are there other ways to write?

Posted on

Member Since: Jan 18, 2003

today i am in quite a rut. i spent hours trying to write a song, but the whole day boiled down to random power chords. i could not find a single thing to get excited about.

i thought about nirvana and the pixies--bands who rely heavily on power chords--and i thought, 'for god's sake what is the fracking secret?'

was wondering if you guys write via some other method. or if you write using mostly power chords, what your method is.

today i hate music.


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A small pie will soon be eaten
Member
Since: Aug 26, 2004


Feb 06, 2005 12:01 am

I think 'trying to write' is your first mistake today. maybe your only one!

If i set out to 'try' and write a song then nothing will be there.

I know its sounds stupid but i just the let song find me. It's not hard, i'm generally always in the one spot.

I am not a crook's head
Member
Since: Mar 14, 2003


Feb 06, 2005 12:08 am

I usually have to already have an idea in my mind and then try to find the key notes on the guitar, then I try to write around that. I've gotta have something I'm trying to work towards I guess or else I end up doing the same thing that you experienced today. Believe me, I've spent days like that too.

Now, sit and do that every day and I garantee that in a week you'll have a cool song. And in a month, you'll have 4. And in a year you'll 52 :)

I find that I really only produce (at least what I consider) "keepers" when I'm not trying to write them. The more frequently I write, the less frequently I feel pressure from myself to write significant stuff. A good song will sneak up on you!

Member
Since: Jul 02, 2003


Feb 06, 2005 02:13 am

I have to go along with the others. Good songs find you not the other way around. :) I don't really start out with any particular direction. If I was as active writing as I was in the 80's something would come out of it most any night I spent the time playing (which was pretty often back then). Some better than others to be sure, but the songs are there if you just let them happen. I really wish I could spend as much time as I did back then, but simply too many other things to do these days.

Dan

Member
Member
Since: Nov 28, 2004


Feb 06, 2005 03:50 am

yup,just like melodies find you a song will most likely follow don't be so hard on your self!
My problem seems to be being able to find that melody and not finding much else I have like 10 would be songs if only I knew where to take them next.

bace135 in the house tonight!
Member
Since: Jan 28, 2003


Feb 06, 2005 03:08 pm

I don't know, sometimes I sit down to make music without having any ideas of what I want to do. Sometimes nothing comes, sometimes nothing good comes, and sometimes I end up with some of the coolest stuff (in my mind). The thing is, if I can't get a good melody, then I try some drum sequencing. If that doesn't work, I'll try banging some chords on the keyboard. If that doesn't work, I might pull out the bass. Eventually, I'll get something that I like, and just build from there. Sometimes, like the other day, I only got a cool drum track, and everything else I did on top of it was awful. So, come back to it a couple of days later, and praciced working with samples over it (just getting into working with samples), and oooowee. Came out with a very sick instrumental (in my mind).

Member
Since: Jan 18, 2003


Feb 06, 2005 04:57 pm

thanks guys...i agree with everything everyone said.

"The more frequently I write, the less frequently I feel pressure from myself to write significant stuff. A good song will sneak up on you!"

---ah, so that's why that works that way. i never thought about that that way before--that;s a great explanation.

yeah, i just got into a 'sit down and write' kind of mood. i didn't have 'a mood' except that one! i do believe in writing even when i don't feel like it, though, because it primes you for ideas and keeps you going. if i dont do that, long gaps go by where i do no music. this most recent one is about six months. such a long time! so maybe i just forget the basic thing which is that its ok to force yourself to be there with your guitar at a certain time everyday, but everytime you come back into that habit after a time away you apparently have to confront, first thing, the erroneous notion that you're just gonna start automatically popping out great songs at random.

String bender
Member
Since: Unknown


Feb 07, 2005 11:17 am

I agree with everything that everyone has said here but I think there are rut busters you can use to help you along. One thing I like to do is search the net for guitar cords or get a cord book and mess with cords you wouldnt use on a daily basis. Another thing would be to try to learn a song that is different from the style you play. Even is you dont learn the song note for note it doesnt matter. The object is to stir things up and get a different point of view. Anyhow, those are just some of the things I do. Take care!

