How do you guys write?

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by Ordacleaphobia, Jun 6, 2018.

  1. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Can only power chord

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    So I, like all of you, LOVE playing guitar.
    And music in general. I play drums, I play guitar, I play bass, all kind of in that order. I've been playing for close to 10 years now. I've gotten good enough that I can play most of the music that I listen to, and that really, really feeds the thirst to MAKE something. in 10 years, I have not written a single song, and not for lack of trying.

    I just suck at that. I'm an uncreative little shit, what can I say. I guess it doesn't help that I don't know a lick of theory.

    So now my question is those of you that DO create music, that write and compose, HOW do you do it? What is your process? Do you just jam and if you happen to jam out a riff that you like, you write it down or record it for later? Do you program yourself a drum loop and just riff over that until you get something and then refine it? Do you create a lot of pieces, and then stitch them together into something cohesive, or do you sit down and write with a plan of where you want to go? How do you stop yourself from falling into a rut and writing the same parts over and over? What do you do!??!

    Maybe changing my process can get me to where I want to go. What works for you guys?
     
  2. steinmetzify

    steinmetzify CHUG & SLUDGE

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    Seriously? Drumjams on forums and gear.

    I almost never write the same shit on drumjams and new gear always makes me play differently. I have stock licks and riffs that I’ve come up with over the years, and those almost always find their way into something I’m writing; the tempo can dictate what goes in. Some things sound better fast, some things sound better slow.

    Depends on what I’m listening to as well; if it’s a Pantera/Down sort of week, that’s what’s going to come out, groove metal.

    Slayer means fast chuggy riffs and harmonized lead lines, etc.

    I do a lot of orchestral stuff too, and it finds its way in there....synth stuff, vocal samples, violins and celli, all that.

    Mix it up, find stuff you like and chuck it together. See what sticks or doesn’t.

    Also, start smaller, join some other forums and do some drumjams....most are 2 minutes max....once you get the hang of it, you’ll start making them longer and longer until almost before you know it a whole song is there.
     
  3. pahulkster

    pahulkster SS.org Regular

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    Like anything else you’ve done it takes practice. Just write a song. It doesn’t have to be epic and ground breaking. Write a punk song or some generic metal. I would get over that hurdle first and then worry about refining your process.
     
  4. LiveOVErdrive

    LiveOVErdrive CNC hack

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    One trick to help break out of the "this idea isn't good enough I'm gonna start over" is to set out to write a BAD, LAME, DERIVATIVE SONG. At the end of the day you still wrote a song. And it might just not be as bad as you thought.

    Works for writing comics anyway. I can't write songs either.
     
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  5. Wolfos

    Wolfos Guitarded

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    I'm the opposite, I find learning other people's music much harder than writing.
    To me it's because I play a certain way, so when I learn say an intervals song or something it always feels weird and unnatural to me because Aaron Marshall plays a certain way and I play another.

    I mean I still learn the song but it probably takes me way longer than the average player because I always find myself learning for the first 20 minutes and then goofing around the next hour or two like I have A.D.D. or something. I'll typically end up with something neat if my own but hardly progress with the actual song I was trying to learn lol.
     
  6. Exchanger

    Exchanger SS.org Regular

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    All of the above.
    When I started out, I just opened a sequencer, and when I found chrods I liked ont he keyobard, I'd just record it in MIDI then progressively add voices, program parts and write like 30 sec of a piece, then the next day I tried to write what could come after etc...
    It's nice for orchestral or cinematic kind of composing but it tends to be uncohesive like part A + part B + part C etc... and having no set out plans means it's just a patchwork. It's the kind of piece that requires several listens because you need to know it in advance a bit to enjoy it. I still do write like that once in a while because it is more relaxed and more free and love long epic stuff but it is less kind on a new listener.
    Another technique is variation on a theme or a riff that you like. Try to find a set of chords or riff or melody, and just twist it in different ways (a soft version vs a hard version, fast or slow, high or low etc...). You can combine it with more standard ways of writing, like typically writing a chorus that you re-use and the verse is always different etc...
    I find it hard to come up with lyrics once a song is written isntrumentally so another strategy is to first write vocal line and then harmonize it and write the isntrumental from there. And then also let the lyrics drive the atmosphere : play soft when the lyrics are about soft things, play violent when the lyrics are about mean things etc...


