How do you guys write?

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by Ordacleaphobia, Jun 6, 2018.

  1. Soya

    Soya Poor person Contributor

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    I'm the odd one out, I'm so unbelievably uncreative I'd rather learn other music and play that. Currently working on a Ghost tribute band :fever:
     
  2. duffbeer33

    duffbeer33 ..working on my mix Contributor

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    Sometimes I'll go months without coming up with anything or just not really in the mood to play. If it was easy than everyone would do it and nobody would care about good songs. When I do get inspiration, there are several different ways I'll write:

    1. Listening to a particular band during a specific time period, while at the gym or whatever, and it usually inspires me to noodle around with riffs that sound like the band
    2. Getting some cheap midi drums, like midi expansions in different styles, and writing guitars on top of the drum patterns
    3. Whistling or humming ideas that come in my head, then recording them on a phone or whatever, and later trying to translate them to guitar

    Start to finish writing a song I like can take months. You just have to realize that your music doesn't have to be perfect. I know my stuff isn't great, but I do it for fun because I enjoy it as a hobby.
     
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  3. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Can only power chord

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    This is genius; I do this all the time and forget what I had by the time I get a guitar in my hands. Never would have thought to whip out the phone :lol:
     
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  4. Andromalia

    Andromalia Pardon my french

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    I start with Lyrics, hum a melody to sing them, record it and see what I can come up with for rythm that fits the bill.

    Pros:
    -you're not limited by your guitar playing habits
    -you get a surprisingly varied amount of melodies that way

    Cons:
    -you must be able to write lyrics. Anything can go by the first few times, but the 17th song about a dead king in his castle of steel will get old before it's done. So does "Satansatansatansatan". Luckily I'm not too bad in that regard
    -When you realise your song has the weirdest time signatures ever because of your sentences, and you need to cheat/edit the lyrcis to fit. And then your singer is "I have to sustain that note for FIFTEEN SECONDS ????"
     
  5. Vyn

    Vyn Not a Sparkly Vampire Contributor

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    If you're writing, have a pen/paper on you at the least, if not an instance of Guitar Pro/some notation software open all the time. The amount of times I've been jamming and not written something down only to forget how it went... Urgh.
     
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  6. sawtoothscream

    sawtoothscream SS.org Regular

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    Usually just dick around with my loop pedal and then when I find something I like I will build on that.
     
  7. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoil Enthusiast

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    I started writing songs seriously when I was 12, and have probably written maybe... 500 finished songs now? And probably 10 times that in unfinished songs :lol:

    What I figured out works for me (i.e. how to finish a song and not just get stuck with millions of riffs on a harddrive), is to NOT get sucked into the habit of casually jamming around on the guitar. Instead, these days I get to business and write lyrics immediately. Lyrics+vocal melody+chords, that's it. Everything else I save for later. I think that arranging a song and coming up with riffs and grooves is usually pretty self-explanatory once you have those 3 things in place already.

    I typically start a song by coming up with any random lyric line, the weirder the better cause that kickstarts my creativity. I let that be the first line of the first verse, and then I write the song chronologically from that. This way I'm constantly curious to see where the song goes, I have no clue and that keeps me wanting to write more. It's a very quick way of working because all you have to do is type words and strum some chords. So when I do it this way, I usually finish a performable song in 30 minutes or so. This is an important thing, because when I "jam" for ideas I usually take maybe 6 months to finish the song, if I even manage to stay interested for that long (I almost never do).
     
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  8. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Can only power chord

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    Interesting to see people mentioning starting with lyrics.
    I had always assumed lyrics would come last. Seems to be the case with most people I know personally, as well. Might be an interesting exercise.

    Makes sense though; as I am that guy with 'millions of riffs on a harddrive.'
     
