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  • Writer's picturegregoryguaymusic

Songwriting Splits can vary

So, why doesn't Coltrane get credit on Miles Davis' "So What"?


Miles wrote the chart and tune, but clearly Coltrone rehearsed and added his improvisation on the recording.

A lot of jazz artists seem to take turns getting %100 credit for their tunes, sometimes co-write, but rarely do I see a full split with jazz artists. Some tracks, sure.

Miles Davis has %100 credit for “So What,” but It features some heavy hitters on the original recording: John Coltrane on tenor sax, Cannonball Adderley on alto sax, Bill Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums.

These famous jazz cats obviously add tons of improvised melodic material to Miles' original idea. Of course, Miles did not tell Coltrane what to play this for the solo and fills, besides the 'head'. So, why doesn't Coltrane get credit?

On the same album, Miles co-writes "Blue in Green" with Bill Evans. Of course Coltrane and Evans have a lot of music to their writing portfolio.

Snarky Puppy - similar approach in which Michael League seems to write on nearly every track, many of them attributed solely to him, with a few tracks co-written.

Rock bands, are all over the place when it comes to this: COldplay splits everything equally.

Beatles, a mixture with most credits to Lennon and McCartney in one combo or another.

Dylan and Neil Young mostly write as individuals over the years if I understand correctly.

So, why doesn't Coltrane get credit? Well, it's hard to know what goes on in the different writing processes for different songs. Did Coltrane want credit? Probably not, I think COltrane just went home and wrote his own melody & chords and when it was Miles' turn to play on Coltrane tunes that Coltrane made charts for, it was just a mutual understanding.

I've been studying different artists and trying to learn how/why/when to apply industry 'standards' to projects I"ve been or will be working on. Well, there are several standards, obviously, and it's really what musicians agree on but there is a lot of confusion among us amateurs on how/when/why to split songs. If I make a chord chart and write lyrics, for isntance, but want to do a song with 1) my rock band 2) my latin band, how do I split writing credit if its a totally different drum and bass part/groove?

According to jazz cats, the bass & percussion part does not constitute 'composition', the jazz bassist/percussionist know that they have to show up w/ their own charts/melodies to get writing credit - opposite of Coldplay.

From what I understand about Nashville, often collaborative brainchild between many hit pop songs today, involve songwriting 'sessions' that are scheduled and split equal between 2-5 people in a room that consider themselves artists - songwriters. They may or may not identify as performers or great musicians. Maybe one guy doesn't pitch in much, but he still gets credit. However, if he doesn't hold his weight next go-around he may not be invited. In Coldplay, if you don't hold your weight - contribute ideas, melodic material - things are still split equally. Perhaps this makes sense for a lifelong band signed to the same contract and tours..... it's a bit communist lol, but it makes sense. But, perhaps night for a position/artist/songwriter. That's juggling a couple different projects?

So, for 'So What' - why doesn't Coltrane get credit?

So, why doesn't Coltrane want credit?

DOes Coltrane deserve credit?

Complicated answer or a simple one?


Some of this information was derived from Wikipedia and Miles Davis liner notes and track listings.


-Gregory Guay

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