Simple Song Writing Strategies

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons' started by Skintaster, Sep 16, 2012.

  1. TateTheGreat

    TateTheGreat Senior Member

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    I just think of random things, and fixate on that for lyrics. If I can't come up with a good riff, I will put the lyrics into a melody and build a riff off that. If I have a riff I like then I will put lyrics to it and try to fit something to it. I don't listen to music at the time either, I think it's better to have a clear mind when writing. All the great writers of the past 60yrs all have different methods, ideas when it comes to writing. I think its just a matter of "doing it" and not thinking about it too much.
     
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  2. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Senior Member

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    I do both. I've never had any success on original material. I can't say I've given it my full effort ... the bands I was in, we would work originals into a set of covers, but we were never 100% original.

    But as a musician, writing is absolutely a huge part of it. Whether the songs get heard or not doesn't matter much to me. That they get written is very important -- I use that as a form of coming to grips with what I experience, a kind of a processing tool.

    It was really scary for me putting up my SoundCloud stuff here, because the talent here is phenomenal, and I think I'm pretty normal in being very aware of my own flaws -- but what's the worst you guys can do? Ask for your money back? This is a hell of a lot easier than a hostile club crowd, to me.
     
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  3. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    I'll see your twenty and raise you forty...
     
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  4. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    I agree this seems like a natural chain of events to me. But it's worth remembering that - before the Beatles - playing music and writing music were two different professions (except in jazz, I guess, and even there player-composers were rare).
    The Beatles turned the whole business upside down. "Write their own songs? How dare they!" (The nice story about their first single was that - like any new act - they were given a professionally written song to record. But they supposedly played it deliberately badly, because they wanted to do their own song. And George Martin had the intelligence to see they were good enough. The song they rejected became the first number one for Gerry and The Pacemakers, a few months later.)

    Until the Beatles showed it could be done successfully (and then some!), it was quite natural to trust professional songwriters to deliver the material; they knew what they were doing, just as singers knew their job. You wouldn't ask Elvis to write a song, any more than you'd ask Lieber and Stoller to sing one. No one thought any less of Frank Sinatra for not writing songs - or of (say) Joe Pass for playing standards rather than his own tunes.

    But of course once the Beatles made it big with their own tunes, EVERYONE thought they could do the same. Some could (Jagger-Richard for one); some couldn't.
    And in a sense, once everyone writes their own songs, then that becomes the norm, even if the songs aren't very good (or rather, have different criteria to those of the old Tin Pan Alley writers). All that matters is what's "cool", not what's "good". Or rather, what's "cool" IS "good", by definition.
    The bands that came up in the 1960s knew just what kind of music they wanted to play. And it sure wasn't 1950s pop! There was no option but to write it themselves, even if that just meant jamming aimlessly for a while until something catchy turned up.
     
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  5. slapshot

    slapshot Senior Member

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    I'll add a tip.
    "the worst song you write yourself will always be light years better than a note perfect rendition of someone else's song"

    dunno how many times I've seen this used in a derogatory way but it's ridiculously true.
    [​IMG]

    writing music isn't rocket science and when you do there's no reason to reinvent the wheel.
     
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  6. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    Me too. When I had my first guitar (age 16) I wrote four tunes in the first week. And actually "wrote" them too, in pencil on manuscript (I learned notation in school).
    I just seemed a totally natural thing to want to do. This was MY thing, I was making MY sounds.
    Of course, I was copying (very crudely) the sounds in the kind of music I liked. But I saw no reason not to try and do it myself. Of course I couldn't write like a pro; but then I couldn't play like a pro, so what's the difference? ;)

    What always held me back from performing the songs, or introducing them in my various bands, was (mostly) being unable to sing. I was too precious about retaining artistic control of them to allow anyone else to collaborate, or to sing them their way (because I couldn't properly demonstrate how they should be sung).
    There was one exception, where a band I was in encouraged me to actually sing a couple of my own songs. But (and I have the tapes to prove it :() they sounded terrible, because I could barely pitch properly.

    I do understand that some guitarists are just interested in guitar. They play guitar because they love guitar so much (this site is called "mylespaul" for instance). These kind of players are usually happy to just play, achieving technical excellence on the instrument, taking compositional skills no further than improvisation. Me, I play guitar because I love music. I want to make music, any way I can. I play other instruments too, and wish I could play more. (I was making music with home made instruments and tape recorders before I owned a guitar.) Whether it's my music or someone else's, I'm far less bothered about instrumental skill on the guitar, more by the quality of the whole piece of music.
     
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  7. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    Reminds me of a great quote from Paul McCartney talking about how The Beatles got into writting songs: "Every time we learned a new chord, we'd write a song with it."

    That's the best advice anyone could get.
     
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  8. WhippingPost

    WhippingPost Senior Member

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    I like everything I'm reading here, and I'm reading with great interest. Writing the music side of a song (or at least the framework for it) comes easy to me: I pick up a guitar, find a chord or sound that evokes a certain feeling from within, and it's just there. Lyrics are where I struggle: I know what I want to say, but just can't seem to say it 99% of the time. When I am lucky enough to have the lyrics come to me, I'm usually in a position where I can't get them down in a reasonable amount of time. Gone forever.

    I'll get it all worked out some day. :thumb: Keep up the great thread!
     
