What are your own songwriting and composition processes?

Joseph Lopez
@josephlopez
3 years ago
9 posts

I've discussed this topic with a lot of musicians and I've heard so many different answers, I've arrived to the conclusion that there is no 'right' or 'wrong' approach to writing music. However, I've noted that most great songwriters share some common traits, for example: an interesting style, good sense of the shape of a song, good sense of melody and harmony, and excelent arrangement skills. But there are many ways to get to the same place. So, I would like to know how do you write your own music? Do you write lyrics or music first? How do you compose your melodies? Also, in your opinion,  how important is  the role of music theory and harmony in the composition process? Finally, feel free to share some of your own compositions!

I'd like to hear your responses! :)  

Joseph


updated by @josephlopez: 26 Apr 2018 14:57:05
Flekador
@fl3k
2 years ago
42 posts

Joseph, sorry for the delay. I think this is a good interesting topic, maybe someone more experienced than me can light this post more than I can do but I leave my opinion.

I think there should many ways to approach the composition of a new song, some songs simply come spontaneously to your head, some of them are more planned from a chord progression you like, or some arpeggios...

What works for me is simply forgetting about the guitar, the keyboard or the computer and simply singing what is in your head. Firstly, I take the raw idea with my voice, guitar or keyboard and record it as it is. Then, I start developing it until I got something that I like (searching for chords that fit, recording more voices that add meaning to the main idea, layering guitars...). I usually work on more than one song at the same time, this helps a lot not to get too much obsessed with it.

Of course, I'm a noob composer, but experience tells us that things get better as you properly work them. I hope to improve my guitar playing from now on, learn some more music theory while I make better songs and mixes, that's the spirit, I think. ;)


updated by @fl3k: 09 Jan 2017 17:27:52
dk
@dk
2 years ago
17 posts

That's very true. For example, Tchaikovski composed away from piano, walking in the fields :)

Flekador
@fl3k
2 years ago
42 posts

Oh, I forgot to tell sometimes you just load Renoise, start playing with it and the magic does the rest... :D

For those new to it , it is a music tracker, like the ones from the Amiga computer. A different and more fun approach to composing using computers.

Joseph Lopez
@josephlopez
2 years ago
9 posts

Nice, really interesting to hear your own ways of composing! I have no doubt that everyone has their own way of crafting a song. and taht there are many ways of doing so- even away from your instrument. In my case, I usually play around the guitar, piano or bass until I have something I like- a riff, a chord progression, a melody, even a simple ostinato. Then I record it and add the rest of the instruments by playing with chords until I find something that fits. For the vocal melodies, I have an intersting technique that I read on David Byrne's book 'How Music Works' (very recommended read) and which Byrne himself uses to compose his melodies. It consists of improvising over the already recorded music whatever comes to your mind. You just sing, talk, make noises, whatever you can come up to. Then you sit and listen to the recording, and try to figure out what your improvised bable may say lyrically, and melodically as well. You just look for parts that if repeated, will créate a decent melody, and work from there. This doesn't always work, but it's an interesting technique, and a great way to comose lyrics if you're blocked. Other approach is to write some lyrics first and sing them over the music, improvising the melody, and record that. That way, you can always (and you probablr will) make adjustments. 

Just as fl3k said, it's a good idea to work on more tan one song at a time, so you don't get stuck with one. Some songs will remain incomplete for a long time, until one day, the next part just pops into your head. Or you figure you can match it with another recording you already have. That happens too :p.  I'll definitely check Renoise, I had not heard about it before. But it sounds really interesting.

DDaneskovic
@ddaneskovic
2 years ago
8 posts

Hi, very interesting topic is here. @josephlopez has given very specific way and technique of composing. If I can add something about composing technique of David Byrne as I can see it from my experience is that improvising is one and complementer part of composing process. If we can say that Byrne's technique is based on improvising then process of notating this recorded improvisations is composing process. For me improvisation is more intuitive complementer opening process of composing which has more logical (cognitive) operations. So every time we should record our improvisations in every form and after we should try to understand that recording in more logical spheres of our mind. It is very hard and longer way but it always gives good and more qualities in final results. Also there is always a risk that our system of making art become closed and we can not see exit from that vicious circle. Then only way for our progress in creativity must be in listening to others success in fields that we want to become better. 
    


