Skip to content
What's your method?
 
Notifications
Clear all

What's your method?

4 Posts
3 Users
0 Reactions
2,410 Views
(@tiger-jam)
Eminent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 21
Topic starter  

I've seen a lot written here about lyrics and theory, but still haven't found much discussion about how people put the music together with the words to make a song. I'm sure its here, but there's a lot of places to look and I'm sure I just missed it, so I figured I'd add my 2 bits:

When I'm working a piece up, I usually start with a chord progression. Preferably an unusual chord progression, because that's what will stimulate my imagination. I play around with that for a while. Then later or maybe the second night, I work up a companion chord progression. So now I have 2 parts (maybe verse/chorus, but it is still up for grabs).

When I'm comfortable with both parts, and a transition between them, I'll sing stream of consciousness along with them. This is the point where the melody appears. The words are unimportant (just like when Paul McCartney first woke up with "Yesterday" in his head, the original lyric to the song was "Scrambled eggs...")

So the melody gets somewhat nailed down, and in the process of tossing in these random word associations, a few lines start to coalesce in some kind of lyrical unity. At this point I can put the guitar down, and fine tune these lines. This process might take an average of 3 days. At the end of that period I have a reasonably fine-tuned verse and chorus (although I still might change which is the verse and which is the chorus, etc.)

Chances are, the meaning of the whole thing is still somewhat of a mystery to me. I try to figure... what is this about? What is the theme? These lines that sprang from my subconsicous mut have some underlying thread. So in the same way you might, after waking from a dream filled with unrelated images, impose your conscious mind to construct a unified theme or plotline, I do the same with these starter lines.

Once I have that, I go to work on additional verses that develop the theme. I work the verses in my head through the day on an elevator or at a red light, etc., and when I have something put it down in the notepad in my pocket.

It's all patience and evolution. Rarely sitting down to "write". Just nurturing the idea and letting it express itself at its own pace. Unexpected and surprising connections and themes will announce themselves if you will give them the space to.

Then again, sometimes I'm driving and the melody and words appear all at once, but that doesn't count as a "method" does it?

Typical timeframe from start to finish is about a week. Averaging 1.5 songs per month.


   
Quote
(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 8184
 

i guess there are 3 methods. one, writing the lyrics first, then fitting music according to the mood and structure of the song. two, writing the music first. this basically consists of playing it over and over until words come to you. three is when they come together at the same time. these usually work really well and feel natural, but are hard to remember, especially if you made up two or three verses off the top of your head.


   
ReplyQuote
(@zaiga)
Trusted Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 64
 

Hey Tiger Jam, my method is very much like yours. I usually start with a chord progression and I hum a melody on top of it, adding some stream-of-consciousness words to it. Then I start thinking what the words could mean, giving a certain direction to the rest of the lyrics. I don't spend too much time on fine tuning the lyrics at this point, I just let it flow.

Once I've got a working part of chord progression, melody and lyrics I start to think about whether this should be the chorus or a verse. Usually it ends up as the chorus, but every once in a while the verse comes up first. Then I start working on another part (verse or chorus), using the same method as above. I like to modulate between verse and chorus, so usually I start thinking about how I want to end the verse, to have a smooth transition into the chorus, so for the chord progression I work backwards, otherwise the method is the same. This time I usually spend some more time on the lyrics, because by now I have a certain theme that the lyrics must fit.

Once I have a verse / chorus I start thinking about where the verse fits into the song. Some verses have lyrics that would better fit at the end of the story, so they should go at the end of the song and I need to come up with a verse that would start the story, or vice versa. I also think about the structure of the song, whether the song needs a bridge, or perhaps a second verse, where the instrumental part should go, if any, etc.

Once that is all done I usually type it all up on the computer, to save it for posterity. This is usually also a good time to fine tune the lyrics. As you write it up you notice what sounds wrong and what sounds right. Usually I keep tweaking lyrics long after I have written the song. I have completely rewritten the lyrics for the verses of a song only once, for my first song, but usually I just keep the original lyrics intact as much as possible, because they often have a certain charming honesty and spontanity to them.

Another method, that I've been using more and more lately, is starting the song with a specific melody in my head. Usually this melody comes from trying to find a melody to a specific phrase that sounds cool, and which has storytelling potential. When I get home I try to find matching chords for this melody and it goes from there. Otherwise the method is the same, it just has a different starting point.

I never started writing a song by writing lyrics first. This is method that doesn't work for me. I have to construct a song piece by piece. By writing the complete lyrics first I would feel too much constrained, I think, although it would be an interesting exercise to try for once.


   
ReplyQuote
(@tiger-jam)
Eminent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 21
Topic starter  

I never started writing a song by writing lyrics first. This is method that doesn't work for me. I have to construct a song piece by piece. By writing the complete lyrics first I would feel too much constrained, I think, although it would be an interesting exercise to try for once.

I tried this recently for the first time, and I do recommend you take a swing at it, even if just for the exercise (that was why I did it). I was pleased with the outcome. In some sense, the approach was similar to my regular method, in that I did not try to write out ALL the words and then come in with a musical structure. Instead, I started with just a verse.. a line actually.

Cocaine drug cartels had a phrase "plomo o plata" which translates as "silver or lead". In context, it referred to the choice offered to public officials: you will either take our silver (bribes) or you will take our lead (death). I did not write about cocaine and drug smuggling, etc., but the themes presented by that dillema was interesting to me, so I started with the phrase "silver or lead" and went from there.

What I came up with was much more densely worded, with many more nuances that usual. Also, I found my word choice was more consciously rhythmic in its own right than usual, the way non-musical poetry will create its own rhythm using the words alone. I also found myself using more complicated rhyme schemes to reinforce the rhythm. After I got the first part written (I knew that would be the chorus), I wrote a second part (verse) with a slightly different rhythm than the first. Then, I figured out the guitar part. Then gradually, over the next week or so, added and revised verses in the same way as usual.

So it's not a complete departure, but as you said, just a matter of a different starting point.


   
ReplyQuote