Song writing

Dilemma

Loud Pipes Ruin Naps
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Just do it. Don’t agonize about whether or not it’s any good just DO it. Pickup your guitar, start noodling. If you find yourself falling into familiar licks, stop. Redirect yourself.

My wife hollered down to my just the other day; “What was that? I liked that.” I told her I didn’t know what it was I was just playing something that sounded pleasing to me. I was droning on the A string with my thumb and picking a melody on the top three strings. Is it a song? Nope. But it’s the germ of an idea.

You can’t write Hey Jude right out of the blocks. But you can’t write ANYTHING if you don’t try.
 

Cozmik Cowboy

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Don't write "lyrics",..learn to write poems. Read a lot of poems,...read a lot of books and find poetry in the words, (stephen king is great at this, there isn't a single book of his I've read that didn't have hidden poems in it.) When you read something in a book like, "The scream shattered the night like gunshots in the distance." (or something equally cliche) ...that's poetry. learn to identify it.

Then write poems, assemble a journal of poems. Then when you have a song, see what poems fit.

Edit, cut out the words you don't need. Streamline the poem until you have lyrics.

Songwriting is a craft, and crafting takes practice.

And I don't say any of this like "high and mighty" ,....I'm a practicing craftsmen myself. Always a student and never a Master.

It's carpentry with words and a guitar.
I might add - some of the best poets write songs.
Study the lyrics Robert Hunter, Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson, Neil Young, Phil Ochs*, Richard Thompson, etc.

*I admit, some of Phil's protest songs are a bit strident. But listen - carefully - to the Pleasures Of The Harbor album; sheer brilliance of language.
 

Brians Evil Twin

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I would love to be able to write a song
To tell you how I've been since you've been gone
But my mind cant put how my heart feels into words.
I'd love to tell the story of my pain
About how much I'd give to see you again
But I can't, I just set here alone with the hurt.
I've transcribed hundreds of songs, written a few dozen and helped my friends write few more.
Those lyrics above aren't so bad, it depends a lot on the music underneath, the vocal delivery and the ability of the singer to sell it.
When you transcribe a lot of songs, you'll find out very quickly that many hit songs are sappy as hell, but the singer makes it believable.
In contrast, sometimes a song is so great that a rough delivery doesn't hurt it:


I think it's important to start out with something that evokes a picture in your mind, something "cinematic" if you will.
For instance in the Tom Waits song above:

Well you gassed her up
Behind the wheel
With your arm around your sweet one
In your Oldsmobile
Barrelin' down the boulevard

You're looking for the heart of Saturday night


This sets the stage for the rest of the song. In your mind you can see the car, the place, the people, the feeling of the time.
Then more imagery in the chorus:

And you got paid on Friday
And your pockets are jinglin'
And you see the lights
You get all tinglin' cause you're cruisin' with a 6

And you're looking for the heart of Saturday night


As things develop, there are even more evocative images:

Then you comb your hair
Shave your face
Tryin' to wipe out ev'ry trace
All the other days
In the week you know that this'll be the Saturday
You're reachin' your peak

Stoppin' on the red
You're goin' on the green

'Cause tonight'll be like nothin'
You've ever seen
And you're barrelin' down the boulevard
Lookin' for the heart of Saturday night


Tell me is the crack of the poolballs, neon buzzin?
Telephone's ringin'; it's your second cousin
Is it the barmaid that's smilin' from the corner of her eye?

Magic of the melancholy tear in your eye.

Makes it kind of quiver down in the core
'Cause you're dreamin' of them Saturdays that came before
And now you're stumblin'
You're stumblin' onto the heart of Saturday night

 

Brians Evil Twin

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One more not trying to be serious

You got your hat on backwards and your sleeves cut off
Live in hollywood sing with a southern drawl
daddys a lawyer aint country at all

But when you walk on stage you say HEY Y'ALL
WANNABE COUNTRY YOU AINT FROM THE HILLS
WANNABE COUNTRY CAUSE ITS PAYIN THE BILLS
WANNABE COUNTRY YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED
WANNABE COUNTRY GIVIN COUNTRY A BAD NAME

Worn out boots and wore out jeans
Skoal ring on the pocket you had to pay for those things
It's all just an image built by corporate kings
Without auto tune you couldn't sing a damned thing


WANNABE COUNTRY YOU AINT FROM THE HILLS
WANNABE COUNTRY CAUSE ITS PAYIN THE BILLS
WANNABE COUNTRY YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED
WANNABE COUNTRY GIVIN COUNTRY A BAD NAME
See now that one's got some solid imagery in it.
The hat, cutoff vest, boots, jeans, Skoal ring, etc.
You can see this dude in your mind.
Song has potential...
 

freak

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read some lyrics to some songs. They sometimes suck. add some music, change the melody, and it works. Not sure if the average person even 'hears' the lyrics, as opposed to the melody.
I mentioned earlier to step outside your comfort zone, but also take a listen to some people in your own genre, or what you are trying to be. see what they do.
 

defcrew

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There's no "right" way to write a song. The best ones seem to write themselves because of something truthful you are imparting. One thing I notice in your song lyrics--and they are not bad and they are truthful--is a lack of visual images, metaphors, etc. One of the tenets of writing be it lyrics or otherwise is "show me don't tell me."