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Feb 07, 2005 11:20 am

I like having chord charts when doing session playing for people, at least then I have a starting point and kinda go off from there.

VSS's app Lyricist is great for simple lyric and chord charting sheets, I use it a lot. coldfusion.affiliateshop....836&BID=688

Banned


Feb 07, 2005 01:05 pm

i think i read somewhere or someone told me david bowie would cut out words and randomly past them together (i guess pick them out from a fish bowl)and build from that, maybe you could try that with guitar chords. ?!?!

Answer:On a good day, lipstick.
Member
Since: Jun 24, 2004


Feb 07, 2005 04:38 pm

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open up a vein." - Walter Smith

Don't force it. Let it come to you naturally.
Noodle a bit, and the melody will just float in and sit over what you're doing....sooner or later.....

"I'd spent 5 hours that morning trying to write a song that was meaningful and good, and I finally gave up and lay down. Then, ' Nowhere Man ' came, words and music, the whole damn thing, as I lay down." - John Lennon

Member
Since: Feb 08, 2005


Feb 08, 2005 03:49 am

(edit-this is a vent/flood; read only with plenty of free time available)
I have a wife and kid now, and I have since truly understood the creative process. I had nothing but time beforehand, and now most things just need to "get done," if you know what I mean, without too much elaboration or exploration. I mean getting from point A to B, taking care of things, not engaging in much socializing throughout the day, etc. It's an awesome thing, uninterrupted time. Now I think it's the raw energy from which to draw when creating something. When you're entertaining a 2 year old, there's not a whole lot of room for you to express yourself, unless it's in a way that can be understood by a 2 year old. You are limited. Imagine writing and performing an album for toddlers. I'm not much of a Raffi guy, so it's challenging. Now I'm always reminded of the fine line between the artist and the life. You can't really separate the two, compartmentalize them; they both need each other. It's not easy creating really good stuff. Becoming succesful at expressing yourself through art is like any other serious career; your work has to agree with your personal life. You're not going to be much of an architect if you don't apply the principles of the craft to the rest of your waking time. It needs to constantly come from you, and you need to learn how to create your art by paying attention to everything else around you. You need to think about it, understand how it relates to you and how you understand the creative process, and apply it. Constantly. It's no wonder most "great" artists are egomanics that cheat on their wives and live reckless lifestyles. It's extremely difficul to exercise moderation or temperament of your emotions when delving deep is where the good stuff comes from. If you write illuminating, beautiful, intense, powerful stuff, then you may recognize that these are all things you are experiencing day-to-day. I mean, your life can be seemingly boring on the outside, but that's not how we draw inspiration, is it? You don't bungie jump for the first time then write an amazing song about bungie jumping. You might bungie jump then write an amazing song about how you could die any second, or perhaps how we all put ourselves into extremely dangerous life-threatening scenarios in order to make us feel wonderful about being alive, maybe, but see, that's all interpretation of the experience, not hte experience itself. As long as we can remain close to making everything around us unique to ourselves, interpreting it uniquely, identifying with it in our own way, we can create art that others will want to experiene, right? After all, that's all artists are doing. They're not experiencing things in their life that are any different than what millions of others have been through. That's not what makes them interesting. It's how they identify with life, with the everyday stuff. What does it mean to them? How important is it? How meaningful? When the meaning clicks with you, how meaningful it was that your sister picked up smoking, how intense it is that your dad is so much like you, how mindblowing it is that the swirl of milk in your coffee is like a nebula, your viens like the roots of a tree, or how beautiful it is that it seems like all humans are really the same human, and we're just trying to be whole with each other again after being separated for so many years (unique interpretation), you can make something awesome. But analyzing the structuring and mixing of Nigel Godrich's OK Computer job, or trying to write a song as beautifully simple as Across The Universe will get us nowhere. Once again, writing a bungie jumping song after bungie jumping. Writing a song about your sister smoking. Boring, uninteresting, been there done that kind of thing. What makes it interesting? You. You make it interesting. How? By being interesting. Are you? That's up to you. Refuse to accept how people tell you the way things are. Doubt it, try other beliefs out, try other ideas out, ways of living, habits, etc. It's so true that we have to shake up our snowglobe frequently. Otherwsise, you become habitual, predictable, normal, typical, and eventually, just plain uninteresting. Interest is sparked when something out of the ordinary happens/is experienced, right? It's got to be different from what's typical/normal. Art's got to be the same way, or it's pointless. So go get interested in stuff, get your mind blown, and don't get it blown from music if you're a musician or paintings if you're a painter if you can. The beauty is in the difference, right? A song about something strange is more interesting than a song about a song. That sounds ridiculous, but that happens a lot to people. You listen to Nirvana nonstop, you end up writing faux Nirvana. Nothing different. It's Nirvana again. You may be able to write songs as good as Kurt Cobain in his style (I've heard artists that can do this; you can't tell the difference between their material and the artist(s) they've been obsessing about)... but no one cares. And it's wholly unfulfilling. You see those guys chasing their tails all the time in the artist community. It's really sad, because they don't understand why they can't be fulfilled by doing something that's obviously really good. It's because they're not involved anymore. They're just a translator for some other artist they don't even know. They're doing that artist's job, not their own. Continuing in the tradition of their work, but no one really cares, do they? Know that you're as interesting as Kurt Cobain, Leonard Cohen, whoever. Listen to their music and recognize yourself in it. You're in there somewhere, or else you wouldn't relate to it, right? It's not just what they talk about (bungie jumping), it's how they say it (interesting interpretation), right? It's the way it uniquely affects them, and we all have that in us. The closer we get to that process, the easier it gets to write music differently. Bjork is a perfect case-in-point. She really lives and breathes by her interpretation of life. You're not breezing through everyday life and not thinking about what's going on and end up with ideas and material that she does. No, you've got to be thinking about everything that's going on around you and how crazy it all is!

