What instrument/tools do you write with?

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by TedEH, Dec 6, 2018.

  1. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I've started going into a sort of writing phase, trying to come up with some new material, and I'm curious a bit to hear what people use to write with. As in, do you sit down with a guitar, hit record and improvise? Or do you plan on movements in your head ahead of time? Or do you program out something in guitar pro or similar to start with?

    I'm mostly thinking this because I was considering taking a different approach than usual. I normally would just noodle with a guitar and collect bits that I like, then expand on them later by sitting down and recording guitar scratch bits, chopping them up a bit, etc. But instead, a couple of days ago I had some free time at the end of the day while waiting for someone, where I had an idea but no guitar available so I started sort of blocking stuff out in Reaper using nothing but superior drummer and ReaSynth. I sort of has a moment of realization that it's incredibly easy to create looping midi items and move them around to change/repeat/alter arrangements in a way I would have had to re-record or splice together the way I did it before. An idea to change something takes maybe 5 seconds to implement this way instead of several minutes. It's a small thing maybe, but it seems like this could easily encourage experimenting with ideas that I wouldn't have tried before for risk of screwing up the project I have going so far. In this way, I'm focusing on the actual melody, progression, and arrangement instead of just the "texture" and feel of the song like I normally would, leaving the arrangement to just improvisation.

    What do you do?
     
  2. TheWarAgainstTime

    TheWarAgainstTime "TWAT" for short

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    I mostly just jam by myself and make riffs as they come to me, then put them in Guitar Pro 6 so I don't forget. From there, I'll try and arrange riffs into a song structure or put them aside for another time/song and I'll make rough drums and bass lines in GP.

    If I'm working with other band members, I'll send out the GP6 file to them and see what they suggest to add/change like better drums, keys, overdubs, and vocal ideas. It's usually a lot easier to make a cohesive song if I can work face-to-face with other people rather than sending files back and forth.
     
  3. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire hardtail crusader

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    depends on the day/how much time I have. I usually just noodle til I find a cool riff, then improvise around it til I find a sequence/phrase that I really like, then I usually make a quick sound clip/video of it, or if I have more time, record it and tab it out. I have a hard time coming up with different rhythms and progressions for songs, so sometimes I grab other instruments (like piano or banjo) and try to play the progression on those to see where it takes me. Lately I've been playing a ton of classical guitar, since it forces me to think about the riffs a lot more critically than when I play electric.
     
  4. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Can only power chord

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    I actually posted a similar thread here. Should check it out; lots of cool ideas got posted. Couple of them actually really helped me.
     
  5. steinmetzify

    steinmetzify CHUG & SLUDGE

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    Sibelius for orchestral stuff, helps me keep track of shit.

    For guitar stuff I have a few go to rhythms/patterns I’ll use to get started, build off of that, then change things as I see fit to fit the arrangement I’m working towards.
     
  6. MFB

    MFB ExBendable

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    I usually have my guitar on me when watching TV in my room, and I'll catch a melody while playing; then I play it a few more times to see if I like the sound of it, if not find out what needs tweaking to be what I want, then figure out the notes and write it down in my phone. Later I'll break it out and record an audio clip of it just so I have a backup and I guess "proof of concept" that it works.
     
  7. Dayn

    Dayn silly person

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    I've used Guitar Pro for eons. I recently upgraded to Guitar Pro 7 earlier this year. It's all I use. I compose everything in Guitar Pro 7, then export it as a midi to use in my DAW. I've recently gotten a midi controller which helps in the process, but I still prefer to put all my ideas down into manuscript in Guitar Pro, whether it's during the process or after I've already thought of a song.

    I'm an abstract and visual thinker, so just recording music doesn't work for me. I need to see and imagine the music as I go.
     
  8. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    I mostly use Guitar Pro/Tuxguitar.

    In GP I can easily try things that I just wouldn't play on the guitar, and that's why it works so well for me I think. I can have an idea and even if it's not that great to begin with, it's easy to just keep changing the notes one by one until it's actually something I like, even if it sounds nothing like it did to begin with. I can also easily move things around, change the length of bars, and just generally try things. Some work, some don't. Another great thing is that I can use multiple tracks, which is really important for me. So I can for example have a bassline/chord progression going and write a melodic part over that.

    The guitar itself is something that does NOT work well for me to write on. I've written some riffs/things on the actual guitar but they're very few. It can be fun to sit down and just noodle around sometimes, but for me not much that's actually good music comes out of that.

    Piano I've used sometimes and like it. I like how it's very visual and it's easy to play chords/melodies at the same time.

