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What's your method for creating songs?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Blueszilla, Apr 12, 2006.

  1. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City
    An old friend of mine and I are going to start meeting twice a month to 'collaborate' on things musical. He's a great musician, lots of ideas, plays guitar, bass, piano, trumpet, all quite well. He has been out of touch with the music scene for a while, (long story, but he is a teaching golf pro now) and is missing it. I'm not sure what to expect out of this, but i want to be organized enough to get some things down on paper or in the computer and work on them between sessions. I see lots of opportunity to learn and maybe do something special while having some fun.

    How do you approach the creative process with regards to collaboration? What are your goals for a session? Describe your method/process for writing tunes, by yourself and/or with others.
  2. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    I write mostly on guitar. Usually, I come up with a chord progression I like and that creates the basic structure. Then come the harder part, which is consciously creating a good contrasting part that complements the first bit without sounding like it was created to contrast with the first part. Sometimes the second part is nice enough that it becomes the first. I don't use terms like "verse" and "chorus", but you could say they apply.

    I've never really collaborated in songwriting. I've contemplated finding a lyricist, but I feel that I'll grow as an individual if I cultivated that creative aspect and I guess I like being in control. I suppose I'd go for it if I found the right partner.

    Even though I never wrote with a partner, I think it would be a good idea if each of you brought something for the two of you to work on instead of bringing nothing and waiting for inspiration to hit you on the spot.
  3. bannedwit


    May 9, 2005
    Buffalo, NY
    When I am thinking of stuff on bass. I sit down and goof around with a scale. From there, I pick up stuff that sounds nicely and start to break progressions down this way. From there I add or take away from how many times notes are played and usually something nice comes out of it. After I get a catchy riff, I dub that my chorus and work on the verse in the same mannor with different stuff in the same key. The bridge is last and I throw in whatever the verse and chorus might be missing and make it the climax... Lately, I take my Laptop, use Reason or Fruity Loops to make a drum beat and jam off that until cool stuff is created.

    When I write bass parts for a band, I take their chord changes and song structure and key and start off by getting the vibe of the song. This usually means root notes only for the first couple jams. Sometimes right away I get ideas for bass lines and start to construct more intricate ones on the fly the second time i hear the song. Other times, it is more difficult (aka, there is NO room for me to stray from the root because there is just too much going on from everyone else) so I keep the root stuff with little or no modification. When I hear a song I need 3 things:
    kick Drum beat, key, chors changes. Everything else works from there.
  4. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City
    Ok, seems appropriate enough. I've done something similar with things I've come up with. What electronic tools do you use to store your ideas? I want something easy to use, that has decent playback quality, is portable, and reasonably priced.

  5. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Just for a scratchpad, I use a Tascam Porta-03. Simple to use, costs $100 or so.
  6. With my band songs start off as jams.
  7. barthanatos

    barthanatos Insert witty comment here

    Feb 8, 2006
    South Carolina
    I start off with the message I want to share. What do I want to say?

    From that I write lyrics. As I'm writing the lyrics, a basic rhythym kind of forms in my head, and maybe a melody. The rhytym sort of generates itself just based on the syncopation of the words and how many syllables per line there are. The melody takes a bit of work sometimes.

    Once I have a pretty good idea of what the melody should be, I move to guitar. I sing the melody and try to find chords to match. This typically isn't too hard... pick a key. From that point you have just limited things to 3 basic major chords and three basic minor chords. Occasionally I'll decide to use the VII chord. It's generally pretty easy to tell whether a chord should be major or minor, so now I have three chords to pick from, and my ear to guide me. I try them out.

    After I have those basics figured out, I will go back and extend the chords appropriately (add 7th or 9th notes), and maybe pick a major triad that doesn't sound "just right" and swap it out for a C2, Csus or C4, for example.

    I play through the song and listen for hooks that seem to sort of already be there, or are not there, but sound like they should be.

    If I'm having trouble right off the bat, I'm probably trying it in the Ionian mode when it shouldn't be. For example, I'm starting off with a C chord and I'm in the key of C. So I'll try it in a different mode, still playing in the key of C, but starting off with G, maybe.

    After all this, I should have a fairly workable song. So I play through on guitar and listen to what I have come up with. I look at the overall flow of the song. Do the verses need to be swapped around, maybe obliterate one that sucks, or whatever. Look for parts that aren't what you want them to be. Try to fix them. Unfixable? Try to replace. Irreplacable? Maybe it's time to move on to the next song. Don't throw valuable time after an unvaluable idea.