Well, okay then... By the way, don't hate mail me because I'm beautiful, do it because I'm wasting my time typing out a load of probably useless pseudophilosophical advice instead of writing my own ******* music. Yeah, don't think that I'm assuming you guys don't know all this already; it's been an inspiration to me at times to read such rants from others, so you never know, right? Thanks, forum, for being a vehicle to get some stuff out of my system tonight.

peace and war,
jc

Banned


Feb 08, 2005 09:48 pm

jc,

interesting stuff there,something came to mind when you were talking about being around/entertaining a 2 year old, do you remember Neil YOung's album TRANS? it was the album that hes used a vocoder on most of the tracks for his voice in an attempt to communicate with his son who has cerebal palsey(sp), it was also the album that made geffen drop a load in his pants. i love the whole geffen/neil young story, i have so much respect for Neil!!! not only is he a great musician but he also stood up against geffen!!






Member
Since: Feb 08, 2005


Feb 09, 2005 03:06 am

Wow, no XTC, I never heard of that, but after I read your post I bought it. I just listened to it for the first time before writing this, and in today's context, it's a fun retro album to listen to; I can't wait to commit some of these to mix cds for my friends. I shamefully admit knowing hardly any of Neil Young's material, not checking him out at all before, so it's a pretty new thing for me to listen to him. After checking out a discography review of his, I want to check out more, get Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and the followup to that. Thanks for suggesting the album. I think it's pretty interesting how people judge/assume artist's intentions with album releases. You tell me he wrote Trans primarily for his son with cerebral palsey, but the crushing reviews only focused on the perspective of the album being a release for his then present fans. I guess after you become well-known people begin to assume that you're suddenly not writing for your own effication, but for those who are buying the product released by your record label. What a mind screw. The fine line between selling out to the public and staying true to your own personal intentions, huh? Well, it's an eye opener for me man, because I often judge albums too harshly instead of perhaps wondering what they were intending to do, not just trying to chart with the majority of music listeners of the world.

