Method or Madness

Songwriting, songwriters, etc

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kouly
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Method or Madness

Post by kouly » Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:01 pm

Hi, As a new member and songwriter I thought I would ask you folks what method(s) you useto write your music. I am interested in the music aspect since I write instrumentalsat the present time. I am talking how you get the music going.Since I have no formal musical training and play mostly by ear, I am reading Jason Blumes books. After seeing some posts on this board, I get the feeling that my way of doing it is unusual. Apparently, many people come up with a melody first and then work out the chords. I on the other hand can't seem to generate a melody with out some kind of chord structure and this structure for me has to be a dynamic thing in itself. I just can't hit a C, F then G chord and then start humming. I can play my guitar for an hour trying different chord combinations and though they can fit together theoretically unless they "SING" to me I cant do anything with them.Another thing is that I have to record these sessions or I will forget any idea that doescome about (getting older stinks). After getting the first good chord structure down in the DAW, I can then build on it (hopefully). I think I use my engineering skills to make up for my song writing skills. Another strange thing I have noticed is that although I havem been playing the guitar on and off for 28 years, (actual time probably adds up to about 8 months) I just started playing the keyboards. I bought a new synth when my old one finally died. It sounds are so amazing in comparison to my last one that I have used it instead of my guitar to write the most of my half dozen pieces of music. I think this is because I have not developed any "ruts" yet with this instrument. After the basics are down with the keyboards, I then go back and add the guitar if any. I have also found having a rhythm track going helps but I can go through quite a few of those before one"speaks" to me. So I would like to hear what methods you use to come up with your musical ideas and any thought you might have on my method (if you can call it that).Thanks for your input, K

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Re: Method or Madness

Post by davewalton » Mon Feb 05, 2007 4:42 am

Quote:So I would like to hear what methods you use to come up with your musical ideas and any thought you might have on my method (if you can call it that).Hi Kouly,That's one of the things I really like about this board is that it brings a level of reality to what I sometimes think.I used to think that everyone was more methodical, organized, etc than me when it came to composition and some are but from what I've read from others it's mostly a combination of method and madness. It was kind of a relief to find out I'm not as different as I thought I was. I'm like you, I do instrumentals and have only a smattering of formal training and I play by ear. Maybe my "inspiration" is more madness than method because I get my ideas in a variety of ways. Sometimes I develop the entire song with nothing but a drum/percussion track. I'll lay out the whole song, all the sections, using just drum/percussion. I might add that I'm not a drummer/percussionist and rely almost exclusively on various drum/percussion loop packages. Anyway, once the drum/percussion stuff is laid out I'll go back and create the music to follow along with the drums/percussion. That works well sometimes because I've already built a format and have the rhythm and groove established. This is especially true for orchestral based action cues.Sometimes what I write is based on a particular patch sound. I especially like "rhythmic" patches that breathe a lot of life simply by holding down a note or chord. I might spend a lot of time finding something I like in terms of the sound and/or rhythm and then start from there and build things up. I think mostly I try to create a short musical phrase or chord pattern/rhythm, something that I can use as the foundation to build on throughout the piece. Kind of like the way electronica music is constructed but with more variety. It's kind of repetitive sometimes but has worked well for me. Generally I always need some kind of reference/inspiration to what I'm doing. If I'm doing a piece in a certain style I'll listen to artists that do that style well. No copying of course but it helps me get into the frame of mind in terms of the overall sound and feel.HTH,Dave