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  9. BMO

    BMO Geetarist

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    I’ve personally found the way I write is I come up with a riff spontaneously and go from there. Beforehand I tried to force myself to write regularly in order to “be a better musician” but that saps the creativity and emotion from your playing in my opinion. Regular practice for me is just jamming to a metronome and sometimes I come up with cool stuff during that. I haven’t jammed to drumtracks as I have zero idea how to track drums in a DAW to make a track worth jamming to. Nor have I in a band as I’m usually the vocalist and currently am in my band. What’s funny is I’ve looked at musicians I look up to and this seems to be their way too. They just play for fun or for practice and happen to come up with riffs worth jotting down while on tour or at home, and come up with enough to make songs out of.
     
  10. sevenfoxes

    sevenfoxes SS.org Regular

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    Composing music comes from the heart and imagination. Learn as much as you can, and combine that knowledge with your artistic side.

    Don't force it. Let it come to you.
     
  11. iamaom

    iamaom SS.org Regular

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    I listen to music and want to write something in that style. Then I go to UG and download a bunch of tabs and skim through them. Then I attempt to emulate the riffs and song structure, then change them up in my own "style". Then I try to write a solo but give up about 2 measures in. The result is about 10 years worth of half written horrible Death, Necrophagist, and Decrepit Birth rip offs.
     
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  12. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoil Enthusiast

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    I somewhat disagree, but I'd word it differently. Forcing yourself to write songs is probably a bad idea, but forcing yourself into better habits so that you want to write every day, is necessary. Call it "emotional fitness" if you wanna TedTalkify it :)

    The way I see it, songs (or any other product of creativity) is "just" the natural result of maintaining a creative lifestyle. Just like a car with a functioning engine produces CO2 whether you like it or not, a "functioning" creative person produces songs, automatically. Creative people by definition have an urge to make stuff, all the time. That's what brings us happiness, a creative person who doesn't create can easily feel restless, unhappy, even depressed if the "writer's block" goes on for too long. For such a person (i.e. many people on this forum), the idea of "don't force it" may not be a solution.

    My theory is that if you're bothered by not making stuff, can't find the inspiration, can't be assed to finish songs you've started, then something about the way you live your life isn't working, your current lifestyle doesn't fit you, that's why you're not writing. Just waiting and letting it come to you, may actually make things worse. If a car isn't starting, waiting for it to do so won't work.

    I struggled with writer's block on and off for years (with depression and anxiety attacks as a result, it was comically shitty :noway:), and for me the solution was indeed to force myself to change my life and attitude to where I wanted to write. And it wasn't passively listening to more music, watching more movies etc. to "get more inspiration", the solution was to actively choose to start doing the tiniest, non-demanding creative things every day (could be just a 3-minute drawing on a post-it note or taking 10 minutes to write a funny Facebook post) just to cheer me up and gradually build up my enthusiasm for being more creative, all the way back up to the point where I once again wanted to spend days on end in the studio, write 50 songs a year and constantly pester my band members with way too ambitious ideas. I.e, the way I was when I was 15 years old.

    Sorry for a long post :lol: But yeah, in so many words I do think you might need to "force" yourself into good habits, you just have to do some internal digging first and do it in a way that feels positive and creates enthusiasm.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2018
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  13. Dayn

    Dayn silly person

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    I'm going to go all in and say do force it. Writing songs is a skill, and you can only get better at it by doing it over and over and over. If you wait until you have an 'idea', you won't get anywhere near enough practice. You will also have a terrible time at trying to turn your inspiration into anything meaningful, at which point your idea is completely wasted.

    Take any idea at all that you have, whether it's good or bad or simple or complex, or something you've seen someone else do, and see if you can stretch it out into a full-length song. Play with motifs, alter it, string it together, play with song structure. It can be an utter piece of shit for all it's worth, just so long as you get an idea of how to string things together into something. Use these practice sessions to try out new ideas that you've had or seen or read or heard and keep going. Over time you will get better at it.

