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Just How Hard Is It To Write an "Original" Song?

Doc Sausage

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Joined
Nov 21, 2006
Messages
1,589
If you hang here on the LPF you are no doubt a music fan and probably a classic rock fan as well. Rather famously now, quite a few of Led Zeppelin's songs have been litigated and 'out of court settlements' were awarded. But even one of the more recent suits involving, "Stairway to Heaven", has been debunked with the discovery of a composition from the 1600's.

I too am a LP and classic rock fan and have even 'written' a few songs myself - mostly for my own enjoyment. One we did record and I created a 'poor man's copyright' by mailing the lyrics and digital recording to myself. (this in a vain attempt to establish a timeline by postmark) Many would say that 'my' song sounds like ZZ Top. Or John Lee Hooker, or Robert Johnson or...you get the drift. This far down the musical line, how easy is it to write and original song and NOT be influenced by something you may or may not even remember hearing? I mean, is the law of musical note/chord averages and your own ability - based on past influences, going to make it almost impossible? Just curious if anyone else finds this to be the case.

https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/20...y-admit-to-stealing-their-music-led-zeppelin/
 

Wilko

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Mar 11, 2002
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19,911
How hard is it? well, depends on whether you are blessed with the magical ability to do it.

For Lennon and McCartney, it seemed to be very easy. Those guys grew up on blues/rock and still were able to churn out song after song that sound completely original and still sound great today. Very few of their songs sound derivative. :hmm
 

Duceditor

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Oct 30, 2017
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26
Originality is always limited. All human accomplishment is built on the works of others. As expressed by scientist/theologian Issac Newton "If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants."

We may not "see further" and those shoulders upon which we stand may themselves belong to more average people, but the truth to the principle yet remains.

Add to this that "influences" are often less than conscious. We absorb things and then forget the source. Even the language we speak is rarely "textbook" -- it is a repetition of words and expressions of others, oft learned in our earliest years.

Now add another fact: The claiming something as one's own, and hiring a lawyer to pursue monies, has little to do with any reality, and often nothing whatever to do with artistic integrity or anything else genuinely seen as "noble." A song or a story is to some people what a moving car is to some dogs, or in the case of some lawyers, just another type of ambulance filled with bleeding riches.

-don
 

AA00475Bassman

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Joined
Apr 26, 2016
Messages
3,348
Not hard , very difficult to write one people want pay and stand inline to hear live or pay for some type of recording .
 

Doc Sausage

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Joined
Nov 21, 2006
Messages
1,589
Originality is always limited. All human accomplishment is built on the works of others. As expressed by scientist/theologian Issac Newton "If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants."

We may not "see further" and those shoulders upon which we stand may themselves belong to more average people, but the truth to the principle yet remains.

Add to this that "influences" are often less than conscious. We absorb things and then forget the source. Even the language we speak is rarely "textbook" -- it is a repetition of words and expressions of others, oft learned in our earliest years.

Now add another fact: The claiming something as one's own, and hiring a lawyer to pursue monies, has little to do with any reality, and often nothing whatever to do with artistic integrity or anything else genuinely seen as "noble." A song or a story is to some people what a moving car is to some dogs, or in the case of some lawyers, just another type of ambulance filled with bleeding riches.

-don

Thought provoking. Integrity should mean something too. Some artists gave credit where due. Others hoped not to get caught. Some of the examples I’ve listened to are a stretch (Geo Harrison) and others were direct nicks of melodies and lyrics. Good or bad, lawyers were a necessary evil if you were truly a victim. But then that opens it all back up to true origins. And yes, human nature to chase the deepest pockets.
 

Ed Driscoll

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Apr 24, 2002
Messages
4,630
During its first four years or so of existence, between touring and recording, Led Zeppelin seemed to scramble for material, and I doubt they thought that anybody would still be listening obsessively to their material a half century later. I'm sure Page and Peter Grant's motto was just get the material out there, and we'll let the lawyers settle any lawsuits later. It's a shame though their (well-earned) reputation for plagiarism spoils what was one of the very best performing and recorded groups of that period.
 

Doc Sausage

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Joined
Nov 21, 2006
Messages
1,589
During its first four years or so of existence, between touring and recording, Led Zeppelin seemed to scramble for material, and I doubt they thought that anybody would still be listening obsessively to their material a half century later. I'm sure Page and Peter Grant's motto was just get the material out there, and we'll let the lawyers settle any lawsuits later. It's a shame though their (well-earned) reputation for plagiarism spoils what was one of the very best performing and recorded groups of that period.

Agreed. You can’t take the Page/Zep spin out of what the group put on some ‘pre owned’ material though. Interesting that they thought that recorded material could simply be lifted and go unnoticed, even for the untamed, Grant. But maybe it would have, had the band gone over like the proverbial lead balloon some said it would.
 

Zentar

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Oct 1, 2011
Messages
830
Modern educators should go find what classes Hank Williams and Chuck Berry took in high school in their one room school houses and start teaching that again. Robert Johnson and Williams and guys like that obviously were taught English on a more sophisticated level than we are today. 75 years ago our high school grads in Podunk towns left school knowing Latin and Canterbury Tales

The typical modern song I hear on radio today is not comparable to lyrics from as recent as the 1960s, I have an Aunt age 104 that graduated HS in 1932 who said she had 3 years of Latin. She also knows the Bible extremely well.

The line from California Dreaming, "On such a Winters day" is a genius little line. What English classes did John Phillips take in HS that are no longer standard courses t0day?
 

bern1

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Joined
Nov 23, 2004
Messages
1,157
You just do it. There are established frameworks that are in general abided by, as they have proven themselves over time. Art has a lot of leeway. Selling it is another matter of course, always has been.

As my songwriting mentor has said, it’s ok if it reminds you of something else..... as Dylan has said, it’s always been done this way...
 

Doc1900

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Joined
Feb 16, 2021
Messages
13
Writing the song isn't the problem. Collecting the residuals is the problem. The Copyright office never sent a check to anybody. If you can write it, and you can't flip it on Billboard, sell it as a jingle or incidental music.
 

marshall1987

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Jan 30, 2005
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3,222
At an early age, Mozart composed a vast catalog of renowned symphonies, concertos, etc. without the benefit of computers, synths, and ProTools, so it can't be that hard in 2021. 🎬
 

au_rick

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Mar 18, 2010
Messages
828
At an early age, Mozart composed a vast catalog of renowned symphonies, concertos, etc. without the benefit of computers, synths, and ProTools, so it can't be that hard in 2021. 🎬
Then difference being the sheer volume of material that has been published since Mozart was a boy ?
 

Ccapilla

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Joined
Oct 7, 2018
Messages
17
I'll never forget the best song I ever wrote. It was divine inspiration. It popped into my head almost like a fully formed concept. I immediately had the big chord opening with a lead hook over it. There was a very easy pocket for the rhythm section to sit in. Nothing fancy, but it hit hard from the first note and you were going to want to stick around for it.

Of course, shortly thereafter when I heard Pearl Jam's Dissident on the radio, I really appreciated how their version also came with verse and chorus separation, actually had words, and had been recorded already. And to top it off, they were a whole lot better than me. I was really impressed what they did with my idea.

Alternatively, and as others have alluded to, there's only so many ways to play 4 chords in 4/4. And as time passes, most of those ways are tried more times each.
 
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