Carnival

Songwriting Collaboration For Lyricists

120 posts in this topic

I am starting this topic at Nightwolf's suggestion. I suggest pinning the topic in the Lyric Forum.

If you write lyrics, but you don't compose music, you need a collaboration partner. But if you aren't already involved in the music scene or don't know any songwriters, it can be a little intimidating to know how to find a potential partner and begin a collaboration.

This topic is for both lyricists and musicians to share their experiences and provide their own advice on collaboration issues, to provide guidance for new lyricists on how to proceed and what to expect, and also to make suggestions to resolve issues that may arise between collaboration partners, and how to build and maintain smooth relationships.

I'll post the first comment and give you my own experience and views.

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I am currently participating in my first collaborations. Here is what I have learned

I am working with my first two collaboration partners. I was very unsure of how to find a partner, and I still have to see how there work out. We have several songs in process, but none is complete yet. I am enthusiastic and hopeful, but I am also amazed at how much I am learning about the process that I never even thought of before.

I found it was one thing to write poems and lyrics and to work diligently to improve. But for all that hard work, and even with some gratifying results, I still had no songs, . I am not really involved in the local music scene and didin't know any songwriters.

I began to tell people of my interest and my desire to collaborate with a songwriter, and ask if they knew any. I also posted some online ads for collaboration on music sites.

I got several inquiries from my ad. In discussing possible collaborations, I asked to hear work that the songwriters had completed. I also made it clear that my intention was to write songs for publication and recording, that I wanted to share the copyrights equally, and also discussed what recording facilities and abilities each songwriter had, as my own is extremely limited. A songwriter from Vegas sent me some music that he wanted lyrics written for. I liked the music, and we began to work on it. He also liked one of my lyrics, and started writing music. So far only the first of these projects has survived, but we have developed a good online relationship and provided that he completes his end of the projects, as I expect, this may prove to be a productive collaboration.

I also met one of my wife's co-workers, who is a local amateur songwriter. I went to listen to him play at a coffee house and liked his style. We talked and agreed to meet. We are working on four songs together, and two or three should be ready to post here within a couple of weeks.

Here is what I have learned. Nothing will teach you to write lyrics like music will. . . in the same way that nothing will teach you to swim faster than jumping into the ocean. Don't worry about being anxious or nervous if it's new to you. There are a lot of talented, original musicians out there who need you and would love to meet you, They need lyrics but don't like to write them, or aren't good at it. They are in the exact same position you are - they have been working hard to learn their craft, but still have few or no songs to show for it, and have no hope, desire or inclincation to write lyrics. They are a stuck in the process as you are, and they need you and WANT TO MEET YOU as much as you need and want to meet them.

Remember too, that you aren't going to write a hit song your first time, so just treat it as a learning experience for both of you and have fun - take the pressure off. Don't worry about if you are 'good enough' for your partner. There is no standard to measure against, just personal taste and musical compatibiilty.

You go into it thinking it's all about the quality of your lyrics and his/her music, but more than anything, it's about the relationship and musical chemistry you develop that will determine the success of the collaboration. It's when you come out of your own musical/lyrical space and begin to mingle together in the space that is the song you are writing, that the learning begins. It's very, very stimulating and exciting.

The most surprising thing I have found is how much I enjoy writing lyrics to existing music. I thought it would be hard, but the music brings you ideas, and as you write, you know exactly how it will fit the music and have a good idea how it will sound. To me that is much easier than starting from scratch. It's following, rather than leading. But the opportunity for creativity is just as great.

If you try this with your collaborator, make sure you fully understand the structure of the music before you start. I make a chart showing the points (in seconds) where each structural element starts and stops, and how many bars in each. This is critical, and will keep you from getting 'lost' in the music.

I hope some of this is useful. I'm eager to learn from some of you who are more experienced at this than I am.

Norm [smiley=vocals.gif]

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Great topic!

It is difficult to get started. I like your idea of posting on different web sites as it never even occurred to me to post on this one yet.

My first collaboration effort went so smoothly, I was really shocked. Two days, one phone call, 3 emails and all of a sudden, there it was...my first lyric being played back at me. Made me tear up. It was very rewarding. I look forward to other opportunities and have tried to get my lyrics to at least one local band member for review but haven't had the chance to get together again to find out what he thought.