I wonder why the vocoder effect was applied in order to communicate with his son? Do you know? I wonder if it was scientific or intuitive on Neil Young's part. Well, needless to say, I'm playing the vocoder pieces for my son. Who knows, the inherently childlike style of those songs might really groove with him. =]

love and war,
j c

Dub head
Member
Since: May 03, 2004


Feb 09, 2005 09:25 am

Writing music is a love/hate relationship. Man, I couldn't even count the number of times I've spent entire band practices working on one song and one particilar part trying to figure out the most perfect vocal harmonies, horn parts, keyboards, etc. However, its an awesome thing to struggle, and struggle then get it perfect. I love that.

Since I left my band, I have started another project with a good friend of mine who was also in the band. We're writing a dub-reggae album. Similar to Sly & Robbie, King Tubby, The Scientist, Lee Perry, etc. Our writing process has most definitly changed since we played together in the old band. He lives 90 minutes from me and our friend who is drumming on the album live 60 minutes from me in the other direction! So.... what we do is he records straight up bass rythyms to a click at a specific bpm and sends it to me. I then go visit my friend the drummer and we record drums over that. Then I take take and add guitar and some B3 organ. Magiclly we have some great riddims to work off of for dubs! Not that they are great quality or super tight, but it's making the writing and creative process alot easier! It's great preperation before we run a few practices and get into the studio to start the actaul recording / dub process. Anyways... that's how I'm writing songs lately and it seems to be working. :)

Czar of Cheese
Member
Since: Jun 09, 2004


Feb 09, 2005 12:39 pm

Neil Young is one of the more misunderstood artists of our time. He does what he does, for his own reasons, and he doesn't worry about what anybody else thinks or says.

I have followed Neil's career very closely since I was in high school (late 70's) and I haven't always liked the sidetracks, but the it's been one heck of a journey.

Member
Since: Jan 18, 2003


Feb 09, 2005 02:11 pm

all i can say about neil young is that i think the song 'cinnamon girl' is really, really kickass.

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Feb 09, 2005 02:14 pm

Neil Young drives me up a wall...

Member
Since: Jan 18, 2003


Feb 09, 2005 03:15 pm

yeah--that one song is the only one by him that i've found that i love. it's like real early grunge.

Hold 'Em Czar
Member
Since: Dec 30, 2004


Feb 09, 2005 03:50 pm

ever heard Type O Negative's version of Cinnamon Girl?? bad arse!

I am not a crook's head
Member
Since: Mar 14, 2003


Feb 09, 2005 03:52 pm

I love Harvest from Neil Young. That album is a great mix of folk, rock and country. It's about the only 70s southern rock album I can withstand.

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Feb 09, 2005 03:53 pm

I think Neil Young can write good tunes, I just wish he would shut up and sell them to people that can sing.

And don't start dising southern rock, man, Molly Hatchet is bad arse, one of my all time favs, and Lynyrd Skynyrd was awesome too, of course they suck now, one of those bands that shouldn't reunite without the main member of the band, kinda like that "Credence Clearwater Revisited" crap...

Member
Since: Jul 02, 2003


Feb 09, 2005 03:57 pm

I like Neil Youngs voice. It isn't the greatest in the world but it fits his music perfectly.

Dan

Administrator
Since: Apr 03, 2002


Feb 09, 2005 03:59 pm

Quote:
It isn't the greatest in the world


And there you have it, olddog wins todays award for "understatement of the day".

The ice cream prize is in the mail!

Member
Since: Jul 02, 2003


Feb 09, 2005 08:13 pm

How much money have you made from your voice? <g> I'll take his voice anyday if I can be as famous and rich as Him. ;)


I like chocolate ice cream. :)

Dan

Banned


Feb 09, 2005 08:17 pm

lol! his voice is so nasal'e, but he can write an awesome tune and hes not a bad guitar player, not great, but he has come up with some great riffs.

