Keeping It S.I.M.P.L.E (part I)
George Harrison Boiled It Down Right!
S is for Structure
George Harrison wrote his songs by himself. He didn't have a John or Paul to lean on that much. Towards the end of The Beatles, he actually quit the band and spent some time at Eric Clapton's house, where he wrote a song: Here Comes The Sun.
My opinion is he had to be better than both of those guys to be productive. It took him a long time until The Beatles nearly broke up, where he created 4 songs on Abby Road. All the more remarkable. George surrounded himself with incredible talent, and over time became "Something".
I don't want to cloud the issue with sordid details of George's life or how he was treated. Instead, let's focus on what George, the artist, could do. He had it right, and he left some DNA on how an average person could write a strong song. Not that George was average. He was not. He did more at the age of 28 than most of us do in a lifetime.
Still, he was held back. He said as much. Even still, in that suffering, some of the best Beatles songs ever written came out.
Like George, I got a slow start. In my teenage years, I wasn't surrounded by extremely talented people. And to make matters worse, I lived very far away from a large city where the music was actually going down, Philadelphia. Things were so spread out, I attended a regional high school. Getting to take drum lessons was a hike. I thank my parents for helping me with drums, but it was difficult putting anything together. And little did I know, I needed to drive miles to get my drums anywhere. And I didn't get a license until I was 18. By then, I was headed to the Army.
Before I started writing songs, I read a lot of books and paid a lot of money learning the ins and outs. Some advice was better than others. Putting all that stuff into practice, of course, was an art in itself. It still is. Especially, since I had no one to work with, and didn't have a lot of time to write. Plus, plunking things down on a guitar with no real lessons made me pretty much learn the instrument with no one around. Still, I figured things out by reading those books and eventually, playing gigs.
So, managing to squeak out a 4th place victory in music theory at Eastern Oklahoma University against a bunch of college kids who actually had class proved to me one thing: education isn't everything. I was still a junior in high school. And the only difference was even without practicing my drums every day, I applied my lessons. And I wanted to know more. I kept reading. I kept learning.
Focusing on what good songwriting was then, should be the same. No matter how educated you are, you still need practice.
You should hear some of the things I did when I first started. I was really horrible. Check out this little ditty from my last album. But with more applied knowledge, things started to "Come Together." Beatles pun. Sorry. Here's a link to the finished product.
So, I when developed a method called "S.I.M.P.L.E.", I found boiling it all down into a few steps gave me structure. A song's structure gives your music story a temporal point of view. Do you want to tell a story that moves through time, like "The Cat's In The Cradle", or do you want to look at the past, like "Maybe Its Time" in a Star Is Born?
S is for structure.
Recapitulaing: we play two games at once. They are:
lay down a solid sonic foundation
arranging the foundation builds a temporal point of view