Songwriting: Waht is it Made?

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I have a million musical ideas, I can always think of a good chord progression or riff, but somehow the process of writing a song has always escaped me. I think too hard about the lyrics, I'm too self-conscious about them, too unforgiving, constantly thinking "Does this seem sincere?" "Does this seem TOO sincere?" "Is this me?" "Is this something actually worth writing about?" "Do I have anything to say?"

In rare cases a good lyric will come to me, but then I don't know what to do with it melodically -- there always seem to be so many possibilities and none seems more or less right than any other.

So I thought it would be good to start a thread for tips, encouragement, commiseration, etc. I sometimes ask myself why I even want to write songs, since I've been banging my head against the wall for so man years.
It's certainly not the only vehicle available for musical expression, but somehow it's the most immediate and relatable, not to mention the easiest to do as one person with a guitar, and I just want to be able to go to some open mic or something and make that kind of audience connection through a song.

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Sunday, 8 October 2017 03:25 (eight months ago) Permalink

I developed a method that others have used, but I haven't yet (I hate my voice):

1. pick a song, not one of your favorites, just a song with words
2. delete the nouns and verbs
3. MAD LIBS - using overheard conversations and movie dialogue is encouraged
4. edit from there! Option: repeat 1-3 with a different song, and then combine the two results, etc. lather, rinse

El Tomboto, Sunday, 8 October 2017 03:30 (eight months ago) Permalink

a life like a pineapple
a god in my trunk

El Tomboto, Sunday, 8 October 2017 03:32 (eight months ago) Permalink

sort of an oblique strategies approach, I like it

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Sunday, 8 October 2017 03:33 (eight months ago) Permalink

also, importantly: you do not have anything to say, not in a song anyway
people who have "something to say" in song format figured this shit out between 12-25

El Tomboto, Sunday, 8 October 2017 03:34 (eight months ago) Permalink

Last but not least: Bobson Dugnutt

El Tomboto, Sunday, 8 October 2017 03:41 (eight months ago) Permalink

I have a million musical ideas, I can always think of a good chord progression or riff, but somehow the process of writing a song has always escaped me. I think too hard about the lyrics, I'm too self-conscious about them, too unforgiving, constantly thinking "Does this seem sincere?" "Does this seem TOO sincere?" "Is this me?" "Is this something actually worth writing about?" "Do I have anything to say?"

i identify with this a lot

professor of postmalonial studies (m bison), Sunday, 8 October 2017 03:53 (eight months ago) Permalink

i'll say this, my favorite song ive ever written did in fact have something to say and was melodically interesting to me, but its not really like a _songwriter's_ kinda song. it's pretty much the same thing over and over

https://soundcloud.com/matthewmathieu/inheritance

professor of postmalonial studies (m bison), Sunday, 8 October 2017 03:56 (eight months ago) Permalink

i have about 200-300 partially finished songs or loops and tell ymself every summer vacation "this year im putting together an album" ill let you know when that shit drops in 2031

professor of postmalonial studies (m bison), Sunday, 8 October 2017 04:06 (eight months ago) Permalink

There's a lot of good songs made by bands that (correctly) treated the human voice as just another instrument, so trying to be Pete Seeger is a fool's errand.

Just Underworld/Boredoms that shit. I intend to do so, one of these days.

El Tomboto, Sunday, 8 October 2017 04:07 (eight months ago) Permalink

This is clearly not my metier but there is something to be said for just stubbornly refusing to move on to the next idea before you finish the first. It doesn't matter if the song is bad or doesn't live up to your expectations - nobody has to hear it and you can potentially edit or revise it to improve things you don't like later on. Even if it just about the discipline of doing it, sitting down and completing something you are only 20% happy with can be helpful in working out how to get to 30%, 40%, 50%, etc.

If you are a perfectionist or self-conscious, maybe set yourself an arbitrary time limit of an hour or two to draft a full song. Lower your own expectations about end product and force yourself not to think intuitively rather than analytically.

I say this as someone with 300 unfinished things in Ableton but I also have a dozen or so kind of bad but enjoyable things I listen to weeks and months later.

Wag1 Shree Rajneesh (ShariVari), Sunday, 8 October 2017 04:46 (eight months ago) Permalink

^^^ this
I went through a three year period where I forced myself to finish and record every song that I started.
Also, don't try and sound like anyone else or start a song with the intention of making it sound a particular way. It makes things a hundred times harder. If a song ends up sounding different to how you thought it would when you started, that's fine.

