Showing posts with label FAWM. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FAWM. Show all posts

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I'm a big booster of FAWM, which is why I'm posting tonight.

FAWM stands for February Album Writing Month.

The goal is to write 14 songs in 28 days; or seeing that this happens to be a leap year, 14 and a half songs in 29 days.

A lot of people don't get the concept of FAWM. I participated in FAWM for the last three years, and I've heard comments such as, "The songs come when they come"; "I don't believe in forcing yourself to write a bunch of songs in a month".

Well, the songwriting skill is the same as any other. Practice it, and you get better. Wait for "inspiration" and it may never come.

What FAWM forces one to do is to stop self-editing. By its nature, it prohibits that kind of thought. Because you have to get them written...all fourteen of a finite period of time.

Self-editing is the death knell for artistic people. We're an insecure lot as it is. Left to our own devices, we could chew on a song for a year, and it still wouldn't be good enough.

Hey, it's just a song. We writers need to get over ourselves.

The reason I am not participating in FAWM this year is; (a) I don't really write anymore; and (b) I sort of forgot about it.

And here it is (as I write this), February 4. That's four lost days, and I'm not of a mind to try to make those up.

As a writer (or as any artistic person), although we're a solitary bunch, most of us find that having a supportive community of like-minded dreamers is really helpful. And one of the best things about FAWM is their discussion board. One finds people who speak the same language, which is an epiphany in itself.

Ever try explaining, or even mentioning, songwriting to someone who thinks you're some kind of crude alien being? I have. I've actually seen the glazed look in their eyes; their minds beginning to drift off, to things that make a bagel or an online shopping site.

They think we're weirdos.

Which is why I don't talk about writing.

Well, except here.

I miss writing (music).

But I think I miss FAWM more.

FAWM'ers don't look at the results so much as they look at the journey.

I would say that in the three years that I completed the challenge, I probably wrote two good songs. Seriously. And fourteen times three equals 42 songs. That's less than five hundredths of a per cent success rate. Sad.

But I'm not sad about it. I learned stuff; stuff about myself, and stuff about songwriting. Too bad I don't put it into practice now, but never say never.

I can go back and listen to those songs, and remember exactly what I was feeling, and what I was thinking, when I wrote every single one of them. Those are memories that have meaning to me. Just me. But did I say songwriting is a solitary existence? If I didn't, well, it is.

Why did I stop? I was repeating myself too much. And I can't play, and I'm frustrated that I can't play, and that I don't know enough chords to change things up. I reached the limits of my abilities. And my desire.

Some time away from songwriting is probably what I need. I pass my guitar in the hall twenty times a day, and I never once have the urge to pick it up. I'm a pseudo-songwriter.

I love music. That's why I write this blog.

I once thought that I wanted to be part of the music. I don't know now. Maybe I am just supposed to be an historian of the music.

You're maybe wondering about those two songs. The two good ones.

The story behind the songs is probably only interesting to the person who wrote them. But I'll tell you my story anyway.

Well, it was a cold February day (duh!), and we'd had a coating of ice. Ice is the worst! Give me snow; give me cold. Just don't give me ice. Ever try driving on that? Well, don't! Just stay home!

I was sitting on my loveseat with my guitar, and I was looking out the window (at the lovely ice coating on all the trees and on the sidewalk). And I thought, hmmm, ice storm. That could be a good metaphor for a relationship.

And I wanted to write something reminiscent of the Eagles, because I love the Eagles. And I think Don Henley is a very clever writer.

So, all that stuff was going through my mind, and I sat there on the loveseat with my spiral notebook and my guitar, and I worked the whole day getting that song the way I wanted it.

And the finished product was Ice Storms. Sorry; no video. I had a video, but I took it down for some reason. I'm very insecure about my singing. I'm thinking that's why.

Wastin' My Time Away
was written on an evening when I was feeling serene and happy.

What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking about seeing Paul McCartney in concert, and him doing a tribute to George Harrison, on the ukelele. This is sort of my Paul McC song.

I wrote the song in the key of D, which is a happy chord. The song came really fast. I wrote the lyrics in probably less than half an hour. But that's the kind of song it is, isn't it? Nothing too profound.

