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Pain in the butt to write song with the band...

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Qvist, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. Qvist


    Jul 20, 2007
    I was just wondering if anyone else here thinks it sucks to write songs in a band-setting? I mean it's nice to have them (SONGS!), but I really hate having to show my ideas to the band and get it out to them! All the arguments and trying to get them to see the whole picture and stuff. I get the feeling that it shouldn't be that frustrating, but then again, when you have to put work in to something it's not always meant to be just fun.

    Please share your point of views on songwriting when in a band, how you feel about it and how you deal with it :)
  2. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    IMO, all of the best songs are written by one or two people. Upon coming up with parts of the song, you alone have the whole picture in your head. You know, in general, where you want it to go and maybe even how you want it to get there. If you're stuck, maybe you collaborate with another member, who throws in a riff, and you guys instantly start to understand everything.

    In my bands, whenever it's suggested that we try to write at practice (note: different from re-writing parts or re-working), I suggest that we pack up and go home. It's never productive, in my experience. Ever.
  3. led3


    Nov 4, 2009
    Alexandria, VA
    In my band, our songwriting process begins with individual ideas that begin independently at home among all three of us. We all write starting from guitar. Songs are presented either by sending out chords beforehand (with lyrics if already written) or with a rough recording. We make time in our rehearsal schedule to work on these songs. I'm given free reign to write whatever bassline(s) and backup vocals are needed. My guitar player writes extra riffs, chord variations and leads, which we give him thumbs up or down based on our feedback. Our drummer beats the pagan skins and makes general commentary overall.

    This works for our band. We do not have a primary vocalist. We all sing lead and backup vocals. Whoever initiates the song ends up writing the lyrics and singing lead vocals.
  4. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I've been collaborating with others for years, with varying degrees of success. Here's my thoughts:

    1.) Bring complete demos to the band. The more of the song you can realize and record, the better. If you can program drum/midi parts or record the guitars and vocals (even if they're not so hot,) do it. the more realized an idea you present , the less time you have to spend "correcting" others interpretations.

    2.) Let go of your sense of total ownership. As a bass player there's nothing I love more than "here are the chords - play what you want" : it lets me do my thing. you need to allow room for others to contribute and bring their own stuff to the effort.

    In other words, Bust ass to work out the song as completely as you can on your own, and then abandon all attachment to what you just poured your heart into.

    3.) before arguing about them, make a good faith effort to play the ideas of others correctly and listen with an open mind/heart. Judge them by how they make the song sound, not by your desire to do it.

    4.) record what the band does : much easier to judge objectively

    5.) Learn to recognize if disagreements over song writing are coming form other areas of conflict withing the band:
    Disagreements/ vagueness with the band's musical goals, style or genre
    Personal issues: my ego is big / nobody ever listens to me / you looked at me funny last week / criticism is a personal attack etc...

    6.) Try to get everyone to agree to sign off on doing what makes the song sound better and being objective about it.

    7.) realize that it's gonna be give and take
  5. wdinc01


    Nov 19, 2005
    Jacksonville, FL
    Yeah, writing during practice (or with everyone present) rarely works out well. I think the only time we've conceived a new song at practice was when I stepped out of the room to do something because the two guitarists were working on parts for another song. So really, I think music is best written by one or two people. At the very least, to get things going and maybe something to jam on so you guys can think of how the song should progress or what parts sound good. But I suppose it depends on your style of music.
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    this is good advice. but if it still doesn't work for you, you always have the option of taking over the band, writing the songs by yourself, and dictating the parts that everyone plays. of course, this almost always is a recipe for failure unless you have money to pay for everyone's silence.
  7. tycobb73


    Jul 23, 2006
    Grand Rapids MI
    People work in different ways. Elton John doesn't write any lyrics, just melodies. I'm glad him and his musical parter are together.

    On the other Foo Fighters make some great music and its all pretty much Dave Grohl.
  8. If we tried to write as a group, we'd have maybe 2 songs. We all write in different ways, but it ends up working. Singer writes mostly lyrics, sometimes he'll have an idea of how he wants the music to sound. I either write lyrics and music and do a demo w/ guitar/bass/drums or I just take one of the singer's music-less songs and write music for it. I always hand my lyrics off to the singer and let him change what he wants and fit it so he can sing it. Guitarist doesn't write lyrics, but he'll come up with riffs and songs and have an idea of what the song will be about. He either gives that to singer for him to write lyrics or he collaborates with a friend of his who writes the lyrics.

