Welcome to the 5th installment of Book Love: a series in which I tell you all about the resources, guides, and inspirational books that I love. Since April is poetry month around here I’ve decided to dedicate this month’s Book Love features to some of my favourite authors and collections of poems. Today’s book is Leonard Cohen Selected Poems 1956 – 1968.
I first came across this book while sitting cross-legged on the floor of a beautiful house on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. Craig and I were staying with friends while on vacation and the house where we stayed was brimming with books and maps and musical instruments. I always knew Leonard Cohen was an outstanding songwriter but at the time I really didn’t know anything about his poetry. When I opened this book I was shocked by how stark and simple and beautiful the writing was. Of course, I am drawn to his poems about love and people and heartbreak.
I so love the unexpected images he uses. Take this excerpt from the poem above, for example:
“The naked weeping girl
is thinking of my name
turning my bronze name
over and over
with the thousand fingers
of her body
anointing her shoulders
with the remembered odour
of my skin”
When I can read that I can see her holding his memory in her hands like an object. It’s at once sad and sensual. Whenever I feel uninspired or that my life lacks beauty, I almost always reach for this book.
I should mention that I spent the rest of my trip in Victoria trying unsuccessfully to find this book. When I mentioned it to Craig’s brother, he pulled his own copy of a shelf and handed it to me. I have it now on long-term loan. Thanks, Eric.
That’s it for Book Love // 05. Let me know who your favourite poet is in the comments below. You can also check out the last post in the series, Book Love: The Songwriters Idea Book // 04.
Welcome to the 4th installment of Book Love: a series in which I tell you all about the resources, guides, and inspirational books that I love. Today’s book is The Songwriters Idea Book: 40 strategies to excite your imagination, help you design distinctive songs, and keep your creative flow by Sheila Davis.
This book was recommended to me by the wonderful and talented Megan Jerome, herself a great songwriter. Megan is a wealth of songwriting information and resources and this will not be the last Book Love inspired by her.
Sheila Davis is well known for her books on lyric writing including The Craft of Lyric Writing and Successful Lyric Writing, but The Songwriters Idea Book is an invaluable resource for anyone looking for lots of different ways to get inspired and seed new songs.
This is a great book for songwriters of any experience level who wish to keep up a regular practice of songwriting. I mentioned in my post on my songwriting process last Friday that regular work is way more effective than only writing when you are inspired. This book has a ton of jumping off points for you to work from included a variety of title strategies, plot devices, and wordplay.
My favourite title strategy found in this book is “book title titles” where you write a song with the same title as a book. I will often go to the library and fill a page with interesting book titles I find and then try and write songs with my favourite titles. It doesn’t always yield my best results but it certainly gets the creative juices flowing.
That’s it for Book Love // 04. Let me know what you’re reading in the comments below. You can also check out the last post in the series, Book Love: Writing Better Lyrics // 03.
Welcome to the 3rd instalment of Book Love: a series in which I tell you all about the resources, guides, and inspirational books that I love. Today’s book is Writing Better Lyrics: The Essential Guide to Powerful Songwriting, Second Edition, by Pat Pattison.
This book fell into my life in a most unusual way. A student came to me for a consultation and we agreed to start lessons right away. The following week he came for his first lesson and brought me this book as a gift. After that lesson I received an email from him saying he could no longer continue taking lessons due to extenuating life circumstances and I never saw him again. It’s as if he came into my life just to give me this book because I use this book all the time.
I love this book because it clearly lays out the most basic elements of lyric writing, like rhyme, metaphor, and cliché and includes easy and fun writing exercises to increase creative writing skill by using more interesting metaphorical language.
I use this book with my songwriting students all the time. My favourite activity to do with them is from chapter 4, Learning To Say No: Building Worksheets. This chapter lays out an extremely simple way of fleshing out lyric ideas using word lists. I do this activity almost every time I sit down to write a song.
But this doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the juicy lyric writing tips in Writing Better Lyrics. Between the 50 different exercises, I’m set up for at least a few more years of creative writing practice.
That’s it for Book Love // 03. Let me know what you’re reading in the comments below. You can also check out the last Book Love: Scat! Vocal Improvisation Techniques.
Welcome to the 2nd installment of Book Love: a series in which I tell you all about the resources, guides, and inspirational books that I love. Today’s book is Scat! Vocal Improvisation Techniques by Bob Stoloff.
I first picked up this book after I saw that it was required reading for Elise Letourneau’s vocal improvisation workshop at Alcorn Studios. The books contains a short history of scat followed by a whole whack of exercises ranging from rhythm etudes to II-V patterns to bass lines to drum articulations. It really provides someone new to scat singing a solid foundation from which to work on.
What I really love this book is it provides syllables to vocalize on for every note on every page of the book. The syllables written provide the singer with the most efficient route through the line. These syllables have really helped my speed and dexterity when improvising.
The book also comes with a CD where you can listen to Bob Stoloff demonstrate some of the exercises. It also includes some sing-along tracks where you can trade fours with Stoloff and practice improvising. The CD clearly demonstrates the principles outlined in the book, but also shows how they can be built upon to create your own personal voice.
Ultimately, this book is a super affordable, invaluable resource for beginner to intermediate vocal improvisers.
That’s it for Book Love // 02. Let me know what you think in the comments below. You can also check out the last Book Love: The Dynamics of the Singing Voice.
I’ve decided to start a new column around here to express my love of resources in book form. I have more vocal technique books, lyrics writing books, theory books, sight-reading books, rhyming dictionaries and thesauri than you can shake a stick at. It’s definitely time I share my secrets with you.
The first book in the series is Dynamics of the Singing Voice by M. Bunch Dayme. This book has been my bible for a very long time. I first picked it up when I was working at the National Research Council and had an all access pass to the Canadian Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) which is the biggest technical library in Canada. Sometimes I would go there and look up things I knew nothing about and just marvel at the complexity of the diagrams and the equations… Anyway, since this book is technically an anatomy textbook, CISTI had a copy.
I love this book because it offers super clear explanations and diagrams of all parts of the body that have to do with singing (which are most of the parts of the body). I use this book ALL of the time when teaching to explain to my students about posture and breathing and about what’s going on inside when they’re singing.
In the latest edition, M. Bunch Dayme has added some amazing sections on the psychological aspects of performance and on vocal pedagogy. All of my students are intimately familiar with her section on The Responsibility of the Student (see below) because I photocopy it for all of them to read before starting lessons with me.
Unfortunately, it’s a pretty expensive book, I paid at least $70 for it. That said, it was totally worth every penny and I refer to it almost daily.
So that’s it for Book Love // 01. Let me know what you think of the new column in the comments below!