I like this song, because it's the me that I like being. We never did a proper recording of it, because sometimes things just get lost in the shuffle, you know? There are three of us in this band, and we have to take our turns.

Looking back, I'm pretty happy with these two songs. These two five hundredths of a per cent.

You know, Paul Simon wrote a lot of songs that no one has heard, too. We only march out the good ones. We're not stupid.

But I've got all my FAWM songs online, just for me. Just to have them in one place, so if I want to go back and relive the FAWM days, I can do it. Nobody else listens to them; nor would I expect anyone to.

To me, even the bad ones are cool. But I guess you'd have to know the story behind them.

Anyway, it's still not too late, songwriters! Head on over to FAWM and join up! I'm still reading the discussion boards, so I'm with you all in spirit! And who knows? Maybe next year...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

FAWM Aftermath

Another year, another FAWM. I said I wasn't going to do it, and I was really teetering as the calendar slipped into February. Remembering how hard I worked last year, I didn't think I had the stamina to do it again.

On the first weekend of FAWM, I thought, well, I'll just write lyrics. Easy enough. I wrote three sets (Are they called "sets"? And if so, why?) Well, that turned out to be really boring. You see, to me, a song isn't a "song" without a melody. Call me cuckoo. As clever as they may be, nobody wants to read lyrics (and by "nobody", I mean me).

Also, part of the fun of FAWM is having other writers comment on what you write. What's somebody going to say? "Nice. I like how all the lines seem to be about the same length." ??

So, I quickly turned those three sets into songs. Luckily, they were already metered properly, and I sort of had a melody for each in my head when I was writing them. I just basically had to find the right chords.

From there, I was pretty much committed (or should have been committed). I was stuck having to finish the stupid challenge. Because once I start something, unfortunately, I AM going to finish.

The problem, as I see it now, is that last year, I was excited about writing the 14 songs. This year, well, I just had to do it. This showed in the quality of my songs, or lack thereof.

So, what did I learn?

1. It's good to force oneself to write. Good things can come of it. Unfortunately, also bad things can come of it. The proper mindset is key.

2. I need a good co-writer. My melodies suck. Part of the issue is, I am forced to use the same chords a lot, since I don't actually know that many. This results in a lot of sameness and/or deadness.

3. Without being versed in music production, all my songs had to be labeled "acoustic folk", because it was just me and my guitar. This resulted in boring songs (see "sameness/deadness").

4. I got very few song comments this year, as opposed to last. This, I'm sure, is directly the result of numbers one through three above. However, it was rather disheartening. "Gee, I guess I'm really as bad as I thought I was. I was hoping I was wrong."

5. Just a slight criticism of FAWM (although, for the record, I am a big booster of the organization): It does tend to be rather cliquish, meaning that prolific forum posters get lots of song comments; and I'm just not a forum-poster kind of gal. I guess I could have posted a lot of "I agree!", just to boost my numbers. Also, there is a bias toward fully produced demos. This sort of goes against the stated purpose of FAWM, which is to encourage songwriting. But that's just human nature, I guess.

On the plus side (and really, there is a plus side):

1. My quirky songs seemed to turn out the best. Those were the ones that I dashed off in a couple of hours; the ones that came from somewhere God only knows; the ones that had no purpose; no meaning (deep or otherwise); they just were what they were. I didn't try to analyze them. I wrote them as a lark. This sort of ticks me off, in a way, because I have slaved over songs in the past ~ in fact, the best song I thought I ever wrote, I spent weeks writing and rewriting, and it turned out only two people even liked that song. Fine. See if I ever write a song I really like ever again.

2. I had a bad day one Friday in February. I was feeling pretty down; depressed. Not so down that I went and buried my head under the covers. I still realized that I had to try to keep up the pace, if I was going to finish the FAWM challenge. So, I sat and wrote some lines, and quietly sang them into the mic. And I got this comment from one of FAWM's most highly-regarded writers:

"Oh, beautiful... the simplicity of the performance really nails these words. Great stuff."

That, in a nutshell, made FAWM for me this year.

