By: Jeremy D. WellsCarter County Times
Matt Parsons recommends a simple, three-step process for new songwriters in his classes. First, he said, think about a job or a situation, and the person working it. Once you have that image in your head, he advises the fledgling songwriter to think about how they feel about it.
“That’s step two,” he said. “How do they feel about their job? Do they love it? Do they hate it? Are they just thankful to have it?”
The next layer, he said, is the one that can be hard for first time writers, but, he said, it’s the one that can give a song real depth.
“How do they feel about how they feel?”
If they’re unhappy with their job, for instance, do they feel like they should move on? Do they feel like they should stay in it because of the security? Because they can’t afford to take a risk?
Fleshing these things out, he said, will give a song real depth, in as few as three verses, because it forces the writer to seek out these universal truths and situations that everyone can relate to, while also keeping things simple enough that anyone can relate.
He said he encourages his students to go as deep as they like in developing that backstory for their character, even if it doesn’t make it into the song. And, he said, much of it won’t.
For instance, if the character has a big funny moustache, that might speak to the type of person they are. But, he said, unless it plays a key role in the story the song is representing, it shouldn’t be part of the lyrics.
“If you include (those details) in the first verse, it needs to become part of what the song is about,” he told his students.
This format can be edited for other circumstances and types of songs, he said, but he encourages all of his new songwriters to start with this.
In future classes, he said, he will introduce ideas for editing and customizing this songwriting format, as well as touching on the role music plays in establishing a mood for the song – for instance whether it’s sang and played in a gloomy minor chord or a happy, bouncy, major chord progression.
Those classes, returning after a brief holiday hiatus, are on Wednesday nights, at 6 p.m. in the Olive Hill Center for Arts & Education building. In addition to Parsons’ songwriting class, Megan Gregory is offering stringed instrument lessons, and Will Parsons is offering classes and workshops in instrument maintenance and repair.
All of these classes are free and open to the public, however the in progress canning, quilting, and pottery workshops are now closed to new participants until another session begings. For more information on these and other programs contact the Olive Hill Center for Arts & Education at (606)207-1480, or visit them online at www.OHCAE.org or in person on the Hill, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday.
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