updated by @ddaneskovic: 25 Feb 2017 01:05:47
Joseph Lopez
@josephlopez
2 years ago
9 posts

[quote="DDaneskovic"]

Hi, very interesting topic is here. @josephlopez has given very specific way and technique of composing. If I can add something about composing technique of David Byrne as I can see it from my experience is that improvising is one and complementer part of composing process. If we can say that Byrne's technique is based on improvising then process of notating this recorded improvisations is composing process. For me improvisation is more intuitive complementer opening process of composing which has more logical (cognitive) operations. So every time we should record our improvisations in every form and after we should try to understand that recording in more logical spheres of our mind. It is very hard and longer way but it always gives good and more qualities in final results. Also there is always a risk that our system of making art become closed and we can not see exit from that vicious circle. Then only way for our progress in creativity must be in listening to others success in fields that we want to become better. 
    

[/quote] You could not have put it better @ddaneskovic. Composing has a lot to do with improvisation but also with logic and understanding of music theory, wich can help us develop an idea. I try not to think in theoretical terms when composing- I just play whatever comes to my mind. Then I try to understand the harmony and add subsequent parts- now in a more defined context, since I already know what is going on harmonically. And absolutely, the only way to progress in music is to listen to others and incorporate what we like from them in our playing and compositions.

DDaneskovic
@ddaneskovic
2 years ago
8 posts

You are right @josephlopez . We all probably know that composing process is similar to improvising, but we are not always free in our professional life and in our good will to start with that process seriously.  We can look at that like we are playing our instrument from notes (it will be backwards to composing) and playing without notes (it will be backwards to improvising). I started not long ago to transcribe my improvisations on few backing track that I recorded and I get to some points in composing. I even developed my playing.  I am not so familiar in composing, my vocation is primary guitar player and guitar teacher but I try to be creative as much as I can. Maybe someone of more experienced composer will tell us something else about some other technique of composing (there are definitely more of them) but for popular music improvisation is very important part of composing process. What I am trying to tell here is that transcribing process is something that can technically connect improvisation and composing. Like in  Byrne's technique we just need to record our improvisations and then start to edit notes from that recording.

Joseph Lopez
@josephlopez
2 years ago
9 posts

Yes, exactly.  A lot of Krautrock bands in the 70's, like CAN of Faust recorded improvisations which sometimes lasted several hours, and then they edited those improvisations into complete pieces. They literally had to cut tapes and glue them together.Listen to CAN's 'Halleluwah' and you'll be surprised not only by the quality of the improvisations but also for the flawless editing as well. Simply genius.

Flekador
@fl3k
2 years ago
42 posts

Hi @josephlopez, thanks for the suggestion on the book and for sharing that technique.

I'll definitely give it a try!


updated by @fl3k: 01 May 2017 21:36:11
Nidzan
@nidzan
last year
5 posts

This is a really interesting question.When it comes to composing,personally my methods vary.Sometimes a melody that I like would just appear in my head for no apparent reason and I would keep singing it over and over until I get home to record it.After that I would add the guitars and probably at least have a general idea of what I would like that song to shape into and what direction I would like it to take.Now when it comes to writing for my band and collaborative work,I would usually leave the guitar melodies to the guitarist.He would create a rough arrangement that he would send me and tell me the direction that he has in mind for the song.After that I would usually repeatably listen to the melodies in a quiet environment in sessions of 30 minutes to an hour.If I got bored I would turn it off and go do something else because the last thing that I want is for a good song idea to get spoiled in my head by me getting sick of it from too much listening.Eventually something would pop up in my head and I would come up with a rough singing line and then think about the subject of the song.Generally the lyrical theme would be similar to the music.After that I would get down to writing the lyrics and then practice a couple of times.I would repeat the practice session every couple of days.Then I would usually go to the studio to record and the producer(a good friend of mine) would advise me and give me his opinion on the composition.After that we would do a couple recording takes and try a couple of different versions while letting me be creative and change things on the spot if needed.The process would conclude by us choosing the take that we think is best.After that I would listen to the recording for a while and decide if I want to make any changes.If I was satisfied,he would mix the recording and that would be it.