Jun 15

We’ve all heard music that strikes us as special. Something slightly out of the ordinary or in fact, way out of the ordinary has made most songwriters including myself say “I want to write a song like that”.

Maybe you’re saying, “Dude, I NEVER do that. I’m all about being original.” Well as hard as you try to make me believe that, you’re either naive or you’re full of crap.

To be honest, though. Nothing is that cut and dry. Granted, no one wants to be thought of as a plagiarist. To learn about music whether through studying an instrument, or merely for enjoyment, you’ve got to have heard a few songs.

OK, I hear your collective “Duh, thanks Dr. Obvious.”, but stay with me here.

Some will say that in this age of information, we’re barraged by so much input that the output is sure to be tainted. Actually “flavored” may be a better term.

Let’s take a look at a definition (which could change at some point in the future as technologies advance).

Plagiarism:

The practice of claiming or implying original authorship of (or incorporating material from) someone else’s written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one’s own without adequate acknowledgement – the issue of false attribution.

Musical influence on the other hand is as inevitable as farming. Once the seeds are planted…well you get the idea.

If not for Leopold Mozart, we’d have no Wolfgang Mozart, if not for Haydn, we’d have no Beethoven all the way to Boogie Woogie giving us Swing and Blues which begat Gospel, R & B, Rock and Roll, Heavy Metal and Hip Hop.

Don’t forget, if not for Little Richard and Elvis, we’d have no Beatles.

I’m pretty sure that somewhere along the way, Swing had a threesome with the Recording Industry and Don “No-Soul” Simmons and Disco was born. 😉

So obviously it’s all about learning and reinventing and pardon the American Idol reference, “Making it your own”.

Where does one draw the line? Well, it’s hard to say. Sort of like little white lies I guess. We all know its wrong to do, but sometimes it’s forgivable. We just have to listen to what moves us, and see how much of us we can put into it.

For me, when I started writing I was about 15 years old. I knew if I was going to write songs, I needed to really get familiar with how a song was put together. I would take a song I liked, re-write the lyrics, then put it away for long enough for me to have forgotten what the song was that I wrote it against.

I’d also take chord progressions right out of an artist’s songbook, see how I might trim off a chord or add one, or flip a sequence around, add in another sequence from another artist and do the same. Then I’d see how I might play it with different tempos, rhythm changes, trying to make it fit the lyrics until I got something I liked.

There always was the fear that someone would say “You stole that from so and so”, but no one was going to buy those tunes so I didn’t really care much back then.

Today, I write in a similar vein. I listen to as many varied styles as I can. Now, instead of stealing chord changes, I go for the feel of the song or a similar build up rather than copying specific phrases.

What I listen for now is for suggestions in style more than anything else. A surf music sound, or a 70’s Rod Stewart style rocker, or a late 70’s New Wave type of tune. Maybe a jazz infused ballad with a hard rock bridge.

No matter what I do though, I’m always going back to listening to stuff I like, so that I can write stuff I like. Rarely do things just happen naturally for me unless, well John Lennon referred to it as “Diarrhea of Rock”.

I’d rather call it a flow of prolificacy.

That’s the word for the day. Use it three times and there’s a penny in it for ya 😉

Meanwhile, until next time, I’ll leave you with with this cool vid I found on You Tube. Check out Theresa Andersson

-V