#1
So my problem is this: I can write good (heck, I'd even say great but that seems a little egotistical) little segments of songs, but I can never peice together/write a whole song (except for one song, but I feel like that's a fluke now). It's just that I can't make a song sound like it flows- it either jumps around with too many ideas/some parts feel thrown in or they just sound repititive and drag on. I've tried tons of different approaches to this, like trying to establish a signiture melody/progression for a song, transistions between verses and choruses, listening to how my favorite artists write their songs (I've noticed short choruses and verses that go on for longer and seemingly have parts to them), but all the same problems keep on popping up.

I just don't know how I should try writing a whole song: if I write it out in Powertab, I overthink things and feel like I have to make things more complex than they need to be and the song ends up feeling like a collection of ideas sown together wrong. If I go by paper and ear, things never get done- I come up with just one whole part (usually intro+verse or chorus) and throw around some ideas till I zone out and say to myself, "I'll finish it later/with the band". Any help for this? Help would be greatly appreciated since it seems like I'll have to become the songwriter for my band (we're just starting out) since everyone else just comes up with little solo pieces and expect everyone else to figure out parts on the spot.
#2
i have almost the same problem. i can make up good progressions off the top of my head, even some quick little licks that could turn into a melodic theme or whatever. i can write lyrics (sometimes), and sometimes theu'll be ok, but i can never write music AND lyrics.

my advice for you is to either stick to lyrics first then song or song first then lyrics. if you have a progression, come up with a melody, and vice versa. write it down on paper, but keep playing it so it sticks in your head regardless. it'll come to you eventually.

EDIT: ALSO, dont be afraid to ask peoples opinions. they can tell you what they like, what they dont like, how they thought it would sound, how they think it should sound, what theyd do differently, as well as advice on how to further the song. this is youre greatest tool other than your guitar yourself.
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Last edited by TK1 at Dec 20, 2009,
#3
I find that happens to me a lot. I have a whole catalogue of unfinished material. One way I try to get out of this is after I write a riff, melody, etc that I like I actually try to NOT play any instruments. I'll just repeat the melody in my head or sing it and then see what part naturally comes out. Then you aren't forcing it at much, and it makes the song feel more natural because its what your mind automatically 'felt' should come next. Hope that helps a bit?
#4
Glad I'm not the only one, TK1. I actually haven't tried showing many people my progress on a song, I'll try that soon, thanks.

And hollow1928years, I kinda do that already while doing other things and just thinking about what I had just come up with, but my mind just focuses on that. Making it cleaner, what could be improved about it, how it fits into time signitures, that type of things. Usually if I think of anything else it's either a rip-off of some other song or I brush it off/forget about it. I overthink WAY too much stuff...
#5
I think a lot of people have this same problem, including myself. Usually i can come up with a really good melody on guitar and some other small parts but not an entire song. Most noticeable is that i'll have several good parts but it's hard to put them together in a flowing manner since they're more than what's usually found in a song (intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, interlude, chorus, outro).

How about you just call it prog?




Anyway... just get as much as u can get done at once and leave it there. Go back to it later when you have a new idea. There's pieces that i've left alone for months, only to come come with the perfect continuation after that. Also try changing certain settings around you from where you normally write music. You'd be surprised that sometimes you can come up with things if you play at a different time of the day, outside instead of ur room, play music on ur radio very low while you compose, etc...
Originally Posted by evening_crow
Quoting yourself is cool.


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#6
I am usually good at writing one solid verse, and maybe a chorus that supports the theme of a song. Sometimes I only get a verse, and the rest ends up being force-fed crap that ends up cliche, lame, etc. So on many of my projects I end up with 1 part of a song that I really liked and it clicked well.

I keep those riffs and lyrics around. Since I play a lot of stuff in E or A, I might get the opportunity later to borrow a riff from a project 2-3 months earlier that never came together. And now it gels with the new stuff much better than the force-fed project. It's like I can skim the best of my efforts off the top of the crap and use them together even tho they were'nt all conceived at the same time.

