S.A.C. Challenge – Week 3 –
Issued by Heather Gardner – Writing for Advertising
March 2, 2015 post written by Shira Katz
The Funnest Place song by Shira Katz & Martin Clarke
Here are the steps I took to make the above children’s song “The Funnest Place” (by Shira Katz and Martin Clarke), followed by some commentary:
- Listen to all the reference songs (see details at the bottom of the page for the summary of this week’s challenge request & reference songs) & print a few lyrics of those songs for structural guidance. I love “Worried Shoes” by Karen O.
- Immerse myself in the world of children for the next week. I figured this challenge definitely is up my ally because I have worked with children for many years, and love them. A visit to the children’s library for creativity and inspiration. I also found some very entertaining videos starring children on youtube.
- Call out for a collaborator.
- Brainstorm session: find a bunch of words related to childhood.
- I started to sing a melody, and let my fingers find some relevant chords on the keyboards. I was definitely using major tones for the happy spirit. I had the idea of kids getting excited and screaming “balloons, balloons, balloons in the air!” instead of “hands in the air”, which is a way of twisting a cliché. In last year’s songwriting challenge, we had an exercise about building a song by revising a cliché.
- After several email exchanges, Martin Clarke sent me some backtrack music to work with, and one in particular that suited this song melody that I wrote, although it was drastically different, very jazzy… and very beautiful.
- I ended up writing four songs. The first one was not great, there were too many words and it didn’t fit the first track of music (sent by Martin) that well, so I dropped it, but it was a great experience.
- I took a second backtrack (sent by Martin) and wrote two different songs using the same backtrack. Still not satisfactory.
- I used my original melody’s idea about balloons and kids having fun, and incorporated to those ideas into a third backtrack sent by Martin, and it worked much better this time.
- I had to sing it several times, and I used rhyming dictionaries to improve some of the lines.
- I used the knowledge I had gained from Pat Pattison’s songwriting course to rewrite the song several times, putting emphasis on important symbols that mimmick actual speech, and figuring out stable versus unstable lines, and placing words on upbeats and downbeats accordingly.
What I learned:
- I noticed that when I am singing a melody to accompany a backtrack harmony, my default is to sing one word per beat initially, which ultimately fails. It’s better to choose fewer words (as we learned last week “Trim the fat”) and find words and syllables of words that can be elongated to fulfill the emotional quality of the song. This is harder than it sounds!
- It takes a lot of revising, willingness to throw things out and start all over again, multiple times.
- Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite!
- It helps to hum along before adding too many words, in order to feel the type of rhythm and word structure that will ultimately be created.
- It’s extremely helpful to make a list of places where there are changes in motifs from the harmony track, e.g. one bar intro, 4 bars Section A, 4 bars Section B, etc.
- I was advised by friends to “Have fun”.
I will now give some details regarding the writing process for the original song, “The Funnest Place”.
For this particular song, the fourth one I wrote for this week (you can’t imagine all the thinking behind trying to create lyrics and melody for the first three songs that I ended up dropping) I decided that a song about having fun would be great, and then I thought, why not make a song about kids having so much fun at the mall that they want to stay there all day? It seems to make sense for advertising to have the word “mall” in the song, and then I thought of the double entendre “Love them’all (the mall).
In the harmony track sent to me by Martin Clarke, for the beginning of the song, I had an image of early morning, birds, and the world waking up…so I thought of the line “Kids wake up”. I thought of the story line of kids waking up and wanting to go to the mall so they could have as much fun as possible. I thought of the words “playground” and “happy” but those words are so overused, so I tried to find other words.
My chorus was initially:
Take us to the “funnest place” (4x).
Then I thought of the song “Poker face”
And changed it to “Shopping face” (4x)
Then I changed it to:
“Funnest place, shopping face” (2x)
Then I thought I should get more specific, what is so much fun?
That’s when I thought of “Games and arcades”, which eventually became the
third line in the second verse.
The next line was going to be either “shopping face”, “chocolate milkshakes”, “cherry milkshakes”, “candy cakes” or “candy cake”…I just sang it a few times and went with the line that sounded the best.
I was inspired by a hilarious youtube video about a kid that tells his Mom “Why can’t we paint the walls?” so I thought of the line “Climbing the walls”.
Then I thought, kids never want to go home when they are having fun, whereas adults often want to get home as soon as possible. That thought inspired the line “Can we stay here all day?” The word “balloons” was from my initial melody idea, because having worked with kids, I know they always get excited about anything that flies up to the sky, especially helium balloons.
I changed another line from “Take us to the mall” to “We can jump and fall” to “We like somersaults” to “spinning somersaults “ (too long a phrase for the music) to “Doing somersaults”, and finally “do the somersault” I sang each line and this last one sounded the best.
I really enjoyed this challenge, I am inspired to write more children’s songs in the future!
Special thank you’s to L. Cheng at SAC, D. Alexander & J. Linderman.
Below is just a quick summary of this week’s request for the challenge:
“The spot features a child so we’re looking for something child-like, light and playful, fun, capturing the moment and that captures the spirit of a child. However, we don’t want to be emotional or heart-stringy — we’re looking for something that’s purely fun. You can definitely be somewhat quirky, while appealing to a mainstream TV audience. Lyrics don’t have to be perfectly on spot on thematically, but speaking to childhood (in a fun way, not in a nostalgic or longing way) is great. The spot is 60 seconds in length, with 30 and 15 second cutdowns, so your submissions need to be at least 60 seconds long, but be able to capture the same sentiment even if only 15 seconds was being used. Different instrumentations can be used.”
Some song references for creating the tone of the song:
The White Stripes’ “We Are Gonna Be Friends”,
“On The Radio” by Regina Spektor,
Sheryl Crow’s cover of “Sweet Child O Mine”,
“Big Yellow Taxi”
“Mushaboom” by Feist,
Karen O’s tunes for ‘Where The Wild Things Are’.