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How do you approach writing music?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bass_drum, Mar 26, 2006.

  1. bass_drum


    Feb 13, 2005
    Hello everyone!

    I have been attempting to write music but lately nothing seems to work. So now I'm wondering what ways you guys write music? Do you first write out lyrics and then find a riff/chord progression that works with the lyrics? Or do you write a riff and then find a tune in your head and write lyrics to that tune? What do you guys do? Oh and if you do write lyrics first, how do you find the rythm/tune for them?

    Thanks for your time!

  2. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    There are no hard and fast rules on writing music. But the first thing I do is organise the composition into a logical structure.

    Intro - 4 bars
    Verse 1 - 12 bars
    Chorus - 12 bars
    Verse 2 - 12 bars

    For each section of the composition, I create a chord progression. You could also use a well known chord progresson.

    Then I create melodies for each section. If you have trouble creating your own melodies, there's a good database of melodies at http://www.musipedia.org/index.php?id=1&L=0 Do a search on Beatles melodies as a example.

    For lyrics, I use a dictionary of quotations and a rhyming dictionary.

    That' a very quick overview of how I do it. There are other things to consider.
  3. DougP


    Sep 4, 2001
    in response to the thread title: i have to sneak up on it. :)

    i generally write a riff and then determine its progression..if there is one. from there i will try to produce a complete progression that is listenable and at the same time, try to write other riffs to fit it.
  4. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    Numerous ways.

    Either by a melody or an interesting chord or a cool sounding chord progression. Or maybe a rhythm patten or beat will strike me as interesting. Maybe something someone said or a common phrase will click. Maybe I'll come up with a riff or lick. Maybe I'll take a familiar riff and play it backwards or inside out. Or I can borrow or steal a progression out of the middle of a song - even turn that around.

    If I start coming up with lyrics then the melody and rhythm seem to follow by themselves - but I'll keep 'em very flexible. Sometimes (usually for me) the tune comes first.

    Also really enjoy collaborating with others. They'll come up with a direction I would have never thought of - and vice versa! Also sometimes someone will request I come up with something.

    I find it fun to write on bass especially because , for me, it seems to be a single note process. Being a single note instrument, each note lends itself to three or four (or more) different chords possibilities.

    Oh yeah, money can be a motivator as well. But I have yet to write on commission.

    There are as many ways as you can imagine.
  5. smartinson


    Dec 15, 2005
    Longmont, CO
    I usually use one of two ways. I tend to find a beat or rhythm that I like and then I will decide on a Key and go from there. Other times I will find a chord that I really like and then either decide on a progression or a beat and then everything flows from there.

    I usually struggle with melodies and/or lyrics so I generally write a progression and a beat and let the others I jam with try and add a melody or lyrics to it.
  6. new_west


    Dec 28, 2005
    San Diego
    I find it helpful to think like an artist you admire, like say I was playing a chord progression on the piano and then you say, what would paul simon make out of these chords.. also, i find it just good playing what you feel at the present state.. and trying to express that.
  7. Robbiethebassis


    Mar 29, 2006
    well that would make you sound too much like someone else. I would recommend, just sitting down and playing riffs untill something clicks.
  8. mark beem

    mark beem Wait, how does this song start again?? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    Many and varying... Sometimes it starts out with a simple riff, sometimes a broader theme. Sometimes it starts out with a "feeling".

    In everything though, a good grasp of basic music theory will help you. Especially when you get stuck.
  9. Start with lyrics? Sometimes... if a good lyric pops into my head and drives the process, then yeah, I start with the lyrics...

    Start with a riff? Uh huh... see above...

    Mostly, however, I will start with a beat or a groove. I am motivated by the idea that music should make people want to move. I like to see people physically respond to music and I feel that the beat/drums/percussion/bass have a lot to do with generating that irresistable urge to dance.

    So I will break out a drum machine or software, like Groove Agent, and begin exploring different styles, patterns, etc... Usually one pattern will grab me and I will instantly hear my bassline. That usually shows me how all the rest of the parts need to come together. Seems logical... starting with the foundation and building up.

    Also, I have worked as a collaborator much more then as a primary source of songs and what I have found is the 'feel' of a song can be turned on it's head in an instant just by tossing a new drum beat at it. There is power in the "beat" - I focus on the "beat" most of the time.
  10. new_west


    Dec 28, 2005
    San Diego

    that is true, but obviously a lot of good music has come out of people "stealing" from their influences. Beatles stuff. Like when paul made hey jude, he originally thought of a motown hit in mind but in the end it developed into something else.. same when John was influenced by Bob Dylan to write I'm a loser, you've got to hide your love away.. etc.
  11. Two ways for me: and i generally agree with everyone, kinda iffy on "copying" an artist, but i really agree with Smartinson.

    Sometimes i loosely bass a groove on another song - for example i came up with a song based on "We want the funk"'s bass groove during the title lyrics. I've also written a song kinda bassed off the whoel Bitches Brew album, and then some Mahavishnu stuff.

    Or i come up with a groove, add chords, then struggle wiht melody.

    Or comeup with melody and struggle with a groove or chrods.

    I find the keyboard best to compose on even though i have no formal training on it, it helps to see where each hand is and come up with some funky intervals

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