BOOK | BLOG
What makes Harriet Schock truly special is her willingness to share her hard-won songwriting knowledge with others. She does this with her songwriting classes, private consultations, online courses and in her seminal book, becoming remarkable.
The book is an extensive collection of articles written for the songwriting community and was originally published as a regular column in the Los Angeles Songwriter’s Showcase Musepaper, and later in the periodicals of the National Academy of Songwriters.
becoming remarkable, which includes Harriet’s Rosebud CD, is available here.
A listing of what’s inside…
for songwriters and those who love songs
by Harriet Schock
Table of Contents
Foreword by Nik Venet
About the Chapters…
PART I – INTEGRITY
Step One: Touch Somebody
If You’re Doing It for the Money,
You May Not Make Any
The Art & Craft of Songwriting
Songwriters … A Community
Do We Know Where We’re Coming From?
Stop and Look at Who’s Listening
Reality: The Training Wheels
Chimera Is Curable
Writing from the Inside
Songwriters Say It All
Art and Romance: An Analogy
Do You Read?
Cookies or Newspapers?
The New Literacy
Burning Desire to Communicate
Some Points to View on Viewpoints
PART II – CLARITY
Truth vs. Facts in Songwriting
When Little Things Mean a Lot
Listen & Learn
You Talkin’ to Me?
Judging Your Own Material
Finding the Pony
He Says, She Says
Listeners Vote for Communication
Smoke and Mirrors
PART III – TECHNOLOGY
Words or Music … That Is the Question
Writing Words to Music
What, Me Study?
Melody – The Unsung Hero
The Rhythm of the Melody
Playing It by Ear
Customs & Critics & Rules (Oh, My)
But What Do Strangers Think?
Is There Life Between Songs?
“That Sounds Like It Belongs in a Movie”
Titles: The Heart of the Matter
You Oughta Be Write in Pictures
Writing in the Margins
Writing in Space
Playing the Symbols Well
Cleverness and Subtlety
Starting with the Song
About the Author
becoming remarkable, which includes Harriet’s Rosebud CD, is available here.
Listen, I just HAVE to tell you: I read your book, and all along I got the eerie feeling that you wrote it just for me (of course not, but that’s what it felt like). Every single songwriter should read your book. In fact, it should be considered required reading material for all (and especially for all the open-mikers out there!) For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading passages to my writer friends over the phone, showing them the book in person and basically (at the risk of sounding too “gushy”)… GUSHING about how pertinent it is.Serina Jung
I started re-reading your book on the plane and I’m appreciating and enjoying it even more the second time. You’re a truly wonderful writer and artist. I hadn’t heard your CD previously. All I can say (without gushing) is that you’ve definitely got a new fan. You are truly an amazing writer and I’m so glad we got a chance to connect.Jason Blume
I have to say that I opened your book and just re-read the very beginning areas. I cannot put it down. I think I may have to re-read the entire book again. Reading it gives me a joy that washes over me. Thank you — again.Pat Metzger
Harriet Schock’s Blog
Did you ever use training wheels when you were learning to ride a bicycle? Or did you ever see anyone else use them? The purpose is to keep the bicycle from tipping over. They allow the rider to stay on long enough to perfect some of the skills of riding a bicycle.
Well, I think reality does that for the songwriter. Actually, it does it for any kind of writer. “Write what you know,” they tell you in school. And out of school. And “they’re” right. Margaret Mitchell only wrote one novel and legend has it, she hid Gone with the Wind in coffee cans all over her house, before she showed it to anyone. But she didn’t write an action adventure story or a who-done-it set on a European steamer. She wrote what was familiar to her. She may not have lived every scene, but she knew the people. They were composites of people she knew or was related to, in a time and place she understood.
Songwriters who write from a place of truth have the odds in their favor in many ways. First of all, as my mother used to say, “Tell the truth, and you won’t have to rely upon your memory.” Reality keeps you from falling off into illogic. Too many of the songs I see from pre-professional songwriters skip from one thought to another with enough non sequiturs to give you whiplash.
The intention to communicate something real to a real person keeps what you say on track, keeps it flowing logically like a communication you would make. In life, when you’re telling someone something that happened or asking that person for something you want, you don’t leap from one thought to another or change person or tenses. For that matter, you don’t string together cliches and stay on the surface. You say what you mean, interestingly, with pictures and passion. But when a person sits down to write a song, sometimes all of these good habits fall by the wayside. The minute you start “songwriting” instead of communicating, you’ve blown it. It’s like an actor who’s “acting.” Immediately, the audience is pulled out of the experience of the movie or play and their attention goes on his acting. People should not be conscious that you’re writing. And when you’re really good at it, they won’t be. They’ll just be moved. Reality is a way to help you get to that point.
I think of songwriting as a language people speak. When they’re just beginning, they can barely speak the language. But after many years, they’re fluent. They can pass as a native. So should a person speak on a subject he doesn’t know, in a language he doesn’t yet speak fluently? How many challenges do we need at one time? And yet day after day, I see people trying to write “save the world” songs—the hardest kind to pull off—when their level of proficiency in the language of songwriting is somewhere around “Where’s the bathroom?”
This is another reason why it’s such a crucial mistake to chase trends. Based on their desires to get a hit, songwriters sometimes will try to write what someone told them was “happening” rather than what they know about. Of course, there are hundreds of other writers who can write just as well, for whom that subject is real. So the pictures will be real, the logic will be strong and the impact will be superior in their songs. In the trend-chasing songwriter’s songs, everything will appear to have been written from the outside at arm’s length by someone with very long arms.
Having been a final judge on the “Help Heal L.A.” contest, I only heard a small fraction of the entries, but I understand from the preliminary judges that people in Iowa were writing songs about how to solve the problems on the streets of L.A. And of course, on top of their blatant lack of authenticity, they were preaching as well. Strike three.
The final point I’d like to make on the subject of reality in songwriting is, I don’t care how popular country music is now. If you really prefer those major seventh chords and cryptic lyrics, please stop writing country songs. Don’t you think Nashville can smell your pandering from 2000 miles away? Your style should be based on reality too.
I should acknowledge Nik Venet for some of my viewpoint on this, because when he produced my fourth album, he encouraged me to be who I am, and to write what I know, to be totally truthful as a writer and a performer, as well. I had taken a vacation from artistic integrity and was really enjoying myself writing what I later discovered to be mindless dance music. Now I understand the full meaning of his comment to me when he heard it. “Get real,” he said. And so I did.