I sometimes do the same with lyrics. Since my thoughts typically find themselves coming back to similar themes ("...hmm.. she's hot...", "argghhh! That really pisses me off!", etc.) I can take my one good verse from a fizzled out effort, combine it with a similar themed chorus from a different effort where nothing but the chorus worked, and eventually end up with something I enjoy.

It's not perfect, maybe, but I seem to get better results and less frustration.

I wrote better songs when I tried to keep it simpler without trying create any epic world changers. Sometimes you can find amazing insight and a strong message in 3 chords and 2 verses.
#7
There isn't a perfect answer on how to write a whole song. I usually compose something, play it for years and eventually come up with something that fits it and then finish it off. I've had a number of ideas floating around for years, but I know I'll finish them eventually if the inspiration eventually comes.

I do sometimes take a different approach and force myself to finish a song. So I'll get it all down, from intro to outro. Then I'll record it roughly and listen back to it and pick out the parts I don't like, work out what is happening theory wise and then use my knowledge of theory to try some new things that should sound good.

Either way, a good grasp of theory is very helpful as you can normally tell what will probably sound good. Also patience is a must, don't settle for something that you are not 100% happy with because it will bug you every time you play it. When I force myself to finish a song I'm never happy with the outcome, but then I've got a whole song to work with and I'll work on it until I'm happy. This still could take months\years, but who cares? It's not a race.
#8
Just practise a lot and analyse a lot of songs.

Annoyingly, there aren't too many methods for writing whole songs, even though there are hundreds of methods for writing melodies and writing progressions and so on.
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        L.
#9
Haha. And THIS is why it is the songwriter who makes more money on an album than the guitarist, drummer, bass player, or whatever. Without the songwriter, there is nothing to play guitar or drums or sing to or produce or anything else.

Songwriting is hard. Not many people can do it, and even fewer can do it well. Even fewer again can do it to a level that has enough universal appeal to sell into the thousands, never mind the tens of thousands or millions.

Yeah, we like to slag the Nickelbacks and Jonas Brothers of the world, but they're the ones - on a dollars and cents level - are actually worth millions of dollars in the music industry.

Here's my approach. (yes, keeping in mind that if there was an easy "how-to" guide that we'd ALL be pop stars)

Given that the industry definition of a song (for copyright purposes) is a melody that is paired with a lyric, I make those my focus when I write. For me, melody takes priority over lyric. There are lots of extremely popular songs with amazing melodies and ridiculous lyrics, but not many with amazing lyrics and weak melodies. The greatest of the great happen when you have brilliant melodies with lyrics that people can connect to. Notice that they don't have to be poetically brilliant. People need to have something they can attach to themselves in a lyric. If you give them that, they'll be in.

So, I'll start with a melodic idea. Ideally, it will already be coupled with a lyrical idea. It might only be one bar long, but it's a start, and a start is good. I call that a "seed." From there, I try to grow the seed. Sing it again. I'll usually use my guitar to help me, but it will as often as not be just some basic open position chords on my acoustic guitar. Where does it want to go - lyrically and/or melodically? Weave another bar in. Before too long, maybe you have a chorus. By now, a full theme or concept for the song has presesnted itself. You know what the song is going to be about and where it is going to go.

Keep watering the seed. Maybe you'll find that the part you thought was going to be the chorus goes somewhere else, and it actually becomes the verse, because what followed was stronger. No worries. Re-jig the lyrics maybe and call it a verse. At least your idea is coming to life of its own accord. As ideas continue to present themselves, the song will continue to take shape.

Without the seed, though, there is no plant.

Not all seeds become plants. They get planted in stony soil and just die. Happens all the time.

Some land in the best soil and grow very quickly and very beautifully. You love when that happens.

Once I have at least one verse and a chorus, I start thinking about production. What kind of guitar part am I looking for? Do I want to build a riff from this chord progression instead of just playing chords? How do I want to transition between the verse and the chorus, if that hasn't already suggested itself from my weaving and watering process.