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Re: Method or Madness

Post by hummingbird » Mon Feb 05, 2007 9:05 am

Welcome Kouly, good post! I'm currently in a fever of songwriting, as I signed up for FAWM (February Album Writing Month personal challenge), and so I've been writing every day. For me there is no hard and fast rule, but basically, I write one of two ways.1 - write & rewrite the lyrics until they have (hopefully) good structure, contrast, etc. Then I will look at the lyrics and, improvising, sing the first line... I do that until I feel something (like you, they sing to me) in response, then I take that into the next line, etc. As I improvise, I find chords that fit what I'm doing. Sometimes, if I've played a chord, I try various different chords to see what might follow it... and follow my instincts... again, if I feel something.2 - similar to Dave, I improvise a melodic motif... maybe 5 or 6 notes... on the piano, or singing (I tend to sing my ideas & then play them on the piano). I find the chords that feel right for that motif, so then I play what I have, stop... and sing the next note that comes to me. Then I find the chord for that, etc... Where I'm lacking in this process, is to also think of groove... that's something I'm working on.I often record my improvisations as I don't want to forget what I've done.... I might improvise the same line 10 times, and then think - what was that second one??One of my FAWM compositions, "Shadowfax" was created from a simple 5 note motif I improvised, and expanded from there. It's still a work in progress (I'm awaiting my new audio system), but if you're interested, it's posted at...http://www.mixposure.com/song.php?songid=35447Really, I don't think the method really matters. I think you have to follow your muse and just allow... get something down, and trust the process. Later you can edit/rewrite.Do you have anything on-line? Love to hear something.warmlyHummingbird
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Re: Method or Madness

Post by arkjack » Mon Feb 05, 2007 11:26 am

For me, I'm a systems guy, so I like to say its method. I've tried getting drunk or better and hang out in a cave with a recorder and some instruments and just jam away at chords and riffs to see what comes out, but I usually find that most of it is just blues stuff and its rare that I find anything unique using the chaotic process.As far as Jason Blume's advice, I always used to write from a guitar progression, whcih JB says leads you to very predictable and often non-contrasting melodies. I think he has a point... so I've been trying more to start with the title, or a melody, or an idea... then try to create something without resorting to the guitar chords. Of course there are the times where I already have more than half the song in my head and just pick up a guitar and work it out and get it down, but usually its a pretty standard progression and melody. I try to write my jazz and instrumental material applying theory. For groove, I usually have the meter in mind before I try drum patterns... Just as something of interest, I am posting a link to an instrumental from my bj site... It came about when the digital recorder had loaded one song, but the midi and synth were setup to play a different song... when I heard it I said .. mmm that's cool ..... wonder what its doing.... so just an example that some ideas can come out of the blue from something totally unitended... here's the link...http://www.broadjam.com/transmit/transm ... q=1ArkJAck

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Re: Method or Madness

Post by og » Mon Feb 05, 2007 3:58 pm

I sometimes get a chord progression or simple lick that I like and keep playing it over a period of time until lyrics come that seem to fit. Other times I write a verse of lyrics, come up with a melody, the (under the constant thrashing of Taxi screeners) try to make it a little unique. Inspiration songs often use the chord progressions, and the other method gets used for the "I'm gonna write a song about..."

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Re: Method or Madness

Post by kouly » Tue Feb 06, 2007 11:46 pm

Well it is good to see that I am not so different after all. Dave I think we live in the same neighborhood. So I feel better already. Unless we are both mad. In which case it is better to have some company. I think there are more people that write like this than one would think. Congrats on the Oprah thing, you have some great sounding stuff. Hummingbird. I really like your work. Shadowfax is quite good at giving the listener a feel of the LOTR world and when you know the story it seems very on target. I read your Bio and am honored that you would like to hear me work. So here goes, I have a few pieces at http://www.garageband.com/artist/whitewing Let me know what you think. I am always looking for ways to improve. ArkJack, I don't think I will try the cave method, though when I was 17 I did sit on top of one of our local mountains and play my guitar all day. Nothing came of it, so I do most of my playing indoors now. I like that track it has a nice driving rhythm to it. OG, I am right there with you clutching at straws now and then. You have a smooth style and the Taxi song made me smile.

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Re: Method or Madness

Post by og » Wed Feb 07, 2007 3:59 pm

Thank you, kouly. Appreciate it.

