Narrowing the Funnel

The point of a funnel is ... the point.  It's a big, wide (-ish) catching basin that narrows down to something that fits into the tiny bottle, or whatever.  Funnels are about focus. 

Oddly enough, so is songwriting.  Big, long-reaching stories, grand emotions, history, lust, angst, rage -- all brought down to two or three verses probably, and a chorus, and a hook.  Focus, focus, focus.  Oh - and repetition.  Because you need room to repeat the really important stuff, like the hook. 

Writing songs is like staging a ballet in a phone booth:  there's such a lot to be done in not so much room. 

So ... the funnel. 

I have a few other thoughts about that.  For starters, despite the broad catch-basin at the top, it doesn't take that much to fill a funnel. The little channel at the bottom backs everything up, and it spills. So you have to be careful how much you put into the funnel, in the first place. You have to pre-select how much you put into the funnel, even before you start narrowing things down.  And when you think about it, it could be said the funnel is the ultimate symbol of the music business -- which seems always to be about narrowing the many down to the few, at every turn.  But I digress. 

Our task as songwriters is to narrow down whatever big thing we're trying to write about, and reduce it to a careful distillation of song elements -- images, device, plot, story, character, words, words, words -- that you will use to construct your story in a very small space. If you have excess -- use it in another song.  Before you start filling the funnel you have pre-filter and pre-focus what you want to work with.  That's the point.

Many times, I have found myself in a state of "ready to write" without knowing the slightest detail of what I would like to say. (The inarticulate grappling with the inexpressible. Just perfect.) What I do then, always, besides procrastinate, is to search for some kind of a focus:  a story focus, a character, a situation or a plot, in which those feelings align.  Maybe I'll play an instrument for a while, and look for some music to flow, like lava, from the inner ferment.  

I look for focus. Though I don't always find it.  Focus is, for me, the start of everything that separates a song from a bad mood. (Ladies and gentlemen, start your funnels.)  But once you have focused on something, and you have something to write about, you still have to filter and funnel.  I've found that too. Filter and funnel and focus. And get to the point. On occasion, it has taken me years to get there, with a particular song.  It's funny how that happens: feels like driving to the West Coast, just to get directions for Halifax. 

Happy Thanksgiving, all! 

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