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  9. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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  10. slapshot

    slapshot Senior Member

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    first step is to decide if i'm gonna start this one in A or D then go from there :)
     
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  11. JonR

    JonR Senior Member

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    :D
    With me, it's usually E or C...
     
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  12. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Senior Member

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    Indeed. It just so happens that I find guitar easiest to translate the music I hear in my head ... but I'll give anything a spin and start sculpting air with it. Because it's about the music first, and the guitar is the tool by which my inner voice speaks.

    I remember being horrified at Jason Becker's fate, a guitarist seemingly able to play anything he wished being doomed to a life of paralysis. But his example, of soldiering on because he served the music and not the shredderry, inspired me to reexamine what it was that made me want to play. And I realized that it's about communicating in this non-verbal language we speak that was important for me.

    I don't disparage guitarists who don't compose. They have different things to say, is all; and it still behooves me to listen.
     
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  13. Skintaster

    Skintaster V.I.P. Member

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    I think that on a personal level, one of the reasons I'va always tried to write my own material instead of learning a lot of other people's songs is that when I was in the early days of my interest with guitar, I was a punk rock kid. After learning a bunch of stuff from bands like Black Flag, I realized that one of the great things about the music I was into, was that it was usually fairly simple, and I could probably write some myself.

    As I developed as a player, I got into other styles of music, some much more technically challenging, but I always kept that punk rock "do it yourself" spirit, and it's stuck with me to this day.

    It's really amazing how much variety can be wrung out of three or four chords, and how much diverse musical ground those chords can cover. :thumb:
     
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  14. TravisW

    TravisW Senior Member

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    If it wasn't for writing, I'd have probably stopped playing guitar 20 years ago. Writing has proven to be a way to stretch my abilities and learn to express myself that I never really got from learning other people's stuff.

    I'm due to eventually do a video for my guitar build thread. At the same time, I've kicked around the idea of doing a "writing a song in real time" video. Maybe I'll do that and you can all get a laugh at whatever I come up with.
     
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  15. Malikon

    Malikon ジャンプアップ V.I.P. Member

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    I find that (and maybe it's just me) but since I write my own material I have zero interest in hearing cover songs.

    All over youtube and guitar sites I see people post videos of covers, and I couldn't be less interested. I'd rather hear the original artist then a note for note rendition.

    It can be frustrating though when you've poured your soul into a song and shared it, and it gets a couple of views and no response in a thread. But then underneath it is someone playing an Ozzy song or something and the thread is on page 5 and the youtube views are like 10,000.

    It's very hard to get people to listen to original music. It can almost be discouraging at times.

    The girls on Youtube playing covers that have like a million views I find particularly annoying.

    I'm sure it's my own ego, but I'm always like, "F**k! Why can't I get more people to listen to my stuff?!"

    I'll get PM's sometimes from people about my Element 115 song and they're like, "I've seen it posted a bunch of times but I just now listened to it and I like it!" and I always think, "why did you ignore it the first 'bunch of times' you saw it?" :hmm:

    It's hard nowadays to get people to listen. Plus in a way you're 'competing' against a billion other guitar players for 5 minutes of someones attention.

    And what if a lot of your songs sound different? People hear one song and go, "Oh, he plays like that."

    When actually no, you only listened to one song!

    it can be a tough crowd. And you do get some hateful comments and trolls. (though since it's my music channel I tend to just delete the nonsense.)

    I don't mind criticism but out and out trolls get deleted.

    I try to remind myself I really write for me and while I like it if people like what I write, my world doesn't hang in the balance of it being accepted.
     
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  16. notjoeaverage

    notjoeaverage Senior Member

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    Something that may get others to climb aboard

    "For many people, listening to music elicits such an emotional response that the idea of dredging it for statistics and structure can seem odd or even misguided. But knowing these patterns can give one a deeper more fundamental sense for how music works; for me this makes listening to music a lot more interesting. Of course, if you play an instrument or want to write songs, being aware of these things is obviously of great practical importance.

    In this article, we’ll look at the statistics gathered from 1300 choruses, verses, etc. of popular songs to discover the answer to a few basic questions. First we’ll look at the relative popularity of different chords based on the frequency that they appear in the chord progressions of popular music. Then we’ll begin to look at the relationship that different chords have with one another. For example, if a chord is found in a song, what can we say about the probability for what the next chord will be that comes after it?"

    The rest of the article

    I analyzed the chords of 1300 popular songs for patterns. This is what I found. | Blog – Hooktheory
     
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  17. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    That's an interesting site. Obvously the results are dependant on the type of songs they have used - more top 40 than blues-rocky, for instance - but there is a lot of stuff there that supports some of my own ideas about who/what/where/why... :)

    (In particular that data could be used to build a case for the dubunking of the need for equal temperament, which is a pet topic of mine, but let's save theat for another day shall we? ;: )
     
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  18. notjoeaverage

    notjoeaverage Senior Member

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    I thought you guys would find it interesting
     
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  19. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Senior Member

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    Paint-by-numbers?
     
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  20. notjoeaverage

    notjoeaverage Senior Member

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    I think that's all pop music is

    a basic chord progression or two

    lyrics are done with basic rhyme schemes AABB or ABAB

    Have You Mastered all 7 of these Basic Rhyme Schemes?

    then someone hands it to Britney Spears or Justin Bieber it gets recorded and brain dead teens get their parnets to but it for them.

    I have a feeling those were the ones used for the study.
     
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