• What is your approach to writing lyrics?
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What is your approach to writing lyrics?
on: April 25, 2017, 16:57:09
Thanks to @Olbigead for this idea.

How do you approach lyric writing? Do you try to tell a story? Or maybe impart some wisdom? Do you grind over your phrases to get perfect rhyme schemes? Maybe you like to go freestyle and let the rhymes come as they may. I think I have heard a bit of each here in the kitchen and then some.

I thought my answer would be easy but I have had to ponder a bit. I think I tend to create tableaus that I try to tie together to form a larger picture. I like my rhyme schemes to be loose and sometime subtle but always there to be found. I also see, as I ponder, that I sometimes try to impart some sort of lesson from what the song is saying.

This question has helped me focus on just what it is I am up to. What is it that you are up to?  8)
"The main thing is to have a gutsy approach....but use your head." Julia Child

 "In a world of robotic conformity, the only originality left in music is the imperfections" Eric Craptone

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

Lenny's Tunes: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_music.cfm?bandID=540680

https://soundcloud.com/vincentgleason


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Re: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
Reply #1 on: April 25, 2017, 18:50:51
@Leonard Scaper Great topic, not an easy question though..

For me everything is built around an emotion or/and the story I want to tell. I rarely write without a reason or just for the sake of it. Regarding style, I guess my interest in classical Swedish and English poetry influenced me from the start.

I also try to have a sharpness and edge to it and it must also be easy to remember and not include overly long phrases. I also try to adopt a "less is more" approach and instead paint with broad strokes. Furthermore I almost every time begin with the track and adjust the lyrics from there.

When thinking about it I also think I often try to build lyrics around adjectives or a movement (journey, walking) and try painting pictures from that.

Best Marcus


Re: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
Reply #2 on: April 25, 2017, 18:51:36
Check out this fascinating interview from Ryan Adams that some may have seen. I don't write lyrics like he does, but I do get inspiration from all kinds of quarters (including books) and I tend to write notes to myself (usually in my phone) about lyrical ideas to develop.

Take a look at this interview describing his method from Channel 4:



Re: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
Reply #3 on: April 25, 2017, 21:45:12
@marcus_jb ...great to read about your influences. When I get back into the studio tonight I'm going to pull some of your stuff back up and listen with a fresh perspective. The question does spark a bit of introspection, right?

@Olbigead ....I'll watch that vid a bit later as well.

I really hope others will chime in on this one.


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Re: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
Reply #4 on: April 26, 2017, 19:59:46
Hi @Leonard Scaper

Thanks for putting this out there  :)

How do I approach lyric writing?

Since all I do is write the words I've given this some thought.

I've been writing for over 50 years now so I've been through a variety of approaches. Some worked better than others. They're all tools in my box.

Currently I'd say my approach is to look for "triggers"... a phrase, a title idea. I've done similar exercises to the one described by Ryan Adams in his video. Another is to go through my old ideas; I've filled thousands of pages through the years and I've made a practice of placing the interesting lines that didn't make it into a complete lyric in a separate notebook. That notebook is now over a hundred pages and keeps growing.

I've found that alchohol can help in the search for "triggers". Not drunkedness. But enough for certain parts of the mind to slip the harness. Driving is another way to access those parts of the mind; I've lost track of how many lyrics started as a suddenly descending phrase that came to me while I was driving. These methods, I hope it's not necessary to say, should not be pursued concurrently.

Once I have a "trigger" I write it down. One thing I've learned in the last couple of years is to wait. Before, once I had a line, I would push to bring the next one into being. Now I stop, make a space in my mind, and wait for something to fill it. This can take days. But the result is more organic, often richer. Fairly often a "trigger" only results in a line or two; these lines go in my notebook of ideas.

