Sunday, September 23, 2012

Guest blogger John Banrock on the songwriting process.

The Songwriting Process

I love and am fascinated by the songwriting process.   I love discussing it with other songwriters and am always curious to find out about new and different approaches utilized in crafting a song.  Do other songwriters write the music first, the lyrics first, a combination of the two or some other method?  There's always something to be learned.

Many songwriters, like me, don't limit themselves to just one way of writing.  For me, each song ultimately reveals itself in it's own way.  Sometimes I'll sit down to write lyrics with the intention of putting music afterwards.  Other times I'll sit down with my guitar and a pen and sort of write music and lyrics at the same time, coming up with a verse of lyrics first and then writing some music before ultimately going back to write additional verses, choruses, etc. And sometimes I'll just be playing my guitar and will stumble upon the beginnings of a nice chord progression or riff.  If I think it's worthy of becoming a song I'll try to work out all the music and then set down to write lyrics.  Some songs are intentionally written and some are spontaneously born. There always has to be a starting point, though, and each time can be an entirely unique experience.

Another really interesting, and possibly less orthodox, way to write is total improvisation.  Sometimes I just like to throw on the recorder and see what comes out.  I might work out a few chords beforehand then improv all the lyrics, or I might just improv the whole thing (music and words).  It's great because I'm really capturing a particular feeling, a moment in time. Ultimately, of course, I'll have to listen to the recording and write out all the lyrics and music to see if revisions are required (which typically they are).  It's a great way to write though because it's such a departure from the more 'standard' ways and is more akin to stream of consciousness writing.  (I actually love stream of consciousness writing, though generally when I write stream of consciousness the words are not intended for songs, but rather to be presented on their own, if at all). The benefit is that you are capturing a feeling, but the downside is (for me anyway) that you may not be able to spew out the perfect words in that spur of the moment environment (it's a great and interesting challenge though). So the improv songwriting method is very interesting, but generally comes with a lot of revision work afterward.  At some point in the revision process I usually start to wonder if the song is becoming too polished and losing its raw energy and feeling.  Therein lie the difficult decisions, but ultimately the ones that could make or break the song.  I definitely recommend giving this method a try if you haven't given it a chance before.  You don't need high tech recording gear.  Just anything that can record with enough clarity to understand what you are singing and playing.

Ultimately when writing songs I think it's great to try to write in different ways because you never know how each way is going to work and how it will affect the finished product.  Granted, if you've tried every method and have ultimately decided, for example, that you always write the best songs when using a 'lyrics first / music second' approach you may not want to stray from that too often.  For me though, I don't want to be confined by any rules.  I like to try different ways and don't want to limit myself from writing just because a song may start originating from a method that may not be my best or favorite.  And what works for me today might not work for me tomorrow and vice versa.  So even if a method hasn't historically been successful, the passage of time may change all that, so it's at least worth revisiting neglected methodologies from time to time.  Regardless of how a song is written, it is the declaration of it being finished that is often most rewarding.  For me, there's a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that I started with nothing, and then with creativity, hard work and dedication ended up with a tangible work of art.  And then, after that brief moment of contentment, it's on to the next song...

- John Banrock

And here's John's stuff:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Westchester All Stars Christmas for Wounded Veterans.

The amazing thing about this journey is that every single time I venture out with either video or still camera gear, it always leads to another connection, another musician, another opportunity.  And photographing the 12 Grapes 1000th day of Music on May 6th, 2012 was no exception.  12 Grapes, in Peekskill NY, for those that don't know, is one of the hippest places around to catch live music and the owners there are great supporters of the local music scene.  Many of my favorite local musicians showed up to perform at the day-long celebration, and many that I had never met before.  I took over 600 pictures that day and posted most of them on our facebook page, here's a link.  Please feel free to tag people you know!

As I ran around that day, a man named Bill Edwards asked if I would mind taking a group picture of the "Westchester All Stars" that were at the event and he explained that they were working on a Christmas album to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project.  Of course I said yes and snapped a few of the group.  

The next day Bill contacted me and asked if I would be able to help on the project and capture video of him and Bernie Williams (YES BERNIE WILLIAMS FROM THE NY YANKEES!!!) for one of the songs on the album - they needed the footage for a music video.  I had the time so I jumped on the opportunity and met the guys at Z Recording Studios in Peekskill.  Bernie adds some real star power to the project and his guitar playing is just great.  I happen to love the song as well. 

Here's the website for the album and concert.  All these great musicians have come together to write, record, and donate there own original Christmas songs, with 100% of the profits from the sale of the cds going to wounded veterans organizations such as the Gary Sinise Foundation and Veterans Adaptive Sports Inc.  There's even a concert being organized for November 30th at the Irvington Town Hall Theater here in Westchester and Bill has lined up some really special guests to join in the performance.  Here's a link to the box office - buy your tickets to this event today!  

And here is a youtube link for the video that Paul Opalach put together at Long Hill Recording and Video using some of the footage from that day.  (DID I MENTION THAT I LOVE THIS SONG?)  

Won't you please buy the album and come out to the concert on November 30th, 2012 to support our troops and the Wounded Warrior Project and these great musicians?


: )