Songwriters: how easy do you find writing songs?
Just sort of an open ended question from someone who reecntly started writing lyrics for real. Do you find it difficult to come up with lyrics that aren't cheesy? Do you come up with the lyrics or compose the tune first? What type of songs are the easiest to write? (eg love songs, emo songs, hate songs, etc).
I have typically found that coming up with meaningful lyrics can be a challenge, but when it clicks, it clicks. Often I will have writer's block for a while but then hit an idea and write an entire song in 10 minutes. Also, since my brother and 2 friends are in my band, I tend to avoid "pouring my heart out" about all my deep inner feelings to prevent embarrassment and looking like a sap. Perhaps this inhibits my lyrics quality. Anyone else do the same?
Anyway, how is your general songwriting experience?
Been doing covers for a while, but did write a few songs, and plenty of lyrics.
First, do NOT be concerned about “cheesy”, as it simply works. To capture ones heart you’ve gotta hit certain emotional buttons, and with only a couple verses and a chorus to work with, you’ve gotta go there.
The few times I wrote lyrics first, they turned out to be more of a poem, but when I hear music that inspires me, I seem to do much better.
A few times I wrote lyrics with specific instructions for the subject matter, and it was a bit more difficult, but I seem to have a knack for it, I guess.
Not recommending this, but I have a band member who’s 420, and once I partook one hit while he and another band member were fiddling around here in the music room… I put my laptop on my lap and wrote about seven verses before they knew what I was doing, and they loved it.
Sadly, though, thoughtful lyrics don’t help that much for most songs if the music is good, but I try to find a lyrical hook, get the phrasing to work (often meaning cutting out a lot of words as I can get quite “wordy”),
and it’s good to get the lines to flow, as in not switching words around too obviously to force the rhyme.
Not sure really how I can help, but those are a few thoughts.
PS. What kind of music are you writing to?
Thanks for your input. This was meant mainly as a chance to share your experience, not a chance to help me. But I am writing pop punk songs, probably most comparable to fall out boy mixed with blink 182
the first band I was in had the drummer write most of the lyrics. He wrote about abstract ideas and such -- eventually I told him he had to put people in his songs, doing things and going places.
the best songs I've written have been stories. I wrote one centered around a guy who learns some kind of levitation spell, practices with his woman who ends up flying off and never returning. I wrote another about being visited by my ex girlfriend's ghost.
A friend of mine was the bass player for the pop band the rosenbergs. The lead singer says he writes happy songs when he's sad, and sad songs when he's happy.
I've been writing instrumental solo music, and I've been working on the same 6-7 song for a while. Some of the songs I've been working on for 4 years. I'd say that writing is easy, but there are a lot of bad idea, and bad music, that you need learn to put away, and save until you either have the skill or the artistic vigor to flush out.
For years, I could just pick up a guitar, and flesh out a song in an hour. Sometimes I would spend longer on a song. I felt it came very easily, and I took it for granted that it would always be that way. Then came the drought. Now I rarely write at all.
So in answer to your question:
Really, really easy and really, really hard.
I guess it all depends on if you're inspired or not.
The best thing to do is write as many as possible. I often brag that I've written hundreds of songs, and one or two of 'em are even good.
My approach is to write a little story in paragraph form rather than write lines. This way I can avoid cheesy rhyming.
Listen to the way words sound when sung instead of what they mean.
Don't be too clear, but don't be too vague.
Read the dictionary.
Hmm well. I have written in the hundreds of the things. Some are pretty good : )
The order of the process varies, and there is something to be said for each.
Most of the time, it is a simultaneous melody/hook/progression, noodled around with sometimes for hours, or a verse fragment. With piano, guitar, or once in a while bass.
Best advice...research AABA, where it came from. I wish I had done so a lot sooner. It is a sublimely tight form. Verse/Chorus variants are awesome to, but AABA is the bomb if its a pop ish song you're after.
Connect metaphors, avoid mixing them unless you are intending to be opaque. Use a good hook line, repeat it, tie it in from each verse if you can.
These are structural considerations. Melody, I think, is King. Sometimes I hear good, energetic music with lots of dense thoughtful lyrics, but when then song is over, hell if I can remember anything of it except a vague sense of its energy.
But in the inception phase, just let anything flow. Some songs might practically write themselves in an afternoon, some might sit for years til something clicks and it falls together.
My originals band writes as a group. By write, I mean someone will play a riff, we'll jam on it, take what we like from the jam, and build a song from it. We tend to write a song from A to B, as we don't like to approach a song 'out of order' from how we'd hear it ourselves for the first time.
Anyways, the writing process doesn't always come easy. There have been a number of days where we'd spend an hour and a half on a new tune we're writing, say it's good, and then never play it again. These situations always suck, as I consider it wasted time, but it definitely helps you see where everyone is coming from at any period of time. When we do finally find something we all like we can typically finish a tune (and by that I mean a beginning to end skeleton with solos, lyrics, all major riffs and hooks finalized, and most rhythmic beats figured out) within 2 hours.
