Songwriting Process

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by morr4925, Dec 21, 2009.


  1. morr4925

    morr4925 Member

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    Explain to me how you all go about writing songs. I assume I'll see the standard responses about life stories, broken hearts, world events, etc. When I write, I never have lyrics. It's usually the guitar parts, and then whatever words sound good together. And then the lyrics usually get tossed in the trash because they just sound cheesy. I'm the type of person who doesn't have a lot to get off my chest. Usually am coming up with what sounds good with a melody.

    Any care to share their songwriting process with me?
     
  2. Full Monty

    Full Monty Member

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    I recently changed my approach. I'd always aimed to have a complete song before recording it but I realised that with modern technology I could lay down a groove/riff/chord pattern with some simple drums and a scratch melody very quickly and then come back to it to add or arrange. That said my best songs are written very quickly with words, melody, chords and rhythm all seeming to come at once.:JAM
     
  3. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels Silver Supporting Member

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    Usually, phrases pop into my head at inopportune moments - when I can't write them down, like in the car. The best ones are good enough to stick in my head long enough for me to revise them and turn them into a song. Sometimes I just start off with lyrics, but often the lyrics and melody are coeval. I, also, am not someone with a whole lot of emotion to express, so I often end up writing songs about guitars or transcribing true stories.
     
  4. chucke99

    chucke99 Member

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    I play my guitar, trying to come up with an inventive chord combination (in other words, staying away from old, over-used, tired progressions). If I find one that my ear likes, I start to scat sing over the top, trying to fit an also-inventive melody to the chords. If that works, I consider that the "seed" of a new song, and then let it grow organically from there. (At this point, the tape player is running, to catch any passing inspiration.) What comes next may be snippets of words that fit the melody, or it may be another part to the song (the original may end up being the verse, chorus, or even break/bridge). This process can take days or weeks to produce a finished song, or it can take twenty minutes.
     
  5. phillygtr

    phillygtr Member

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    This is interesting. When I think of songwriting/recording I imagined it as a linear process i.e you write a song THEN record said song. In other words the studio was simply a place where the song (which was written prior to entering the studio) was recorded. I've read where bands will go into the studio with no songs and then three or four months later emerge with an album (hell maybe after only a few days if they get creative). How do people do this? How can you write with an engineer hovering over you? I always thought songwriting to be a 3am in your bedroom kind of activity. I imagine a James Taylor in his backyard with a guitar kind of thing.

    However, I doubt most of the songs we hear on the radio are written like that. Lots of people singing and brainstorming over drum loops these days. Nothing wrong with that. Whatever works.
     
  6. SGNick

    SGNick Member

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    IT depends on the song. Some just pour out all at once, some start with an odd turn of phrase that gets a story built around it, some come from cool sounds that usually come to me in the shower (as far away from a guitar as possible, so I have to remember it until I get out and play it! haha)
     
  7. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels Silver Supporting Member

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    In my previous post I was going to say "songs come to me in the shower", but I didn't think anyone would believe it, so I wrote "in the car". Nice to know I'm not the only one.
     
  8. chucke99

    chucke99 Member

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    You don't need a digital studio for this: You can just go in and record chunks of riffs, then your producer can chop up the tape and arrange the parts into a song for you. Probably lots of bands over the years have done this. And it's not limited to building songs from chunks. Your producer/engineer can re-arrange the parts of a song you've recorded, take some out, dupe some to add in again, etc.
     
  9. Full Monty

    Full Monty Member

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    One of my favourites came to me when I was washing the dishes after a meal. For once I actually had the whole song, even the off-kilter bridge, mapped out in my head before I picked up the guitar. The only problem was the key, I'd imagined the whole thing in D but as it turned out the melody didn't suit my voice so I had to change it to G.
     
  10. mojocaster.com

    mojocaster.com Supporting Member

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    I always write the words first. They dictate the mood of the song. From there I try and figure out what the music should be :)

    I like a recurring line if I feel that it adds something to the song. I can't always make it work, though. It sorta did for this song:

    http://mojotwanger.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/mojotwanger-the-fresh-start-original-composition/

    Sat down tonight and wrote this song. I have no idea who Sammy and Joe are, but I felt like taking their lives and sort of turn them upside down. Not that this is a VH1 Storytellers, or anything, but what the heck…

    Here are the lyrics:

    Sammy came to town on a Sunday afternoon
    The place was as crowded as the face of the moon
    He was looking for trouble and a bite to eat
    Maybe a little drink, man that can’t be beat

    Sammy met Joe at the corner of Smith and 1st
    Sittin’ on his front porch, quenching his thirst
    He asked him if he’d happen to have a drop to spare
    Joe said “Sure, tastes better when you share.”