I like the point you made about creating the chemistry or the working bond. It seems like the proper goal. The music will come like the words, sometimes it just seems effortless.

I have yet to write lyrics to music though. You make it sound interesting and new. Plus, you gave hints on technique which I will remember when and if that opportunity arises.

Good luck Norm, I can't wait to hear your lyrics in song form.

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My first collaboration effort went so smoothly, I was really shocked. Two days, one phone call, 3 emails and all of a sudden, there it was...my first lyric being played back at me. Made me tear up. It was very rewarding.

An incredible first experience for you. I heard the song, and it worked well for you. It was a pretty straighforward song as I call, simply sung with a guitar (was there more instrumentation?). The singer did a pretty nice job with it, too.

Was the result similar to what you imagined it sounding like? Tell us a little bit about that, and how much you communicated to him your vision of the song.

Edited by Carnival
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The end result was more interesting than I had imagined it, writing with the melody in my head. The Bridge wasn't as defined or as interesting as John made it sound. His experience lent a Lyle Lovett type vocal to that part and I loved it.

The communication was really very simple, I called him up, emailed the lyric, he looked at it and said he liked it and was going into the studio that evening and would work on it. He called back once to clarify a couple of lines and that was about it. He and some others mentioned that the song was a little short in length but that was all there was, i told him it was just a short and sweet little song. I didn't sing it to him, or give any real hint of my own melody. I think i sang just a couple of lines out loud by mistake when we were going over lines as I was trying to work in the Kiss/This rhyme. We agreed to a 50/50 collaboration on the song and he asked that I send him some more lyrics when I could. I have, but as of yet haven't heard back on anything.

It was the reaching out and risking, that I have always avoided, that brought the song out. The drag racing may make me seem like I'm a big risk taker but the truth is, I'm not when it comes to truly showing myself to others. I have enjoyed writing and posting the lyrics on Songstuff, that was the first step. But hearing that first one as a song gave me a lot of motivation to hear another, and to write better lyrics.

I know I can't just sit back and wait for someone to ask if I'll write words for their music. I wish it worked that way, but in reality, the risking makes it that much more enjoyable for me. I like exploring this aspect of my life, and I'm starting to enjoy sharing it with others. I know I'm enjoying the time spent learning and writing and getting to know others who are doing the same. For me, lyrics were always a quiet stone unturned. Now I'm seeing all kinds of little bugs in the dark, damp, fertile earth.

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I was thinking, if I practice, post, and learn from my mistakes with lyrics here, why not do the same with collaboration attempts.

Here's my personal ad:

Unpublished lyricist looking to collaborate with musicians. Influences are varied, from classic rock to easy listening with a country bit of flavor. Would like to write with the goal of hearing your music and my lyrics being played from the radio. If interested in exploring new possibilities, contact McNaughtonPark

Edited by McnaughtonPark
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I've had several collabs with lyric writers. (here) It can be quite rewarding to put someones lyrics to music but as a musician, the biggest drawback I see, is most lyric writers are aiming to hear their songs played on the radio! In my case, I don't think that's ever gonna happen. It's also not gonna happen for lots of other composers. The difference between a lyric and the music, is the lyric doesn't need to be performed! I'm not the best musician in the world, and I don't have the best equipment or skill for recording, so the songs I have collaborated on will never be commercially accaptable. If I ever see that a lyricist wants some music written, I am instantly put off by the words 'Radio' and 'Commercial'. I'm just never gonna get there! I have music and melodies that I can't write lyrics for, but they'll stay with me for now. I also read some lyrics that I can 'hear', but again, I am nervous about offering help because of the above mentioned reason. I guess it comes down to a reality check.We would all like to have commercial succes! I don't imagine there is one lyric writer here that wouldn't love to team up with the perfect composer to form the next Taupin - John song writing partnership! (And I would encourage that from everybody here!) But I would suggest from potential lyrical collaborators to set their sights on getting a song written as a song, and not as a commercial proposition! If it's a good song, then who knows what might happen?

:) Anybody else had any luck with collaborations?

