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#862162 - 12/04/10 06:35 AM Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ...  
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R. Shayne Vaughan Offline
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R. Shayne Vaughan  Offline
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Which is a better style to write in, past or present? I've always heard present gives a fresher "feel"...

So:
She sat at the railway station and thought about her son (past tense example)

is not as good as:

She sits at the railway station thinking about her son (present tense example)

Do you agree, disagree? I'd like to get everyone's views.


I usually start with a title or maybe a little rhyme or phrase. - Harlan Howard

Co-writing = Compromise!


#862163 - 12/04/10 07:25 AM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: R. Shayne Vaughan]  
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Steve Cooke Offline
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There is no 'better style' nor a right and a wrong in such matters. It depends on the song and the emotions you wish to convey.

If the above is an opening line for a track, then I imagine there is some sort of narrative, a story, that follows.

How far in the past, or how immediate, you make it could depend on how long the story is. Is it a single incident you're describing or are they events and emotions that play out over several days, weeks, months, years?

The main thing is to remain consistent about your tense. You can change tense - eg, move from past to present or vice versa - but it needs to be done in a way that doesn't confuse the listener ... unless, of course, confusing your listener is the objective of the song. One sees songs now and then that mix up the tense during the same lines and they can be hard to follow - sometimes a result of English not being the writer's first language. So try to avoid that.


Steve Cooke
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#862164 - 12/04/10 07:50 AM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: R. Shayne Vaughan]  
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Mike Caro Substudio Offline
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Originally Posted by R. Shayne Vaughan
Which is a better style to write in, past or present? I've always heard present gives a fresher "feel"...

So:
She sat at the railway station and thought about her son (past tense example)

is not as good as:

She sits at the railway station thinking about her son (present tense example)

Do you agree, disagree? I'd like to get everyone's views.


Steve's right Shayne there is no answer to this question whatsoever. The "better" way does not exist.
It will only matter in the entire context of your song.
So the point is moot.

So in other words for example you may have a chorus and realize you need to go back and change your verse so that it matches up.
Let me put my verses in the "past tense" because the rest of my song and the chorus is.

However you can play around with that and mix and match as long as you have an overall continuity and are not confusing the heck out of everybody smile

For example

Verse

She sits at the railway station
thinking about her son
Can hear the train coming
why does she need to run

Chorus
She used to have a family
and a place to call home
A husband and son
She thought she'd never be alone

etc....

Hey I'm curious why she's running and what happened lol

And I think my okay chorus makes for an even stronger pre-chorus FORCING myself to write yet a better chorus.
See how I'm aware of rules, breaking them a bit and tricking myself into working harder at the same time, not settling?

Now were learning somethin! smile
Mike



Thanks!
Peace Mike
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#862173 - 12/04/10 08:48 AM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: Mike Caro Substudio]  
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Kolstad Offline
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Fundamentally there no such thing as good/bad styles, however considering the past and present examples in terms of commercial viability, I would go for the present if writing for an audience between 10-40, as a present pow tends to feel more active, and thereby more engaging. That's not always desirable, but if trying to write a song for radio, I would think present pow gives you the better odds.



#862202 - 12/04/10 01:08 PM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: Kolstad]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Shayne,

The first thing I would consider is how many people would be sitting in a train station in the first place. The key to music now is RELATABILITY. If the listener cannot find something they relate to, they move on to other people. And there is an endless supply out there, so the attention spans are incredibly short.

The thing that is important is being current and realistic in the language and senarios you are setting up. People are immersed in the information age, with continuous sensory overload. So if you don't challenge the mind's eye, they are gone. Period.

That is why we have concrete visual furniture. You see, I wouldn't have written that like that because there is not enough visuals:

On the 8:15 to Washington
Thinking bout' her long lost son
Memries' as thick as summer flies
On that cold hard bench she sits and cries


Devils in the details.


MAB

#862227 - 12/04/10 03:17 PM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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billrocker Offline
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you go marc!

#862228 - 12/04/10 03:25 PM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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R. Shayne Vaughan Offline
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Thanks to everyone for your reply.