    My main problem with writing on the computer is that songs after a while tend to come out pretty similar, since I seem to have go-to rhythmic and melodic ideas or preferences. So nowadays I will often have some sort of outside idea when I start a song, in order to try and keep things from becoming too samey or "too much me". So I will pick a song that I really really like, and I will think about why I like it so much. It could be a cool rhythmic thing, or a certain kind of modulation, or some aspect of a great riff or melody, or anything basically. And I will take that thing and I will go "how can I use this to make my own thing out of it that's as good or better?" And I will use that as a starting point to work from. Often the song will take its own life after that and come out not even reminding me of where I started, but the fact that I had that starting point gives me inspiration and lets me go in directions that I otherwise wouldn't have. (I will never lift or copy things from other musicians, I will only use things as inspiration/starting points. I am VERY opposed to musical plagiarism.)

    But I am also very interested in finding new ways of doing things, so I will keep my eye on this thread!
     
  9. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Ah, I remember seeing this before. My bad for not searching before I made a new thread. :lol:

    I think I do the opposite - If I have a guitar on me, I'll end up with some very samey sounding bits. The songs end up being riff-salad instead of anything with coherency. Maybe the key to variety in writing is variety in process?

    I've just been appreciating the sort of visualization aspect of plotting things out in MIDI and how quick it is to try or change something. (Example screenshot below.) I imagine that by the time this becomes actual instruments, it's going to change pretty dramatically, but in terms of structure, you can really see where things are repeated, where there's small variations on things, where there's density of note information, where the groove changes, how one section related to another, etc. It also makes a really good visual point of how I tend not to put enough thought into how I segue from one idea to another - There's just big cuts and all of the sudden it's a new riff. But this section took all of maybe two hours to slap together and re-arrange a few times, where on guitar it might have taken me twice as long and I'd have done less re-arranging and experimenting in that time. (Top track is SD2, the rest is just ReaSynth chugging out of bleeps and bloops).

    midi_blocking.PNG
     
  10. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    I sit down with a guitar. Sometimes I have an idea I want to try, but mostly its noodle on old songs/ideas until something new pops up.

    I should be learning songs I like with riffs I love, but im lazy :(.
     
  11. Semi-pro

    Semi-pro SS.org Regular

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    I usually start with the guitar and end up changing everything after I've written it down in MIDI on my DAW. When arranging the song, incorporating the keys and chord progressions into the riffs sometimes change things quite a bit.

    It's fun! Every now and then you write an open string based thing just to re-learn it from the 3rd and 6th position and end up questioning the meaning of your existence.

    ...in all seriousness, having it all in MIDI makes trying different things so much easier. Especially when you want to outline the harmony using more than one instrument, each having their own role.
     
  12. Synllip

    Synllip Cyan

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    I start with a riff I like and make a drum track for it, then I start trying with other riffs that would fit nicely with the previous riff, and make a drum track for each one of them.
    I find this the easier approach to focus into one part of the riff and to have an actual groove going on. Sometimes I press record in Logic and just improvise, if there's something I like I save it in a "Riff" folder for future reference.
    I always come back to the riff folder to see if there's something that can be turned into a song.
     
  13. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    ...gin?

    I write primarily in two ways. I'll either come up with a melody, sometimes while playing, sometimes just humming it while walking around (if the latter, if I'm somewhere I can do this discretely I'll hum or sing it into my audio recorder on my phone to work out later), and then record the melody line and try to work out harmonies supporting it. Or, I'll be jamming, come up with a cool riff or series of chords, and then record those and try to find a melody that works well with them.
     
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  14. Bobro

    Bobro SS.org Regular

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    In my head, and often notate rhythms, melodies once in a while, or at least the general shape of the melody in the rhythmic notation, with a little remark about the scale it is in, on the side, on pieces of scrap paper I carry around. Preferably while walking in the park, but often enough in a bar while drinking beer.
     
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  15. buriedoutback

    buriedoutback SS.org Regular

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    I used to pluck riffs out of the air as I noodled, but now I'll start with a cool ez drummer beat and write to that.
     
  16. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    I play/create very guitar-riff-oriented music, so for me it starts with the riff. I just play and play random stuff and let my hands do what they want. Most of the time, this results in nothing. Occasionally, I hear a riff that sounds good, and I'll repeat it and play around with different phrasings. If it sounds like something I could use, I record a clip of it with my phone.

    I then start thinking of how I could create a song out of that riff, and what emotional/lyrical subject matter I'd like it to convey. That dictates what I do with the supporting riffs and song progression.

    I begin creating actual songs when I've roughly mapped out the song from start to finish. But I rarely have the whole thing imagined or rehearsed from start to finish, because I find that my ideas always change once I start really getting some of the parts finalized with drums, bass, and lead guitar parts.

