kaine Posted in Books, REAPER 1 Comment »

I recently got REAPER POWER! from Amazon and I’ve been extremely impressed with it so far. It’s helping me to see how much of REAPER’s capabilities I’ve been missing (you can try out REAPER for free by the way, and a personal use license is only $60.)

I keep finding out about new things I can do with this software and new ways I can streamline my work flow so that I can work in a more efficient way. When you’re trying to do something creative you want to be able to do all of the technical things as easily as possible.

If you’re a REAPER user (and I don’t think I’m ever going to go back to using any other DAW) then I definitely recommend getting this guide. It’s great.

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The Beatles As Musicians

July 30th, 2009 Jonny Kaine Posted in Books, General 2 Comments »

I’ve just purchased The Beatles As Musicians: Revolver Through The Anthology and I wanted to pass word to any other Beatles fanatic home recording people out there who may be interested in it because I think this book looks fascinating.  Of course I haven’t read it yet to give any kind of real review of it. I’ll try to get to that once it’s delivered.

I’ve read a lot of Beatles books over the years but most of them have been focused more on the biography of the band than on the creation of the music itself. That’s what this book is about and that’s why I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

There’s also a second book by the same author (which was actually written after this one) which focuses on The Beatles earlier stuff (through Rubber Soul) but since I’m more interested in their later stuff I figured I would just get this one first to see what it’s like before buying the second one.

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Books On Songwriting

July 12th, 2009 Jonny Kaine Posted in Books, Songwriting 1 Comment »

Can you really learn how to write great songs by reading a book? Well I don’t know. But it seems to me that it’s a good idea to be open to learning new things if you want to improve your understanding of music.

And for this reason (and because of the excellent Amazon reviews) I decided to buy these two books on songwriting (which are both by Rikky Rooksby.)

Melody: How To Write Great Tunes

This book (as you can tell by the title) is focused writing melodies. I’ve just started reading it and I’m already finding it very interesting. Has it inspired me to write my very own “Yesterday” ? Well not quite yet. But I don’t expect miracles, just building blocks of knowledge that I can work with. It comes with a CD so you can hear examples of what you’re reading about. This is essential since music is, of course, a listening art.

How To Write Songs On Guitar

This book is focused on helping those of us who write songs on our guitar. While it doesn’t include a CD, it does give plenty of examples for what it’s talking about and if you have a decent music collection you’ll be able to listen to these songs which is just as effective a technique as including the audio CD, I think.

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