Sunday, January 3, 2010

Throwaway lines

The song was called "Dry Ground" and I was pleased with it. I'd written about that friend who constantly unloads on you, hoping you'll magically know how to solve all of his or her problems—not a topic I'd heard set to music before.

I felt the lyrics said exactly what I needed them to say. Just one tiny part of the bridge troubled me. I've boldfaced the problematic line below.
Two hours later and you are still
Talking in circles
Rejecting solutions
And wondering
Why nothing ever changes

Seven years later will you still be
Going in circles
Drowning in puddles
While nothing
Nothing ever changes
(You can listen to the full song on our Myspace page.)

I didn't dislike "drowning in puddles." I liked it too much. Rather than spend its existence buried in the middle of a song, it deserved greater prominence. It should be the refrain that gave the song its name. But there was no place for it in the refrain, and "Dry Ground" was a more fitting title.

For maybe half a second, I considered stripping the line, saving it for some other song's chorus. But I liked it too much where it was. Regretfully, I let it remain a throwaway.

* * *

With more songwriting experience under my belt, I've come to value the clever turns of phrase that only come around once.

Last week I decided to build a song around a cool sentence that had been bouncing around my head. (I can't claim much credit for the sentence; it's an adaptation of something a friend of mine said first. I think she'll let me use it, though.) I made it the first line of an otherwise unwritten chorus ... and didn't get any further. The line wasn't inspiring a melody or other lyrics that particularly excited me.

Then, a few days later, I came up with an idea for a whole 'nother song. I realized that the line would scan perfectly into one of its verses. Could it make sense in this new context? Yes, it could. Done.

Sometimes a lyric works a lot better when it doesn't have to carry the entire tune.


kylben said...

It's a mistake to think of the body verses as "throwaway". The chorus is the lines people repeat, the verses are what they remember (if they're meaningful). There's a difference.

Icing tastes better if the cake is full and rich, it doesn't usually work the other way around.

This is from a song listener, not a song writer, so take it for what its worth.

Sally said...

Some of the most memorable phrases I find in a story or song are not necessarily a featured phrase. I think the line works exactly as it should. Even I sing a tune, it's not necessarily the chorus that "makes" the tune for me.

Searching for Answers said...

I like the song and I think the line fits. However, if doesn't seem like a key line in the song. If it were me I'd take it out and use it as the basis of another song and then continue refining Dry Ground.
By the way I'm excited about finding your blog.

cinderkeys said...

kylben & Sally: You're right -- "throwaway" isn't quite the right term, and a good phrase used only once can be very memorable. At the time, though, I hadn't written many songs. I think that made me feel more as though I should milk every decent line for everything it was worth.

Searching: Thanks for the compliments! We eventually recorded "Dry Ground," so I'm probably not going to mess with it at this stage. :) I'm glad you find your way here, and hope you return.

Jannie Funster said...

I like the message behind the words. Always interesting to me when a song asks a question.

It is so interesting, isn't it, how a song can be just one line then it morphs into some amazing place of its own.

SO HAPPY, as yesterday I settled on a hook for the 11th of my next 12...

Give it away
it'll come back to ya.
Sweeter and deeper than
you ever dreamed.
Give it away
it'll come back to ya.
Give it away.

cinderkeys said...

Jannie: Ooh, nice! That's in six-eight, yes? I like six-eight.

I suggest that you post all the lyrics on your blog when you finish. :)

Anonymous said...

It will be great to watch A Chorus Line,i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.

cinderkeys said...

Anon: Either you're on the wrong blog, or that's the most random spam I've seen in a while. :)