Week 2 Challenge – Poem to Song

All faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor.

-Walt Whitman


I love that quote. For this week, I’m going to put it in this context:

Sing it like you mean it, be honest,  make something real, and it will endure. If you are trying to fit into a certain style, or reach a certain technical standard, then you will always be compared to others, but if your striving to be the fullest “You” that you can be, the standard becomes the candor itself – and it either is or it isn’t. Explore what you are! Go excavating!

This Week’s Challenge:

Find a poem. Set it to music. Give melody to the words.

My due date is Saturday March 5th! I’m hoping to get this in earlier to try to make up for lost time from Week 1!

Week 1 Creation – Two Chord Song

The challenge for Week 1 was to create a “Two Chord Song.” Here is what I came up with! I recorded this live into GarageBand through a Blue Snowball USB mic while video taping on my iPhone. I then added some reverb and compression. After that, I overdubbed the HQ audio onto the iPhone Video in iMovie.

E-Major-E-0,2,2,1,0,0A-Suspended 2nd-A-x,0,2,2,0,0



Well I don’t know just where I’m going
Hardly Know From Where I came
But there’s a wind blowin’ my way
And it’s calling out my name

Well I was told about the right way
I learned the rules and won the game
But when my home became the ball park
A dream so real came back again

Hello, do you remember me,
Wake up, it’s time to go now
Go Down, to the admission gate
Walk on, and you will see how


The Biggest Challenge Was Perfectionism

So, it took me two and a half weeks to post this first song. I’m off to a terrible start! However, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Habits take time to develop. Changing your ways does not happen overnight. You try your best, you fail, you make mistakes, you learn from your mistakes, you try again, and it gets easier each time.

The exact reason why I decided to create this 52 week challenge is the very thing that made me a week and a half late to post this! I am a perfectionist and I am not ok with things not being the best that they can be. The night of the due date, I decided my song sketch wasn’t good enough, so I started a new one, and then I realized that there I was stuck in my ways – never finishing anything because none of it is ever good enough while other creative people are moving forward by not letting “perfect become the enemy of the good.” They are allowing themselves to grow by accepting that growth requires mistakes and experience. Duh, that’s the whole point of this blog, Gary! You don’t have to love it. Just post something already and move on!

Going Full Circle

So the somewhat predictable irony this week is that my first idea that I abandoned, is the one I ended up running with. At first, I thought it sounded too cliche and overly romantic. How many songs have been written about the wind and travel? Endless amounts, and some of the best – but, there are good reasons. Those metaphors resonate with people – including myself – growth and change is something that we are always going through, and if we aren’t, there’s a problem (which is why I wrote the song).


Cherishing All of Your Ideas

Knowing that I had to create something quick meant I had to cherish every idea as the potential “IT” idea, and not let anything get lost. Until starting this blog I’ve put random ideas in any old place. I’d record them on my Voice Memos app and not label them. I’d write lyrics on any random piece of paper and never look at them again.  Most ideas I wouldn’t even record or write down. What a mistake all that was!

So this week, I changed my ways. I upgraded my system of recording my ideas and that meant switching from Voice Memos to Evernote on my phone and computer and keeping audio and lyric ideas together in the same place, and as well labeled as possible.  The great thing about Evernote is that it syncs between the phone and computer! I will go more in depth on this in a separate blog post solely about Evernote for Songwriters.

Evernote Screenshot:

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 11.38.06 AM

Other Two Chord Idea 1:

I think the hardest part this week, was choosing which of my many ideas to run with! I listened to some other two chord songs and fell in love with the simplicity of so many examples. One example I loved was Citizen Cope’s “Holdin’ On.” 

I used the same two chords as “Holdin On” but in a different key, and came up with this short idea: 

I liked it, but it just felt awkward and I couldn’t seem to find the right key. I might revisit this in the future.  I like melodies that use only two notes for a bit. That’s what I was doing with this lyric: “Soundtrack playing through my head…every little thing that…  1,1,1,2,1,2,1  1,2,1,2,1…”


Soundtrack playing through my head
every little thing that you said
shut the lights and hit the bed
Pitch black but I see red

I really want to call you on the telephone
baby with you i want to make a home

Other Two Chord Idea 2:

For another idea, I used a similar progression as the final one – I – IVadd9 in the key  of C. I like all the space in this one but the two ideas you’ll here are too close together. It’s kind of like a verse and chorus all in 30 seconds. I like the space but this was another one that I forgot about the next day and didn’t really feel a connection to: 


I fear that I might miss out on you
So I think I will wait around for you
When the sun comes out and the sky is blue, for you
I’ll be here, for you
When your fight is done and you’ve found the truth, for you,
I’ll be here, for you

Other Two Chord Idea 3:

For another idea, I was messing around with a Major 6 chord that I was using in a jazz guitar lesson a few weeks ago going down to the relative minor chord. It just has such a friendly and warm sound to me, and it made me think about a situation at a party with my girlfriend, how I was feeling anxiety until I looked her in the eyes. Those are the lyrics up above in the Evernote screenshot.  I rather not share how it sounded. 🙂


The Ear Worm Test

Another reason why I went back to my first idea is that I found myself humming it in my head every day while none of the others really stuck with me. I’d be cooking eggs, and in my head singing “I don’t know where I’m going, Hardly know from where I came.”


Looking back over the past two weeks, I got a lot accomplished outside of writing a bunch of song ideas! I learned how to use both Ableton and GarageBand for multi-tracking instruments and adding compression, reverb, etc.





Week 1 Challenge – Two Chord Song


This first week’s challenge is to create a song that uses only two chords throughout and is at least a minute and thirty seconds. This length is a good middle ground between “just an idea” and a fully formed song.

Why only two chords? I’m getting rid of the annoying expectation for songs to have different chord progressions for different sections, and I’m keeping things as basic as possible! I could have said one chord, but it’s harder to come up with a good melody when there is no harmonic movement at all.


They don’t say “Less is More” for nothing. Here are some diverse examples of great (well, mostly great) songs that only use two chords throughout. It is amazing how memorable and catchy they can be with just the same two chord loop over and over! You’ll notice many of these songs keep you engaged not through harmony but through either catchy riffs and motifs, a well constructed melody, cool sounds, a unique mood, provocative lyrics, a great groove or a powerful performance!

Two Chord Songs In a Major Key:

  • “Shout” by the Isley Brothers: I – vi (C-Am)
  • “Haiti” by Arcade Fire: I – vi (G-Em)
  • “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus: I-V (A-E)
    “Feeling Alright” by Joe Cocker: I – IV (C-F)

Two Chord Songs In a Minor Key:

  • “505” by the Arctic Monkeys: ii – iii (Dm – Em)
  • “Lose Yourself” by Eminem: vi – IV  (Dm – Bb) (There’s a passing V chord [C] in the chorus)
  • “Holdin’ On” by Citizen Cope: ii7add9 – I (D-7add9 – C) (There’s a passing #Idim going back to the ii)


In the next blog post I will share the steps along the way of my creative process! Stay tuned, and I hope some of you will take this journey with me. The deadline is Monday, February 15th at Midnight!