Songwriting is an extremely new venture for many of my students, and for me as well. Although I have journal upon journal with a wide variety of poetry, stories, angsty prose and would be lyrics I have never written a song on my own, or really even ventured to do so. Any music I have written has been required of me for a class.
The thought of writing something bad has paralyzed me–until now. A couple of weeks ago I spent a fun night with some friends writing a song of “epic” proportions. It was terrible/awesome/funny/lame and I loved it. So I got over my fear and I am embracing my absolute lack of experience and experiencing songwriting with my ukulele club.
My students and I began by listening to a song written by students of a friend and fellow music educator, Caitlin McGovern. I worried the kids would be overly critical and/or not give the song a chance, but they loved it, we all did. It was catchy and it stuck with us. We even figured out how to play it on our ukes! You can check it out here as well as an article that Caitlin wrote for Leading Notes.
Today we finally made our first foray in songwriting on our own. After some brainstorming we concluded that we would write about cupcakes, ukulele, and a panda with a mohawk. We named him Carl and quickly found, very little rhymes with Carl. It’s certainly a work in process and many updates are soon to follow, but here is what we have so far lyrically:
I was walkin’ down the street, playin’ my uke to the beat
Then I stopped and I stared at a panda with crazy hair
I gave him a fry, cuz he looked like he was gonna die
And he repaid the favor with something I would surely savor
Sprinkles and Frosting
Delicious, Yummy Cake
He made me a treat using a nifty Easy Bake….
We have the rest of the chord structure figured out, we just ran out of time after school. There were moments of frustration and disagreement in the composition process, but in the end we were all pleased with the outcome, much more than any of us would have predicted mid-process.
It’s a silly song, but it IS a song nonetheless, written by us. Going through the process of writing lyrics, deciding on a chord structure and melody was rewarding. We all left the classroom smiling and humming our OWN tune.
The ukulele club is built upon a participatory music making model (based largely on the influences of Thomas Turino and his book, Music As Social Life and Matthew Thibeault and his Homebrew Ukulele Union). We approached our songwriting similarly– with everyone participating in whatever capacity they wanted and with an openness to new ideas and experiences.
Keep posted and hopefully we’ll have a rough recording of our first song to post soon!