    Basically I can pinpoint 4 sources of inspiration :
    1. "Pure inspiration" : you just hear a melody in your head and you just transcribe it right away.
    2. Muscle memory : you just follow the familiar path on the fretboard and land on something you like. the advantage is that usually the learning process is really quick.
    3. Theoritical : you sit down and decide you're gonna write in the dorian mode today because you like the feel of it, or trying to use only 5/8 throughout the piece, or imitate the style of X or use such element etc...
    4. Interaction : Playing with other people, and boucne off each others idea. To some extent this also happens when you overdub yourself or try to jam over your own tracks, but of course working with different people will add some "unexpectedness" that can really feed your inspiration

    I can totally relate to mthat
     
  7. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    If you think you can't write a song, now you're correct.

    Think of every out-and-out bad song you've ever heard on the radio. Not only did someone write that, they got paid for their effort! WHAT?!

    Start simple. Pick what style of music you want to compose in, and then write a riff. Jam on that riff, try it in different places and change how you play it (what number of strings, what fret do you start on) etc. Then build from there.

    I think if you make a realistic standard of how your first song is probably going to go, you'll a) enjoy the process way more b) write something you're much more enthusiastic about.

    My first "song" sounds like a mash-up of two songs, and the "lyrics" (which were typed, never were sung, and were general trash) were about a girl I liked who didn't feel the same way (shock and awe). The thing is, the ideas I had for the verse and chorus were actually fine. The song itself just wasn't too great. I still use the ideas I had when writing in my room that day to write now.
     
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  8. EmaDaCuz

    EmaDaCuz Brutal yet soulful

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    To me, it is mostly inspiration. I don't write many songs these days because I am not inspired, or I can channel my feelings in other ways. But inspiration can come up at any time; for the last song I have written, the main riff was nothing but a rearrangement of a whistle melodic line I have heard while walking downtown. It is worth noting that, in most cases, the song is already in my head as a whole. I find it difficult to write a song as a sum of riffs I have previously written.

    When the song need some some extra steps to be complete, I generally go for theory. I don't know much about it, but the rudiments of harmony I have really help when I find myself clueless. They are not always the best choice, but definitely a safe way out.
     
  9. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Anyone can write a song. It takes a lot of talent or luck to write a good song, though.

    If you write a lot of songs, you increase your chances of stumbling onto something. I'll sit down and jam out for 2-3 hours and I might come up with one riff or progression that might work. I record it, then I try to forget about it. If the riff or ditty or whatever is still stuck in my head a few days later, then it might be something worth developing.

    Theory is to songwriting as vocabulary is to poetry. If you don't have any, it makes the process a lot more challenging; if you know a little, it makes the process easier; but, if you know too much, it makes the end result too verbose.
     
  10. Jacksonluvr636

    Jacksonluvr636 SS.org Regular

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  11. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Can only power chord

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    Lots of really interesting responses so far- it's pretty neat to see some common threads popping up.
     
  12. Mprinsje

    Mprinsje st. anger ain't bad!

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    I just play guitar, and sometimes a good riff or chord progression will come out. Most of the times it's "hey this riff/part will be a good way to start of a song" and just work from there untill i feel it's done.
    When i've got a good riff or progression i record it and program drums to it. I'll usually write a whole song with one basic guitar track and drums. That first guitar track will almost always be the part i play in the actual song, panned hard left. When that's done i'll record a second guitar track, playing the parts i want our other guitarist to play. Bass gets done last usually. Solo's and other embelishments get done after that, unless it's something i really want to do when i am "building" the song.

    This is all how it usually happens, sometimes i might start out with a drum beat that's stuck in my head or a bass part.. Important to note though is that most of the time i'm playing guitar, nothing good comes out whatsoever. Sometimes i won't write anything of note for 3 months, and then all of a sudden it just clicks or something.

    When i first started writing songs i just put some guitar parts i kinda liked together. The riffs were crap and so were the songs, but i think that's an important stage to go through. It'll really help you hear how you want your songs to sound like. No-one started writing hits on their first try. You'll refine your songs and your process of constructing them along the way.


    Just keep it up man, write some shit song, or maybe 10. one day, you'll notice your songs getting less shitty, and that's when the fun starts.
     
  13. groverj3

    groverj3 Biologist/Guitarist

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    How do I write?

    Not often, and very badly.

    I'm probably the least creative person to play the instrument. I come from a background of classical piano, high school band saxophone (later, jazz but I was shit at improvisation), and started out with classical guitar lessons. Not exactly the kinds of musical education that rewards playing anything but "what is on the page." However, I'm just a really huge nerd/technique person anyway. Probably something to do with my profession (science rewards memorization/following some methods exactly to get results) as well.

    I've written a handful of riffs/melodic lines that I think are worthy of inclusion into songs but only a handful. I think it's also hindered by lack of time to practice in grad school and a complete lack of other musicians to play with. I've never been able to find bandmates/jam partners and by now when I do get someone around to play with it's infrequent and usually from a very different style. That can be good, but to incorporate elements from diverse genres first you have to know how to jam/get ideas from others in general.

