How do you begin to write a song?

Discussion in 'Genre Specific Production' started by kearnsy, Jan 23, 2014.

  1. kearnsy

    kearnsy Banned

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    The title says it all really, how do you start off a new song?

    I probably have two ways, the first way is I bash out a few chords on the acoustic, mumble some lyrics out, then use that as the starting block

    Then I'll try and work out the tempo of the song, once i have that, then it's experimentation time, i like to throw random stuff in to just see what happens, it's rare that i have a set idea in mind, usually that will happen after the experimentation stage

    My second way is to have a blank mind and a blank canvas, I'll load up some vst instruments, light myself a joint, get the headphones on and basically just piss about until i find something i like, then just build from there

    So how do you guys and gals start off a new project then, it'll be interesting to see how we all work

    Merci
     
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  3. paraplu020

    paraplu020 Member

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    I used to do it somewhat the same, especially the light a joint stage :P
    Anyway, I also used to 'go with the flow' until something cool popped out of the speakers, but lately I try to think of a direction I wanna work in. Works miracles, really!
    Having a clear direction to go in is very nice, you should try that little change and see what it does for you. Just light the joint a little bit earlier, think about how you feel, maybe write some of it down and then work in a focussed and imo better way. :dancing:

    :wink:
     
  4. Levitate

    Levitate Ultrasonic

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    I personally most times don't have a plan ahead of time,though there's been few times I've had a melody or bassline in my head and had to record it and songs have started that way.Most anything I make is midi sequencing and sampling.It also kinda depends on what daw I'm using.Like if I'm in fruity loops I'll make my own metronome track by programming a hihat and paste that pattern in the playlist for 8 bars then load a synth dig for a sound and record on pattern 2,quantize it,then load a synth on pattern 3 and so on until I have a lot of parts,sometimes I'll add drums as I'm making the different instrument parts,other times I'll just concentrate on the sounds of the instruments until I got the arrangement how I like,then I'll add drums.If I'm in any other daw,I just setup the metronome & count in and basically same process,dig,record,quantize,arrange.Sometimes I'll record parts on my keyboard workstations sequencer then midi sync to pc and record each part on it's own track in whatever daw I'm using.I really just kinda more or less explained how I make patterns more than how I start a song but...it's kinda hard to really give much of an idea how I start making a song because my process is kinda unorganized and I prolly don't do it exactly the same everytime.It's kinda hard to think about writing an entire song,I guess when I think song,I think arrangement,like intro,verse,chorus,bridge or solo,outro and arrange those parts and have transition and movement throughout the song whether it's done by punching parts in or out,fills,rolls,muting sections for a brief moment,or even transitional sounds or parts sometimes.I think most of the songs I ever made I hadn't really set out to make a song,I was just kinda experimenting with ideas,maybe a couple chords or simple chord arrangement or a melody or a bassline and a couple parts go together well and it kinda builds from that and ya shape it into what u want.There's not really a set in stone practice,songs don't have to have a lot of change.I just like it like that.I suppose I could make songs by focusing on sections at a time,like verse,chorus,etc.But most times I just make some parts then arrange all that afterwards.I also like to fire one up beforehand,sometimes during,even afterwards,lol :wink:
     
  5. barrymung

    barrymung Noisemaker

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    I sometimes have a song in my head, usually when driving long distances (normal for me!), so not the best place to try and put something down.
    (Can't write music but I know my notes, someone said I am pitch perfect many years ago, so thanks to them I am making music now!)
    Other times I might hear something on a TV program that inspires me, maybe a tiny synth pad or something and I work from that. Failing that, I go through loads of samples until I find something that gets my attention, then maybe search for something similar or a vocal from somewhere to go with it and see where it leads with different beats.
    Recently I just thought of a theme, watched some YouTube vids for some vocals on that theme, grabbed them and put them through one of the VST's on the keyboard to see what comes out... quite interesting!
     