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Hey Steve,

I want to write commercially viable songs, but I don't want to restrict my writing to that. I need to be free to get the creative juices flowing with non-commercial lyrics and free form poetry. I even use poetry to let ideas flow which will later become the seeds for my song lyrics. If you've got something you want me to pen a lyric for, let me know. It would be fun to collaborate with a Stuffer.

Norm [smiley=vocals.gif]

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Hey Steve,

I want to write commercially viable songs, but I don't want to restrict my writing to that. I need to be free to get the creative juices flowing with non-commercial lyrics and free form poetry. I even use poetry to let ideas flow which will later become the seeds for my song lyrics. If you've got something you want me to pen a lyric for, let me know. It would be fun to collaborate with a Stuffer.

Norm [smiley=vocals.gif]

I'll give it some thought Norm. But for every composer, there seems to be about 40 lyricists. That is one of the reasons I advocate good spelling and grammar in lyric writers. There is no excuse for bad spelling, sloppy writing. I didn't have the benefit of a decent education, having been kicked out of high school at 15 (mainly for non attendance!) but I try to make sure my spelling is right. If I want to get crit for a lyric, I make sure it's right! (Not too often you've probably noticed!) We are all guilty of making the odd spelling error when typing generaly, as in these replies! But for someone who wants to be taken seriously as a writer, I think the first requirement is to get it right! I know you feel the same, as do a few others here, but there are too many, particularly the younger set, who think it's acceptable! The worst thing is, even when pulled up about their spelling, grammar and punctuation, some still think they can get away with it and still have dreams of being a pro lyricist! When I start to read a lyric, I get distracted by sloppyness. It detracts from the point of the lyric.

[/rant]

Who disagrees with me?

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Spelling and grammar are important, there is no doubt. Look, you don't build bleachers with termite ridden boards, or bridges with rusted bolt threads. This is just a song in comparison, and not life or death, but when seeking the help and guidance of others one should try to do their best. I've been guilty of it, I know most are at some point but it's immature to think that it shouldn't matter. Plus, why throw away a good critique on spelling errors.

Spell check isn't the end all, and some may rely on it too much, or is that to much, or two much, or 2 much. There needs to be some polite correcting going on and a little leeway given as not everyone who has the need to express themselves is perfect. Some genres may be more influenced by poor grammar than others, and a person could present an authentic lyric with errors that come from his or her natural style.

In attempting to be politically correct I fear I've been too vague. Some people don't' have the education and can only go so far. The lyric should first be judged by meaning, if we can, then suggestions toward spelling and grammar. I know what you are saying, that the meaning may depend on first being able to read it to understand, but there are times, especially when the errors are so obvious, that a person has posted their best effort.

It's not our job to teach spelling and grammar, but there are those who may need honest help. Helping to expand their craft, through the basics with a little patience and understanding. On a personal note, I often write the second letter of a word first, and have to add the first letter in second. It slows me down, and frustrates me because I can't just keep writing. I also write the twice and and twice and some other short words in the middle of sentences. Point is, we don't know how much correcting and effort has been put into a lyric before it was posted and what an author goes through just to post something he or she feels is worthy of being read.

To offer anything for collaboration without giving it your best effort is disrespectful, just give it your best, honest effort and be open to corrections and the critique of others.

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I agree that gentle persuasion to some is needed. And I am usually quite forgiving! But we have had this conversation here before where somebody was pulled up for constant spelling and punctuation errors. But the offender persisted with the belief that it mattered not a jot! Consequently, that poster started to lose the respect and interest of other members! Which I think was a sad loss! There was potential there, and that particular lyricist had hopes of becoming a proffesional writer! Even when told quite bluntly by a few members that it was quite important, said poster was quite reticent about it! When you want to earn a living doing something, whatever that may be? You need to apply yourself a little! If you want to be among the best? You need to apply yourself a lot! Nothing comes easy. There are no free rides! Anything worth doing requires hard work. I hear people say that some guitar players or keyboard players have natural talent! I say bullshit! They just work harder than the average players!

I'd like to commend a young member who's recently joined us. After a few posts, his spelling was gently brought to his attention. So he went away and came back having made a considerable effort to improve his work. Well done Mazrocon.

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Hey, great topic! Thanks for starting it Norm. I must admit I've been a bit scarce on this site for the last few weeks, I do have an excuse though.....but first....