You have a song about losing your son and its very real and true so whatever you are feeling is certainly that. And everyone has losses of one kind or another and the pain of that is kind of universal. When my aunt died years ago my uncle said some mornings he caught himself waking up and making two cups of coffee and wondered how long it would be before he'd quit doing that. That always stuck with me and once when my sis was diagnosed with cancer one of those songs kind of wrote itself and I used the imagery thinking of the uncle--tying the two commonalities--which was despair imagining myself in that situation. Wrote one once for a friend who had lost an infant that just wrote itself. Very weird experience. She said that I had expressed stuff she never told anyone. I'm not trying to brag or act like I'm some kind of oracle. I'm just saying that all this human stuff is out there to be picked up on your antennae. The best ideas both musically and lyrically are the simplest ones on the surface.

Writing about loss and so on is pretty heavy for your average bar room crowd but my attitude is pretty much fuck 'em. Your songs don't have to be played for anybody, really. You're not trying to become an international super star. IMO, a "good bar band" is about the most depressing thing in the world. Ask yourself why you got into playing in the first place and follow that. But for God's sake, don't let the opinions of a bunch of drunk people in a bar define whether you think something you're doing is good or not. Drunks can be entertained with a Slinky.

Lots of good suggestions by everyone. It isn't easy and it isn't hard. I've written hundreds of songs over the years in all kinds of dif ways and I always feel like maybe I've got 3 good ones and then I say, "Nah, they all suck."

Above all else, just keep pushing forward and being musically curious. I play with some folks sometimes who are content to do the same thing they were doing 40 years ago...same songs, same attitude, same licks. Music or otherwise, with no curiosity you're just an automaton going through the motions. It's all been done true enough...but not by you. Try to flow as best you can. As bowie once wrote: When it's good it's really good and when it's bad I fall to pieces.:laugh2:
 

freebyrd 69

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Just do it. Don’t agonize about whether or not it’s any good just DO it. Pickup your guitar, start noodling. If you find yourself falling into familiar licks, stop. Redirect yourself.

My wife hollered down to my just the other day; “What was that? I liked that.” I told her I didn’t know what it was I was just playing something that sounded pleasing to me. I was droning on the A string with my thumb and picking a melody on the top three strings. Is it a song? Nope. But it’s the germ of an idea.

You can’t write Hey Jude right out of the blocks. But you can’t write ANYTHING if you don’t try.
Jeanette hollers that same thing down the stairs too.......every time I stop playing. :rofl:
 

Malikon

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I'm so jealous of the angels
Cause they get to See your smile
They get to hear your guitar playing I havent heard in quite a while.
They get to hear your laughter
All I get to do is cry
I'm so jealous of the angels, they never have to say goodbye
jealous of the angels
they get to feel your smile
to hear that guitar playing
I havent heard in a while.
They get to hear your laughter
While all I get is tears
jealous of the angels who never feel the years



edit, edit, edit, edit, edit.

did I mention edit?

..think of the Michaelangelo quote about removing the extra pieces you don't need. Streamline things.

at least that's been my approach, ..everyone has a different process. And again each song is different. Some start with lyrics, some start with a riff or a melody, some start with a chord progression. It's always different. You just have to learn to let it happen, remember what happened, and then refine it.

Just let it happen, know that some will be stinkers,....and try not to share the stinkers with people. :laugh2:


edit: and remember the songs you work the hardest on will be the least popular, and the ones that come together in 5 minutes will be the most popular. :laugh2:
 

defcrew

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jealous of the angels
they get to feel your smile
to hear that guitar playing
I havent heard in a while.
They get to hear your laughter
While all I get is tears
jealous of the angels who never feel the years



edit, edit, edit, edit, edit.

did I mention edit?

..think of the Michaelangelo quote about removing the extra pieces you don't need. Streamline things.

at least that's been my approach, ..everyone has a different process. And again each song is different. Some start with lyrics, some start with a riff or a melody, some start with a chord progression. It's always different. You just have to learn to let it happen, remember what happened, and then refine it.

Just let it happen, know that some will be stinkers,....and try not to share the stinkers with people. :laugh2:


edit: and remember the songs you work the hardest on will be the least popular, and the ones that come together in 5 minutes will be the most popular. :laugh2:
So true. I was working and working on this song once and thought I'd take a break and just write something to clear my head. Took about as long to write as it does to play and became about our most popular song for years and years. The other one is lost to the ages. Your suggestion to edit is also good. Songs are never really done. A lot of the writing takes place away from your instrument.
 

