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Songwriting advice.

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by SmokinJoe992, Dec 4, 2018.

  1. For those of you that write songs. What skills, resources, books, apps, whatever, have you found to be useful in helping you write songs, or getting started with writing songs. I am considering diving head first into song writing. At this point I only play bass, and very little guitar, but I have a basic understanding of music theory. I also am strongly considering learning to play keyboards. I am mainly interested in writing rock n roll, country and/or blues songs. What are some of the things that could help me get started?

    (Disclaimer-I have searched and read numerous threads here and elsewhere on the topic. I am looking for more current info more applicable to my situation from a community whose collective knowledge and wisdom I appreciate)
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Subbed with interest but I have nothing to contribute. Still lousy at songwriting 40 years or so into trying...
  3. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    How to write a hit song in 3 easy steps.

    First, write a catchy hook, with lyrics everyone will find themselves repeating.
    Second, get a talented performer who people can't resist to perform it.
    Third, get a major label to sell it everywhere.

    If you can handle these 3 easy steps, you can make bajillions of dollars, and can likely quit your job down at the bait 'n tackle store.
    Bunk McNulty and Mushroo like this.
  4. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    Try dreaming songs. Have a song in a dream, rouse yourself enough to quickly write it down with the pad of paper and pencil on the nightstand. This is an ability you can develop.
    IamGroot likes this.
  5. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Seriously, I wrote songs by playing chords that made sense and humming melodies. Often, I had a poem or thought I wanted to sing about and tried to incorporate. There's a lot of different ways to do it. I would suggest sticking to genres you have a lot of miles logged in as a player or listener. If you write THE GREATEST SONG EVER, and then realize it's actually Folsom Prison Blues, don't be discouraged. That happens to everybody.

    Just write songs. Write 10 really BAD songs, and you are a few steps closer to writing your first GOOD song.
  6. I like the ‘just do it’ advice. There are many things I have done in my life that weren’t nearly as hard as I thought they would be. I will consider myself very fortunate if it only takes 10 songs, though.
    Our there any books, tools or resources you find that are helpful?
  7. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    A famous musician said "if the average guy can't sing it or hum it or
    whistle it, it will not be a hit". Les Paul
    JRA and SmokinJoe992 like this.
  8. Great advice. I have always said a song does not have to be complicated to be good.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018
    wildman2 likes this.
  9. I’m no help. Ive written a lot of lyrics but I have trouble writing the melody and chords.
  10. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    Most of the good writers I know write ever day, they will tell you most of it doesn’t cut it, but then a gem appears.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018
    SmokinJoe992 likes this.
  11. There is so much that shapes good song writing, but short of formal education in music theory and composition, I’d say find someone who’s writing you respect, and want to emulate, and learn to play their music, with an ear toward analysis and pattern discovery.
    SmokinJoe992 likes this.
  12. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    Not songwriting but it is writing so i’ll share. I have my best ideas while driving but i also suffer from CRS so i found myself frustated in the evening when i had time to sit down and write and could only recall bits of the clever plot twist, or turn of phrase. To solve this problem i got a small voice recorder i carry everywhere i go so i can catch those ideas while they’re fresh even when i can’t write them down on paper.
    Another thing that helps me a lot is letting an english teacher with a red pen read what i’m doing. In your case a seasoned songwriter might be a better choice but find someone with some knowledge of what you are doing who you can trust to give you an honest opinion and let them read your work.
    redwingxix and SmokinJoe992 like this.
  13. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    00 images2b3.
    i don't think you have to become a 'keyboard player' to utilize that keyboard in songwriting. but a 'piano-style' keyboard can go along way in making melodies/harmonies easy to visualize...and with midi: you can record (archive) your ideas and print them out as manuscript/lead sheets for other musicians if you care to do it.
    SmokinJoe992 likes this.
  14. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    I find that songwriting pretty much come from within. Having a sound knowledge of theory and chord progressions can help develop ideas, but the inspiration has nothing to do with musical skills. I don't really write much anymore, but when I used to, it was always based on either a catch phrase that popped in my head or a particular feeling I'm experiencing (love songs, blues, rage songs, etc) or a melody/chord progression that I stumbled while noodling on an instrument. Rarely did the two ever develop at once. - I don't remember ever starting a new song off by having a melody attached to a phrase as I recognized it as a new potential song.

    Keyboard or guitar are much easier tools for writing than bass. That being said, the latest song I "wrote" is a jazz/latin instrumental that came out of a bass noodle.