One of my goals for the year is to find at least one (and hopefully more) musicians/singers to collaborate with to produce a complete song. My experience is primarily geared towards lyric writing and that is where I was headed when I began this most recent stint towards songwriting (I did dabble a bit about 10 years ago). I've written a lot and published a bit of poetry - not the high-fallutin' kind, but more down to earth, everyday verse which I feel fits closely with lyric writing even though it is a completely different thing.

I do have a bit of musical background in that I learned clarinet in High School and was even 1st Chair in the concert band. I've fiddled around with learning guitar for a good 10 years now and am certainly a professional beginner :) I've also played around a bit with keyboards.

In any case I think this thread will be an interesting place to share experiences and feel like even with the few experience postings above I've learned a bit. Thank you all for sharing.

I am still working on my lyric writing but it has been slow these past few weeks because I've backed up a bit to regroup and have been studying music and music theory and working on keyboards and melodies. I've upgraded my computer software sequencer - Sonar and added numerous virtual synthesizers, added a audio interface, a new midi controller in addition to my yamaha keyboard and hope to get to the point of creating some music - in the ambient/new wave area as well as beginning to work on some simple symphonic-type things. I also hope to use this setup to do more pop/adult contemporary type songs and music to fit my (or other) lyrics. I'm having a blast so far, but no final results to share at this point. Soon though.

My biggest hole in creating music is singing -- I can't :) I can't make noise and might even be able to get idea across vocally but at this point certainly can't sing in any way passably. So...bottom line here is even if I can write reasonable lyrics that fit reasonable music that I write and provide I'm still going to need some vocal collaboration. :)

I will work towards making that happen encouraged by the experiences, information and sharing here.

KAC

P.S. I hope there's not too many spelling and grammar errors above. :)

Edited by KennyChaffin

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Ok, I'm not adding anything to the discussion, but I just can't let this error go (especially as you mentioned them at the end of your post :P)

I believe you meant 'site' (as in website) rather than 'sight' (as in eye-sight). :)

/grammar.nazi.programme

;)

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Ok, I'm not adding anything to the discussion, but I just can't let this error go (especially as you mentioned them at the end of your post :P)

I believe you meant 'site' (as in website) rather than 'sight' (as in eye-sight). :)

/grammar.nazi.programme

;)

:-[ fixed.

KAC

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In terms of collaboration is it too much to ask a potential partner to simply lend their vocals to a song? Would the partner want more input towards the song? For example, if I had music and lyrics already written, but wanted a good vocalist, would the vocalist not feel a little cheated? It's hardly collaboration...or is it best to let the partner have songwriting input as well?

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I think it's ok to ask for help in this way. If you need a singer to sing a song, then just ask away! I'm sure there was somebody here recently offering their skills as a singer to anybody that might want him! if the recorded song becomes a saleable item, you would need to work out some royalty payments, but you don't need to offer writing recognition.

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I see, well that's good news I suppose, I might start looking for a vocalist.

All I'm wondering is what's in it for them? Assuming it doesn't become a saleable item, and the song is just for my own self-satisfaction, I don't understand where they are getting their kicks from?

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I would say they'd get a kick from simply being recorded and helping out a fellow musician... I know I'd enjoy doing the equivalent with my guitar (not that that's gonna happen any time soon! lol)

:)

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I might look around then...

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Ooo, bunch of thoughts.

First, I am a composer of sorts, in that I do occasionally set other people's lyrics to music. It's one of the things I do to keep myself feeling creative when I don't have songs popping out like Oriental babies. Basically, if I hear music when I read the lyrics, I've got something (or you've got something), and I'm interested.

It will be country music of one sort oranother, because that's what I do. I may hear something different in my head, but when I try to play it on the guitar, it's going to come out some kind of country because I'm just not that good on the guitar. Might tend towards a blues, or folk-rock, or even jazz--but if you don't want country music, better say "no" when I ask.

What do I look for in a lyric? I think the same stuff I look for in my own lyrics: I want a complete thought, expressed in a reasonable amount of time (3-1/2 to 5 minutes); I want somebody to be able to say, at the end of the song, "Well, I guess that's about all one needs to say about *that*." I want either a new idea, or if it's an old idea, expressed in a different way. I want it to make people think (and yes, thinking about jumping into bed with the first warm body of the opposite sex is okay thinking).

