Ever since I picked up a guitar, my soul aim was to be able to write songs. Two years in almost, I still haven't got one song (both music and Lyrics) done. This article will discuss reasons why I personally haven't finished a song, and also a new method I've developed which seems to be guiding me forward rather well.
Why do I personally Fail at Songwriting?
This is the question I asked myself a few days ago, and it's in my nature to try and find the answer. So I booted up the computer, and looked up why exactly Songwriting is a hard business. My search gave me tonnes of reasons. These are the few that personally effect me:
1. There's a chance that I forget riffs I make up, as I sometimes don't record them.
2. Riffs I do make up become stale when I play them.
3. I can never think of a way to progress from, or apply this riff
4. I become Demotivated.
So what did I do about these issues I had? Okay, well, I took a look back at my rather epically failed songwriting past, especially at the times that I becan to have a song form. I noticed that I kept going through a certain process.
This process is most likely flowing through your mind if you have gone to this article seeking help with songwriting. Basically, you strive to get a riff down. Afte you pin a riff down, you really want to get the rest of the song done, so you mess around, and see what sounds good. It's here the problems start. From here, you either just trail off, and end up with a structureless drone of riffs and chord progressions, or you slow down, become demotivated about your playing, and leave it somewhere to die in the back of your brain.
So I thought more and more, and I wanted to figure a way to keep the ball rolling when it comes to songwriting. It was then I came across two things:
1. I found an interview by one of my favorite musicians, discussing how he writes songs. He said that he'd always think two moves ahead, so he never get stuck. He would find a riff he liked, and becasue he had already thought previously what he wanted to do next, he could keep going through the song. A rather impressive strategy I'd say.
2. I am a member of a Nightwish page on a social networking site. At the moment, they're writing the next album in the summer camp they go to, and they uploaded a bunch of photos, which I decided to look at. Basically, I wanted to see what the environment this band had when songwriting. It was then I found a certain photo. It was a massive board with a song title at the top, and a big plan of a song structure. It had allsorts. There was bits slashed out, references to chord progressions and techniques in the verese and chorus, and a big arrow with "Pantera" written on it; most likely a suggestion of influence. I was blown away by the plan Nightwish had set out, which inspired me to write about...
It was now the time i decided I wanted an organised way of keeping my mind on songwriting. After a few hours of planning, I came up with this version of common "Planning Out" songwriting techniques. I'm rather happy with how this method's coming along for me, so I thought I'd share it with you guys. So read on!
What does my method Include?
Well, first off, I need you to get yourself a pencil and a Notepad (hence the name). This notepad will be the basis of the system I'm going to show you.
This method consists of several sections, each taking up 1-2 pages of the book (some bits even more so). Below, I have sectioned the different bits of the process in the order I'd do it. Feel free to mix and match these sections as you find most easiest.
Section One: The Main Plan
I take up the first page with the Main Plan. This will include the structure of the song, the Key the song is in and the Name of the song. Also, this page should be used to write down particular techniques you want to use in different areas. Here's a piece of one of My Main Plans as an example:
Repeated Short Riff (x3) with alternate ending- Main Riff
Repeat riff 2-3 times with two-chord pregression into verse
Use one section of "Main Riff" as an interval for vocals
Maybe repeat for a second verse
As you can see, I have written the beginning of a song structure, and what I want to use within the different parts. An easy way to do this, is just thing of a cool-sounding song structure in your head, and write it down straight away. This way, the basic gist is immortalised onto the paper, for you to experiemnt with.
My example is incredibly simple. you can go into what chords/notes you exactly want to use, how long you want it to be etc, but I like to keep it simple, so i have room to experiment. And keep in mind, this section is prone to editing. Don't be afraid to edit your Main Plan if it's really necessery.
Section Two: Lyrical/Music Theme
In this section, we'll begin to think of a theme for our song to possess. I like to do this is in the form of a brainstorm, but any way you feel is best will suffice. Basically, just start writing down general ideas on themes for a song, and illaborate on them. An example from my own is I wrote down "Norse". I extended this to "Vikings", "Axe", "Longboats" and a few more. Basically, I just noted down random words from different areas; anything to give you an idea.
From this point, choose a few of your favorite ideas, and illaborate further. Keep doing this until you come to...
Section Three: Song Names
In this section, you simply take your chosen theme, and write a bunch of name suggestions down. Use the whole page to figure out a goo name, and once you have one, write it into Section one for reference.
Note: Many prefer to come up with Names later on in the process. Don't be afraid to skip this section until you need it.
Section Four A: Musical Notes
I name this Section Four A simply because it is one part of a process which can come in any order of each other. In this section, you jot down any music-based ideas. I do this by writing down in tab form any ideas I have. Also, use this page to write down ideas for other instruments for later use.
Now, you've gotta be careful here. People can easily end up writing a good riff, playing it a few times, get bored of it, scrap it and never progress the song. For God's sake, so matter how much you hate it, you've gotta remember that you loved that riff when you first made it up, and it's only the fact you've played it so much that's making it boring for you. Keep it, and use it!
Section Four B: Lyrical Notes
In this section, it's time to get ideas for lyrics. What I like to do here, is write down small phrases which sound good to the theme. Eventually, you get a whole page of different quotes which could be used and experimented with. Begin with clusters of phrases, then as you go thorugh pages, slowly cluster together some ideas for chorus and verse lines.
Section Five: Piecing Together
This section isn't necessarily needed in the Notepad, but it's obviously needed to finish a song. Basically, take your collection of different pieces of music (I hope you wrote it lightly following your plan's specs, if not, very close to them) and piece them together, making sure it all goes smoothly, and like you want it to.
After that, Look at your lyrical pieces. This is the tricky part, getting lyrics over your music. You can merely sing bits over the song, and see what it's like, or get the whole intrumental done, and continue with lyrics afterwards. Its entirely up to you.
Well, that's it guys, my method of planning a song. I'm sure it's a pretty common method, but it seems to be working for me so far. Just remember to keep your Notepad close incase inspiration strikes, and happy songwriting!.
As always, feel free to contact me through comment, Message or on my E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org