Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Not a happy song. But by and large I am happy with what I accomplished with the song. I took the prior attempt at this song, which had grown to novel size, and consulted the gurus of simplicity to strip it down to the fundamentals and got it down to 3:40 in length. I abandon VCV but don't abandon repetition entirely, it serves a valuable purpose in a song to highlight the things you want to highlight.

This is roughly the fourth time through with these general lyrics. In fact, the lyrics I'm singing aren't exactly the lyrics on the lyrics sheet that I'm looking at on the shelf above the camera, I changed a few things to make it feel right (just as I'd done during the previous take, which again changed things over the *prior* lyrics sheet). Forgive the camera angle and the mix (which puts my voice way out front), this is a rough take on a work in process. Everything is going through the computer-attached mixer so I can hear the guitar and voice parts through my monitor headphones so all I did was hit the "record" button on iMovie to actually record using my laptop's camera while all this is going on.

As for what the song means... well. All I'll say is that it is fiction, part of my Bottomlands cycle, and the rest is for you to think about.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin


  1. Hmmm, you sure are funny-looking for a penguin. No beak, no tux... why, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were in fact a primate!

  2. Oh come now, you don't notice the beak? Even I noticed the beak ;-).

    - Badtux the Well-beaked Penguin

  3. Nice !

    What happens to your voice if you capo back up one fret?

  4. Ah, you spotted it. In fact, I was supposed to be capo'ed back up one fret, but I'd taken off the capo to tune the guitar because I detected it was slightly sharp or flat (I can detect that but not which one, bummer), then slapped it back on right before hitting the record button and was in a bit of a rush because I'd just finished transcribing the changes from the *last* take and wanted to do it "right". As for what it does to my voice, the part where I'm being plaintive no longer makes my voice crack slightly, but otherwise everything works fine.

    I'm a bit busy right now but I'm going to transcribe the changes I made for this take (it doesn't agree with the actual lyrics sheet that I was reading off of but when the printed lyrics don't feel right, I end up changing them on the spot), and give it another shot sooner or later. Not being able to get out and about because I have a miserable cold does give me way too much time to play with the guitar and computer thingies...

  5. I like it. But now that I've heard a handful of your songs, I have a question...

    Is it just the way this seems to me, or do you intentionally save a song's best lyrics for the end? Because I'm sitting here and thinking, "Man, he did it again"...

  6. As I mentioned in a prior posting, I tend to approach songwriting more from a storytelling point of view, where you lay brick to build up to a climax and denouement. This tends to push the most powerful stuff to the end of the song. This isn't something I consciously set out to do, it just happens because it's what feels right to me. In this case I had a freakin' novel and I sat down and, okay, how do I get this thing down to a reasonable length? What's the minimum brick I need to build the structure needed to drop this anvil on the listener's head? I didn't say this consciously or set out to do it, it's just what happened.

    I won't say it's the right way to do it. It's just how it ends up for me, because I'm a storyteller.

  7. An early example of what you're talking about which you've already seen would be "I Saw Jesus", which was I think the third song I ever wrote. I knew what the last lines of the last verse were going to be (in general terms if not specific ones) before I even sat down to write the song, that was the anvil to drop on the listener's head. The rest of the song was buildup to get there.

    Again, I'm not saying this is the right way to approach writing the lyrics to a song. It's just what I do unconsciously almost like breathing because I'm a storyteller.

  8. More power to you. You're doing it right...

  9. I'm not sure about that, a pop song (or country pop, which is what comes out of Nashville nowdays) needs a hook early to suck in the listener. Closest thing I've probably done to that is "Everything Turns to Shit", which is also one of the most conventionally structured of my songs, being a traditional VCV country song where the reveal is right there up front, in the title, even. On the other hand, who gives a shit -- nobody's ever going to play my songs on the radio or pay me for them, so the only person they have to please is me.


Ground rules: Comments that consist solely of insults, fact-free talking points, are off-topic, or simply spam the same argument over and over will be deleted. The penguin is the only one allowed to be an ass here. All viewpoints, however, are welcomed, even if I disagree vehemently with you.

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