Shred Astaire

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I don’t write songs I guess...just pieces.

I don’t write any lyrics at all. I guess I don’t have anything to say with words. But I like saying stuff with sounds and I think I’m pretty good at it for the most part. Not pro that’s for certain but for a hobby and a way to express and release. ...I am happy.
 

Malikon

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also there's the advice of, "Write the songs that you want to hear."

that's been a good one too over the years. If I had an idea, "man it would be a cool if a song did this.." ...I'd go about making that happen
 

defcrew

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also there's the advice of, "Write the songs that you want to hear."

that's been a good one too over the years. If I had an idea, "man it would be a cool if a song did this.." ...I'd go about making that happen
I call that the Golden Rule. Be the band you'd like to hear. It has failed me spectacularly! Keep calm and move forward.
 

OHIOSTEVE

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jealous of the angels
they get to feel your smile
to hear that guitar playing
I havent heard in a while.
They get to hear your laughter
While all I get is tears
jealous of the angels who never feel the years



edit, edit, edit, edit, edit.

did I mention edit?

..think of the Michaelangelo quote about removing the extra pieces you don't need. Streamline things.

at least that's been my approach, ..everyone has a different process. And again each song is different. Some start with lyrics, some start with a riff or a melody, some start with a chord progression. It's always different. You just have to learn to let it happen, remember what happened, and then refine it.

Just let it happen, know that some will be stinkers,....and try not to share the stinkers with people. :laugh2:


edit: and remember the songs you work the hardest on will be the least popular, and the ones that come together in 5 minutes will be the most popular. :laugh2:
DON'T WANNA LIVE WITHOUT YOU
IT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY
YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BURY ME
AND STAND CRYING AT MY GRAVE.

BUT HERE I AM LOOKING AT
YOUR HEADSTONE AND IT READS
A LOVING SON GONE TOO SOON
I FALL DOWN ON MY KNEES

jealous of the angels
they get to See your smile
to hear your guitar playing
I havent heard in quite a while.
They get to hear your laughter
All I get to do is cry
Ijealous of the angels,
they never have to say goodbye

I hope youre with your grandpa
singing amazing grace
I know how happy he must be
to see your smiling face
Isomeday I'll be with you
We'll play freebird one more time
But for now I'll sing wish you were here
And if I could only fly.


jealous of the angels
they get to See your smile
to hear your guitar playing
I havent heard in quite a while.
They get to hear your laughter
All I get to do is cry
jealous of the angels,
they never have to say goodbye
 
Last edited:

Jymbopalyse

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Having trouble finishing a song.

Just say to yourself . . . . what would John Lennon do.

:420:
 

Tim Fezziwig

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Negativity defeats ART. Never say you can't, you can. I tried being a cover guitarist-no go, couldn't get the feel. I then wrote 'basic" PUNK ROCK . EEE-DDD-AAA-BBB- with vocals on every down-pick. I got better. I then used open chords+small fills. Now, I have over 50 songs-all different. I still play my early PUNK stuff. Simple never gets old.
 

Duane_the_tub

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Take it right back to freshman Lit class: Show, don't tell.

The sappy, cliched lyrics come from being too blatant, or on-the-nose, with what you say. Instead of saying that you're lonely, think of a creative way to describe how a single action reflects your loneliness. "Having late-night conversations with the dial tone."
Try to take the adjectives in your songs - scared, excited, happy, angry, etc. - and replace them with scenes that illustrate the word, rather than the word itself.
 

Tim Fezziwig

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All the "pretty" gets old. I love .....I miss.....I hurt....OK for a Coffee house. I'm playing for drunken mutants, they get,

"Hey DRUNK, this is about Satan's Son.....

Flesheater comin into town tonight
Flesheater give you a fright
Flesheater knows what he wants
Flesheater grunts and groans

Not everything has to rhyme. Rhymes become traps.
Wants and groans I make work. All in phrasing

Flesheater comes from Satan's groin
Flesheater will destroy
Flesheater likes your little girl
Flesheater will rule the.....WWWWWWWWWOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRLLLLDDDDDD

Groin and girl "almost" fit. Destroy and WWWWWWWOOOOORRRRLLLDD.........close enough for R+R. I still love playing this 4 chorder.
 

Mark V Guitars

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Between Jackson Brown and Don Henley, I'd say it just takes a lot of patience, and diligence and hot tea. Keep at it. Eventually, if you've practiced enough writing, something may click in your head and the words turn into songs. I know. I'm doing it now. I desperately want to write a couple of original tunes and perform them in front of 10k people. It's a goal of mine...if I can get to that point before I keel over.
 




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