I’m Afraid to Write a Song

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Triocd, Sep 21, 2019.

  1. Triocd

    Triocd Member

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    Anyone ever go through this? Been playing a long time but I’ve never written a song. I’m in a band that has some original music out but I’ve only contributed my guitar parts. Never wrote a finished chord progression, melody, and lyrics. I’ve tried a bunch of times but always stop partway through thinking this probably stinks.

    I was watching that ken Burns special the other night and a pair of songwriters had over 900 songs recorded. They were writing several a day. Why can’t I do one?

    Part of the problem is I don’t have any real music training so I don’t really know where to start. I know keys and chords in keys, but that’s about it.

    Any tips for easy songwriting to get the ball rolling?
     

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  2. RLD

    RLD Member

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    It's all in your head...there is nothing stopping you but you.
    I've written hundreds of songs...just sit down and do it.
     
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  3. cheapgtrs

    cheapgtrs Supporting Member

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    If someone has 900 recorded songs they probably have at least as many that they deemed not good enough. You're over thinking it. I don't know of anyone who wrote a masterpiece on their first try. For me personally ideas come in different ways. Sometimes a riff, sometimes as little as a couple lines in a notebook, sometimes on guitar, sometimes bass, sometimes piano. I'll just get a harmony or melody part stuck in my head then try to work something out. I think it was Merle Haggard who said everybody has at least 1 great song in them. I'm still looking for mine.
     
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  4. derekd

    derekd Member

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    Fear of it not being any good? Eh, who cares? Just view it as an experiment to see where the music and your creativity takes you. If nothing else, you'll learn a good bit in the process.

    There will probably be as many ways to approach writing as there are people. When I write, I go someplace quiet and listen for a melody. Influenced by mood, setting, or a mood or attitude I want to explore.

    Once I have a melody I like in my head I work it out on the fretboard then, I start experimenting with chords that feature the melody on top. Keep messing with it until I'm satisfied. Usually at least create an A and B section and sometimes a bridge.

    Lyrics are another thing. I mostly write instrumentals, though only a handful. Good luck with the process.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2019
  5. jkendrick

    jkendrick Member

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    I don’t write as much as I should and I throw away a ton of stuff. But almost always my songs start as experiments.

    My brother-in-law is a touring musician of 20 years and his band has released 12 albums. He writes a song everyday. Most end up in the bin, but pieces of things might end up in a different song. That’s to say he’s written hundreds of songs but only a handful make it to the stage or an album. You just gotta do it.
     
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  6. muzishun

    muzishun Member

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    Who cares!? Lol. Uh, he does. A lot.

    I am sure anyone suffering from this knows they should just do it.

    I do ;)
     
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  7. derekd

    derekd Member

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    You are right, of course.

    I was trying to communicate in a simple way, our culture doesn't value experimentation much because we fear failure. Except, failure is one of the best teachers out there. Ignore all that and just play with it.

    No matter what the subject, there is this sort of unspoken expectation when we approach something we should know what we're doing. I think that sort of expectation/attitude is toxic and keeps people from creating and experimenting with new things.

    Just think how much more cool music we'd have if people ignored this sort of mindset and were more childlike with an attitude of play and curiosity.
     
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  8. Stox

    Stox Member

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    Read this to address your inner life. You need to manage your inner critic.



    https://stevenpressfield.com/books/the-war-of-art/

    As for a way to start, use an existing song you like and use it as a model - just to start. Write a new melody to an existing song, new lyrics, a bridge, etc. anything to get started.
     
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  9. mdubya

    mdubya Member

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    I have been writing songs since I could play two different chords.

    Everytime I would try to learn a cover, either I couldn't finish it because it inspired me to write something different or, if I learned it, it inspired me to write half a dozen originals.

    Point being: it is different for everyone.

    Even 30 + years later, it is common for me to sit down to play and next thing I know I am recording a loop so I won't forget a new riff or idea.

    Go with the flow.
     
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  10. jkendrick

    jkendrick Member

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    If you have a musician friend you could collaborate with that might help. The ability to bounce things off someone else as well as the instant validation of good ideas can really be freeing. It’s especially helpful for me with lyrics and vocal melodies.
     
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  11. leofenderbender

    leofenderbender Supporting Member

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    Work on the words, the melody, and the story. So many of the old favorites are only three chords and a hook.
     
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  12. supergenius365

    supergenius365 Silver Supporting Member

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    Then start by writing a crappy song and learn from it. Heck, Willie Nelson can still write a crappy song or two, and look how long he has been at it.
     
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  13. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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  14. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    I attended the Nick Cave Conversations show last night in DC and one of the questions was from an elementary schoolteacher. He said his students feel constantly under pressure to excel and never look bad - so they're afraid of making mistakes.

    Nick's answer was along the lines of expose them to more beauty, like in the outdoors or something. Sorry, folks, I can't convey with reasonable accuracy what Nick Cave really said, but in his usual poetic and articulate style, he basically said he ain't no psychologist and the teacher will have to figure out himself ways to de-stress those poor kids.

    It's sad that the system is producing kids who are afraid of making mistakes, who grow up into people like the OP (assuming the OP is an adult). No idea what the fix for that would be.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2019
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  15. jkendrick

    jkendrick Member

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    I recently became an elementary school teacher and there is active effort to combat this. The attitude you speak is referred to as a “fixed mindset” and it often results from over encouragement. I and many other educators have growth mindset as a big part of the curriculum.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2019
  16. A. Deafman

    A. Deafman Member

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    Two somewhat contradictory suggestions. First, study the Beatles. It's a cliche as old as time, and I'm rolling my eyes at myself even as I type this. But - in terms of arrangements and song structure they are a great primer. I'd start with Revolver and maybe Abbey Road and see how they put together songs. (BTW, I am not of that generation who happens to think they were the best band in the world. I prefer Rush and Black Sabbath and Tool. But I like the Beatles a whole lot.)

    Second - if you write something and it sounds weird or jarring and unlike your "heroes" or "mentors" - but it doesn't sound forced or phony - I'd say keep it because you're probably on to something!
     
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  17. Ejay

    Ejay Member

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    Writing songs is a skill for a large part....thats why some ppl can write a couple a day.
    Many books have been written about it...read them!

    Regarding your OP...what helps is to go on a mission to write a song and finish it in x hours...Lets say 4 hours. And the “game” is you are not allowed to judge it before its done...to keep the “its not good enough demons” away.
    Maybe you end up with a crappy song...maybe youll have something you want to rewrite parts of (rewriting and throw p away what doesnt work is a very usefull skill)...but you will have 1 song...now you have 0..

    My personal way of work:

    Title and storyline
    Melody and hook for the chorus
    Lyrics for the chorus
    Words and melody for the verses
    Words and melody for the bridge of it needs it.
    Chords (yes...not sooner)
    Arrangement
     
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  18. derekd

    derekd Member

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    Amen to that.

    As a neuropsych guy I bang this drum almost daily in classes.
     
  19. ned7flat5

    ned7flat5 Member

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    The traditional cure-all for a writer’s block or similar inhibition has been to see one’s current or former songwriting bandmates riding about in their new Bentleys.
     
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  20. mikefair

    mikefair Supporting Member

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    You might have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince. Just keep plugging at it. As soon as you write one song that you're proud of and want to present to your bandmates, you will know it immediately.
     
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