Zings Can Only Get Better (snoball), Sunday, 8 October 2017 07:13 (eight months ago) Permalink

dude m bison that song you liked fucking bangs

flopson, Sunday, 8 October 2017 07:17 (eight months ago) Permalink

*linked

flopson, Sunday, 8 October 2017 07:17 (eight months ago) Permalink

I know, it satisfies my desire to make leftist political screeds and bangers at the same time

professor of postmalonial studies (m bison), Sunday, 8 October 2017 14:12 (eight months ago) Permalink

co-sign

pulled pork state of mind (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 8 October 2017 14:27 (eight months ago) Permalink

*curtsies* merci beaucoup

professor of postmalonial studies (m bison), Sunday, 8 October 2017 14:30 (eight months ago) Permalink

I think I usually go idea > rhymes > lyrics > chord structure > riff > bass > drums.

But really any order is fine.

Sometimes a challenge from outside helps; ask a friend or loved one to give you a topic. My wife dared me to write a song about interior decorating so I did. I wrote down a bunch of potential rhymes (curtain / certain; shade / made; chic / sleek; cream / dream; taupe / dope). Then I wrote hexameter couplets using those rhymes until I had enough to pick and choose to build verses.

P as in pterodactyl (Ye Mad Puffin), Sunday, 8 October 2017 14:40 (eight months ago) Permalink

this is my exact problem, man alive. So many songs that just need a convincing lyric. I find mine are either totally abstract and meaningless (which I think of as an Oasis-y cop-out) or so on-the-nose as to make them comedic. How to find that nuance

Shat Parp (dog latin), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 13:27 (eight months ago) Permalink

I've re-written this song like a thousand times. I have the full music recorded and ready to be sung over. Every time I think I've got a lyric in-shape, I sing it and think it's trite.

This is the latest version:

I've got a mind to haunt you when I'm dead
Cut holes in laundry
And run around the house while making sounds at night

If you ever find yourself
Creeping through the hallway
You never know what might be lurking out of sight

So call a priest
Dressed in white sheets
Cos I
I'll move your pictures and smash cups on the floor
Just like the movie Poltergeist

I'd be inclined to put you in a hex
Through the witching hour
Abracadabra hocus pocus and ta-daaaa
If you ever find yourself
Walking near my coven
You'll get to join in with our sacrificial rites

I went to town
I near-ly drowned in the lake
But I
I put a spell on all the folks down there
And now they squeak and hop like mice

I've got a thirst for blood that's in your neck
It's been far too long you see
Since I left my coffin buried in the ground
If you ever find yourself
Out in Transylvania
Beware the velvet wings and teeth that nip and bite

So kiss goodnight
Turn out the light
And check
For monsters in your wardrobe and under the bed
Let's pray you'll wake next day all right

Which is fine, in a ridiculous, zany, Halloween way. The previous iteration is all half-felt cliched thoughts and feelings and words that just happen to rhyme, but it's all hackneyed and embarrassing. I couldn't warm to it:

I've got a constant noise inside my head
Nulls and dumbs the senses
A mirror image of the world that's passing by
It's a funny thing in life
Waiting for perfection
When all that I can see is chaos all around

It seems so sad
But in-side I'm feeling grateful
Cos I, I know that if the silence stays too long
Reality is gonna bite

I hear a sound, a buzzing in my ears
It blocks out all the meaning
Of what is happening each day I step outside
If I ever find myself
Clucking and a-barking
Then maybe I've found sanctuary in that there sound

So kiss goodnight
Turn out the light
I know, tomorrow we'll be home again
We're gonna make it all worthwhile

I've seen a sign, I'm sure I know it leads
In the right direction
A path I've walked down many many times before
It's never been an easy ride
No doubt this time it's treacherous
Discover new bumps in the road at every turn

Then before that, and a version I had hanging around for years and even sang live. True Detective was big at the time:

I’ve got a nineties song stuck in my head
Loleatta Holloway
Who sang on ‘Ride on Time’ and ‘Love Sensation’
When I finally found myself
Humming with the melody
I knew that I just couldn’t get enoooough
The synths so bad
The style, so, fun and carefree
Her eyes
Cover me in ecstasy Blue Pearl
It might take you back in time
(because)
I’ve got a TV drama on my mind
Matthew Mcconaughey
And Woody Harrelson investigating crimes
When I finally found myself
Searching for Carcossa
I knew that I just couldn’t get enough
The script, so, rad
The lines never bad or cheesy
Her eyes
Promise me you’ll watch it after Breaking Bad
You will find it worth your while, while, while, while

I’ve got a Scottish county on my mind
Dumfries and Galloway
I’ve never visited but might get to one day
If I finally find myself
Out there on holiday
Perhaps I’ll stay there if the weather’s nice
The hills so grand
The isles so sad and lovely
Her eyes
Cover me in tartan head to toe
You might take it all in stride

Again, no no no no...

