Author Topic: How I write songs  (Read 242 times)

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Offline NoiseAlter

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How I write songs
« on: May 15, 2018, 17:21:39 »
Hey everyone! Just thought I'd make a post about this. I'm curious if I'm the only one that does it this way?

I ALWAYS start on acoustic. I'll come up with a catchy riff. Sometimes, I'll add older riffs I've had lying around for a while to it. I'll slow down or speed up the tempo of an older riff to fit the new song I'm writing.

Then I come up with the tune of the singing by humming to the riffs as I play them. This part can be difficult. I can literally hum a thousand different types of tunes before I'm satisfied with one.

Lyrics for me always come last. Usually, I don't aim for a specific subject. I write about whatever I'm feeling at the time, as I'm sure most people do.

After I get everything down on acoustic, I'll translate it to electric. Before recording it on the computer, I will make the drum track on FL Studio (This part use to take hours, but I've done it so much that I can get a pretty legit drum track in about 20 or 30 minutes.)

It's essential that I make sure I can play and sing to the song in person before recording the whole thing.... what would be the point in recording the song if I couldn't play it live?

That's pretty much it. I'll also sometimes try to bring back a song that I wrote in the past and never used to try and revamp them. My song "Break the Barrier" for instance is actually a combination of two older songs I wrote in like 2014.

Please, let me know how you guys write songs. It may give me inspiration in the future :)


Offline Leonard Scaper

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Re: How I write songs
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2018, 17:45:45 »
Hey @NoiseAlter .....that is pretty much how I do it as well. I'll pick up an acoustic guitar and see what comes out of it. If it resonates with me I track the basic riff right away. That riff will then start to suggest lyrics....lots of scat singing to get things synced. I'll let the lyrics go anywhere they want at first as I open up the my consciousness to the emotions of the music and let the song form. Then I'll start patching in a story line that works with the scatted lyrics and the acoustic riff.

When I have played it enough and it starts to feel...real....I'll set up a click track and record the acoustic guitar properly. More instruments will go down as the lyrics take shape and lyrics will also be tracked as they come. By the time I'm ready for a keeper vocal session the instruments are almost always in place and rough mixed. I often go into that vocal session with incomplete lyrics and let those last lines come on the spot.

I work pretty fast......a project usually takes just a few weeks to complete.

Most of my songs, though, have never been played through live. My live performance days are behind me. Out of the 200+ tunes I have on my site I really only play a couple dozen regularly and even those tend to veer from the recorded version.

Good thread....hoping to hear from lots of folks on this very pertinent subject.

 8)
"The main thing is to have a gutsy approach....but use your head." Julia Child

"Special thanks to Steve Gleason for making me who I am today." Leonard Scaper

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_music.cfm?bandID=540680

Offline Jim

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Re: How I write songs
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2018, 16:40:53 »
Hi there, I haven't died.   :-\

For me the process is not dissimilar, but there's quite a bit more I think about up front...I'm sure I've mentioned before that for me (and it's a generally recognised thing) that effective music is about transitions, both between dissonance and consonance (e.g. D7 -> Gmaj) but also (for me particularly) transitioning between different modes and keys (more about that later...).  To give you a bit more about what I'm getting at, it's widely known (I think) that minor keys can impart a sad feeling to the listener, and major keys are far more happy, but maybe less known that by employing modes, there's a whole spectrum from bright to dark that can be utilised to give your songs a far greater depth (I will get round to writing my post about modes at some point, I promise, but for now, if you're interested have a look at ). 

So, I want to use those modes and their emotional hooks to make the music a bit more of a journey than the same few chords played over and over...I might throw in a few other techniques in there, but before I think about that or even what key it'll be in I'll think about the mode I want to start in, and where I want to go from there on that journey.  Let's say I've decided I want the song to start off quite dark and sinister, then brighten up a bit, then have a full on happy major bridge before descending back into gloom...

Using a recent song (as yet unshared) as an example, that could give me an initial "song shape" like this:

   Phrygian
   Minor
   Major
   Phrygian (return)

And I'll have that rough structure in mind when I pick up my (yes, acoustic) guitar and start noodling...in this instance I found some quite nice voicings on guitar for E7sus4b9 ("the" phrygian chord, apparently), so decided on E phrygian (which has all the notes from C major in it) and found other chords that work in that mode.  Now I needed to decide on which minor key to use, and two obvious candidates were E minor or A minor, and I went with A (harmonic) minor as that has only one note different (G#) so made for a smoother change.  I want the changes to be smooth, but noticeable, and by way of noodling I found a good candidate for the major section in G major, so my challenge was to find a way to transition smoothly from the key of A minor (harmonic) to G major...in the end (and it took a while) I went down the (double) secondary dominant route, with Am9->Am6add9->A7->D7->G.  Happily in G major now, my next challenge was to get back to E phrygian, so I went down the secondary dominant route again, with the jazzy turnaround G->Bm7b5->E7->Am7->Fmaj7->Em (if anyone is still following this I'm happy to explain what's going on there).

Once I've got the chords finalised like that, then I work on it on the guitar, finding different places to play it on the fret-board (sometimes I'll use more than one with different tracks) and getting it to the stage where I can play it stood on my head, then I'll work on finding out how I can play something one-handedly on the keyboard that works (or I might just score it up).  If I can be bothered, I'll write some strings in a score editor, and from that (or independently) devise a bass-line.  Sometimes the lyrics come along almost immediately, or even before, other times I'll come up with them later...at least writing modally, the melody is a bit easier as you know where to start...I also do hum or sing, often to find the right phrasing, then I'll think about recording it (or in my case usually, not!).