    I've taken it upon myself to work on writing and improvisation more, but I always fall into the trap of "there is no music in my head to get across on the instrument." Perhaps this gets better with time? We'll see, but several months into working on it I don't see much improvement. Most teachers I've ever talked to about it throughout the time I've been playing just tell you to "play" which is totally unhelpful to me.

    This is more of a "woe is me" rant than helpful :lol:
     
  14. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire gearwhoricus americanus

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    this is exactly what I do. I can't ever concentrate long enough to learn a song from tab unless I REALLLLY like the song. I've learned more songs from playing rocksmith for the last year than I have in 14+ years of playing :lol:
    My writing process would be called erratic and disorganized. I'll be learning some country riffs and then bam, a riff mutates from that. I'll be trying to practice weird scales like the jazz harmonic minor and get distracted because a riff mutates from that. I'll listen to a mix of different genres of music and attempt to play along with them. Sometimes cool stuff mutates from my noodling.

    Try different tunings, try different scales/techniques and see what happens when you mess with them. I've come up with some really cool stuff in karnivool tuning (BF#BGBE) and open tunings.
    Take whatever riffs you came up with and try to build chords or inversions from those riffs. keep playing with stuff and building it. Sometimes stuff pans out, sometimes it doesn't. Don't be afraid to throw out riffs or scrap ideas, but don't be a perfectionist either. I know jack shit about music theory even with a background in classical/flamenco guitar. I only know about inversions because I was reading an article where tosin talks about how he uses that concept.
     
  15. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Can only power chord

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    Christ mate you sound just like me.
    The bit in bold is something I very strongly identify with- I feel like a lack of people to play with is a real obstacle.

    I have a close friend that used to play back when we were in high school and whenever I managed to persuade him to actually pick up an instrument and play I always stumbled across some cool ideas. I know what it's like to hear the 'just play' a lot, and that feeling of no music floating around up there to put down. Maybe we're just the stream-of-consciousness style people that need someone else to bounce ideas off of :lol:
     
  16. MikeNeal

    MikeNeal SS.org Regular

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    i usually get a drum beat and loop it, then write a chord progression, then a lead line. then i try and expand on everything. eventually i end up with a riff i like. i then just try and write around that main riff
     
  17. groverj3

    groverj3 Biologist/Guitarist

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    I know this is how I am professionally, with stuff at work. When I need to come up with ideas for experiments, etc. It makes sense to me that not everyone comes up to stellar ideas in isolation.
     
  18. Greg Barnett

    Greg Barnett SS.org Regular

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    I follow the process you describe - set up a cool sounding drum loop & jam out a riff/basic idea. Once I'm away I can listen to the intro and use my creativity to decide where to go from there (I like to take regular breaks and listen with fresh ears - easier to decide then). Another process I used when I was inexperienced was to totally rip off a song I liked using the same basic riffs etc and copying the arrangement closely. Then you see how the songs you like are constructed and can then branch out. I wrote this song last year using the jam & build process -
     
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  19. AlexCorriveau

    AlexCorriveau SS.org Regular

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    It depends for what I'm writing. But my advice is to not limit yourself.

    If I write for my melodeath project, I overthink everything and scrap a lot of riffs and the process is very slow because I'm never happy with what I write. I have a very specific mindset for that project.

    When I write for the humorous brutal death/grind band I'm in, it's easier. I know I am not limited to a certain type of riffing. Once I understood how one of their songs should sound instead of overthinking every riff I do to be perfect, I managed to write a good chunk of the upcoming album.

    Try styles you're not used to. You can be surprised.
     
  20. Jamey36

    Jamey36 SS.org Regular

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    I,like some others have mentioned really suck at learning other peoples songs.It just never has appealed to me.I have always loved creating my own music(even if it sucks),it is something I created.With technology where it is now days for home recording,it has never been easier!I have no musical background or theory knowledge,I am basically just a full time noodle player.I love to sit around and just jam,when i come up with a riff/intro/etc,I like I record it.I like to construct my songs part by part.Once I have an intro on guitar I go back and find the right drum parts(EZ drummer) and go from there.I like to have four or five projects going to allow me to go back and forth to not get burned out on a single song.This also helps a lot as while working on one I'll often come up with something that I think will fit perfectly in another.Often I'll send all the ideals to my phone so I can listen while driving and mentally work on ideals when I am not at home.
    I think too often people get too hung up on the ideal of writing the perfect song i.e.;they get frustrated because they think their ideal is too simple,etc..Just start recording and go from there.After a while you will notice your songs/ideals are improving.You'll begin to see what does and doesn't work for you.Then just keep building on that.
     
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