Shat Parp (dog latin), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 13:39 (eight months ago) Permalink

also, importantly: you do not have anything to say, not in a song anyway
people who have "something to say" in song format figured this shit out between 12-25

― El Tomboto, Saturday, October 7, 2017 10:34 PM (three days ago) Bookmark

disagree with this! first of all, it's ageist and secondly i think older people have a lot of insights that teenagers don't have

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 13:43 (eight months ago) Permalink

and ultimately people's voices should not be silenced just because they are not young

i am terrible at writing lyrics/songs but i recognize that it's my own lack of confidence in what i have to say that is stopping me. a lifetime of listening to other people carp about songs they don't like will do a number on one's ability to express oneself.

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 13:44 (eight months ago) Permalink

I find it pretty easy to make a song (not necessarily a good one, of course !)
The melodies/harmonies and arrangements ideas always come very naturally and quickly and as for the lyrics, I have never cared much for the meaning... I mostly try to find words and ideas that sound good or are catchy. Actually, most of the times I tried to make something meaningful, it ended up embarrassingly corny !
I used to be able to finish a song within a couple of days of rush (from the first idea/inspiration to the "final" home recording) but nowadays a bit less, mainly because I lack motivation (I used to have a band + share songs online and with friends which made it exciting to have new material). So now I have many demos and sketches at various stages that might never become songs.
To me, one of the best feelings in the world is when you get to the point where something clicks during the recording process and the song becomes the most exhilarating thing ever (after/before becoming the worst shit at another step of the process !)
My approach of songwriting is more related to the work of a "craftsman" than the work of an "artist".

AlXTC from Paris, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 14:07 (eight months ago) Permalink

This thread actually made me realize that I had in fact finished a song that I kind of like -- I had the melody and guitar part for a long time and a lyrical germ, but I completely forgot that one night in the wee hours I had quickly tapped out the rest of the lyrics on an iphone note and then gone back to sleep. I think I like it well enough. If I can get a chance to record it maybe I'll post it.

FWIW this one started as just sort of an image and words that sounded good to me, and I didn't know what it was about, but then I wound up creating a story from it.

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 15:27 (eight months ago) Permalink

<stuffy music guy voice>
Of all the chord progressions/melodic/harmonic ideas I've come up with that I've liked and recorded, I've only put words to exactly one of them. Never recorded the song with the words; though I have recorded it in a few different variations. Mainly because I have a terrible singing voice and no microphone (or the desire to get one).

Mostly I just like making instrumental music because it allows me to convey something, but it can evoke something entirely different for the listener. . .
</stuffy music guy voice)

. . .who am I kidding? No one actually listens to my music, besides me.

he doesn't need to be racist about it though. (Austin), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 17:49 (eight months ago) Permalink

Just sayin: there are easy ways to change that, Austin.

P as in pterodactyl (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 17:56 (eight months ago) Permalink

disagree with this! first of all, it's ageist and secondly i think older people have a lot of insights that teenagers don't have

I think I meant it to be ageist against young people who really believe they have Something to Say in a Song but either way I agree it's my usual offhand dismissiveness that nobody should pay attention to really (see what I did there)

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 17:57 (eight months ago) Permalink

when I was younger and stupider I used to delude myself into thinking that I was writing only for myself and didn't care what other people thought or how they might take my songs but as I've gotten older (and hopefully wiser) I've come to realize how critical it is to have some kind of audience in mind, even if it's totally imaginary and hypothetical, because it provides a framework, sometimes an unconscious one, that can guide you. Even back at the beginning I was doing this, I just didn't want to admit it.

Too $hort said in some interview once that every time he sits down to write something, he does it with a single fan in mind - the archetypal Too $hort fan. He has this vision of what that person's like and what they want from a song, and then he focuses in on delivering that, regardless of what type of song it is. And if it checks those boxes, then he knows he's done his job right.

