Monday, October 13, 2008

three of my favourite letters: DIY

i am in the happy position of heading up a monthly songwriters' bloc here in Simcoe County. the only sad part is that we can't open it up to everyone who would like to be a part of it.

we're coming up to the sixth anniversary of the inception of the Barrie and District Association of Singer/Songwriters (BaDAS/S). Don Bray and i started small, with a few of our most trusted friends, and gradually and cautiously grew the group, with the ever-present aim of keeping things friendly and constructive.

and it has been a great success for almost all involved. we have about 20 members now, half of whom show up on a regular basis. we've only ever had one initiate quit. that was after one session, when he immediately realized he had absolutely no interest in hearing other writers' takes on his material. fair enough. he writes some pretty good stuff without us.
we also have one member who has never been to a session. we live in hope.

so, maybe you're one of those who would like to be in our elite little group. or maybe you're just out there somewhere, and you would like to be invited into one like it.

DON'T WAIT FOR AN INVITATION. DO IT YOURSELF.

if you write songs, you probably know a few others who do as well. so start up your writers' bloc and invite them in. feel free to use my acronym idea - it would be so cool to see these things popping up everywhere - in Saskatoon (SaDAS/S), Moncton (MaDASS), Sutton, Cannington and Beaverton (SCaBAS/S), Haliburton and Regional District (HaRDAS/S),.. you get the idea.

meet once a month at one anothers' homes. drinks, nibblies, make it a fun event. then get down to work. budget approximately 15 minutes per song. first participant plays the song. he/she then gives out copies of the lyric (if there is one. people do write instrumentals). do not reverse this order - you want people to listen intently, and you want to know if something wasn't clear to them before reading the words.
all criticism must be constructive. if you hate the song and think it absolutely unredeemable, say nothing.
and if you think that your friends, singularly and as a group, are tough enough to take that kind of criticism in a healthy way, think again.
the sole purpose of your bloc is to encourage writers to become better writers. some, if not all, will feel competitive urges and want to belittle others' work, but you have to try your best to keep these to a minimum.

so tell the writer what you like most about the song, what works for you. offer her alternative suggestions for word choices, melodies, song structure. keep in mind that the song is probably not fully formed, that the writer is still finding his way with it. also that there is likely to be a strong emotional attachment to the song. we sensitive types are easily bruised.

don't pick nits. among ten people in a room, someone is going to be turned off by a particular word, phrase or piece of melody. don't waste time on tiny details of personal taste. the song belongs to the writer. she is the final arbiter.

go on to the next song, and the next. if you like, you can do a half-hour writing exercise with the group. this is something we've added fairly recently, and it's been a hit.

invite others in, after consulting with the group. grow gradually and with care. think about hiring a professional singer/songwriter to run a workshop with you. have a yearly DIY Getaway weekend at a lodge somewhere and invite every songwriter you know. we do this in January at an outdoor education centre, with 30-35 folks, many of whom we've never met.

you will soon find yourself in a beautiful community which you helped create. it's a wonderful feeling. next thing you know, you will be blogging, daring others to do the same in their corner of the musical world.

so many corners. go on, i dare you.

1 comment:

Alyssa said...

Don't nitpick? What would BaDAS/S be like without nitpickers? ;-)