Marc, the example I gave is not a line from any lyric of mine. I would not have written that way either. I only wanted to learn if it's acceptable to write in present tense about past events. I want my lyrics to fit into the current market as well as possible and am looking for every way to improve to give them their best shot. BTW, I greatly admire your advice. Obviously, you know what you're talking about smile


I usually start with a title or maybe a little rhyme or phrase. - Harlan Howard

Co-writing = Compromise!


#862271 - 12/04/10 07:15 PM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: R. Shayne Vaughan]  
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Kolstad Offline
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Finish that song, Marc :-)



#862316 - 12/04/10 11:20 PM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: Kolstad]  
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Brian Austin Whitney Offline
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Like the old saying it's not the pen, it's the pensmanship...

It's not the tense.. it's the tensemanship...

Nice example Marc. = )


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#862331 - 12/05/10 12:40 AM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Shayne,

I just tried to follow what you had given. In my opinion, the lyric you put up there would be turned off very quickly. Just not interesting enough. Doesn't hold the listeners attention kind of like vanilla.

MAB

#862340 - 12/05/10 01:37 AM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Steve Cooke Offline
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Originally Posted by Marc Barnette
Shayne,

I just tried to follow what you had given. In my opinion, the lyric you put up there would be turned off very quickly. Just not interesting enough. Doesn't hold the listeners attention kind of like vanilla.

MAB



The lyric in this thread wasn't posted by Shayne. He only posted a single line for illustrative purposes.

The full-length verses were composed by Mike Caro purely to demonstrate the point he was making.


Steve Cooke
Stockton-on-Tees, UK
http://wwww.soundcloud.com/stevecooke
#862342 - 12/05/10 01:41 AM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: Steve Cooke]  
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Steve Cooke Offline
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Besides which, I happen to know that the woman at the station's son was a transsexual secret millionaire who was having an affair with his mother's lesbian lover who was actually an alien from another planet which orbited a dying star.


Steve Cooke
Stockton-on-Tees, UK
http://wwww.soundcloud.com/stevecooke
#862347 - 12/05/10 02:15 AM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: Steve Cooke]  
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Mike Caro Substudio Offline
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Originally Posted by Steve Cooke
Originally Posted by Marc Barnette
Shayne,

I just tried to follow what you had given. In my opinion, the lyric you put up there would be turned off very quickly. Just not interesting enough. Doesn't hold the listeners attention kind of like vanilla.

MAB



The lyric in this thread wasn't posted by Shayne. He only posted a single line for illustrative purposes.

The full-length verses were composed by Mike Caro purely to demonstrate the point he was making.


Yes and which was the point of Shayne's question. smile

If he had to have a "must answer" I think Mags (songcab) was best. Keep it in the present if it "doesn't matter" to you personally. This way you may feel you have a psychological edge over or on the listener... cool!

But from Shayne's question here and on the Take It Easy post there's a bunch of things he needs to consider and think about.


Thanks!
Peace Mike
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#862351 - 12/05/10 02:25 AM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Dan Sullivan Offline
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Shayne, A lot depends on where you are going with the lyric. If you are relating an event that has already occurred, as in a story-telling lyric, you probably want to use the past tense. Think "Frankie and Johnny." If the events are more immediate, the present tense can work better. Think "She's leaving home." Not knowing where this lyric is going, I like the present tense better. But the storyline will really have to dictate the tense.

MAB, Slow down. You put so much furniture in those four lines you've got the poor woman on the 8:15 train AND at the station at the same time!!! But you make a generally valid point about visuals.














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#862363 - 12/05/10 04:03 AM Re: Which is a better style and which is the most commercial ... [Re: Dan Sullivan]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Dan,

If you wait too long the listener tunes you out no matter what tense you write. Deal with this industry, and you're lucky to get a word in. It should tell you something that the Bluebird Audition is one minute long. And most shows like American Idol are stopping people at 8 seconds on auditions.
Doesn't get any longer.

For the record, there is no right or wrong when it comes to tense. Just can't jump around without explaining where you are.
Start with one and stick with it.

MAB

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