3. I can write funny songs (but I don't respect myself for it), and those are the ones that garner comments. I'm not saying I did that a lot. I wrote one from a line I heard my husband say, and I wrote another one as a result of a FAWM challenge. (I don't consider "quirky" the same as "funny". Quirky happens without trying; that's different).

So, to sum up, FAWM was both good and bad for me this year. I may go back and listen to those songs once more; I may not (depends on whether I've had a couple of drinks first). I may even, at some point, upload them to ReverbNation, since I created my own account last year for just that express purpose. But I may not (if I do, I will post a link).

But did I write any keepers? I don't think so. Last year, I wrote two. Well, good things tend to happen to me in odd-numbered years anyway, so next year (if I do it again!) is bound to be better.

P.S. Songwriters, what do you do with all the songs you write? Just keep 'em in a file somewhere? Maybe I could burn mine to CD and bury them in a time capsule. Then, one day, my kids will dig them up and say, wow, my mom sure wasted a bunch of time!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Okay, Lyric-Only Writers, You Can Flog Me Now

I've said some harsh, I guess you could say, things about lyric-only writers in previous blogs. However, I still stand by my statement: Lyrics are not songs. I think I said, unless you can strum them on a guitar, or plink them out on a keyboard, they're not songs. True!

I will, though, say that just sitting and writing lyrics is not as easy as it seems at first glance.

Not that hard, but not necessarily easy.

What brings me to this enlightenment? Simply, it's February, and that means it's time for FAWM, or more specifically, February Album Writing Month.

If you're familiar with my blog, FAWM means, in essence, write 14 songs in 28 days.

I still shudder in horror when I think about FAWM, 2010. Okay, horror isn't quite the right word. More like shudder in "exhaustion". I pushed myself really, really hard last year, to accomplish FAWM's goal, and I did it!

This year, however, I just didn't feel that I had the stamina to do what I did in 2010; yet I couldn't bring myself to NOT participate in FAWM (Once you've done it, you're hooked; really.)

So, the compromise? Write 14 lyrics.

I'm still part of the FAWM community; still an active participant; just not with the crushing commitment of not only writing the songs, but recording stupid demos of them as well.

So, all is good, right?

Sort of.

I find that I, in essence, do write the songs, at least in my head, while I conjure up the lyrics. It's the only way I know. And yea, I've got the chord progressions rattling around up there, too.

I, frankly, don't know how someone who doesn't know music can write a coherent lyric. It's not a matter of doing syllable counts, for God's sake. I mean, when you sing it, it's going to be totally different anyway. I wonder if lyric-only writers get bogged down in the minutia of making sure each line is exactly the same length as the one before it. Nobody sings that way!

So, okay, this does sound condescending, and I don't mean it to. But, on the other hand, since I've done, let's see, six lyrics now (and it's only February 4), I'm really itching to pick up the guitar and play the damn things. Having something echoing in your head is all well and good, but it's the same as fantasizing that Johnny Depp is going to swashbuckle on your doorstep and sweep you away (is "swashbuckle" a verb?) It's not reality; it's a fantasy.

Lyrics are NOT songs. You need a MELODY. You need somebody to SING them.

But anyway, if you want to know how to write songs, I did find this:

Have you ever wanted to write a song? (YES!) And maybe have it recorded by a famous singer? (SURE!) Maybe it could even hit the "top ten" chart? (WHY NOT?)

While this actually happens to some lyricists and songwriters, the chances are slim for a person to reach that height of success. But, what the heck! If you have an idea for a song, you might as well write it down and organize it into a song. Even if it never enters the front door of a recording studio, you will still have the bragging rights to your family and friends that you are a lyricist! (WOO-HOO!)

There is no set way to write the lyrics to a song, but there are a few basics that you will need to know in order to reach your goal. In this article, you will learn about organizing your own personal thoughts and turning them into song lyrics.

The first step is to write down who your audience is (NO ONE!). You will need to keep this in mind while writing the lyrics so you can target them (THE NON-EXISTENT AUDIENCE). After all, if you were writing a song for children you would certainly avoid adult material of any kind (HMMM....DEPENDS).