This kinda gets around questions of "what do I have to say", "is it worth saying", "is this any good", etc. cuz it gives you a goal to shoot for, a target, it clarifies things.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:14 (eight months ago) Permalink

Hmm yeah that's a pretty good insight from Too $hort. Maybe I will mess around with writing for different kinds of ideal audience members. Sometimes I used to think about specific friends and their musical taste, but that wound up being a hindrance because I would get too caught up in worrying about their judgment, and also it felt "inauthentic" to do it that way. I probably need to drop the latter concern.

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:37 (eight months ago) Permalink

Sometimes I get obsessed with certain specific "confessional" songwriters and I forget that even confessional songwriters have a persona and aren't just spilling straight from the heart.

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:40 (eight months ago) Permalink

also spilling from the heart should only be done if one wants to spill. i have personally never wanted to do that. first and foremost, being emotionally "bare" and "raw" with words about my own experience doesn't appeal to me and even if it did, too dangerous. no thanks.

i like the iggy pop method of not using more than 25 words or whatever

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:44 (eight months ago) Permalink

I relate to your posts ITT LL

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:45 (eight months ago) Permalink

yeah, songwriting is a dialogue between two imaginary parties - the singer and the listener - you have to imagine both and then the song is what connects the two.

xp

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:45 (eight months ago) Permalink

also spilling from the heart should only be done if one wants to spill.

yeah well "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:46 (eight months ago) Permalink

like, if you take the trad "confessional" route and write a bunch of very literal lyrics from personal experience, the thing that is inevitably most clearly conveyed is not the actual subject matter of a given song but the fact that the performer has bought into overwrought ideas about "authenticity" and is hopelessly self-absorbed.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:50 (eight months ago) Permalink

cuz what is the role of the listener in that scenario, what can they bring to the table besides just being a bludgeoned recipient or worshipful acolyte? it limits the ways the listener can relate to the song, place themselves in it, or find something inscrutable to ponder over, it's a bad dynamic.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:53 (eight months ago) Permalink

depends on who you are. best not to get worked up about that stuff imo. if you want to share, share. if you don't, write about what you want to write about. that's the grant hart way and it's good enough for me.

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:53 (eight months ago) Permalink

I have been sort of obsessed with Adrianne Lenker/Big Thief in the last few days, and she is very much in the raw, confessional style, but it's clear that (1) many of her chosen experiences are highly relatable and (2) some of her songs really serve a purpose for the audience beyond just telling a story

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:55 (eight months ago) Permalink

I can't help it LL, I think about this stuff a lot! like, all the time.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 18:58 (eight months ago) Permalink

yeah i mean it's fine -- but overthinking it for me leads to madness and a fully stifled spirit. i guess my ideal audience is myself. when i make music or try to compose a tune, it's because i like it and i don't hear it anywhere else. like if i don't make it, it won't exist. if i went to a show and saw someone perform it, i would enjoy it. beyond that? whatever.

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 19:02 (eight months ago) Permalink

I think the other danger of the overly literal confessional mode is that it carries a lot of personal risk. in general, other people don't like/appreciate being written about, it opens up a whole other emotional minefield and you have to commit yourself to basically using people and treating them as creative fodder rather than as, y'know, actual real people.

xp

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 19:04 (eight months ago) Permalink

violating other people's privacy without their consent is never cool

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 19:09 (eight months ago) Permalink

Well you can be "confessional" in style without being literal, change enough details and names etc. I have no idea if the people in the Big Thief songs I'm thinking of are real individuals, amalgams, etc.

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 19:23 (eight months ago) Permalink

that's the art part i think!

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 19:31 (eight months ago) Permalink

Well you can be "confessional" in style without being literal, change enough details and names etc

how far do you have to go with this before it's no longer "confessional"?

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 19:57 (eight months ago) Permalink

just spitballin'... seems like by nature a "confessional" song requires the narrator to be conflated with the singer, the POV has to come across as being the singer's own, there's gotta be an "I" at the lyrical center, and that "I" has to line up with what the audience knows about the singer (gender, age, ethnicity, etc.) And then from there the other details, characters, events revolve around that. But how far removed from real-life can those other elements get before a song is no longer "confessional" and is instead wholly fictional? I mean usually there's some mixture of the two and the audience has no real way of knowing which is which, and that ambiguity tends to be where a lot of the most interesting stuff happens.

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 20:03 (eight months ago) Permalink

Just sayin: there are easy ways to change that, Austin.

