How do u write songs?

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by TheSooth, Oct 29, 2014.

  1. TheSooth

    TheSooth Member

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    Hi guys, I have a some trouble, I can't write songs, hm..nope,
    I don't know how to do it.

    I have some kind of technic :shred: but I never trying to write songs, what u doing at first? Creating structure of song, or mb u have some riff and working around that riff?

    Give some advices please, Thanks!
     
  2. Aion

    Aion SS.org Regular

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    I've done a few different things. Mostly I start out with some kind of small idea, whether it be a riff, melody, chord progression, or even just a rhythm. From there I would build the song by taking an element of that idea and then using it to create a new section of the song, from there I would take other ideas from within what had been written before (either the initial section or a new one), build to a climax, and then bring the song to a close.

    One thing I also tried was I wrote a few very short songs (just over a minute) for just piano and violin so they were pretty basic. They were written using the same method as above, I think I wrote about six of them. Each one represented a certain mood or idea for a concept album. From there I wrote out the titles of the songs, what they were about, and from which short songs I was going to build the song from. From there it was pretty similar to what I described before. Take a bit from whatever song I decided to start with, maybe change it a little bit, figure out the next bit and how to transition to it, keep on going like that. Sometimes I would combine two different bits together to make something more interesting than either alone. The result was some sections of songs felt strange and out of place at the time, but later on it would become clear that they were building towards a part of a different song. It created a cohesion of the entire piece more than of the individual songs. It was also the fastest I ever wrote music because the structure of everything was already finished and I just needed to fill in the details.

    Currently I'm trying to write the lyrics first and then melodies to fit them because I tend to write rhythmically complex music and sometimes it gets in the way of the song's melody. Still don't know how it's going to work out, but the single song I'm most proud of was a prog metal setting of Kublah Khan by Coleridge, so having the text first will be just as successful for me as it was when I wrote that.

    Really you need to find out what works for you. There's no right answer. I think it's best to experiment, get used to trying different ways of song writing. I will say that it's generally best to try and reuse elements from within the song as it creates a cohesive sound. Maybe you base riffs off of a chord progression, then you take a part of a riff and turn it into a breakdown, then maybe you bring back in the chord progression and change it slightly, there's a whole lot of things you can do. Meanwhile, try and analyze some of your favorite songs (go for simpler ones at first) and figure out what they're doing in terms of how different sections help build the song. This will give you some ideas to play with. But most important is to just try and write songs. They will suck at first, they'll probably be shorter than you want them to be and sound kind of boring to you, but just like guitar, no one is great the first time they pick it up. Keep going, think about your work critically, and soon you'll bring your songwriting to the level you're looking for.
     
  3. Varcolac

    Varcolac Frets? What frets?

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    Write a melody.

    Write a contrasting melody.

    Arrange both melodies for four-piece band. Bonus: arrange them in several different ways. Double bonus: develop either arrangement or melody into something different.

    Figure out how to transition from one melody to the other.

    Pick a form: AABA, ABCDA, etc.

    Mess around with the number of repeats, which melody is the A section, which arrangement to use, etc.

    Show it to the singer, get him to write some lyrics.

    Add a key change because I am a child of the 1980s and key changes for the last chorus are totally boss.

    Done.
     
  4. Bforber

    Bforber SS.org Regular

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    This made my day. Seriously. I laughed a lot.

    And yea. I usually start with something small, even as small as a single note or chord and let it fly from there. I might listen to another genre of music while I'm writing in a particular style to try and incorporate ideas from it or improvise a little over the top until ideas become a little more solidified.

    The key is to just do it. You can't let the first few things you write down dissuade you into thinking you'll never write a song you're happy with. It takes practice.
     
  5. TheSooth

    TheSooth Member

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    Thanks for replies, I will try and try and try again :shred:

    your words is kind of motivation for me, again thanks :bowdown:
     
  6. ghost_of_karelia

    ghost_of_karelia Utrydd dei Svake

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    The process of songwriting is a highly, highly individual experience. What works for one person won't necessarily work for you. Experiment, try loads of different methods, try without theory, try with theory, try without a guitar, try with a guitar. Try starting with the chord progression/harmony, try starting with the melody, try starting with a particular riff.

    Do whatever you need to do until you find your yellow brick road, man.
     
  7. Aion

    Aion SS.org Regular

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    I agree with pretty much everything you said, but what do you mean try without theory? Whether you mean to or not, there's almost definitely theory involved. And I don't know of a single musician who hasn't benefited by learning theory. Especially once they understand that theory isn't learning the rules of music, but learning how to break the rules of music.
     
  8. Varcolac

    Varcolac Frets? What frets?