    I think I can write some pretty good music now. When I get an idea, I can just hear the rest of the song and it builds itself. But I never would have gotten here if I hadn't have forced myself to write hundreds of pieces of shit to get better at it.

    I think that also answers the question of how I write. Because I've had that practice and have an idea of how things could sound, when I get an idea, I play with it and see what happens. I use the word 'play' deliberately - play with the idea like you would any toy, and see what happens. Try to explore every little part of that idea, no matter how simple it is, and stretch it out. Other things can spring off from that. That's my process.
     
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  14. Bobro

    Bobro SS.org Regular

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    I usually notate rhythms on a piece of paper, when I'm drinking in a bar or walking in the park or whatever. usually I just have the general shape of the melody notated with higher and lower positions of the note heads, sometimes notate it exactly if I have a really concrete idea of the melody. This is more difficult than it used to be because I now use 17 tones to the octave, but really no big deal, no more complicated than middle eastern folk songs. Sometimes I start with lyrics and a vocal melody, those I usually just memorize. The way my music is structured, I can write a score or lead sheet by just notating some rhythms and writing something like "enharmonic genus on Eb" or "maqam Hijaz on Ab".

    Recently, though, I've been listening to an imaginary compilation album in my head, "Many Moist Moshpit Memories", a collection of hits by counterfeit TechProgGrind Microtonal Death Metal bands, and swiping the tasty bits for use in my "serious" music, like the 7/4 rhythm from "Dark Denizens of Uranus" by Sodomite Knights.
     
  15. will_shred

    will_shred Wannabe audio engineer

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    I've gone to music school and studied composition and while it made me a better musician, I still can't write a song to save my life. I enjoy playing with other people, I've always been more of a lead player. Some people are amazing writers, where as I can play just about anything you put in front of me but I can't write to save my life. I tend to work well with song writers because if someone gives me an idea I can often refine it, but I have a hard time composing out of thin air.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
  16. sevenfoxes

    sevenfoxes SS.org Regular

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    This actually sounds more like trying to write a song, as opposed to forcing.

    To me, forcing a piece of music usually leads to a frustrating dead end. It's actually the opposite of composing and creating. Hard to get anything valuable from that.

    To the OP -

    clearly everyone has their own way of composing. I recommend trying every one of the methods that have been suggested in this thread, and see what works best for you. There's no write answer here. ;)
     
  17. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Can only power chord

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    I'd tend to agree; the closest that I got was when I decided to do this 'challenge' that our boy Ola Englund put out to write a complete riff a day for a month.
    I got a lot of good (and a lot of bad) material out of that exercise, and most days did really feel forced at first but turned out to be great riffs.

    Think I'll try that again.
     
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  18. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Hey...how did everybody get in my room?

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    I think people tend to over complicate writing to an extent. All you’re really doing is creatively providing your take on a chord progression.
    Pick a key and a chord(mode) from here do you want to move to a dominant sound or sub dominant? Borrow a voice from a parallel key? From the tonic: I think about ii and IV as the same sound, and V and vii as the same sound; vi can slide anywhere between these. My goal is to get back to the tonic and resolve the movement. It could be each riff, or a complete section, but the goal is the same.
    Then I might write another similar theme in a different key. And I’ll third write something to merge the two movements together; either with a quick modulation, or by building something more subtle.
    From here, I have a blue print that I could swap to a major key and play cowboy chords and write an interesting singer/songwriter type tune; or arpeggiate the fuck out of it(typically me :lol:) with different time sigs etc. and it’s a melodic tech death tune.
     
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  19. BenjaminW

    BenjaminW SS.org Regular

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  20. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoil Enthusiast

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    Another exercise worth trying (once :lol:) is the "20 song game". Write 20 songs in 12 hours. That gives you roughly 45 minutes per song, depending on how long your lunch and bathroom breaks are :)

    Did it once with my band, it's one of the most exhausting things I've ever put myself through but it's good for you.
     
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