    We'll usually spend some times at practice going through it and figuring out transitions and inserting bits between parts if the vocals are too pushed together. I don't really like doing that as a group, I prefer to put together a solid recorded demo first and everyone just learn it from there. Adding those bits with everyone right there seems to rush the process. I like to listen to something a few times and get the right feel. When me and the guitarist are both throwing out "well, we could do this, or this" and the singer is going "what if we do 'duh, duh, dah, DUH, duh'", it's hard to figure out the best.
  9. robthegaff


    Nov 29, 2009
    I often feel the same way about songs we do. For a piece which will be played for months or years depending on how much we like it, I've never liked coming up with transitions ver quickly. But that's how it's done in my band. :meh:

    Back on topic; It's not a good idea to try and write a whole song as a band, it wastes people's time when you're trying to develop it on the spot, and the purpose and direction are usually lost when someone finds something they really like and wants to put in.
    What others have said hits the nail on the head. I believe the person who has the vision for the song should have the final say on what should be allowed in and what shouldn't, but each band member should contribute what they want.
  10. Each band has been different for me depending on my roll in the band. If i follow the guitar more, it's easy but boring. But if i follow the drums or do my own thing, while more challenging, it's more fun and more rewarding.

    Just approach everything with an open mind. It REALLY helps to have things written down. It also helps if you're comfortable 'jamming' to work out kinks.
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    anyone ever see the move "some kind of monster"? hetfield would write songs, and lars would always say, "i don't like that...it sounds stock." finally hetfield says something like, "what the hell does "stock" even mean? why don't you write it?"

    this is the approach you must take. challenge them to come up with a better idea or keep quiet.
  12. afromoose

    afromoose Guest

    This is an interesting thread - in my group there have been some real problems we've had to work through to do with the song-writing process. We're trying to get stuff for an album together but it was taking between 3 and 6 months to finish songs. One song took 9 months. It was terrible.

    A lot of it was that roles weren't agreed and people were treading on each others toes. I think in a group some people have natural strengths in certain areas and others just don't. It's taken a while for the lead singer in our group to be happy to defer to me to do the song arrangements, but really nobody else in the band has any idea how to do it. A large part of it is trust - as you are saying, it's hard to get across to people how a composition is going to 'work', and they need to learn to defer control to someone else, which is not going to just happen automatically.

    After a recent tour we had a bit of a blow out and had to sit down and discuss all the problems we were having, in the end we decided on a new way of working, and the results are already showing. I get together with the vocalist/singer and we write the entire song structure including intros and outros, and section lengths. Then we take it to the band, and the first thing is to rush through every single part of each song so that the rest of the band get to see the overall jist of what the tune is about. This is really important I think or they can get different ideas that won't work with the structure which they can get attached to. The drummer works out grooves in the rehearsal and the keyboard player prefers to record everything, take the recordings home and work on sounds in her own time.

    The results from this way of working, which works more to everyone's strengths, is that we wrote four tunes in four days, and brought them to the band, and we are aiming to get these four new songs gig ready for a European starting mid May.

    My advice for bringing your own tunes to the band would be

    1. Persevere - it's easy to get put off because it's difficult (I know this) but once the band realises that you write good tunes they'll want to have your songs and will trust you and it'll become easier. Also if you don't then you'll get frustrated because you can't express yoursefl.

    2. When you bring tunes to the band, don't allow them to get bogged down with part writing for one section - rush through all the structure, this allows them to see where the thing is going.

    3. If you can, figure things out with another band member before getting in the room with everyone - if possible, do things in several stages. This means that you are effectively dealing with one person at a time, which is more manageable.

