Another Look at the Songwriting Process

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This is a second article on the songwriting process. Everybody has different methods and motivations, this is typical for me...

After reading the previous songwriting article, it did prompt me to write one as well, as the previous is a very different process from the norm.

It's a never ending battle which comes first the lyrics or the music. I have been in several bands through the years and collaborated with many people, and I can say without a doubt, that I can pick a person out of a crowd that writes lyrics first just by listening to a song of theirs. Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing, I am just stating it as true. Songs that have lyrics written to the music I find generally flow smoother and more logically because the lyrics are based around a rhythm rather than a rhythm made around a lyric.

When I write songs (tho admittedly I have been in a major writing slump, with all my other responsibilities lately), I almost always have a rhythm in my head that could come from anywhere, in my car sometimes the rhythm of my tires going over joints in the road, the knock of the out-of-tune car next to me, the subwoofer from the kids car a half mile ahead of me :-). Regardless of the source, it's a rhythm that starts playing, growing and morphing in my head. By the time I actually get a chance to get an instrument in my hands (usually my bass guitar) I start plucking at notes trying to recreate the rhythm in a key that I envisioned (usually that is the toughest part for me, bringing my original thought into reality).

If I actually get that working I then open FruityLoops and whip up a quick (real quick) supporting drumbeat and loop it continuously and start jamming over it with that rhythm and seeing where else it takes me. Often times quickly thereafter a good, logical progression develops into a bridge or two, a chorus etc.

I try to get the drums (basic drums) and bass guitar into the PC before I quit that session so I can walk away with 3 or 4 pieces of the puzzle. After that I try to put a rhythm guitar over it, sometimes it just falls into place and everything jives, sometimes the writing of the rhythm guitar forces some changes to my original idea, but hey, it's all progress. Generally during this phase a simple melody line starts developing in my head and while playing guitar along with my bass and drums I start singing (in my head or aloud) some la la la's or something just to feel the melody. Though I can't sing well, I know what I am looking for even if anyone listening doesn't.

After that is completed then and only then do I start even thinking about what the words will actually be.

After that (sometimes even before any lyrics) I call a buddy to come over and put leads down for me, as I am a sucky soloist on guitar.

Anyway, that is my two cents on the songwriting process, take it for a grain of salt if you choose, I just thought this new direction of article opted to have another option. I would love to hear how other write their songs.

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User-submitted comments

Jan 23, 2009 03:17 am
Lyrics vs. Melody first...
Well, the last songs I wrote began this way: I had just a line or two of lyrics, they just shot to my head with a fitting melody. I then sang them, transcribed the melody and worked it out before I wrote more of the lyrics.

Worked great for me :)

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