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Re: Method or Madness

Post by jeffe » Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:51 am

All my inspiration comes to me whenever I'm doing stuff not related to music. Then I have to rush around looking for a scrap of paper, then my guitar to put down a basic chord structure so I can remember it. It sounds chaotic, but it produces the best results for me. The inspiration normally comes when I'm humming away whilst making a drink or preparing my meals. It''ll either be verses or choruses, or maybe both. I get that nearly all day long. I discard everything that doesn't grab me and keep whatever I feel has an edge.I don't think there's any standard way to get the best results. They all come from ideas. Each of us is different in the way we receive that inspiration.I thin kit's a good idea to try and bring anything half decent into reality. Even if it isn't a hit, because once it's down, your mind will move on to other ideas.I do believe that the more you do, the better you get.It's a bit like learning to play an instrument, only the instrument is your inspiration.
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Re: Method or Madness

Post by jchitty » Fri Mar 16, 2007 1:57 pm

Just wanted to say welcome to Jeffe....whereabouts in England is Chichester located? I've met a Brit or two in my internet travels, one from Manchester and one from London. They all had fun, ironic senses of humor which were totally lost on me sometimes. I'm from the American South.

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Re: Method or Madness

Post by jchitty » Fri Mar 16, 2007 2:13 pm

Quote:Hi, As a new member and songwriter I thought I would ask you folks what method(s) you useto write your music. I am interested in the music aspect since I write instrumentalsat the present time. I am talking how you get the music going.Since I have no formal musical training and play mostly by ear, I am reading Jason Blumes books. After seeing some posts on this board, I get the feeling that my way of doing it is unusual. Apparently, many people come up with a melody first and then work out the chords. I on the other hand can't seem to generate a melody with out some kind of chord structure and this structure for me has to be a dynamic thing in itself. I just can't hit a C, F then G chord and then start humming. I can play my guitar for an hour trying different chord combinations and though they can fit together theoretically unless they "SING" to me I cant do anything with them.Another thing is that I have to record these sessions or I will forget any idea that doescome about (getting older stinks). After getting the first good chord structure down in the DAW, I can then build on it (hopefully). I think I use my engineering skills to make up for my song writing skills. Another strange thing I have noticed is that although I havem been playing the guitar on and off for 28 years, (actual time probably adds up to about 8 months) I just started playing the keyboards. I bought a new synth when my old one finally died. It sounds are so amazing in comparison to my last one that I have used it instead of my guitar to write the most of my half dozen pieces of music. I think this is because I have not developed any "ruts" yet with this instrument. After the basics are down with the keyboards, I then go back and add the guitar if any. I have also found having a rhythm track going helps but I can go through quite a few of those before one"speaks" to me. So I would like to hear what methods you use to come up with your musical ideas and any thought you might have on my method (if you can call it that).Thanks for your input, KHey, KoulyI don't think there is one method for writing songs. Sometimes, I come up with the melody first, and then sometimes, I come up with a phrase first (that's usually my hook), and I'll put that phrase to a melody. I used to really feel like I was different because I didn't play an instrument when I started writing songs. I would just hum my melody into a tape recorder (the melody in my head of course), and then I'd put the words to it. I started taking guitar lessons because I felt this would make me a better songwriter. While I've learned to play the guitar a bit (although not well, hehe), I find that I'm still using the 'sing into the tape recorder' method to write my songs because it really helps my creative flow....I find that if I have to 'think about' plotting chords to my music, it ends up sounding wooden, at least for me....so I just let the melody flow in my mind, and then I put the chords to it after I'm finished writing the whole song, words and melody. Also, sometimes I just sing a capella into the tape recorder, burn it onto a CD, and then have the song fully produced by a good demo service like Beaird Music Group.I get my inspirations everywhere, and while I'm not a person who can write without an inspiration, I'm always alert to things around me (what people say and do) because this is what gives me ideas for my songs. I didn't start writing until January of 2006. Since then, I've written a lot of songs. When I was younger, I always wrote snippets of songs, but I didn't even think of myself as a songwriter....I'd just throw those snippets in a drawer. I just thought of it as a silly hobby I had. All of sudden last year, I started finishing my songs, so for me, this is all kind of new.So really, your way of writing song isn't all that unsual probably, just go with what works for you.

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