Since it's back to school time, and I've just started settling back in to my regular teaching schedule, I thought it'd be a good time to share a few teaching resources. These pages were designed to be very easy to follow, even if you're only a beginner at reading music, so if you feel like teaching yourself a tune these might be a good place to start.
Some songs keep you coming back for more
Some songs you grow tired of. You listen to them for a while and sing along and when you find them in your CD collection a few years later (yes I still have a CD collection!) you can't really remember what made you love them. You start hearing flaws you didn't hear before or it just doesn't connect. But some songs just hold up forever! Every time you hear them you hear something new that you hadn't noticed before and you fall in love all over again. May You Never by John Martyn is one of those songs for me.
Sometimes you can tell when you're listening to a song that the lyrics were written based on phonetics rather than crafted to tell a story or convey emotion or meaning. The songwriter will start by singing whatever sounds or feels good, regardless of the meaning of the words, and gradually build the semblance of coherency around that. Songwriting this way can have it's advantages: it’s a visceral, instinctual way of writing so you can wind up writing something very deep and emotional without engaging you analytical ‘left side’ brain and the results are often really memorable and singable. But of course it has it’s drawbacks, like it's easy to wind up falling back on habit and you can wind up with deep sounding lyrics that are actually kind of meaningless ("there's a fire starting in my heart / Reaching a fever pitch, it's bringing me out the dark”! I'm not saying it's a bad song, just that some of the lyrics make no sense or are plain grammatically incorrect!)
One thing I love about a lot of John Martyn songs, this one in particular, is that they sound like one of these songs. The lyrics are so easy to remember, phonetically pleasing and singable that it isn’t till you’re singing it through for the millionth time, not realising you knew all the words, that you actually pay attention to the lyrics and see how beautiful they are. Perfectly constructed and logical.
I also love his phrasing. He’s got a lovely rolling, continuous drone like way of phrasing his lyrics that lends his songs a sense of perpetual motion.
I was fortunate enough to get to see him live twice and even though time, and possibly addiction, had definitely taken it's toll, he still had the power to completely transfix an audience.
Ríona Sally Hartman
A blog about all sorts of things like music, books, storytelling and paper art. From time to time I'll interview a fellow musician or review a gig.