I recently had the thought that writing a lyric is like surfing. There's the time spent watching the ocean (the search for "triggers"). Once you see something forming you position yourself to ride it. From here on in it all depends on the power of the wave and your skill in riding it to completion. The wave could peter out. Or the immensity of the idea could overwhelm your ability to give it expression. Wipe out! But once in a while everything comes together and something special is created. This is not something any one of us can do through force of will; it can only done by accepting a gift from the Universe and giving it full expression through our own particular form of Being.

My advice for beginning writers is pretty simple. Write. Once you feel you've made some progress show your efforts to someone whose work you admire. Be prepared to have your little darlings torn to shreds. Let the wounds heal. Write some more. Repeat this process until the day you die (or you decide to stop writing). Somewhere along the line you'll begin to hear your own voice speaking within you; you'll begin to see where your voice and the voices of others diverge; you'll find that you can put the critiques of others in their proper perspective and use what's useful and discard the rest.

Later,
Stan
I'm a lyricist seeking music writers to work with.


Re: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
Reply #5 on: April 26, 2017, 21:07:50
@smajor........I'm with you on the "triggers" approach. These days that's how things always start. it might be an image....it might be a phrase that comes up in a conversation. I don't wait, though.....I write to completion. I don't have a backlog of songs as you do, Stan.

I also really like the surfing metaphor a lot.


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Re: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
Reply #6 on: April 26, 2017, 21:35:04
Hi @Leonard Scaper,

Thanks  ;D

Yeah re "surfing". Fits my experience better than any other idea I've had. There are so many variables at play in creation.

Later,
Stan


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Re: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
Reply #7 on: April 27, 2017, 01:46:07
@smajor , just jumped into this thread and read about your process. I study individual processes out of passion and I loved reading through your experience, and let me stress that I appreciate you shared your process with our community, thank you for that!
I absolutely agree with the 'write!!!' guideline, and the 'let your work be reviewed by someone who's work you admire' (and 'hide!'). That's how we try and learn, and I hope everyone around here sees that 'generic' practice.
No need to be shy, be brave, try, shoot, embrace every suggestion provided, manage to sculpt 'yourself' out of that concrete rock and then experience how it feels every time you share another part of your work. Of couse everybody is unique, but in the end you'll be able to express yourself in your own unique way and that's beauty imo..

And eh.. this line made me laugh out loud:
'I've found that alchohol can help in the search for "triggers". Not drunkedness. But enough for certain parts of the mind to slip the harness. Driving is another way to access those parts of the mind; I've lost track of how many lyrics started as a suddenly descending phrase that came to me while I was driving. These methods, I hope it's not necessary to say, should not be pursued concurrently.'
Hahahaha great advice!  ;) ;) ;)

Cheers man,
:mart:
 

 
I'm proud of this track, check it out! https://soundcloud.com/martimedia/dreams


Re: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
Reply #8 on: April 27, 2017, 16:20:19
nice thread!

great to hear about everyones experiences. its an abstract journey to write a song!
for me it use to come together with a melody and chords nowadays. if theres a cool phrase
that i want to use it will have to wait for its melody and the over all meaning of a song
will have to wait for two thirds of thee song to get written. lots of waiting and a big backlog/backpack here. :/
would be nice to be able to let go of that idea.

`triggers` is a great way of putting it @smajor . and wow! 100 pages of cool phrases! i buy it. how much!? :D
another thing ive thaught of is hot words and how i dont like
the `hottest` words very much. when i hear "dead" "truth" "love" in lyrics i dont feel very much.
ive experimented with them a little bit more lately though but "shoolyard" for example makes me feel so much more.

and metaphors. ooh metaphors


Re: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
Reply #9 on: April 27, 2017, 16:25:49
lots of waiting and a big backlog/backpack here. :/

I wonder how many others have large backlogs of phrases or ideas like that.

When I get that "trigger" I need to act on it and finish it. I wonder if I am in the minority by having no backlog at all and finishing everything I start.


Re: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
Reply #10 on: April 27, 2017, 16:43:02
dolly parton is doing it your way i believe @Leonard Scaper . im sure your in great company!