    What makes you want to write a song? Are you hearing a melody in your head? Start developing the melody and than adding some chord structure to it (this is where music theory can help). Do you have some lyrics ( a poem or a feeling that you need to express) that you want to put to music? Stat by imagining what music will best reflect the feeling you want to express. Consider partnering with someone, especially if your strength lies heavily on one side of the coin (melody/arrangement vs lyrics).

    And just have fun with it. It's not like you're under pressure to knock out another album by next week for the studio! It'll come when it comes - you really can't rush your muse....
    ObsessiveArcher and SmokinJoe992 like this.
  15. ...and then have the dream come crashing down when you realize that the Big Record Company that signed you (or rather, your song) just lawyered up and got their way out of paying you ANY royalties whatsoever.

    I'd hold onto that fishing pole a little longer!
    Jewce likes this.
  16. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2008
    Working with a DAW like Logic or Ableton is quite useful, though not cheap. It gets you in the mindset of laying out and layering parts. When I started sequencing with NI Maschine, my writing abilities expanded. It is particularly interesting to be able to write in MIDI chords or sequences, then swap the instruments playing those notes. I find that changing the timbre of a part can change how the other parts work around it. It is also easy to copy and paste MIDI between tacks, so you can easily create a bass part that doubles a guitar part (possibly editing chords down to roots, and changing the voicing or octave). Garage Band is pretty decent as a starting point, and if you have an Apple computer you probably have it installed.

    This book opened my eyes... um, ears. Well worth a read.

    Looking into some jazz standards helps you get your head around common structures. When I started playing with a jazz friend of mine, I started to see the common chord changes songs used, and I could better hear how songs developed. Listen to blues, and you'll no doubt hear a 1-4-5 progression in your head. Start learning 2-5-1 patterns and they will begin to become part of your vocabulary. Something like The Real Book, or a Nashville Numbers book is helpful for understanding the basic song structures you can build on.
    SmokinJoe992 likes this.
  17. Just try to write something down in a note book everyday and if a melody comes to you record it no matter what it is. The most difficult thing I found in writing a song is being original. I had to really stop listening to any outside source of music, so I wouldn't accidentally borrow some one else's material this becomes really important if you are copy writing your material or trying to sell it to someone else. Experiment with different chords. As for educationally material there are tons of stuff online to steer you in a direction. As for the way I do it is never a melody first or music first in comes together usually. I will almost always start with a drum beat. and then either play bass lines or guitar chords over the beat. Once that is done the melody rolls off pretty easy. I usually will add words some of which have nothing to do with anything just scratch lyrics to feel out the phrasing. Than I will look over lyrics I have jotted down and try to in-cooperate them into the melody. I have been writing songs since my teenage years and even at my age and still pretty prolific thankfully.
  18. Just play. That's literally the best advice anyone can give you. Play, come up with a melody, and write lyrics. Once you have a base instrument, everything kinda writes itself and evolves from there. Then, you can write some lyrics for it.

    Edit: I dont want to get into to stupid debates, so I deleted the rest of this.

    Have fun making music. That's what it's all about man
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2018
    SmokinJoe992 likes this.
  19. Dynomuttasaurus


    Jul 23, 2016
    Even though I play rock/metal and am 46 years old, I go to a monthly meeting with a half dozen retired folk musicians to chat song writing.

    The first hour of the meeting is topical, and the second hour we play what we created the past month and critique each other. They all play acoustic guitars and sing along. I bring a blutooth speaker and play the drum machine/guitar/bass/vocal composition I recorded in my basement and uploaded to Soundcloud. All in all, they humor my youthful death metal attitude (their collective summation of my contribution) and I learn a lot from their stripped-down, lyric-driven style.

    The two main ingredients to song writing are 1) get out of your comfort zone on a regular basis, 2) just do it - even the best song writers write a stinker from time to time.
    SmokinJoe992 and rtslinger like this.
  20. mcarp555

    mcarp555 Guest

    Jul 14, 2013
    As @mellowinman said, write write and write. Accept the first 10 or 100 songs you write will be horrible. Write them anyway. I studied the Beatles, who were masters of the catchy tune. Understand why they chose the covers they did as well.

    I started out thinking I had to complete a song in one go "while the inspiration was still hot". The day I learned to sit down and edit my material was the day I got better as a writer.
    SmokinJoe992 likes this.

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