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Author Topic: Writing showtunes  (Read 773 times)
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davdud101
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« on: Feb 06, 2017, 06:57PM »

So, I LOVE showtunes - particularly the very original stuff from the times of guys like Gershwin, Porter, Berlin etc. The style just gets to me, ya know - it's like the perfect blend of jazz and sort of classical pop for my tastes. The emotion, style, musicianship, all of it is there, and it shows in how challenging the music can be!

I want to write like that!

Does anyone have any tips on how I can get there? Is it ALL about variation? Are there any conventions? Or is it just a matter of listening, digesting, and imitating?
Has anyone WRITTEIN any show tunes? Willing to share resources and things?
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robcat2075

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« Reply #1 on: Feb 06, 2017, 08:19PM »

I actually have written some shows tunes, although they were not in a jazzy idiom.  Think more like "The Music Man" and they were for a movie rather than a theatrical production. But it's kind a the same thing.

Tips? Not really.  For me it was about trying to create a good melody to carry the words. The text needs to amplify or further some story point.


Gershwin, Porter, Berlin... They wrote great songs but somehow the musicals they were for are mostly footnotes and it was up to other people to find a way to really marry music and theater as we know it today.
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Robert Holmén

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davdud101
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« Reply #2 on: Feb 06, 2017, 11:49PM »

I actually have written some shows tunes, although they were not in a jazzy idiom.  Think more like "The Music Man" and they were for a movie rather than a theatrical production. But it's kind a the same thing.

Tips? Not really.  For me it was about trying to create a good melody to carry the words. The text needs to amplify or further some story point.

Good call, Rob! What can be said about simply writing in a show tune-style? That is, not necessarily writing for any sort of production/story elements, but for maybe a concert where there IS a pit orchestra performing the music live for the singers?


Gershwin, Porter, Berlin... They wrote great songs but somehow the musicals they were for are mostly footnotes and it was up to other people to find a way to really marry music and theater as we know it today.

Good point. I always forget about the incredible importance of the orchestrator.

I've been digging into it a bit, as a good friend / musical colleague of mine wrote really nice a Christmas song a couple of years ago that I think would make an AWESOME show tune ballad if arranged out properly. I just need to sharpen my ear to be able to write something very attractive and moving.
Maybe I need to just start transcribing the old arrangements... In any case, I'll certainly get to listening to music in that style.
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« Reply #3 on: Feb 07, 2017, 05:28AM »

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Gershwin, Porter, Berlin... They wrote great songs but somehow the musicals they were for are mostly footnotes and it was up to other people to find a way to really marry music and theater as we know it today.

What I meant is that the later writers (usually teams like "Rodgers and Hart") had better success at creating songs for stories.



However, orchestration... Nelson Riddle was the king of what you are wanting to do and the "standards" idiom you are interested in.

There's a great album "Ella Fitzgerald, the Best of the Song Books".

Many of those were arranged by Riddle and the others are great examples too.
« Last Edit: Feb 07, 2017, 09:36AM by robcat2075 » Logged

Robert Holmén

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BGuttman
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« Reply #4 on: Feb 07, 2017, 08:05AM »

Actually, it is generally considered that Rodgers and Hammerstein were the first to make the songs actually move the plot (Oklahoma, 1943).  Kern and Hammersein had a lot of songs that were plot based (Show Boat).  Note that Porgy and Bess (Gershwin) is actually an opera with integral song and story.

Prior to that, songs were interpolated into shows regardless of how well they fit.
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« Reply #5 on: Feb 07, 2017, 09:30PM »

This is one of my favorites from that Ella album, because of the great interlude where the trombones take it from ppp to fff.  That's genius arranger stuff.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/tx2OiiLJaU8" target="_blank">https://www.youtube.com/v/tx2OiiLJaU8</a>
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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #6 on: Feb 08, 2017, 03:33PM »

Good call, Rob! What can be said about simply writing in a show tune-style? That is, not necessarily writing for any sort of production/story elements, but for maybe a concert where there IS a pit orchestra performing the music live for the singers?

Usually, in situations like this it is more like a orchestra of some sort right on stage and the singer(s) in front, pretty much like a normal concert.

Quote
I've been digging into it a bit, as a good friend / musical colleague of mine wrote really nice a Christmas song a couple of years ago that I think would make an AWESOME show tune ballad if arranged out properly. I just need to sharpen my ear to be able to write something very attractive and moving.
Maybe I need to just start transcribing the old arrangements... In any case, I'll certainly get to listening to music in that style.

Transcribe away! That's the absolute second best way to learn besides writing your own and getting your charts played and seeing what works and what doesn't. I've learned a lot from transcribing arrangements.

Whether you choose to transcribe or just jump into an arrangement, the first thing you have to work out is the size of the orchestra. Writing for a Broadway show vs. an adapted Broadway show performed by a local high school vs. a big band are all very different animals.
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