Next, write down the subject of the song ("JOHN BOUGHT A TRACTOR"), the idea or the message you want to convey ("I'M WRITING A SONG!), and the story the song will tell. The subject of the song might be falling in love; the message might be that there is someone for everyone; the story might tell of a man and a woman who meet and fall madly in love with each other (OKAY!).

This is a good time to write down the words to the chorus of the song. The chorus is a bridge or connection from one verse to the next (WELL, TECHNICALLY A "BRIDGE" IS A "BRIDGE", AND A CHORUS IS SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FROM A "BRIDGE", BUT WHY QUIBBLE, I GUESS?). It must make sense to sing the words of the chorus in between the verses. From the chorus, you will also need to make-up a catchy title for your song ("JOHN BOUGHT A TRACTOR").

The next step is to write a rough draft of the first verse of your song. This verse should draw attention to your song and make your audience want to listen. Don't worry about it being perfect at this point; you will refine all the verses and the chorus later (BELIEVE ME!).

Now, of course, you will need to write the second verse (UNLESS YOU WANT A REALLY SHORT SONG!). In this part you will need to continue to tell the story and explain what the action is. Don't be too detailed; this is a three minute song, not an opera (HOWEVER, DON'T BE TOO VAGUE, OR NO ONE WILL HAVE A CLUE WHAT IN THE HELL YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT; BELIEVE ME; I KNOW).

Next comes the third verse (SERIOUSLY? I'M FINE WITH TWO, THANK YOU). Tell more about your story here, and add relevant information to your story (SORT OF A LAUNDRY LIST, IF YOU WILL). You really want to enhance the story line from verses one and two, because the next verse will close the song (NEXT VERSE?? FOUR VERSES?? WHAT IS THIS, AMERICAN PIE??).

It's time to close the song (THANK GOD!) by writing the fourth verse and bring it all together like the last chapter of a book (I, PERSONALLY, WOULD SKIP THE FOURTH VERSE; AND THE THIRD, FOR THAT MATTER).

Finally, read over your lyrics and change your sentences into lines. After you have lines, you will need to go back and change the ending words so they will rhyme (OH, COME ON). Do this with the chorus too. Every lyric should be of relatively-equal length so the song will glide along and not be choppy (AND BE ROTE; LIKE A ROBOT).

After you have completed writing your song, you may decide to write the music for it too (YOU MAY!). Or, if composing is not your thing, you could work with someone who does compose and complete your song! (GOOD LUCK THERE, PAL!)

So, there you have it. How to write a lyric; all FOUR verses of it! You can thank me later.

Meanwhile, I guess, against my wishes, I'm going to have to take the acoustic out of mothballs, and whip up a few of my 2011 lyrics, or else I'm just going to be really mad at myself. And I've probably got enough people mad at me already; I don't need to pile on.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 - A Year of Trying

The end of the year lends itself to reflection. I'm a big "reflector". I like it, when I can clear my mind enough of the mundane junk that I deal with every day, and actually take the time to do it.

Since this is, in essence, a music blog, I started to think today about what I have done in 2010, music-wise, and what I would write about that.

I kept coming back to the word, "tried". I tried to do a lot of stuff. Well, not a lot, but a few things that were important to me.

And I learned. Learning is good. It keeps one from becoming befuddled and crotchety. Or at least from becoming befuddled.

I learned that, if one keeps trying long enough, eventually she will become better at something, inevitably, except for math (on a personal note).

I've been writing songs for eight years now (yes, that's all), and I keep trying, and I think I'm getting better. Baby steps. Big long baby steps. I mean, c'mon, eight years, and I'm just now getting better? But still.

I tried FAWM seriously in 2010. I'd done it before, but I never really committed. I wasn't fooling anybody, least of all, me.

In 2010, I became disgusted enough with my lack of follow-through, to force myself to, just once, do it and complete it. And I did. The FAWM challenge is to write 14 songs in 28 days (in February), and I wrote 16, dang it!

I was reading some prior blog posts I'd made about my FAWM success, and boy, I was really full of it. I said something about most of the songs being keepers. Well, that's not true!