Structurally is where I get really picky. In order to work well with music, it's got to be rhythmic. Think "oral tradition"--most of the old epic poetry, from Beowulf to the Aeneid, is easy to set to music because it's got a beat to it. It was intended to be performed, not read. It doesn't matter what kind of a beat, as long as it's consistent. Sometimes a particular word, or string of words, won't work because the emphasis is on the wrong syllables; it may read okay, but it won't *sing* right. Rhymes are *not* necessary (though people expect rhymes in country music); I use rhymes as mnemonic tricks, to signal the performer what's supposed to come next. But I have written songs without rhymes, or with rhymes in odd places. It's okay.

And it's gotta have a hook. It doesn't matter what it is, or where it is, but it has to be memorable--it's what is going to remind people of the song when they hear it or see it. It's like advertising (which I used to do for a living)--the hook is what people will remember the song by. It has to be attention-getting.

Purpose of the song? I don't think much about "commercial viability," either; the music industry these days is a very tightly closed circle, and the people who are inside are just not lettin' anybody else in. Sorry. If you're looking for Somebody Big to record your song, it has to be way, way better than anything being done by the people inside the circle, and they're *still* going to do everything they can to keep you out, and that's just how the Biz is, these days. It's not bad to be motivated by those aspirations--it will make you a better writer. you'll have to be a *really* good one.

However, I do consider the intent of music is to be *performed*. The purpose of music is communication; if you're writing it just for yourself, and nobody's ever going to hear it, what have you communicated? And how do you know that you got across what you were trying to say? A lot of songwriters perform their own stuff; some perform other songwriters' stuff (a practice I encourage--it's like cloning yourself). Working bands are a good market, especially those that have to do a lot of covers--why shouldn't they include yours? Your stuff just has to be as good as the other stuff they play,

Therefore, one of my considerations as a composer is how something is going to come across when it's performed. How easy are the words to sing? What's the singer going to emphasize? What parts are going to be hard to remember when the singer's standing up in front of a hall full of people, and how can one make it easier? When is the poor soul going to breathe--without being obvious about it, of course?

I will inevitably end up tweaking the words at least a little bit, because (1) I am a compulsive editor (I used to do that for a living, too), and (2) I try to remain conscious of how the thing is going to have to be sung. And I'll always be paranoid about whether what I do there is okay, even if I'm certain what I've done is what I *had* to do.

There. That help?

Joe

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That last was a long post. sorry. I tell other poeple to be economical with words, and then don't take my own advice.

Somebody'd asked what's in it for the singer. The answer is the same thing as for the writer--EXPOSURE. any of these guys and gals are 'on the make," too--they're trying to showcase their talents, in the hope they can make it either as a performer (likely) or recording star (*way* less likely, as pointed out earlier). They're looking for songs they can use th showcase their talents. Why shouldn't that include yours?

Yes, there are "standards" all aspiring perforners just about have to do, to prove how good they are measured against an awesome standard--but those are really very few in number. If you're a girl singer trying to break into country music, you have to do "Crazy," which Patsy Cline made famous; if you're a guy singer, you probably have to do George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today." If you're a guitarist, you want to get good at Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues," one of the more complex pieces of country music out there. There are similar "standards" in other genres.

But notice there aren't many. What *else* are these wannabes going to do to strut their stuff? Why shouldn't they be performing your stuff instead of somebody else's? If you tell someone, "This is a great song for your voice," and they do it, and it gets shopped around and maybe performed, the product is promoting *both* of you. And that's a good Thing.

Joe

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Hey

I haven't looked at this thread for a while. Lots of good advice and interesting opinions :) Thought it was worth a bump!

Cheers

John

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Hey

I haven't looked at this thread for a while. Lots of good advice and interesting opinions :) Thought it was worth a bump!

Cheers

John

Good call John, I must have missed this first time around.

I have several different style collaborations under my belt. Writing Music to Lyrics, writing bass-lines for existing songs, Writing Lyrics and having someone else kick it off. All were very rewarding and fun to participate in. I did put one set of Lyrics to Music and have the Lyricist Bee disappointed in the style of Music I chose for it, in fact I believe he left SS for that reason, but I had fun with it anyway

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Spelling and grammar are important, there is no doubt. Look, you don't build bleachers with termite ridden boards, or bridges with rusted bolt threads. This is just a song in comparison, and not life or death, but when seeking the help and guidance of others one should try to do their best. I've been guilty of it, I know most are at some point but it's immature to think that it shouldn't matter. Plus, why throw away a good critique on spelling errors.