    They polished off that bottle of 12-year old Scotch
    Talkin’ about women, bar fights and such
    They cursed Johnny Law, they cursed the DC mob
    They cursed the China man who stole their job

    Sammy told Joe from the corner of his mouth
    “Look at that woman coming from the south”
    Joe said “she’s my girl, we’re havin’ an affair”
    And Sammy said “they taste better when you share”

    They both laughed like a couple of hyenas
    Like a couple of drunks touring the cantinas
    Whiskey came shootin’ out of Sammy’s nose
    And what happened after that, nobody knows

    They say that Sammy shot Joe straight through the heart
    With a nasty pea-shooter he called “the fresh start”.
    Then Sammy headed South for the border and freedom
    But the Marshalls found him in a brothel called Bedlam

    They slapped the cuffs on him and hauled him back to town
    Where the judge told him “Boy, I’m gonna put you down.
    D’you have something to say before I send you to the chair?”
    Sammy said “come with me judge, tastes better when you share”

    Ole Sammy fried on a Sunday afternoon
    The place was as crowded as the face of the moon
    He was lookin’ for trouble and a bite to eat
    But the Devil found him, still smokin’ on the hot seat

    He grabbed his soul and dragged him to his pit
    Where ole Sammy was cooked on a slow roasting spit
    He taught him about pain, deep down in his lair
    And told him “does it taste better when you share?”

    They both laughed like a couple of hyenas
    Like a couple of drunks touring the cantinas
    Sammy knew then, that is was meant to be
    “Hell was always gonna be home for me”
     
  11. B_of_H

    B_of_H Member

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    I just wrote one called 'the cougar'. It features a riff I came up with a while back and that the band has played around with in practice/soundchecks. I started humming a melody over some chords that fit with the riff at some point.

    the lyrics are about an older lady that has been after me for a while and I made up a story about her locking me away and 'teach(ing) me bout them birds and bees'.

    I've been searching for room to breath
    She's got time to teach me bout them birds and bees
    remember that big storm in the month of may
    she held me tight for 3 whole days

    she's got eyes like a serpent
    they wrap around and squeeze
    she's got time to teach me bout them birds and bees

    I know my days are numbered
    neighbors can't hear my screams
    she's got time to teach me bout them birds and bees

    etc....
     
  12. jaydub69

    jaydub69 Member

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    It's a painful, torturous process. I simply agonize having to sit down and pen something out. In a related post I said that this week I would work on just filling pages with no editing or mental criticism. I haven't started.
    However, the feeling of having finished one keeps me going. Also, if the songs don't get finished (or abandoned), they swim in my head in a chaotic mess often interfering with every other daily activity.
     
  13. Pietro

    Pietro 2-Voice Guitar Junkie and All-Around Awesome Guy

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    Listen to a lot of different kinds of great great music. Stop listening to anything that you know everybody thinks is crap.

    Learn a lot of difficult or different stuff by other artists.

    write a lot. Most of your stuff will be crap, so the more you write, the more good stuff will eventually rise to the top.

    And... find somebody honest to bounce ideas off of. Don't write a song and then play it for your friends and expect honest feedback. They're your friends. Don't ruin that.
     
  14. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    For me, music first. Then the song kindof tells me what the lyrics should be saying. The emotion is in the music. Some tunes make me think about an old girlfriend who broke my heart, some make me want to hit the highway and do 90MPH....so I go with the emotion of the music. But it's interesting to turn that totally around sometimes. Melodies come easy, verses come easy, but I struggle with main hook chorus's. I always tend to over-think the main chorus when really, a handfull of well chosen words are enough. The way words sound and cadence is very important to me. I'll choose a line that sounds great over one that makes perfect literal sense.
     
  15. smallbutmighty

    smallbutmighty Supporting Member

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    For me, the approach that usually yields the most original songs is the one I'm least familiar with.

    I've written a million songs on guitar, have many habits, and struggle to find original sounding tunes when I write with one in hand.

    If I use an instrument I'm less familiar with - uke, a capella, banjo, etc. - I find new ideas come easier.

    If you're interested, check out my songwriting blog. The link is in my sig.
     
  16. Big Boss Man

    Big Boss Man Member

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    I usually write lyrics first. I am always listening for words or phrases that might sound good in a song. Sometimes it just takes one word to spark an idea. I write down ideas whenever they come to me, even sometimes when I am driving. After I have basic idea for some lyrics, I try to conceptualize how I want the guitar part to sound. If I can come up with a basic idea for both lyrics and music, then I start to work it out with a guitar.
     
  17. Plague Dog

    Plague Dog Member

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    I always write from the hook
    The hook could be a riff or a phrase.

    The hook is like the answer, the song is how you arrived at that answer.
    :band
     

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