How to Write a Song

My children and I had an amazing weekend at a bluegrass music festival and I spent most of the time at the workshop stage. Listening to music is heaven but learning about music is joy on a completely different level.

Of course, those who can play music, can’t necessarily teach music.

All the people teaching the workshops were amazing musicians but only one of them could actually teach a little of what he knew. He taught us how to jam with other musicians and he knew what he was talking about because he had the cd’s and the lesson books to prove it.

He said when you’re at a jam and someone is singing you play some chords in this order and when they stop singing your left-hand keeps making the shape of the chords but your right-hand picks the individual strings in any order and rhythm you want and that’s called a place-holder solo because you are holding the place of the solo until you learn how to play a real solo.

Now try it yourself…ready set go…listen to you play…awesome. That’s great but don’t forget that if you go to a real jam where people actually know what they’re doing don’t even think about playing any of that nonsense because that’s not real music and they don’t want to hear any of that but keep practicing and learning stuff and then some day you can jam with real musicians.

I’ll remember that.

I was most excited about two songwriting classes taught by two famous song writers because, like anyone that has held an instrument for more than ten minutes, I want to write my own songs…some day. Unfortunately, neither of the teachers had any idea how to teach songwriting.

The first guy was kind of like…Writing songs is groovy man…I do it a lot…when I was young I liked chicks so I wrote some songs about them you know…and then some bad stuff happened so I wrote some songs about that…and they sounded like this…ya…that’s it…and then I had a couple kids so I sang some songs about how crappy that was…and sometimes I hang out with friends and we play some songs and you know…I record them because that’s totally song writing…you should try it if you want…sometimes if I can’t think of a song, I go somewhere else and think of a song there…I’ve written a thousand songs…here I’ll play another one for you…awesome…thanks for coming y’all.

The next guys started with…They asked me to teach a song writing class and I was like…how about if I don’t worry so much about that and I just do whatever instead…and they were like…cool man…so let me just tell you about how I was living my life and it turned into a song that I’ll play for you and then I lived my life some more and it turned into another song and I’ll play that for you too…how many songs have I written?..all of them…yah, I’ve written all the songs man…groovy…thanks for listening.

I’m not complaining because it doesn’t get any better than an amazing musician giving an intimate concert ten feet away from you in the cool shade of the trees, telling stories about their life. As I sat there soaking in all their years of hard work and talent and listening to their stories because if there is anything I love more than music, it is stories about music and I thought about how song writing is just like any other kind of creating. You live and you do stuff and you do so much stuff that the stuff fills you up until it starts spilling out of you.

If you want to create writing all you have to do is commence with living and start writing down some words about it and read what other people write and the more you live and the more you write and the more you read, the more you can’t stop the words from coming until you are haunted and chased by the words every minute of every day and eventually you will be forced sit still long enough to capture some of them.

I totally get it.

Life is a song and that’s how you write them.

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