I've posted a song here and there on ilx from time to time. But, as opposed to most people in this topic, I accepted years ago and have been okay with the fact that I make music almost exclusively for myself. Even when I'm inspired to write about a specific event or person, I only really go on what I think sounds good. It may be tacky, but I'm the most played artist in my iTunes library.

That being said, for some reason, I do post my music on bandcamp.

he doesn't need to be racist about it though. (Austin), Tuesday, 10 October 2017 20:11 (eight months ago) Permalink

sure sounds like Nevada!

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 21:53 (eight months ago) Permalink

(also Eno-era U2 if there were no drums, bass or Bono)

Οὖτις, Tuesday, 10 October 2017 21:53 (eight months ago) Permalink

Nah, always been more Vini Reilly than Dave Evans.

he doesn't need to be racist about it though. (Austin), Wednesday, 11 October 2017 02:18 (eight months ago) Permalink

Bringing things back to Man Alive's original post, I believe there are as many songwriting styles as there are songwriters. Likewise, there are as many types of listeners as there are types of songwriting.

I agree and disagree with bits and pieces of what a few people have said here (too many different people and too many things, so I won't point them out). I fear sounding uninteresting and obvious, but I think this should be said and put aside first: the most basic way to approach writing a song that you want to have the most mass appeal (i.e., a pop song) is probably to arrange predictable chord progressions (that sound "natural," or the most commonly used chord progressions) with parts that resolve very predictably, so not using a lot of fancy or harmonically complex chords.

The reason I state the obvious is because it sets the context for a question I think is important, and that I've not seen directly asked in this thread yet, and it's "What is a good song?" I sense people are referring to a "good" or "ideal" song when reading posts. But isn't chasing after writing a good song like chasing after a unicorn, and correct me if I'm wrong Man Alive, but it seems like you are preoccupied with writing a "good" song? If I'm wrong, I apologize. Assuming you are, though, I think this is the wrong track to go down. Most people have heard enough types of musics and our collective conscience probably already stores enough songs from all periods of music to divide what has been commercially successful and what hasn't. "Good" meaning appealing to a particular mass of people is there in the annals of music history. Create a mock-up of a song based on another popular song and transpose or write it in a different scale/key, I suppose. But this isn't interesting, is it? So what is really being asked? I think the question is what kind of song do you want to write? Telling someone how or what things to consider too narrowly is probably the most creatively stifling thing you can do.

Part of becoming a person who plays an instrument is digging through yourself's creative side and seeing what comes out. That's probably what you should write at the moment of composing. The notion that something you write will have mass appeal or will be liked by a particular group you predict is kind of useless, right?

I don't understand the concept of "not writing for oneself." I mean, the composer is not some metaphysical entity existing outside of this world. Unfortunately, the composer also belongs to a particular group, even if he hops from clique to musical clique. This idea of imagining writing for a non-self is an exercise of detachment from the composition, surely. It's a way to get passed all your emotions and preconceived notions and be comfortable with continuing to write a piece from end to finish. If you can do this without having to write for the non-self, I don't see what the problem is. But then again looking at a brightly lit mirror can be a harrowing experience. Which is why people are so shocked with their recorded voice. I know I have written songs and months later, I have played it to someone, and it has sounded so poppy that it frightened me how I thought at the time of composing it that it wasn't that generic sounding. My songs also sound different to my ear when I play a recording of them for people in the same room as I, which is always a weird experience. It doesn't happen as often anymore.

So, I write songs in a very mathematical way. In fact, some well-meaning people tell me I'm so creative after listening to my music, but I'm not, really. Music is just numbers to me, which took me a while to understand this is just how I remove just enough of myself from the song to continue writing a song. The song is still written for myself. I'm sure a few people like it. I'm pretty sure millions hate it. I've never been sure what is a "good" lyrical line, only what was a terrible one. Rather, I know what I don't want my songs to be. I just don't know what they want them to be. But I still manage to write songs this way.

The best for me has been to try writing as many types of songs as possible, then write whatever you feel or whatever idea you want to explore, adding enough components to keep you interested.

Weirdly enough, this concept of not knowing what good is has led me to liking what a lot of my friends consider to be corny songs, by the way. But I'm too old to care about those things.

I should mention that writing and performing with other people is a completely different beast, but as someone above said, when things click in a song, especially when everyone clicks in a band, this is just probably one of very few very miraculous things I've ever experienced.

the sound of space, Wednesday, 11 October 2017 04:50 (eight months ago) Permalink

arrange predictable chord progressions (that sound "natural," or the most commonly used chord progressions) with parts that resolve very predictably, so not using a lot of fancy or harmonically complex chords

Okay but this also describes a great many songs that most of us would agree are awesome. It's not just pop, or calculated for "mass appeal." Plenty of actively good songs are three- and four-chord "predictable" progressions.

