How to write a song – songs and poetry continued…

Following on from yesterday’s post on songwriting I’d like to delve a little deeper.

It certainly helps me when I sit down to write to know what it is I’m going to be writing, ie whether it’s a song, or a poem. If my drive is to write a poem, I won’t grab one of my instruments. All I need is a pen and piece of paper. I feel an incredible sense of freedom when I write poetry. I let my mind and emotions free and follow the stream of consciousness as it appears on the page before me. My poetry tends to follow this pattern. When the poem is finished I often feel washed clean, purified – somehow the world changes when a new poem has been written.

Here’s one of my poems – a seasonal one for Imbolc:

By Damh the Bard

As the dark, cold morning gives way to light,snowdrops1.jpeg
And the world shows its face dazzling in her nakedness,
So the twigs and leaf-bare branches,
Bow to the passing dance

Of old Jack Frost.

His crystal breath on the earth,
And the corners of houses weep icicles of joy.
But where is the Sun’s warmth?
Where is life?

A small flower, delicate and pure-white,
Looks to the earth,
As if talking to the waiting green,
“Not yet,” it seems to whisper.
“When I fall, then you can return.”

And she nods her head,
as the Lady passes by,
Leaving more flowers in Her wake.

Writing a song is a very different experience.

I’ll often feel the need to write a song, so will grab an instrument and just noodle, playing with chords, fingerpicking, singing nonsense words to find a melody that fits with the chords. Sometimes something comes, sometimes it doesn’t. But the melody is the hook of the song for me, so other than two of my songs when I wrote the words first and then found the tune (Only Human and Immrama, both from my new CD), the tune always comes first.

I can sometimes have a tune for months before I discover what the tune will be about. The song The Cauldron Born from my new CD, I had the tune for nearly 3 years before the words finally came through. Others, like Merlin am I, I’ll write the tune and the words in one sitting, and will often look at the page afterwards, totally exhausted, and wonder where it all came from.

Either way, for me songwriting is more like giving birth to a child. It can be painful, exciting, frustrating, risky, but at the end there is something that breathes for itself, and like a child, continues to grow and change with every performance.

One response to “How to write a song – songs and poetry continued…”

  1. Hi Damh. I think coming from a poetry background, the lyrics have precedence for me – not that they are ultimately more important than the music, but I tend to think of them first, often a lyrical hook. My experience is that I actually think about the song in my head for quite awhile before I commit to paper. I might work out one or two verses and a chorus (and maybe a basic tune) before I’m happy to sit down and start writing. At that point I’ll write down what I’ve thought of, then maybe pick up the guitar and work out the tune for it, and simultaneously writing more lyrics – repeat until done!

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