Czar of Cheese
Member
Since: Jun 09, 2004


Feb 09, 2005 08:21 pm

Since when has a good voice had anything to do with makin' good records? Dylan, Young, Springsteen, Kristofferson, Guthrie...most of my artists are not known for their vocal prowess. There's a certain emotion and intelligence - a "voice behind the voice" - that makes them such great singers.

Member
Since: Feb 08, 2005


Feb 09, 2005 11:40 pm

No, that's true. Having a "good voice" in rock is not essential. It's definitely about how good you express yourself. The examples are so numerous, I won't bother citing (Robert Smith? Leonard Cohen? Okay, I promise I'll stop)... But I think oftentimes when people say a crap voice I think they do mean how he or she can expresses themselves. How many technically incredible voices have we all heard that sing like they were programmed by that new vocal emulation VSTi people are talking about? Great for opera, crap for rock.

The older I get, the harder it seems to come up with something I feel is really original, and I'm starting to think that that's a natural occurence that happens to people that listen to more and more music that's out there. Maybe it's not lack of inspiration, but just knowing how original your stuff really is as you hear what others are doing? I hope so. The idea of losing the mysterious and magical essence of inspiration like it's (please forgive me for the metaphor) Austin Power's "mojo" is like thinking that cancer or large pianos could strike any one of us at any time.

Banned


Feb 10, 2005 11:11 am

i prefer vocals thru a mega-phone then into a cheap mic then into a RAT pedal :)

Member
Since: Jan 18, 2003


Feb 10, 2005 11:33 am

jc, i didnt get your point there...what do you mean about listening to more and more...and knowing how original your stuff really is as you hear what others are doing?

No Commercial Appeal.
Member
Since: Jan 09, 2003


Feb 10, 2005 11:38 am

No one has ever said Neil Young's voice is comparable to john lennon or Robert Plant. But his lyrics are top notch. His new cd Greendale is probably one of my favorite albums in the last 5 years. He's kind of like Keith Richards and Bob Dylan rolled into one (only a not as good). Richards writes some simple, yet killer riffs and Dylan writes some poetry and sings it the way he wants. Young is a strange cat. He's famous, but a lot of people only know one or two songs. He's got a long career, but he still seems fresh. Anyway, let's stay on topic here.

I find that using power chords is somewhat limiting and boring. there are only so many times I can play --crunch, crunch, cruuuunch--. Some of the things I've been writing lately have been open chords that I don't even know what note I'm playing, but I love it. Of course that makes it tough to tell my bass player what to play.

That reminds me of this article I read on Trey Anastasio from Phish. He said when he thinks his playing is getting stale (i.e. when the chord formations are repetitve from song to song) he will try to only play a few strings from a bar chord or open chord. In other words, you don't have to strum all six strings to play a chord correctly. For example, I wrote a simple song the other day that was just Emaj to D7. But I was only playing the G,B,E strings. It sounds like crap if you play all 6, but beautiful with just the others. Hope that helps and good luck

Answer:On a good day, lipstick.
Member
Since: Jun 24, 2004


Feb 10, 2005 11:42 am

Neil Young
Chris Kristofferson
Richard Thompson
Willie Nelson
Bob Dylan

All of these guys should have other people sing their songs. Great songwriting.......

Czar of Cheese
Member
Since: Jun 09, 2004


Feb 10, 2005 12:14 pm

Other people don't KNOW how to sing their songs...IMHO.

Hello!
Member
Since: Jan 12, 2004


Feb 10, 2005 12:18 pm

Neil Young is a cool guy and nae mistake for sure.

Rockin In A Free World, Needle & Damage Done, Hey Hey My My, Cinamon Girl..the list is endless.

As for singers..I read it on here I cant mind who said "If ye like a song, go find the original"....Neil Young ROCKS.