I agree that all writing is "writing for oneself," in that you want to be reasonably pleased by what you've come up with, even if you're never quite satisfied that you've reached some illusory perfect pinnacle.

P as in pterodactyl (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 11 October 2017 12:07 (eight months ago) Permalink

Yes. "Pop" is such a difficult word. The parts in my post where I talk about pop I probably did not take enough time to craft well enough or articulate what I meant properly. I sound like I'm against it or that it's a negative, but I don't actually believe this.

I know my take on this thread's topic is pretty personal and out there, though.

the sound of space, Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:04 (eight months ago) Permalink

just for example, this morning I tried the "common chord progression" approach. I actually got a bite pretty quickly, a progression I liked but that still sounded "simple" and a bit of vocal melody, a few lines that set a scene/story, but then suddenly I found it going in a direction I didn't like, the character annoyed me, it was a second person song to a woman and the stuff the character was saying seemed slightly creepy or stalkerish. Maybe I should just run with it anyway and see where it goes, but that's an example of the kind of roadblock I tend to hit.

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:11 (eight months ago) Permalink

if you've never written much of anything before, songs or stories or whatever, and you're trying to jump immediately into a deep but relatable confessional or a complex shaded narrative, it's going to be ... difficult. i would recommend trying to keep things simple to start. a couple of verses and a chorus. don't worry too much about it meaning anything super important. maybe just an observation or a scenario or even nonsense that sounds good. try writing lyrics before writing music and stockpiling them so when you have a musical idea you can see if you have something prepared that fits. i mean, if that doesn't sound fulfilling to you, feel free to ignore me, but it feels like you're setting the bar way too high for yourself.

na (NA), Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:17 (eight months ago) Permalink

try writing lyrics before writing music and stockpiling them so when you have a musical idea you can see if you have something prepared that fits

^^^ ime every good songwriter does this

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:19 (eight months ago) Permalink

there's something to be said for writing something that can mean different things to different people, depending on how they look at it, instead of being really didactic about "this is my song and this is what it's about"

na (NA), Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:19 (eight months ago) Permalink

Joni Mitchell: “[Bob] Dylan said to me at one point that he, you know, he couldn’t write anymore, and I said, “Oh, what about this and what about that?” And he said, “Oh, the box wrote it.” I said, “What do you mean ‘the box’?” He said, “I write down things from movies and things I’ve heard people say and I throw them in the box.” I said, “I don’t care where you got your bits and pieces; you still put them all together.”

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:20 (eight months ago) Permalink

i don't think there's a right way to do any of this. music before lyrics is fine, lyrics before music is fine. this is just advice intended to reset your brain and approach from a different perspective.

na (NA), Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:20 (eight months ago) Permalink

i definitely have written several songs that are just describing the plots or ideas of movies or books that i have enjoyed recently

na (NA), Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:21 (eight months ago) Permalink

writing a bunch of bad and embarrassing songs is part of the process

na (NA), Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:22 (eight months ago) Permalink

yeah good stories can come from anywhere

xp

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:22 (eight months ago) Permalink

I wrote a couple songs where I liked the music and just sang words that fit into those bars nicely. The words themselves had no real relationship to one another. It was more of a free association thing, but when I had finished, I could definitely see how a stranger could construct some sort of meaning out of it.

I'm sure there are examples of musicians who did this, I just can't think of any at the moment.

the sound of space, Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:34 (eight months ago) Permalink

Eno

Οὖτις, Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:34 (eight months ago) Permalink

Good call!

In terms of ideas for a cohesive narrative, I usually rely on books and movies to inspire me to write something.

the sound of space, Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:36 (eight months ago) Permalink

I think Doug Martsch claimed that that was his approach to lyric writing.

how's life, Saturday, 14 October 2017 09:39 (eight months ago) Permalink

Karl Hyde said somewhere he uses pieces of overheard conversation. Lyrics as collage is what I was sort of talking about up thread

El Tomboto, Saturday, 14 October 2017 13:20 (eight months ago) Permalink

i definitely have written several songs that are just describing the plots or ideas of movies or books that i have enjoyed recently

Ah yes, the Iron Maiden method

change display name (Jordan), Saturday, 14 October 2017 14:31 (eight months ago) Permalink


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