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GUEST,Songster Bob Songwriter's Melodies (35) RE: Songwriter's Melodies 03 Nov 04

I tend to write the words first, mainly because the most time I get undistracted is on the subway on the way to work, and they don't much take to guitar playing on it. Sometimes words and music come simultaneously, and a few times I've come up with a tune first. On one occasion, I wrote a tune for a Kipling poem, decided it didn't work (the poem itself required a 'dramatic' pause that was hard to 'pull off' in song), and then reused the tune for a completely different subject (i.e., I went from 'the bell buoy' to 'Barrabas'). And it worked just fine, thanks.

I have used traditional tunes (tend to do that with topical songs, so folks don't need to hear 'em to sing 'em), original tunes, and borrowed ones. Example: I was doing a spreadsheet for the taxes one year, and picked up my guitar to take a break (file/save first, of course) and launched into "When I was young and in my prime/ I left my home in Caroline..." But I played the IV chord instead of the V7 chord, which interrupted my train of thought. So I had the "in my prime" and wondered "what was I thinking when I was young and foolish?" Well, for one thing, I had lots more time then, so it became:

When I was young and in my prime,
I thought my world was made of time.
Long years have passed without a doubt,
As I let a world of time go running out.

The tune started like the traditional one, but followed the 'wrong chord' into a different territory. The chorus tune ended up a lot like the chorus of "When You and I Were Young, Maggie," which tune I use as the final guitar or banjo break when I sing it.

So one way to make a new song is to start an old one and go wrong somewhere, and see where it leads.

But the metaphor of filling and drinking from the well is a good one. In fact, it sounds like a possible song to me.

Let's see, "I went to the well once too often / Nothing there but dusty dirt. / Now I have to fill the bucket somehow / With tears that fall from pain and hurt."

For some reason, that looks awful. Let me play with it, eh?

Bob Clayton

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