  6. Andrew

    Andrew AudioSEX Maestro Staff Member

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    I usually construct the track's story (what is it supposed to say) before writing. That makes the whole process much easier *yes*
     
  7. swing

    swing Newbie

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    I use to write around a really small idea, sometimes a melody in my head -bounced to my daw with a VSTi-, a simple arpeggio on guitar or a repetitive piano pattern.
    I really 'need' the first sounds closer -or final- to how they´re going to end sounding once the song is finished, because this determines a lot the arrangement (number of layers, narrative, intensity, density), and keeps me focused in some kind of 'color' path or palette, so not every instrument works ok with my starting phrase or 'home', and that helps.
    Sometimes I use to loop the small phrase and leave it playing at my back during other daily activities. Also playing it backwards or changing the loop [ ] works to open more possibilities and find new melodies.
    After some time (a few minutes -with some luck- or sometimes days) new ideas start to sound in my head, and when I learn to play them in a guitar or piano, they usually work well with my main phrase, so it´s arrangement time, choosing the right instruments for the right melodies or their rol/place in the track.
    Then with the overall scketch done I record what I´ve at my hands. Then mixing, and a lot of back and forth until it sounds nice.
    A lot of complementary stuff appears just playing over the song during the arrangement writing or the mixing stage.
    A lot of ideas also appear after stopping the loop and when I´m not busy with 'real life' tasks, for example, when I´m almost sleeping and my house is quiet. Maybe it´s some kind of residual effect, but it works. *yes*
     
  8. kearnsy

    kearnsy Banned

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    Cheers folks, some interesting thoughts

    I'm getting bored with my own sound all the time, one of the pitfalls of working on your own i suppose, there's no-one to bounce off

    I want to try a different approach see how that works out

    Thanks for the tips
     
  9. Hot Penguin

    Hot Penguin Newbie

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    When I really want to write something but don't have the inspiration to do so, I tend to program some sounds or experiment with different effects. Usually when I've programmed some sweet patches, the creativity comes.
     
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  10. SillySausage

    SillySausage Producer

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    listen to lots of different types/genres of music, I'm sure something will create a spark :wink:
     
  11. geraldthegenius

    geraldthegenius Noisemaker

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    I usually have no clue what direction im going to take a song until im half way through with the melodies. The bpm, melodies, drums, etc, are always changing until i pretty much have the whole mix done. Mostly because I get bored extremely fast when mixing and listening to the same sounds over and over try to get them to sit right in the mix. Can't tell ya how many tracks that were 90-95% done that I ended up trashin because I got bored with it.
     
  12. wonder

    wonder Newbie

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    sometimes, if you're more apt to be a composer vs lyricist, it helps to collaborate with a lyricist. that way you can watch them work and see how they come up with ideas as you come up with production and melody. that's my .02
     
  13. freeldr77

    freeldr77 Newbie

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    Mostly I begin by using some percussion samples. I twist them, mix them, push them...^^
    Then comes the basedrum, manual percussion and so on. After this, I will start with bass or melody.
    Often, sample libs will give me a first impression, what kind of sound will fit. Sometimes I use the sampler and extract sounds from 70ies music and transform this to another instruments for example percussion, drone, bass or lead.
    Then I try to tune the drums, persussion, soundeffects and so on to fit it to base and melody. Now I am searching for vocals, what would be better to do before of all, but this would disturb my workflow somehow :(

    And then comes arranging, mixing, using reverbs and all this stuff.

    I think this is a problem for all of us. Workflow is too slow and the ears are bored.

    You have to fasten up or lay up the project for a while. I use to make an arrangement, when the main part of the creative process is done. Then I can fit in all the small things until its ready for end mix.
     
  14. xoso

    xoso Member

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    All in my head. 95% of every song I start writing comes to me in my head in near complete format. The specific details are always kinda fuzzy and maybe only a few actual words there and usually non-sensical at the time but yeah. Every other time I'll either start with just messing around writing a main melody or writing a basic drum line and writing to it.
     