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    Yeah, once you've learned the basics it's like saying "write a story without using grammar."

    You can subvert the conventions of grammar - subvert grammar's conventions you can* - and likewise with music theory. Harmonise in tritones all the time (you horrible person), be entirely rhythmic with no melody (hur hur djent lols), be all melody with very ambiguous rhythm (Japanese Honkyoku Shakuhachi music for instance). So long as what you're playing is still recognisable as music, there'll always be a theoretical underpinning, just as any human communication, be it text message, sign language or HTML, has grammar. You might not understand it explicitly, just as you might not be able to name all the parts of speech, but it'll be there.



    *In this situation, Mr Big Noodles is Yoda. Teach you, he will.
     
  9. will_shred

    will_shred Wannabe audio engineer

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    First off, don't force it. If you're not feeling creative, use that time to work on your technique. When you improve your playing, writing will become easier. At least that's been my experience.

    Second, don't be afraid to throw out riffs. Say you write an awesome riff, and it leads you down a path to other cool riffs that groove with it. Than you realize that the first riff you wrote doesn't groove as well with the others as you would like. Don't be afraid to scrap that riff, or save it for another song. Don't try and force riffs together.

    Also, record yourself. A lot. I think that's the single best piece of advice I can offer. Some basic recording equipment and drum software goes a LONG way in improving your song writing, that way you can lay everything out and tweak it and watch the song progress in front of your eyes. Save it for later, come back, see missed opportunities, tweak more. Than get frustrated, scrap the whole song, start over, write an awesome song.

    :yesway:
     
  10. ghost_of_karelia

    ghost_of_karelia Utrydd dei Svake

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    Oh! By that I meant try working from your ears and your ears alone, rather than with a theory-based mathematic/methodic/planned approach. That's what I was trying to convey. :D
     
  11. Solodini

    Solodini MORE RESTS!

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    Not this. Force yourself, examine what you're writing and learn from the failings of it. Watch a movie with a certain atmosphere, make yourself write something similar. Then something completely opposite. If you can understand how to write good stuff without feeling inspired, think of how good you can be when you add inspiration to that. Great composers and songwriters don't just wait to be inspired, they learn the craft. Becoming a better player is only one side of the coin. Compare being a musician to being a painter: get good at painting shapes and straight lines; get good at blending colours. Combine those things and paint what you see to keep yourself good and trying different creative approaches in the times between big inspirations.


    Now, my approach/advice for those learning.

    In short, use chunks of other people's songs as vocabulary and put them in a new context.

    In long:

    Start off by taking the songs you like and breaking them down. Look at the melodies, break them into chunks of phrases or sensible sections of phrases. Take note of how each phrase sounds to you, what feelings it creates. Do that in context of the tune with harmony and on its own.

    Rearrange them into a different order to make a new melody. You don't need to use every chunk, you can repeat bits.

    Make notes on the function of the phrases you broke down. What scale degrees do they use, what are the intervals between the notes of the phrase, what chord tones (degrees of the chord) are they using dependent on the current harmony, where does it land rhythmically (does it resolve on beat 1? Do most notes land on the beat or are they syncopated? Do some notes serve as anacruses?).

    Now subvert that. Try to do the opposite of each of these observations, one at a time. If the phrase uses the root of the current chord, change the harmony so that the chord being used has the 3rd as the current note, or the 5th. Try it so it's not even a chord tone of the current chord. 6ths are pretty cool. (You learn such observations from critical analysis of music, like this). Try making the phrase start at a chord tone and move away from it, instead of resolving at the end. Try shifting it so it's on the beats instead of syncopated/vice versa. Try playing it swung.

    Try moving notes which are a certain interval apart (A and C are a minor 3rd apart) and using that interval elsewhere in the key you're in. If you're in A mnor, that's the tonic and the 3rd of the key. There's also a minor 3rd from B to D, the 2nd and 4th, D and F, the 4th and 5th and so on. Try that interval in a major key, rather than minor. That could be the 2nd and 4th again, the 3rd and 5th, and so on.

    Play one note and play around with rhythms and see what character different sorts of rhythms have, using syncopation, swing, triplets, RESTS, and take notes of each.

    With all of this you should develop a good musical vocabulary. Now decide on what mood you want to create. Combine elements to create that mood. Contrasting elements can help to emphasise what you want, without it being overwhelming and corny. Combine elements for more complex moods: happy and unsure to represent a relationship where you feel amazing but you don't think it'll last; scared but triumphant to represent working through something daunting; sad but hopeful to represent loss and grieving but looking to come out the other side of it.

    Apply structure to help with an intended narrative. Otherwise, if you feel you need a contrasting section to make your point then do so when you feel you've reached an optimal amount of the initial point. Maybe later use a section which shows the combination of both, once you've let each side argue its point, musically.

