Adventures In Song Writing And 12 Strings!

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I played yet another open mic all by my lonesome self on Monday night. I did pretty well, all things considered. I’m finally losing the bit of nervousness I wrote about previously, partly because I’m getting better on guitar, and partly because I’m getting used to being on stage solo, with no band to lean on for comfort. I played my new (to me) Takamine G-335 12 string guitar on stage for the first time. I also played two originals, which is also a first.

One song was something old, a song called “Fools For Love”. The lyrics were written some 20 something years ago. More often than not, the songs I write start out being only lyrics. The tune that will accompany it usually comes later. In this case though, the basic melody had indeed been there from the beginning. But I didn’t play guitar at the time, so the song never got solidified. Also, in this case, the body of the song, well, it seemed awfully short.

Fast backward to last fall. Me and my Taylor Martin band-mate Jim Rust were mucking around on the guitars in his back yard. Since I’m still pretty new on the six string, I discover “new” chords and progressions almost every other day. While doodling, I came across this neat little instrumental bit that was fun to play. Though I never developed it into anything finished, it hung around and I played it often when goofing around on the guitar. It just kind of hung out there waiting for its lyrical soul-mate to complete it. Well, I was in the shower on Sunday, it dawned on me, right then and there, that the two bits would go together wonderfully. Of course, I couldn’t just jump out of the shower and grab the guitar, because the wet would have done some serious damage. But, as envisioned, the two fit together beautifully!

It’s interesting. I wrote the lyrics to “Fools” so long ago, and probably haven’t looked at them more than twice since I scribbled them down so long ago. Those of you who write songs will understand this completely. There are some songs you write that, no matter how hard you try to memorize the lyrics, they just don’t stick. “Fools For Love” was just the opposite. From the moment I wrote it, it was cemented into the synapses of my brain. Maybe it’s just the fact that the lyrical cheese factor is turned up pretty high. It starts out like this:

Romeo and Juliet
They haven’t done themselves in yet
They’re alive and well
In modern America

Kind of has a John Mellencamp feel to it.

I did have a bit of a problem though. When I sat down this last week-end and ran through some of the song to make sure the music fit, I didn’t go all the way to the end and complete the composition. Didn’t even think about it; I just dabbled with some of the song, made sure parts fit, and went and did something else with the rest of the day. Things would have been much better for me if I had, because then I would have realized the song had a flaw. Recall that I was just going on and on about how some songs stick with you? Well, this was one of those songs…. Except for the last few bits of lyrics on the end. For some reason, that detail did not anchor itself in my brain.

Last night, about 30 before I was to leave for the show, I started leafing through my ancient lyric book to see how the song would end. But, um, the lyrics to that song were nowhere to be found in the book! I don’t know why they weren’t where they should have been, but they weren’t. I flipped through the book several times to make sure I hadn’t missed it. Time was getting short, and it began to dawn on me – even IF I would have found the page with the probably barely discernible scribblings on it, it may not have done any good. I began to realize that “Fools For Love” was almost certainly one of those many songs in my book that never quite got finished! I had wasted too much time looking for the lyrics, so I didn’t have time to sit and think of how I was going to end it.

Here is the last bit of lyric that I remember:

Can you hear the friars call
Or does he wait for the sun to fall
blah blah blah blah blah…….
blah blah blah blah blah…….

Crap. “Blah Blah Blah…” is in general not a very satisfying way to end a song.

Oh well, I thought as I was driving to the open mic. It’s my song, and I’ll just make something up when I get to the end. I did, and it went OK. Sometimes, song just write them selves. But I won’t reveal what I did until I record this one for my long delayed solo album. Why ruin the mystery!

The other song was new…. I mean, really new! Just wrote it yesterday. It still had the afterbirth on it! Eww…. Did I just go too far???? It is an instrumental called “Rage!”. I was mucking around on the 12 string Takamine, kind of thumping on the string with my thumb. It’s a standard bass guitar technique that is as it turns out completely useless on a 12 string guitar. That ticked me of a little. But when i put on the thumb pick and did the same thing…. Oh, there’s cool sound! So I just started mucking around in an angry sort of way, because the things I was playing just had that “I’m pretty pissed” attitude about it, and, Viola! A song is born!

Anyway, I played the 12 string. Such a fun instrument. I certainly didn’t play it perfect last night by any means, but i was happy with what I pulled off. When i picked up the guitar almost two years ago, I didn’t think I would be playing a 12 string this soon in the game. I was intimidated by the whole idea. I thought 12 string guitar would be much harder to play than it turns out it is. One of the guys at the OM brought up the point that, as a bass player, I might have an advantage as I’m used to holding down the strings with more force than a guitar player.

PS. Yes, I already know how to play “Tambourine Man”. As soon as I got the guitar a couple of weeks ago, that was of course the first song to pop into my head. It had to be played. Next was, you guessed it, “Comfortably Numb”.

PPS. According to Takamine Guitar Date website, my guitar “…was manufactured Wednesday, December 31st, 1980. It was the 39th guitar made that day.”

2 Comments to “Adventures In Song Writing And 12 Strings!”

  1. By Cliff, March 28, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

    Glad you are finelly getting your music out there. Nice. Nice axe. You are such a proud papa.

  2. By Sonicfrog, March 28, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

    I should have done this long long ago.

    The 12er is in pristine condition, not a mark or ding on the front… Um… Well, except for one little thing. There was no strap button on the back of the neck, and I hate playing with a strap tied to the head stock. So, I installed a strap button there…. Then, when I turned it over, I instantly saw i had made a fatal flaw! I put the button on the wrong side of the guitar!


    Would have been great if I was a lefty!

    So now there is a little whole in the back of the neck… And it’s all my fault :-)!

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