Writing a song can be a real pain in the ass. It gets even worse when you feel like you need to come up with a wealth of new material all at once. With the hiatus of Far From There and looking for a new direction, it’s sort of fallen on me to crank out a bunch of ideas so we can see where we want to go, and have some material ready for anyone who is auditioning to sit in on and interpret. The best way for us to tell how someone is going to fit is to throw something completely new (to them) at them and see what spin they put on it. Anyone can learn and master a cover, but we’re not looking to be a cover band. We want to continue to do new material, so we need to know they can add something to the band.
So I’m writing a lot. Sure Dave and Jared are helping whenever they can. Dave found a new bass riff he was really digging and we were able to take that idea and run with it. One of my favorite things to do at practice is to tell Jared to figure out a new beat and play it. That can really spark the ideas in my head. But Dave and Jared are still early on in their journey to cross the gap to writing music they like. While I’m encouraging them to add more and more ideas to the pot, at the end of the day, they’ve both sort of let me know that they feel like I’m the best equipped to really come up with new ideas. So I’m writing my butt off.
The problem, as always, is that not every idea we come up with is a good one. If we leave practice with one usable idea, we’re doing really well. Two would be amazing. Three has yet to happen, but who knows, it might someday. However, given that practices are usually only a couple of hours, the best way to make sure we walk away with a usable idea is to walk in with a few potential riff candidates, play them for Jared and Band, and have them tell me what works and what doesn’t.
I can always tell when a riff idea is complete shit, but sometimes you’ll stumble across something you really like that just isn’t ready for prime time. You’ll get this spark of an idea and then try to work with it and work on it, and you’ll come up with something decent, but which isn’t quite right. I have riff ideas from 3 or 4 years ago that I really like, and dig up from time to time to see if they’re finally ready to work with me. They’re not completed ideas, just sketches of an idea, and someday maybe I’ll be in the mood or have the skill to fill out the sketch. I just revived one this week which I think might finally be ready for prime time. We’ll see.
Sometimes you get sketches, but other times they’ll come out fully formed. These are even more dangerous. When it happens you always want celebrate that it was so easy. Then you start to think a bit, and the only conclusion you tend to come to is that you’re a hack and must have ripped it off from somewhere. It was just too easy for it not to be stolen. So you try to figure out where you ripped it off from. I’ve sat down playing riffs that turned out to be elaborated versions of “Twinkle Twinkle little Star.” Just this week I found myself accidentally playing the melody to Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California”, but with different chords behind it. The week before I accidentally re-wrote the Toadies “Possum Kingdom” (admittedly that’s not hard to do) and didn’t realize it until I played it for Jared and he pointed it out.
Sometimes though, the bolt of lightning of an idea that hits you fully formed turns out to be something new and awesome to play with. Those are great days, and those riffs usually become great songs.
Right now, I’m caught with a riff that just sort of came to me lightning-bolt style, but I can’t figure out if I unconsciously ripped it off from somewhere, or if it’s something I can actually use. That’s not to say I will actually find a song for it right away, but I at least want to know if it’s been ripped off.
So maybe you can help. I’ve posted the riff below, and I’m hoping you’ll leave a comment either telling me you’ve never heard it before, or posting the song you know it from. It’s not my favorite riff ever, so I’m not too afraid of having someone rip it off if it is original. I just really need some feedback to know if I ripped it off or not. It’s driving me crazier than normal.
So leave a comment, and let’s see what the verdict is.