I'd say two of them are keepers. The rest are exercises in mawkishness. Yet, not futile mawkish exercises. Because I learned. Yes, I learned how to be a better songwriter, by doing. They're not all going to be winners; rather, I'm lucky if 2 out of 16 are ~ really lucky, in fact. But the work helped me. And the "trying" made me feel good about myself.

I also tried to write songs after February. I tried, in fact, working and reworking, and re-reworking a great song idea that I've had in my pocket for about a year. I learned that some things are better left to die. So, I scavenged the best lines out of it for a different song. I can be mercenary when pushed too far.

Most fun for me, music-wise this year, was that I tried making music videos (okay, "slideshows", if we're being technical). Even if they are slideshows, they still require a lot of effort and a degree of imagination, if one is to do them creatively.

I used to do an updated video each December for one of our songs, called "Ring In The Old". That was the only video I would do each year. I recently looked back at some of these prior "efforts", and they were appalling. I've gotten better. WAY better.

This year I created nine music videos, and I like most of them (I would, however, like to know why YouTube keeps suggesting that I tag every one of my videos with the word "kayak". None of these songs say one word about kayaks, and why in the world would they? I think YouTube has some kind of "bug" or has been hacked by a loose organization of kayak-lovers).

All kayaks aside, I really, really like doing this! I find that I'm a visual person, apparently, and sadly, for a so-called songwriter. Or else, it's just more making up of stories, which is sort of what songwriting is anyway. I think I'll keep doing it until I run out of songs.

I wrote two songs that I really like (see FAWM). One of them is in the process of being recorded, but it won't be done in 2010. It still counts, though. I consider it a bit of weather-related inspiration, mixed with a healthy dose of imagination. Even my husband, the producer, likes the song.

I'm going to spring the other song on him the next time it's my turn to have a song recorded (there are three of us in the band, each with his or her own songs).

So, as lazy as I know I can be, I think I did a pretty good job of "trying" in 2010.

And I'm good with that.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Songwriting is like.......

......a job that you actually like going to.

It's been two months since FAWM ended, and I've had time to ponder the experience.

FAWM was a success for me this year, because I completed the challenge and then some.

It was a success in more ways, of course. It taught me that if I used some discipline, I could be a prolific songwriter.

I spent every weekend in February (albeit, some were three-day weekends) picking up the guitar and forcing myself to write. While it felt like a burden at times, and while sometimes I cursed myself for getting into this mess, I often found myself actually looking forward to it. Mostly, I guess, because I was eager for the surprise of something being born that had never existed in the world before.

I'm certainly not saying that all sixteen of the songs I wrote were world-shattering. Okay, none of them were. However, in hindsight, I think 10 of the 16 are dang good!

Okay, enough of patting myself on the back.

I also learned that, unless you're some kind of idiot savant, songwriting is WORK. I guess I kinda knew that already, but the FAWM experience really drove it home.

The deal was, with time at a premium, I needed to write a complete song in one day. But yet, it had to be something that I wasn't embarrassed to share with my fellow FAWMers.

My friend, and my new most cherished possession, became a Mead 70-page wide-ruled notebook.

I usually use Microsoft Word to transcribe my lyrics, but let me tell you, there is something about writing stuff out in longhand, with all the scribbles and strike-throughs, that sort of captures one's soul.

I wrote my chord notations next to each line, and played and scribbled and scratched. And I'm never parting with that notebook. A computer program saves things in a nice, sterile, clean, tidy little package. It makes it look as though I just dashed off some dictation, and voila! A song was born!

Ha! Sorry, but no. It was work!

And, you know, that's sorta what I love about songwriting. It's like a puzzle that I know if I work at long enough and smartly enough, I'm going to solve. And nobody is ever going to be able to solve it in the exact same way that I did.

And, silly me, I didn't realize it at the time, but in listening to those 16 songs, there's a bit of me in each one of them. Some of them may be fanciful, but there's at least a tiny bit of "my" truth in every one. I could listen to any one of those songs, had they been written by someone else, and say, I know that life! I lived it! I felt those feelings!

I love songwriting.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

FAWM 2010 - Success!

Well, I did it.

