1/3 Safe, 1/3 New, and 1/3 Risky

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An art blog post suggested new work (paintings, etc.) be roughly divided into 1/3 safe, 1/3 new, and 1/3 risky. https://fineartviews.com/blog/147894/safe-new-and-risky I feel like this also could apply to songwriting especially in a marathon such as 5090 since this resembles my approach. Here are the categories as I interpret them.

Safe > Writing on my most proficient instrument (in my case guitar), using chords, fingerstyle arpeggios, and progressions which I know well. A melody in the sweet spot of my vocal range. Writing in a familiar song structure on subject matter which I know very well.

New (approach/technique, obvisously all songs are new) > Changing it up somewhat, maybe content is in my safe zone but the song is a collaboration. Maybe playing a somewhat familiar chords or melody's but not my most proficient instrument. Maybe I stretch my vocal range a bit and sing in one of my weaker keys.

Risky > Picking elements of the song randomly. A random collaboration. Or playing a much less familiar instrument. Or trying something new or unusual to me on guitar (like a different tuning) or an unusual for me time signature. Or writing lyrics on subject matter that I know little about. Picking random lyrics by using a word generator like Lyricloud to generate a word list and using all of the words on the list. Using the cut-up technique. etc. Using wacky sound effects or unintended preset sound effects for a different purpose like using a Garageband guitar effect on vocals. Chromatic or weird sounding melody or music. Maybe writing something a lot out of character and uncomfortable.

What is your definition of safe, new, and risky songwriting and approximately how often do you venture from safe to new to risky? I'm probably not too far from the 1/3 each split for songs I write. Admittedly most of my keepers started in the safe or new area but there are a few from the risky songwriting zone.

Since the start of 2017 I count I have done 6 safe songs, 23 new songs, and 19 risky songs. So around 12% safe, 48% new, and 40% risky. But then I don't finish most ideas I come up with, so I wouldn't be surprised if I begin with just as many safe ideas that I don't see the point in following through with.

Safe is me not doing anything I've not done before, new is me doing something I have not done before, and risky is me doing something I've not done before which is beyond the point where I can guarantee whether it's gonna turn out good or not.

safe.. a genre song with a catchy hook and conventional development of both musical and lyrical themes.

new....expanding the form either musicially or lyrically by not following established pattterns, allowing the song to grow into its own form.

risky....going beyound the concept of good vs bad songwriting, and working in a zone where quality control has no meaning.

This is an interesting thread, and makes me think (on another thought, in this flow of thought that I misunderstood a comment you made (Andy) about your own music being "related to performance art" or similar and not sure if that was a positive or negative... -- I'll need to be clear before connecting those dots, fyi Smile -- Not ever trying to tell someone "what" their art "is", versus just commenting, etc.).

I'll read that article later and just respond to the thread for now as it is.

So, .33 safe, .33 new, .33 risky... it's a great question, and moreover from my "past" within "art" I believe I know where they article comes from, -- for thought provoking. "Artists" in the fine/graphic world do tend to feed the monster that pays the bills and only strays in slight increments, -- the "price" of success, is sideways movement imo/ime and just how that part of it is or may be.

Many no longer commercially successful musicians can likely be named if a developed point "here".

That all prefaces "me" in that I honestly have never thought of any of my stuff as "save, new or risky" as I read it here. It is hopefully all "new", prima facie, if even in *new directions (how it's likely meant).

Some, as can bee seen, I'll ask keep/delete? Which falls into the question and not as self-deprication, just what it is.

"Risky", - is an interesting consideration. I think, as far as "i" am concerned many who are in another "head space" may misunderstand "my" lyrics thinking I may be like some who have an "agenda", like the one titled "why use and axe, when a match'll do"... -- I'll guess some see it as "political" -- no, not at all. It may prove different under a "Rorschach test" evaluation, but, is truly a 5-min write in flow of thought.

The "where the fucking band...", those two I knew were "risky", so to speak, really so to speak (not risky) but definitely "new" for me. And, having been just a passing thought, makes me really chuckle when I listen to it, will be a forever favorite of mine and done with @billwhite51 no less Smile It worked, I think, because Bill agreed to, or wanted to do a voice over, suggested it, but, allowed me the "puppet master" Production freedom to just do as I liked with it, not take direction in any other way... (not that that always needs to happen, just say'in, "here").

The thread thesis makes me consider again, "do I follow any rules, or formulas or anything, -- really?" No, not when "WRITING".

-- I've long trained myself to blank out all rules and just do, -- "write then edit" or risk loosing it ALL in that vanity of being "good" or correct or anything within a container outside the creation of "it".

Now, I think in terms of what folks then "like", so to speak (if even did truly studio productions)... there would be "that" separation of my work product and likely if even, and just saying here, -- if just 2% of it was "liked", I'd be luck and making a living with music. (For me that would be as backing track to indie films, then to "popular" on-ramps, like "Flogging Molly's" embed in Staregate Universe, as example Smile ) or any "series", etc.

So, I'll leave that there as "my answer" to a great question.

And, again, -- do comment Andy if it is an issue if someone collates your music to, was it ?, performance art as *part of it integrated... ("art music" or similar), -- if I understood that. Maybe I misunderstood and why I ask now. You as one of few here Wink that I pay attention to, hahhh!, -- that stuck in my mind.
(Don't mean to be blunt/rude to anyone else, -- but we all pay attention to just certain things here, more than other -- just how it is Smile )

Ah, OK I read that article and was correct in assumption..., -- " in a rut with your art? Maybe you feel that there is a certain “sameness”".