    I hope that helps some. If you'd like me to elaborate on anything, just ask. :)

    Adam
     
  12. Aion

    Aion SS.org Regular

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    Ah, cool. I get it. If I may hazard a suggestion on top of that, it can be super fun to write something without actively thinking about theory and then looking and see what kind of things you naturally did. A very non-scientific psychological profile of your "natural," musical mind. It can reveal the things you rely on too much, areas you could develop. After all, one of most people's goals is to be able to just play without writing every note or thinking about every little detail. It's a good way to see what you can work on to develop that skill.
     
    ghost_of_karelia likes this.
  13. TallestFiddle

    TallestFiddle SS.org Regular

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    Just write shitty songs. If you come up with a riff that you like just start with that and see if you can do something different after it. Just keep doing that and finishing these short songs. The more you keep doing it the better you'll get.

    And writing guitar with drums will be very beneficial to understanding how a song works. I'd reccommend using guitar pro to write tabs.
     
  14. Ewan

    Ewan SS.org Regular

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    Try writing songs in your head without your instruments present. Write when you're relaxed. Write when you're walking to the training to work, or on the bus, or in the shower. Hum some melodies in your head.

    I can't write with instruments present. I just end up playing what I always play. But I have to be relaxed and able to let my mind wander. When I've come up with a decent idea at some point I'll pick up the guitar and try to play what I'm hearing in my head.

    Once when I had some guys from the band round at my house they asked me to write some new riffs. I told them I couldn't do it, but they pressed me on it, so I went and had a shower. 5 minutes later I came out with some great riffs for our next song.
     
  15. Explorer

    Explorer He seldomly knows...

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    I'm a fan of experimenting.

    However, why not travel a visible path, and see where it leads?

    I highly recommend working your way through The Songwriting Sourcebook - How to Turn Chords into Great Songs, by Rikky Rooksby. It's amazing how inspiring it is to do work on the basic skeleton of a song, and how that framework makes it easier to see what can fill it out.

    I've recommended the book to quite a few people. Three of them actually worked their way through it, and you could tell from their writing that they had.

    It could be that those who didn't feel it worth applying themselves to it just didn't have the energy and drive to succeed anyway, but it was clear that the book had given them enough knowledge to be able to compose effectively, even though they were all writing in different styles.

    If you can find it at your library, work through the first four chapters, and then decide if you want to expand further. Remember to record a few efforts before you start, and then compare to a few efforts after. That's the best way to tell that you've progressed.

    Whatever you decide to do, good luck!
     
  16. wat

    wat SS.org Regular

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    My problem is that I can easily write 1/3 or 1/2 of a song and then it just fizzles out. I get a few pieces that go together really well and it FEELS great but when it comes to actually completing the song I reach a point where I'm so dazzled by possibilities. Then it seems like I can't turn it into a finished idea that I feel begins, progresses and ends in a meaningful way. Been struggling with this for years.
     
  17. n4t

    n4t SS.org Regular

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    Once I get 2-3 parts that work together I find its best to get out the pen and paper and brainstorm the arrangement based on just those initial parts. Its important for me to 'hear' the song in my head as I do this.

    Once the basic structure is there I find it much easier to add bridge, chorus, break, segue, solo and other fun bits. - because the song already has begun to have a 'feel' to it. Sometimes it still take.s awhile to fully flesh it out. If it isn't happening, move on and come back to it.

    Its hard to force creativity, but sometimes to get over the hump you really have to push on when you don't feel like its working. This may be your issue. I know its frustrating for me, and the worst thing to do is stop now. Sometimes its bettter to finish it shitty and fix it later than to leave off and stagnate.

    Play it. Listen to it. Write it on paper. Imagine it in your head. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

    And good luck!
     
  18. TimothyLeary

    TimothyLeary Tune in, Drop out

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    I'll offer that book to my brother as a christmas gift. Thanks for the suggestion.
     
  19. tender_insanity

    tender_insanity SS.org Regular

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    We are doing our next album atm. I write all the songs and none is composed with an instrument in hand. I use mostly Guitar Pro. I just write riffs and melodies with all the instruments needed. Then I combine best ones for a song. When I get through one part, I hear the next part in my head and then just write it down.


    But it wasnt easy in the start. You need to write off the bad riffs and songs!
     
  20. zman5999

    zman5999 Member

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    Just start by writing the first thing that comes into your head and expand on it whether its good or not. Then just continue to do that over and over again (at least once a day) and soon you'll find yourself getting better and better (and more importantly, happier and happier) with your songwriting. Songwriting is just like anything else in music--it takes a lot of practice.
     

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