In a nutshell, that's pretty much how I usually work. Sadly, most of my seeds wind up in stony soil and never become completed songs. When stuff starts to suck, I'm pretty quick to get rid of it. That's why I only write about one song a year that I actually keep.

CT
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#12
Quote by axemanchris
Epic WIN!

... and she does her own harmonies, too! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eo6LWvPc1T8

CT

thats actually pretty awesome

as for writing songs, everyone does it their own way. for me theres a ton of different ways to do it, i just gotta pick one.
#13
a song generally only needs 1 to 3 different musical ideas, and usually one main theme for the lyrics.
#14
Thanks for the tips and letting me know I'm not the only one like this. Especially axemanchris, your "seed" method actually sounds like it could really help.

Also, just creating this thread and reading all the comments actually must have helped somehow, because after reading the comments around 3 I made huge progress on one of my "songs", making it pretty damn close to being done! Also:

Quote by brothertupelo
a song generally only needs 1 to 3 different musical ideas, and usually one main theme for the lyrics.


What do you mean by idea? Like a style, or a progression, or something like a verse, chorus, and bridge? And what about songs like And Then There Was Silence by Blind Guardian or Knights of Cydonia by Muse? How are they able to have so many different sections yet still make it flow?
#15
I had a song that had two verses and a chorus and I needed one more verse to finish it off. It took almost 20 years to come up with the final verse, which just popped up one day while I was driving along. Just don't give up and some day something will pop in your head. Hopefully sooner than 20 years from now!!!
#16
Also had two songs in the works that both frustated the hell out of me. Then one day for some reason the two songs collided in my head and the two somehow became one by meshing them together. Keep your mind flowing all the time. You'll get there!!!
#17
Quote by GuerillaGorilla
Glad I'm not the only one, TK1. I actually haven't tried showing many people my progress on a song, I'll try that soon, thanks.

And hollow1928years, I kinda do that already while doing other things and just thinking about what I had just come up with, but my mind just focuses on that. Making it cleaner, what could be improved about it, how it fits into time signitures, that type of things. Usually if I think of anything else it's either a rip-off of some other song or I brush it off/forget about it. I overthink WAY too much stuff...

theres nothing wrong with using other songs for ideas. if you think no one does this, you are VERY wrong. i remember kieth richards saying the way he'd make a song is he would listen to like 20 songs by other people and play them. evtually, he'd mash something together that was his own. i kind of do this same. i listen to a song and if i really like it i might try to capture a similar aspect of it. sometimes maybe its just a rhythm or "feel". i wrote a song inspired by eric johnsons song "monatian medly" it doesnt really sound like it but if i told you that, and you listened to them both, you might see where i got the inspiration. it was mostly the way the bass moved in the song. it has a driving rhythm that i found very catchy.

also i find once i knew standard progressions and the chords within a key, writing the music is kind of easy. i do tend to over think though. sometimes ill try to make it more complex on purpose or have the most beautiful chords i can come up with. really though, the best songs ive made were when i wasnt really focusing on making a great song. sometimes a simple progression can give you an amazing song. and if you look at popular music, this backs that up.

also, try not to compare yourself too much to other artists. everyone is different. somtimes ill hear a song and think "how can i write something like this?" but then i hear another song thats completely different but is also amazing and im like "wow, how can i write like this?" there isnt a set formula for good songs though. everyones style is different. just try to stay true to yourself. just because you cant write a number one hit, doesnt mean its not a good song. for example, eric johnsons album venus isle didnt do so well, but its considered a masterpiece to musicians everywhere. just keep writing and make music for you. you will get better at it over time and develop a style of your own.
#18
Quote by GuerillaGorilla
What do you mean by idea? Like a style, or a progression, or something like a verse, chorus, and bridge? And what about songs like And Then There Was Silence by Blind Guardian or Knights of Cydonia by Muse? How are they able to have so many different sections yet still make it flow?


progressions, or central riffs, or sections. once you get that down, feel free to throw the kitchen sink at it.

