Friday, April 04, 2008

Bob Snider - On Songwriting (Book Review)

This is the folk musician's two-part look inside songwriting. He gives us a glimpse of the songwriter's inner workings, creative process, techniques and some of the hiding places of good ideas.

In a loosely organized, highly engaging style, Snider shimmies through matters of song structure, rhyme, diction, revision, repetition, audience response, titles and more. Taking readers from the first germination of an idea, through to test-driving a song on stage or sidewalk, he provides valuable tips for writing words to be sung. Combining his favourite tricks of the trade, nods to influential songwriters, and joking around common pitfalls in rhyme and rhythm, Snider shows how intuitive and how challenging songwriting can be. Along the way, readers get a glimpse of the life and work of one of Canada's folk music legends.


The second half of the book provides the lyrics for, and the stories behind, ten songs, including audience favourites like Tonight, Darn Folksinger and Sittin in the Kitchen. The beginnings come in the form of witticisms, unlikely pairings, propositions and slow ruminations. Some of these songs take their cue from overheard conversations, others from chance encounters and wrong numbers. Snider recounts verses that seemed to write themselves, others that were honed over weeks and months, and one he remembers having to coax out a syllable at a time.

Delighting in his own foibles and the odd streak of luck, Snider reveals the draft stages of some of his finest lyrics, and the patience and trickery involved in teasing memorable songs out of those first couple of chords. With each song we are introduced to the friends and strangers who have sparked his creativity, and a personal philosophy built on a love of entertaining and an avid pursuit of happy accidents.

It's well worth the read for someone interested in reviewing another's creative process... May the Muse stay with you...


Tom St. Louis said...

Thanks for letting me know that ol' Bob has a book out on songwriting.

I have admired his songs for a long time.

I first met Bob on Bathurst Street in about 1986.

Then I played with him for years at Fat Albert's.

Some of his stuff is just so perfect. He makes it seem effortless.

I think he's patient and waits and digs and waits and digs and lets it come and notices when it does or doesn't and just stays in the pocket as long as it takes.

I could be way off but you tell me how he wrote a couple of those songs. And the title of his album..."Caterwaul and Doggerel".

So perfect. Is it possible he's the first person to think that?

Chuck Berry wrote an autobiography. He tried to make the whole thing a catchy lyric and ran out of gas after a few pages, but it was still a good read.

I will go and find Bob's book now. I'll bet it's really good.

Tom St. Louis

Renz said...

Thanks Tom... Yes, he does make it seem effortless and his book, while not an autobiography, has many amusing and enlightening anecdotes for the stories behind the songs...

I hope you enjoy the read!

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