Re: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
Reply #11 on: April 27, 2017, 16:50:57
« Last Edit: April 27, 2017, 16:54:03 by Zedd »
Interesting topic alright.. Loved that Ryan Adams video @Olbigead ....


I think every time I try to figure out my songwriting "process" I discover that I have lots of different ones or maybe that means I have NO process :) ... My "triggers" can come from anywhere.. I scribble down things I hear and read and think (!) ALL the time.. I have about 4 / 5 notebooks that I write in (physical ones) - so any bag I pick up will always have a notebook and I write into my phone too - sometimes in the middle of the night ... I write phrases, words, sentences, themes, thoughts...


I write with guitar nearly always... so with the bones of the first cut of a lyric putting it to music which tends to expand out the structure and then of course the requirement for more lyrics / parts...  which of course is mad as my instrument is the piano... But there you go... I will often (not always) move to the piano once I have the bones of a song written but mainly to work out singing key and musically I will often use more complex chords at that point when I'm not dependent on the limitations of my "guitar playing claw" :)


My lyrics tend to be relatively "straight-forward" as in I write almost conversationally and with a LOT of words - I've been told too wordy but I've come to  to accept that that's my style.. Once I have the theme and maybe first verse, I write VERY quickly.. But then once first cut is written I rewrite continually as I work through the song and then again when I come to record, I will inevitably change lyrics again..


I'll be checking out Ryan Adams' technique as I tend to be drawn to certain themes....


Re: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
Reply #12 on: April 28, 2017, 00:58:52
One or two more thoughts prompted by the thread. @smajor The triggers is key I think. Ryan adams calls it the id the trigger that is then filled in by the ego. 

@Leonard Scaper  I really admire that you finish everything you start. My process is most of the time stuttering false starts and stalls. Most of the time I never finish anything.

I always begin with music. Mostly it is chord progressions. Very occasionally it is a memorable melody line. I then end up playing this and singing along with some nonsense ("vowel movement" I think Keith Richards called it). This may go on for a long time…sometimes days, sometimes weeks. Then, this either stalls or I find “the trigger”. And agree with @Zedd  that triggers can come from anywhere. This might lead to a set of words or phrase that fits with the music and then we’re off to the races. Progress is made. Most of the time, however, it still does not get the song to the finish line. There is, more often than not, a lot more honing and rewriting of the lyric. Usually leaving the song to stew for a while makes the lyric better.

Playing something over and over is integral to the above (rather unfortunate for Mrs OlBigEad who has to endure incomplete stuff being played over and over!) 

For a very long time (a couple of decades), my process didn’t really work that well. I could find music but I couldn’t find lyrics to accompany it. As a result, I have accumulated many 100s of song ideas that only recently in my life I have been able to finish. Its like I have this iceberg of songs, the complete ones are above the surface and then there this huge bulk under the surface awaiting completion.

@marcus_jb Completely agree about the journey. The progression and repeat at the end is often there.

@tuff bransch “hot words” I think I know what you mean. The best lyrics say something, but also have color and paint a picture with the little details. Little details can be very powerful I think. Your example of 'Schoolyard' is very evocative. It means something to all of us and triggers memories in all of us.

Incidentally, when writing lyrics I also sometimes think about who might listen to a song. It is a bit embarrassing to admit but I have written songs where the first verse is from a male perspective and the second from a female perspective. I repeated the verse but changed the subject. That way I hoped that the point I was making in the song (about people taking each other for granted) would resonate more widely. Probably shows just how obsessed and f*ked up I am about this stuff. 

@Zedd I wonder how many other piano players write on the guitar first. Like you I also prefer the guitar. I don’t know why; it seems like the keys on the piano constrain me into writing the same structures and progressions whereas I stumble on interesting things on the guitar (the nature of which I only subsequently work out)!

So to mix everybody’s metaphors, my songwriting technique is to wade out into the ocean of music, with my backpack of phrases, wait  for the wave trigger, and then surf on it. Every now and then surfing lands me right on top of the iceberg that’s been growing for decades!



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