That said, I AGREE With the comment on Dylan. Man I paid 25 to hear him SING , not sound like a weasel...but as a songwriter, he is A MASTER and NAE mistake.

Coco.

Hello!
Member
Since: Jan 12, 2004


Feb 10, 2005 12:19 pm

P.S. Jim, "Get Back" to work...hehehe.

See, yi can ALWAYS find a Beatles link, if ye look!

Coco

Czar of Cheese
Member
Since: Jun 09, 2004


Feb 10, 2005 12:20 pm

You're right, Coco, I SHOULD HAVE KNOW BETTER than to log on to HRC during work hours!

Hello!
Member
Since: Jan 12, 2004


Feb 10, 2005 12:22 pm

Nice one Jim...

Aye - just thought ID get ye back for that one last week!! see, the joy of me being in front of y's is, ma work is done and ye are at lunchtime!

:-D

The joy yous have is , it doesnt rain as mich over there so we you ARE out work, you can do things withoot being soaked!

hehe.

All the best to ye

Coco.

Member
Since: Feb 08, 2005


Feb 12, 2005 06:46 pm

fortymile typed-
jc, i didnt get your point there...what do you mean about listening to more and more...and knowing how original your stuff really is as you hear what others are doing?
-depyt elimytrof

I didn't listen to much music until I was like 24 or so. Then I started consuming mass amounts of different music because I was hanging out with these guys in the bay area who know a plethora of not-well-known bands that did creative awesome stuff. After hearing that stuff, it really took the wind out of my sails when I came up with music, because there was nothing I could come up with after that that my mind couldn't associate with some preexisting band. Before, I fell in love with my musical ideas because I felt they were different and special, and when I performed them for people they would go, "Wow, that's something entirely new." I got hooked on that ego association, and my ego was afraid of being just some other musician that's doing what someone else already did, so that experience really challenged me. I realized that my ideas weren't as special and unique as I thought they were, and now, after listening to tons of music, I'll start writing a song that I think is cool, and my mind will associate another track with it. Then I'll think, "Oh, my mind was just regurtitating that song. It's not anything new." I've gained a lot of humility from that, because I don't think my criteria for writing music should be how "good" my ideas are, but just how much of myself I pour into it. Good old fashioned elbow grease, blood, sweat and tears. Of course you need some natural knack for it as well.

Anyway, somebody out there will hear your music and go, "Oh man, that's totally The XYZ's right there." I stopped trying to write my songs based on the criteria that they sound totally new and original to me, now I try to write what ropes me deep in, regardless of what anyone else might think of it (Neil Young's TRANS). That's when the "good stuff" comes out, right?

Great, another preachy laboring tirade from j c.
Well, you asked for it, forty. =]

Member
Since: Jan 18, 2003


Feb 13, 2005 03:18 pm

hey thats exactly what happens to me. it started happening once my inner catalogue of known songs reached a certain critical mass. the way it mostly manifests for me, though, is that i hear melodies and chord progressions and can find thier roots in other songs. im constantly asking myself if band X borrowed section A of riff Y from band Z. this happens with my riffs and melodies too. thats why, as soon as my recording skills advance a little bit, i hope to focus on making arrangements different, less predictable, more novel. and have the recording have different elements in it than what i've heard elsewhere, too. since i'm writing pop rock music, well, a hell of a lot of territory has been explored already. i'm bound to be derivative at times. catchy melodies are going to rely on certain known things, like including the perfect fourth and fifth intervals. those elements will be there at some point, in some way. so its like the context is the only thing you can adjust. i try not to let this all bother me too much, but i do find that i throw out a lot of riffs or chord progressions, simply because they're so familiar sounding.


Banned


Feb 14, 2005 02:03 pm

forty,

you ever try alternate tunings? start twisting your pegs and see what you can come up with :)

Member
Since: Jan 18, 2003


Feb 14, 2005 02:19 pm

yeah one of my best song was written in open f minor. i should maybe try that again.


Banned


Feb 14, 2005 02:20 pm

excellent!

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