  15. kevinkapaj

    kevinkapaj Newbie

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    It's all about what you think you want to create.
    If in your head, you've created a great drum loop, you will start from that and then you'll keep adding the other elements and find a melody that fits to it.
    If you think of some nice chords that go aside a great vocal line, you'll go with that, and later you'll think about drums.
    There's no specific way, it's all about imagination.
     
  16. Rhodes

    Rhodes Rock Star

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    I start by laying down a rizla in front of me :blues:

    ...hit record, and let the inspiration guide me.
    Than later I listen to the record if it is any good, and act accordingly.

    Usually I start with a Guitar or with a Guitar and some kind of "neutral" rhythm as a background.

    Here is an example of one such short "session"... https://app.box.com/s/rbd90b4hhaasd8vufk07
    ...from that short record I choose a few phrases that seemed interesting to me, upon wich I later wrote a song.

    Seldomly I start with a piano or organ line, but prefere the guitar, since I can express myself with more ease with it.

    It goes like this

    1. On the first take I record a Rhythm line with a Guitar and metronome.
    2. Than on the second take I record the drums on that line (groove agent 2 since it allows real time fills and changes), listening the first take on a guitar
    3. Than I erase the first take, and replace groove agent 2 with AD Drums `cause they sound better, and route the midi line recorded with groove agent to AD Drums
    4. With the Drums ready I record again a rhythm guitar, since I almost allways delete the first take that served its purpouse to point out where the various part of the song are, to be able to record the drums.
    5. After that I usally record a simple piano, Rhodes, or Hammond line or two... it depends on the mood
    6. than i lay down a Bass line
    7. and finally i record a solo guitar and a few keyboard fills

    that is it... after that the excitement vanishes and after listening to a finished song for a few times (a weak or two), I hit Shift Delete and lay down another rizla :dancing:

    I don`t spend much time polishing and mixing the song, since I am not a professional and don`t make money with this... I just love playing, handling my instruments and having fun with all the virtual goodies available to the bedroom player, thanks to all the well known groups *yes*
     
  17. Demon

    Demon Producer

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    I guess my approach is different, but I play metal, so maybe it's a different thing... but here it goes.

    Sometimes I can go for quite a while without writing anything, but then something happens to me, or I see or hear or witness something and it just comes to me, and it's in my head for ages until I finally make a mock-up on the acoustic guitar or even just humming it and recording it on my phone. It all starts there. Then I make harmonies in my head and think of whatever it was that made me think of or feel it, and I make lyrics in my head.

    Eventually I put it all down. The annoying thing is that I sometimes forget some ideas along the way and, just like barrymung, I get them often while I take long drives. I definitely can't do the whole "mock around until something good comes out of the speakers" thing. I only wish it was that easy for me.

    Aaanyway, my two cents.
     
  18. Rhodes

    Rhodes Rock Star

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    This is too a nice approach:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40LAXW7cnlY
     
  19. Zenarcist

    Zenarcist Audiosexual

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    Great thread .. bring it back!
     
  20. stevitch

    stevitch Audiosexual

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    I take chord progression from songs from the '70s and play them backward, and then I search online for little-known singer-songwriters and copy their lyrics and hope that no one notices.

    Not really. To begin writing a song, I just start, with whatever happens; that inevitably leads to more, or to something different. Sometimes songs just come to me, filling themselves in as though they're being dictated to me. Sometimes fragments of lyrics and musical motifs, dating from various times apart, will come together. Sometimes I'll be playing a figure on a keyboard, or messing with harmonic intervals, and words will come as themes and melodies start occurring. Other times, someone will be singing the song, or part of it, to me, in a dream, and it will commence or complete a full song - or something that some "character" in a dream says is a fertle kernel for a song; all I have to do is water it and watch it grow.
     
  21. kimikaze

    kimikaze Producer

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    As Andrew say. Story and good lyrics are the key for good interesting song, Try to tell raw story with rhymes and poesy in mind(of course this can be harder to do than we say), then rhythm come second and the melody last, although those two are tight together like loving father and mother :) Of course this is by no mean set in stone how you should do it. Just one good proven way.
     
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