I think one has to "intentionally" consider their music. However, I think that many without good support wind up misinterpreting it as a "formula" to follow, to be "good" or valid or again, -- good. No, bad way to go imo/ime.

I think yes, if I find my last 30 "solo's" were all BBKing copies -- while that may be expected and even loved, I may want to switch up a fret and inject some Neo-classic ripping down the neck to the next "in the box" bend.

I think, THINKING about it, -- does the trick. Worrying about it or paying someone to fix it/you, is a bad way to go. Again, for "me".

Again, great thread Andy!

one of the worst things that can happen to any artist is to hit big with a song that then becomes a formula they feel they have to repeat. that is a rut few escape from.

@ustaknow haha no worries. In the bridge thread I referred to some of my multiple part songs that don't fit a common structure as 'art songs'. @Trendall @billwhite51 thanks for sharing your definitions!

i dont believe the pie is split into three parts. most people write safe songs. it is hard enough to write a good song within established limits without expanding the known boundaries. some people take a risk occasionally, and i dont think cut up lyrics or randomly generated chord progressions are a risk. the few who write risky songs usually specialize in risky songs, and they are risky primarily because they are simply not interested in conventional forms of expression. for most, writing a song and putting it out in front of other people is risk enough,

This is a very interesting discussion! I was going to contribute last night when I first saw @AndyGetch's original post, but then I decided to wait and think about it a while. And then I saw Andy in person this morning at the outdoor market where we both perform music, and we talked about this topic. (And I recorded a live performance of a song I'll post later.)
I agree with @billwhite51 - the risk is putting something you've created in front of people. Whether they love it, hate it, or are indifferent about it, then there's pressure to decide what you're going to do next.
There's not much risk in writing songs for 50/90 - either folks are going to say nice things about your songs, or nothing at all. (And I don't think that translates into bad song=song with few comments, but that's a topic for another thread.) Now , if you decided that you liked your 50/90 songs and you were going to find places to perform them, and you'd never really performed before, then there's your risk.
But I do think I can categorize my songs similarly to what Andy did in his first post. Some songs I can write the words to in 10 minutes, often with guitar or uke close by, and then knock out a one-take demo. If I had the house to myself for a weekend, I could write 50 of those. And some would be pretty good. I am totally within a comfort zone doing that.
Other songs require at least two tracks - guitar/vocal and then maybe banjo or piano, and I labor over the instrumental tracks. To the extent I can mix competently, I do so. I could do those as guitar vocal, but choose to do more.
Then there are the ones that aren't ever meant for guitar/vocal, which is how I perform. Instrumentals for sure, but other odds and ends.
I don't think it's a one-third, one-third, one-third split of those categories. And there's even some overlap. But what this thread has gotten me thinking about it what truly new would mean to me. Even when I pick up a new instrument, it's to add on to the kinds of songs I tend to write.
Wow - I could go on and on - I'm going to stop now!

Safe: my bonnie is over the ocean
New: my body is over the ocean
Risky: thy pelvis iz uber me bowie

Anyway the author has always been over the oven. Or omen. Amen. Mani hum.

Thank you for sharing this concept! I find when I stay in safe that my ideas feel a little stale. Moving towards risky is scary and yet opens me up to some inventive ideas.

@lowhum exactly! @nateger I too have learned a lot from risky ventures, which was one point of the blog post that I linked. For me, even participating in FAWM, 5090, and NaSoAlMo the first time in 2012 felt pretty risky to write so rapidly and post for others to hear/comment. Then playing the songwriting games (skirmish, morph, exquisite corpse, anti-syn,) was a new risk. I sure have learned a lot that way. @Chip Withrow I agree that what is safe/new/risky is definitely a different strokes for different folks thing and not everything fits neatly into a pigeonhole.

This could be wedding challenge: some risky some new some boring some blues Smile

Don't know if I'd call them "risky" but I count 8 songs out of my 53 so far that I'd call "experimental," or at least "trying something relatively new." Unusual instrument combinations, two genres in one song, setting someone else's poetry to music, spoken word. My goal with most of my music is to create something I can perform on guitar/vocal, and only 3 of those 8 could possibly work that way.

The ability to take real risks in this supportive community is one of the huge enormous gigantic reasons the FAWM community is the best.

Ive been watching this thread since the start and its been very interesting but i felt that there was something i didn't get so said nothing. I just saw Toms comment above and that was like the light going on. Risky implies you have something to lose or is dangerous. Posting in here and similar for me has no risks! I feel free to post whatever i want.
When I am writing for order/commission i take almost no risks! . I do however, go through spells in my writing.

Writing (well for me) is a bit unusual because i put a lot of structure into what and when i write! Yet the songs need to unleash creativity, so these 2 sometimes bump Into each other! I guess the structure is really my baseline to give me a guide to see how faraway, creativity has taken me!

Risky could be a failure to one's self. Trying something and having a song or a result that you don't like or appreciate or whatever. I tend to think that most humans shy away from trying something if they think they may fail (or at least have a good chance of not succeeding) but that comes at the risk of not knowing if it would work or maybe even getting something awesome.

@coolparadiso that's hilariously true! It's not risky to take risks here! A logical paradox! Biggrin