I am not a native English speaker, but I insist on writing in English because most of music I grew up with was sang in English. I also tried many times writing in my native language, but I was never satisfied with the results. So, therefor, my lyric writing is slow and can be very tedious, 'cause I find lyrics important, being the easiest thing to relate to by an ordinary listener. I think it's important that you really have something to say, rather then just putting in words to have something to deliver the melody through. I know there's plenty of great songs with that kind of lyrics, the ones that just fill in the melody. But I consider it a luxury of native English speakers to write like that, nobody would ever analyze their lyrical input as much as mine, I think...
I guess I'm still learning the craft, it's taking a lot of time and I'm often less than satisfied with what came out, so I rewrite a lot. I'm not very good in storytelling lyrics, I have difficulties finding the plots. I'm much more familiar with giving poetic pictures and philosophical thoughts and ideas. But I'm actually currently trying to get away from introspective lyrics and practice writing the more observant ones. Recently I made an exercise that resulted in writing a song I'm very satisfied with: I wanted to see what would it take to try writing like some songwriter I respect a lot. For that exercise I chose Suzanne Vega as a model-songwriter. I have always loved her music and lyrics. So I thought a bit about the approach she'd take on lyrics and realized that a lot of what she does is using the words as a camera that shows the things she sees around:
"I am sitting
In the morning
At the diner
On the corner
I am waiting
At the counter
For the man
To pour the coffee..."
So I went out in the city and to the underground station, observing the people there and imagining what kind of life do these people have. And then I sat down in a cafe and wrote a song about what I saw and what I imagined. And I'm very happy with it.
I guess there are many different things that can serve as a trigger for writing a song. In general I seem to get it through a guitar chord or a lick that I find interesting and then I try to insist on it to jump-start the lyrics' flow. It sometimes happens as fast as I get the musical idea, but sometimes it takes months to find just the subject to write about. Basically if I do have the subject that I'm very eager on I'll finish the song soon, at least the bases of it, and then I'll polish the lyrics over some time. Music has never ever been a problem to make, it sort of flows in me all the time, waiting for the right words to fish out.
I agree 100% with Vlado's comment about picking someone you admire, and using that as a jump-off point. It's not because you're after copying the person, it's because the connection with what that person writes triggers something inside you -- like it bootstraps (or nudges awake) the creativity inside you that you might otherwise never have known exists, and you otherwise never would've tapped into. The mechanics of it? I have no clue, except I suspect there's a spiritual component to it that'll always evade lab experiments.
You'll know who that writer is because every time you listen to his work, it hammers your soul hard and deep. When it happens the first time, your reaction will be non-trivial. That's your clue: How that person is expressing himself is how you were wired to express yourself.
The fact is that most songs that make it to the radio have "cheesy" lyrics. Many do not make any sense and words are used just because they rhyme. I wouldn't worry about it.
Writing a song is pretty easy.... Writing a good song is another story. I have been writing songs for a while and they way it happens is not necessarily the same every time, it can start with a good melody that came to my mind, recorded in my cellphone (very important) and then back at home I can put lyrics and complete it somehow. It can also be that I hear a line in a movie that I really like and it keeps floating in my head until put a melody to it. I may have wrote about a hundred songs, dark, cheesy, abstract, stories etc... I just like to write, recently I bought a recording box and already put together 3 songs that I really like, and even though my first band use to play a few of my songs, the first time I heard my songs " recorded" and arranged with as much instruments I can play I could not hold hide my happiness, it is a very nice feeling.
Generally speaking I try to not over complicate the music and write about something meaningful, besides this I have no other " rule" or preconceptions. I think I'm not bad, my wife keeps pushing me to try to sell a couple and see what happens buy I guess I have never thought about it that way ... But who knows, maybe now with the recording box things may change.
In answer to the question, now that I am getting back into it, I find it challenging to not feel too much like I'm pursuing something that's already been over done.
As a writer, I am not that mainstream. Too much Rush/Floyd influence.:) I'm more concept driven, so my biggest challenge right now is finding interesting concepts to translate into words and music, without feeling I'm retreading too much old ground.
The more you write the better you get at it. If you want to be better at writing lyrics, write a hundred poems. If you want to get better still, write five hundred poems.
IMO, most aspiring songwriters get so precious about it they set the bar too high and end up too discouraged and anxious at their early attempts. So they don't finish songs, the whole process ends up making them anxious and they never give themselves a chance to progress.
Your songs should be like your children. Love the ugly stupid ones too.
For me to write a song it has to come to me and I have to be in the mood or stuck with an idea. I could never force write a song it just doesnt work for me. I do write down ideas or little saying all the time to paste into songs. I have a folder full of song ideas and notes which would take me years to do something with.
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