Not only did I accomplish the goal of writing 14 songs in 28 days, but I actually wrote 16!

So, here you go. They're not all keepers. In fact, probably few of them are. That's not the point, really.

The point is, write, write, write.

And that's what I did.

stand alone player

I'll have more thoughts on this year's FAWM later, but since time is up, as they say, I wanted to post the fruits of my labor.

Monday, February 15, 2010

FAWM Thoughts - February 15 - The Month Is Half Over!

Since it’s the middle of the month, I thought I would do a short recap of the challenge so far, and add some muddled thoughts.
1. Writing 14 songs in 28 days is hard!
I don’t do anything music-related during the work week, so my weekends are completely consumed with FAWM. I’ve had a couple of three-day weekends (thankfully), and I have FORCED myself to pick up the guitar every day. There were days when I had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, and yet I still managed to come up with A song. Not necessarily a good song; but a song nevertheless.
I’ve still managed to feed and walk the dog, do laundry, do some housework, and catch up with The Office, but in the back of my mind, I’m always thinking about or looking for song ideas.
I find myself looking at product labels and wondering if there’s a song in there. Or looking at random inanimate objects and wondering the same thing. It’s pitiful.
2. I’ve written some pretty good songs!
I’ve surprised myself by coming up with some winners (comparatively). Interestingly, when I’m doing the songs, I sometimes consider them to be throwaways; it’s only after a few days and a few subsequent listens that I realize they’re not bad!
3. My songwriting skills have taken leaps forward!
I definitely see the improvement in my skills, and that’s pretty exciting!
4. I’ve gotten out of my comfort zone.
My goal was to write songs in different styles, and I’ve done that to some extent. Those actually are the songs I like the best, in retrospect.

5. I feel guilty for not commenting enough on other people’s songs.

By the time my evening of songwriting is done, I’m too exhausted to do anything, but I will be going back and listening to a whole bunch of songs. Once this madness is over.

6. I just don’t have the will or the time to post each song individually and to tell the story of them.

I started doing that, but now that I have 12 songs, it’s gotten to be too big of an undertaking. Once this whole thing is done, I’m going to load them into one of those jukebox thingies and post ‘em all in one neat package.
7. I’m not sure at this point if I would do it again next year!
But I probably will. It’s like childbirth. After awhile, you forget the pain, and then you do it all over again.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It's February Album Writing Month (FAWM)!

Here we go again! It's time to try to write 14 songs (an album's worth) in 28 days!

This'll be my third year participating in FAWM, and I aim to be more successful this year. Okay, it shouldn't be difficult to be MORE successful than I've been in previous years, since my past output was awful. I always have good intentions in the beginning, but I either get sidetracked or discouraged or both.

This year, however, I'm more excited than ever to get started.

The premise of FAWM is to get MOVING! Since one has to write fast in order to complete the challenge, there's no time to agonize over every word; every line. Just write! It forces one to be creative on the fly.

Participants can write complete songs, or simply lyrics, or instrumentals, and they can keep their results private, if they choose (it's not a competition with others; it's a competition with oneself.) However, by sharing their creations with other FAWMers, they receive something really nice, that isn't found often enough on internet sites, and that is POSITIVE feedback. FAWMers are very ENCOURAGING toward their fellow songwriters. That's the part I like the best! Songwriters tend to be an insecure lot, and as for me, I do not willingly share my creations with others; frankly, because I feel that my songs are not GOOD ENOUGH, and I don't want to look like a fool.

FAWM, however, includes songwriters of varying levels of expertise, so I don't feel like an outsider or a wannabe.

Also, their forums are fun, entertaining, and enlightening. There's even a forum for collaborations, if one is into that sort of thing. Oh, and there are (optional) challenges to give those creative juices a nudge.

I was thinking today that if by some miracle, I actually completed the challenge this year, it would be cool to have an actual "album" of my FAWM songs. Unfortunately, all I've got to work with is a microphone and Audacity, so it'd have to be "Shelly's Acoustic Collection". Maybe I'll just make a promo copy for myself!

In summary, if you are a songwriter looking to challenge yourself to write better and write MORE, check out FAWM. It's really a lot of fun.