Oh, and I might just do a minimal drum track, but just as an afterthought.  :P

Pretty sure I will record this one, so I'll share in a year or two  :-[ ;)

Offline DanJames

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Re: How I write songs
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2018, 15:53:07 »
Interesting post! I only write for competitions these days. I need a theme and a deadline otherwise itíll never get done. Once I have that, I usually have my unplugged electric guitar lying around the flat ready to be grabbed whilst waiting for something to boil, during a tv show or whilst the kids are playing quietly (not often). Chord sequences and melodies then leap out of random strumming and generally write themselves. The lyrics are the hardest part for me but those usually come over the course of a couple weeks, with each idea jotted down on my iPhone and refined during my daily commute into London. The recording  starts as rough guitar and voice with a hi-hat track, then iíll build up from there...

Offline reidmoto

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Re: How I write songs
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2018, 02:49:16 »
This is a cool thread @NoiseAlter, and I mainly use a similar process, but I don't play acoustic guitar too well,
so I mostly noodle around on electric guitar.

I save riffs, chord progressions, and ideas in Logic, that I think have potential to be part of a song.
I really like songs in the classic rock genre, where there is a strong musical hook, usually with guitars.

Think, "Sweet Home Alabama," by Lynard Skynard, "Life in the Fast Lane," by the Eagles, "Black Dog,"
by Led Zeppelin, and countless others. So when I stumble upon a cool riff, I record it, or I will forget it.

But I also write from the opposite end of the spectrum. I watched an interview with Duke Ellington, and
the interviewer asked, "Do you have dreams Duke?" He replied, "Dreams, I've got a million of them."
I thought that would make a great chorus for a song, and set out to write it.

It ended up like this: "I've got a million dreams, and they're all about you and me."

Reidmoto

Offline LePlongeur

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Re: How I write songs
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2018, 07:14:04 »
Nice thread @NoiseAlter . Thanks!
My way of writing is as follows:

-   Away from home, I write chorusses. These are the back bone of songs in our song tradition (I have my loose leaved book with me whereever I go)
-   At home, or away from home, while waiting for somthing or other, I write lyrics
-   At home, everyday I am at home that is, I write a song

The less I think about it, the better the results. The process is called automatic writing or writing in a stream of consciousness.
Some people are afraid of that, because Freud said it would reveil certain layers of things. But Freud said more things (specially about my lady friends) that's pure crap. So why would he be right about this? He isn't I think.

Being in love or do sports activates the body to do chemical things to the brain. Making misic (or writing in my case) is no exception. That is why I write all my music at 6 PM. My brain knows that happy hormones are on their way, so all the doors are open to enjoy the influx.

It makes me very happy and productive. And I wish the same to you.
Why not give it a try?
Kind regards, Gus
« Last Edit: July 20, 2018, 07:15:53 by LePlongeur »

Offline Leonard Scaper

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Re: How I write songs
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2018, 12:55:51 »
I definitely like your method of automatic writing @LePlongeur . It is something that I dabble in as well

But Freud said more things (specially about my lady friends) that's pure crap. So why would he be right about this?

Don't worry about that Freud guy.......he was not necessarily the most cool and froody of dudes.  ;)

 8)

Offline LePlongeur

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Re: How I write songs
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2018, 13:52:47 »
I definitely like your method of automatic writing @LePlongeur . It is something that I dabble in as well

But Freud said more things (specially about my lady friends) that's pure crap. So why would he be right about this?

Don't worry about that Freud guy.......he was not necessarily the most cool and froody of dudes.  ;)

 8)


Ah...., you do?
Thatís great, no wonder that I feel so Ďat homeí with your songs.
Sounds strange when I repeat it.
Probably because Iíve thought about it.
Kind regards, Gus

Offline reidmoto

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Re: How I write songs
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2018, 17:24:14 »
@LePlongeur " That is why I write all my music at 6 PM. My brain knows that happy hormones are on their way, so all the doors are open to enjoy the influx."

This is very interesting, and I've read about big time novelists who use a similar approach. 
Ernest Hemingway used to lock himself in a room from a set time in the morning, and not
come out till a set time in the afternoon, to "force himself" to write.

I will have to give this a try, because I can see how the brain will gather all the creative
resources in anticipation of your regularly scheduled songwriting session.


Thanks for sharing.

Reidmoto

Offline LePlongeur

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Re: How I write songs
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2018, 07:24:10 »
It is exactly how you describe it @redmando.
We have Mark Mieras, among others, a scientific guy who knows all about the working of the brain. But as an extra, he can write it down in a way that everyone can understand.

All people in love know how happy we can be with a little endorphin.
All sports people experience a certain high.
But musicians ignore this.

When your brain is trained to get high by endorphins, it will anticipate the daily dose.
And what happens is so forceful, that for something like 10 days, the music will thunder in my head at 6PM, if the routine is interrupted. Almost a joke.

Iím sure that in your language too, there is a easily accessible book about the functioning of the brain. Iíd check it out and let the endorphins work for you and your music.
Plus no artificial high beats the endorphins.

Iím quite happy with this way of working.
Kind regards, Gus


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