Spell check isn't the end all, and some may rely on it too much, or is that to much, or two much, or 2 much. There needs to be some polite correcting going on and a little leeway given as not everyone who has the need to express themselves is perfect. Some genres may be more influenced by poor grammar than others, and a person could present an authentic lyric with errors that come from his or her natural style.

In attempting to be politically correct I fear I've been too vague. Some people don't' have the education and can only go so far. The lyric should first be judged by meaning, if we can, then suggestions toward spelling and grammar. I know what you are saying, that the meaning may depend on first being able to read it to understand, but there are times, especially when the errors are so obvious, that a person has posted their best effort.

It's not our job to teach spelling and grammar, but there are those who may need honest help. Helping to expand their craft, through the basics with a little patience and understanding. On a personal note, I often write the second letter of a word first, and have to add the first letter in second. It slows me down, and frustrates me because I can't just keep writing. I also write the twice and and twice and some other short words in the middle of sentences. Point is, we don't know how much correcting and effort has been put into a lyric before it was posted and what an author goes through just to post something he or she feels is worthy of being read.

To offer anything for collaboration without giving it your best effort is disrespectful, just give it your best, honest effort and be open to corrections and the critique of others.

I couldn't agree more with this, (proper spelling,) after all how can you critique perfection? It should be the concept or delivery that we measure, not the small stuff. Leave that to over-rated big house publishing editors. These days the young, (which we should eat,) are so used to "spell check" they'd be lost without it. God only knows how many takes to have a go at an old fashioned type-writer!

On this subject, I am looking to collaborate with musicians as well. I play the drums, and basic, totally basic guitar, but I have some lyrics (over 200) that demand much more than I can put into them. Beautiful melodies, metal, or even country. Way over my head, especially the melodic stuff. So I'm reading around here... Listening.

I'm new here, and to me this site is strange. In it's function I mean! I'm not even sure if this was a way to add my voice, or if I'm writing some kind of personal e-mail here???? As I said, this site opperates unlike any other I've ever been on.

Now where the hell is that spell check! Aaarrrggg!!!

Tom

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Some of the poetry magazines have ads in the back from agencies like Majestic Records asking for lyrics. ("$100,000 recording contract possible! Free appraisal!") I assume these are scams of some kind. Does anyone have experience with them?

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Some of the poetry magazines have ads in the back from agencies like Majestic Records asking for lyrics. ("$100,000 recording contract possible! Free appraisal!") I assume these are scams of some kind. Does anyone have experience with them?

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. :)

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I'd like to add my tuppence ha'penny with regards grammar and spelling. Although I've nothing published, my style of writing tends to flow to how the song will be sung and if "gonna" fits better than "going to" for example, then it's gonna be gonna! That isn't meant to raise any disrespect to any members personal opinions here

Take "Gonna Make You An Offer" - being grammatically correct and spelling it as "Going To....", it doesn't work.

In my humble opinion (IMHO chat style), forcing lyrics to work because of grammar and spelling can ruin a good song.

I will also sometimes twist words within a line because again, it flows (and sometimes shakes/wakes up the song). English is a "flexible" language with far too many rules for the perfectionists that destroy creativity, fun and the enjoyment of writing

Critique is welcome.

By the way, good thread and I'll add to it once my collaborations begin to "flow".

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I'd like to add my tuppence ha'penny with regards grammar and spelling. Although I've nothing published, my style of writing tends to flow to how the song will be sung and if "gonna" fits better than "going to" for example, then it's gonna be gonna! That isn't meant to raise any disrespect to any members personal opinions here

I think we can tell the difference between stylistic issues like appropriate language modes and mangling the language through blind ignorance of its established conventions.

It is definitely the latter which provokes irritation amongst us pedants who believe a writer should love and appreciate his tools.

.

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Thanks Laz for clearing that up for me (a noob here). I didn't want to step on anyones toes first off :thumb23:

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