    Find a part of the song I really like. Groove around on it a bit, improvise on it. Twist it around a bit and see what happens to it. I love the idea mentioned above of making the catchy part of the song into the chorus. It's called a chorus because people are supposed to sing along. The chorus is kind of like the call to listen. It's like, "Hey! I have something to say about this!" And then the verses explain why you feel the way you do about the chorus (this is in reference to lyrics, but take it however you want). The deep meaning of the song comes from the verses.

    When all this is done... I just chord everything out and let whomever I'm playing with come up with their own lines for their instrument. If there's a major riff or hook or whatever, then they need to keep that in mind... but nobody ever tells me :):cue My Fair Lady accent:: well, hardly ever) what to play on the bass. I figure it out myself. And I don't want to dictate what other people play. That's part of the joy of music, that collaboration. It might be hard to do on a song that you've written, if you feel like it's "your baby" or whatever.
  8. barthanatos

    barthanatos Insert witty comment here

    Feb 8, 2006
    South Carolina
    Sony PCMD1 Portable Audio Recorder

    Had you covered until you mentioned "reasonable priced". This thing looks freaking awesome and I wish I could afford one.

    Me, I use a Tascam DP-01FX (well, it fits in a backpack) for bigger stuff.

    And an Olympus VN-240PC (got mine cheap at overstock.com) that can go absolutely anywhere with me and easy to save those quick ideas that are hard to remember later. And it can transfer to PC digitally.

    Try to keep a pen and paper handy at all times too.
  9. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    My tunes are generally born from a big ol' library of guitar riffs, keyboard bits, and what-have-you that I record and collect over time. I come up with an idea on guitar, and I record it and add it to the library, etc. Those ideas later become verses, choruses, etc.

    Once in a while I'll write pretty much the whole arrangement on the spot (I just did that yesterday.) I usually write on guitar, but like I said sometimes a keyboard bit will set things in motion. I don't write much on bass; bass is more of a reaction and response instrument to me.
  10. TheJimster


    Feb 21, 2006
    Pensacola, FL
    Hey man I say to write a song I would first look at chord progression and of course scales! Really to write a song I would first listen to how Jazz does it! Jazz is a very interesting type of music but very simple at the same time...

    Guitarists need to focus on chord progression and maybe octaves. Experiment with the notes and create a good melody and basically create samples and try mixing some of them together. Once my band records our Jazz-Metal song I'll give it to you so you can know what I'm getting at. I wrote a bassline for the song i'm talking about that bassically keeps one melody throughout the song. It will change according to the drums and guitar. My drum part is slow and easy. The song involves a small scale orchestra and a french horn, trumpet, Clarinet, Bb Clarinet, Saxophone Alto and Barritone, and an Oboe, I'm gonna throw in teh tuba once I can write the music. I'm gonna get my freind Luke to help me. But most all of teh instruments except the Horn, Saxes, and Guitar really have a hard job. I say give this song another 11 moths and I'll be done with it.

    Keep your back melody simple and work with that. Or use counter-melodies. In my band we have a song (which we are still deciding if we want to use it on a CD) where the Drums, Bass (ME!!) and the guitarists battle with their own melodies and solos so to speak.(everytime we play it the drummer wins)

    So Let's Recap:

    1. Scales
    2. Chord progressions
    3. Melodies
    4. Music Theory experimentation
    5. Not experimentation
    6. Counter-melody
    7. Guitar will always lose!
    8. Don't go over the top like I did with all the instruments i'm incorporating.
    9. Keep the beat
    10. Do your Best!!!

    ( Oh and almost forgot Keep Rockin!!) :rolleyes:
  11. record everything - if you can. There are dozens of ways to do it and it is cheap. The best things happen on first whacks - for some reason, it is true - and it is always nice to have had 'the tape rolling' to catch it. I don't know how many times we have been in a free-jam situation that just happened to hit right off the bat and THE TAPE WAS NOT ROLLING! Everyone is simultaneously saying, "That was great! Damn, that sucks we didn't get it recorded... That was great! But, damn..."

    If you can, record everything. You don't have to keep it all, but you will thank yourself for catching that golden moment last night.

  12. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City
    Cool ideas all. I suppose whatever is effective for you is the way to go. Seems like no way is a bad way.

    My friend stayed until 11:30 or 12, had a great time, he is so full of cool ideas. I am setting up a room to record in, using a laptop and an m audio Duo I bought from TB'er Vanselus last year. For the short term I'll record stuff we like and work on it between our meetings.

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