    4. Describe things in a musically concise way and try to be simple and confident about how a section is supposed to sound. Describe things like dynamics and volume levels, suggest textures, timbres, suitable frequency range, mood, tempo, is the groove tense, rolling, relaxed etc, should people be playing unison, comping, or counterpointing eachother etc.. If you are going to direct people you need to be as descriptive as possible and steer away from vague or value judgements - give enough instruction to enable them to do something suitable whilst still creating their own part. If you just say something like 'that part is a bit too predictable' or 'corny' or whatever, it's not moving things along because it's not musically specific. If you say 'the part should be more aggressive' or 'try something more rhythmic than melodic' then I think it's clearer communication overall.

    Also, +1 to all Mambo's points.
  13. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    The person who wrote most of the originals for a band I was with was very creative and came up with good song ideas, but he couldn't read or write musical notation, he was very guitar-centric, he didn't know exactly which chords he was playing, and although he didn't have the ability to communicate what he wanted any particular instrument to play, he was quick to say what he didn't like. But, the worst part was that he thought that if he had a song idea, it somehow have him veto power over everyone else's suggestions.

    The fact that he was a lousy communicator and collaborator permeated every aspect of the band, which eventually broke up. To succeed, do the opposite!
  14. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    My problem have always related to coming to the table with technical stuff. There is no way it will go anywhere in a full band setting. I'll usually spend a good bit of time (hour, hours, days) one-on-one with whoever has the time before bringing it to the band (before I even bother to do that, I'll probably have let the idea ruminate for a few weeks, months, years). You get nowhere with both a guitarist and a drummer trying to figure out an oddly subdivided 7/8 or 5/4 part at the same time- quite comical to think about- and that's if they are good with odd time signatures!

    The challenges of writing in general are not any easier as a bassist. I feel like you really have to understand and imagine the big picture of what it will sound like, and convince everyone else to trust you while they get it together.

    There is no formula for writing. Every musician has different abilities and approaches. When it comes down to it, collaborating involves relationship and interpersonal skills more than anything else (example: the "shredder" guitarist everyone knows who isnt in a band because no one wants to play with him, and he cant write anyway).
    With my current band, it took 3 albums and about 5 years to put together the style of compositions that I really wanted to. It can really take years and years to do stuff. Pain the butt- yes. Bass oriented anything- awesome.

    Odd-time sig prog metal that takes forever to write:

    Bass-centric music:
  15. My band must be weird, we have random jams that spawn new parts thatt eventualy turn into songs, lyrics get writen individualy and collectivly by all three band members
  16. After years of having similar issues as the ones mentioned above, we finally found a formula that works for us:

    We all write at home and bring the skeleton of the song (lyrics, vox melody, chord changes...ie: verse, pre chorus, chorus, bridge,) to the table and then play it the way the original writer had it arranged. We then go about dissecting the song and arranging it as a band. Sometimes nothing gets changed and other times the song gets totally re-arranged.

    If the song isn't working no matter what we do after a good few hours of f-ing with it, we move on.
  17. mcm


    Oct 2, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    it will get better when everyone is past the age of 30, bit til then.......
  18. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Banned

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    I only ever collaborated on a song one time. The result was OK. I prefer to write the chords and melodies myself and would be open to giving leeway on things like guitar solos and lyrics.
  19. I write w/ people for my living . . . all I can say is most times if you are writing w/ an adult(s) it shouldn't be a problem - yeah it takes a degree of tact to disagree and you need to give and take - like I said: writing w/ adults

    in ten years it's never been an issue unless the common goal was not to make music!
  20. My current project is slooooow to write, but other than that I have no problems with what we are doing.

    Every single one of us are involved...stringed players, drummer, even the vocalist. The nice thing about this crew is that we all realize any criticisms or suggestions to the other players are made to benefit the song...not to bust an ego.

    If someone suggests something, whether it's arrangement, note selections, rhythmic changes, etc...we try it out to see if it works. If the vocalist feels he may need more room in a part or perhaps it's dragging to long...he'll say so.

    Eventually we'll track the song and then the fun starts. The wunderkid who does our recording for us will start throwing out suggestions. The good part about it is that he's able to copy/paste or just play his suggestions so that we could hear it. After tracking, we'll give him a few days to work and he'll bring us a 'new' version of the song. We'll usually OK it and then we get to relearn the songs we wrote. :eyebrow:

    It was very strange at first, but having that outside opinion has really worked so far.

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