    Recording begins with a rough take of all the rhythm guitar parts. I then program the basic drum beats and tempo changes to those parts. This is an agonizing, painstaking part because the drums need to be more or less perfect before I can go back and re-record the rhythm guitars and quad-track them perfectly. But I do go back and replace the rhythm guitars to match the beat as perfectly as I can get them. Next comes bass guitar, and lastly comes lead guitar parts and solos. I don't always know what they'll be until the rest of the song is already sounding good. I don't worry too much about the mix yet, but I need it to sound pretty good to stay stoked for the final part -- lyrics and vocals.

    I always write lyrics last, and those can even change a bit once I start tracking vocals. Every word is important to the sound, which is more important even than the meaning of the words. Sometimes I change the phrasing to make the vocals jive with the music better. Vocals are also an agonizing part, especially clean vocals.

    Basically, I don't know if my process is anything I'd recommend to anyone. I am 4 years into making a full-length album and it's not finished yet (almost though). Part of that length of time was due to the fact that I had all this music in my head but had absolutely no idea how to even begin recording and producing my own music even 5 years ago. Didn't know I could do vocals either, but my songs are definitely stronger because of them. When I release the album, it may be my first and last, unfortunately. I got into the game a little too late...
     
  17. GatherTheArsenal

    GatherTheArsenal Metal Head Farmer

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    Very straightforward approach on my end most days.

    I decide well before I get plucking whether I want to be jam on clean, distorted or lead tones. I predominantly use Toontrack for all effects and drums so I go straight into EZ Mix 2. I got a bunch of expansion packs that I love, pick a tone and commit not to change it for about a hour.

    Open EZ Drummer 2, click the metronome to get a feel for the tempo while I warm up. Once I get a faint idea of what i'm working with, I start dragging and dropping drum loops and make a point of not changing or touching what I put in there til I've jammed on each one for at least 5 minutes on loop.

    I found with the above approach that a few things happen:

    1. I spend less time fiddling around with dialing tones or finding the right drum loop or whatever, and more time actually playing and writing something rather than a continuous cycle of start-stop-start-stop... which I hate.

    2. Spending a lot of time in one single dialed-in tone allows me to explore it to it's fullest, it gives me enough time to sink into it properly and maybe finding something that works with it? Kinda like i'm giving it a good chance regardless of whether i'm actually into it or not. When I do that, I find that when worst comes to worst, if nothing comes out of it then at least I have a solid idea how it sounded for the future, then I can pull it up for an idea I may get. So to me it's not a loss at all. FYI this happens all the time, driving on the freeway and realizing I need to get home asap because something just clicked for that tone that I didn't initially write anything with the other day lol.

    3. More important to me, is forcing myself to play on every drum loop I randomly pick for at least 5 mins. It lets me realize all the different ways that I could phrase the same riff. A verse riff may turn into an intro, or chorus, or bridge, whatever. The constant change up is awesome. It's really quite easy for me I found to otherwise fall into the same old trap of me writing the same stuff, same tempo, same structure, same drums, etc... only because I set aside a drum configuration (or tempo) that I otherwise would never give the time of day more than a quick "nope, not that one, next."

    4. Lastly, the songs I write feel more organic and fleshed-out because I went through the above. And it feels more efficient to me, kinda like time well-spent.

    Other days though, i'm couch surfacing with a drink and episode of whatever i'm into.
     
  18. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    3 is an interesting point and not a bad idea.

    I find tone not to be a big issue or distraction for me cause I more or less use the same sound all the time. Guitar tone is not part of a song, to me. Not really, anyway. A bit is either clean, full gain, or somewhere in between, but that's more of a texture thing for the recording process than it is part of the song. I typically try to come up with things where the tone doesn't matter. A lot of time, writing a "riff" originates on an acoustic, then makes its way eventually to full-gain sounds later, but is able to translate back either way.
     
  19. GatherTheArsenal

    GatherTheArsenal Metal Head Farmer

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    That's interesting, so you don't incorporate tone or effects into the writing process at first hey? Does it cross your mind at some point though when you're writing? Like oh this chord or note would sound better if played this light or this heavy taking into account the sound I go for.

    For me it's an integral part of the writing process. Something I come up with unplugged on the couch in front of the TV more often than not surprises me when I dial in a tone and realize I need to change something in the way i'm phrasing or playing it.
     
  20. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Not at all, those things are just textures and not what I consider to be part of the song. The performance is distinct from the song, and besides that, dynamics is not tone. It's one thing to pick lightly to get a certain vibe across, it's a whole other thing to say "ok, this amp with this setting belongs here, this amp with this setting belongs here". Noodling with amp settings is not songwriting.
     

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