songs that have a lot of sections are the exception. i'm listening to knights of cydonia. so far the intro doesn't flow into the body of the song. it really doesn't seem to fit. but then it's 3 verses that have the same structure, then it breaks into the descending section that repeats itself many times, and that part has the same basic structure as the into, but at a different tempo...
2 things. 1, i really don't think the song flows that much. 2, it only has two sections, but it takes a few different approaches at each of those sections, building up in intensity and using different effects.

the first section has a longer melody line, and the second one has the short descending line. if you just play it on an acoustic, you'll see that it's a simple song. after you get the basic backbone of the song, then you can add stuff to it to give it variety, but even songs like bohemian rhapsody or day in the life, that whipsaw between sections, really only have a few sections. and those are the exceptions.
most songs are verse, chorus, and maybe a bridge, and a lot of times there isn't even much of a difference between those. generally, there's a relationship between the sections. the same or related keys, melodies, rhythms, or a contrasting one that fits because they accentuate the differences between them.

even very good songs can be repetitive. the difference is that they make you enjoy the repetitions and want to hear more of them. you can get bob dylan doing 10 minutes of g d c and you want more because of what he does with it. the vast majority of rock is basically a 12 bar blues, or structured on some 300 year old ballad, and we keep wanting more.
i'm not saying you have to be unoriginal, but maybe your stuff just needs more fleshing out or work or something.
Last edited by brothertupelo at Dec 20, 2009,
#19
Quote by brothertupelo
progressions, or central riffs, or sections.

*moar stuff*


I see what you mean now (and I feel like I should've known that about KoC, but that makes a lot of sense of how it can sound so complex while only using 2 progressions, that's kinda what I've been trying). But if I try adhering to needing a verse, chorus, and bridge (maybe intro and outro), there's no flow between the sections. It always just sounds forced, like I just stapled these ideas together. I'm guessing the answer now is just trial and error?
Last edited by GuerillaGorilla at Dec 20, 2009,
#20
some random tips for making transitions.
don't be afraid to add rests or longer notes to help aid the transitions.

try to alter the main riffs / verses into transitions by any of the following:
slowly speed up or slow down tempo
keep playing same patter but making it higher or lower pitch
adding in extra notes

another good idea is to just make an extremely simple transition by playing a bunch of chords.
think of angus youngs style its very simple but sounds great.
#21
Quote by GuerillaGorilla
I see what you mean now (and I feel like I should've known that about KoC, but that makes a lot of sense of how it can sound so complex while only using 2 progressions, that's kinda what I've been trying). But if I try adhering to needing a verse, chorus, and bridge (maybe intro and outro), there's no flow between the sections. It always just sounds forced, like I just stapled these ideas together. I'm guessing the answer now is just trial and error?


take one idea and extrapolate it. you don't have to put 3 ideas together, although that works sometimes. you can take one idea and come up with variations on it, or find a related idea. switch the chords around, or find other chords in the same key, or move to a related key, such as the relative or parallel minor/major (for instance, c to cm, or c to am and vice versa) or a dominant key (c to g).
take a look at the chords of some songs you like. ignore the slashes and stuff, and break them down to their simplest elements. you'll find a lot of stuff is less complicated than you think. you might have verses with I vi IV V (c am f g for example), and choruses of IV V I(f g c) or IV VIIb I( f bflat c) or something like that. the variations are endless, but they're generally related internally. even parts that are more unrelated usually have a chord in common.
i hope that's not too much theory.

but even if you have these different ideas that you want to use, maybe you can fit them together by changing the key of one, or the tempo or time signature, so that they fit smoothly. or you can use some of the other ideas people have mentioned to write transitions that are smoother.

or you can just go ahead and write a bunch of fragmented sounding songs and have that be your thing. it might catch on. who knows?
Last edited by brothertupelo at Dec 21, 2009,
#22
Arghhh!! Don't use powertab, guitar pro, sibelius, WHATEVER, they're horrible, they make life more difficult for songwriting, and when you finally write the first riff, you'll have forgotten how you were going to progress. Buy cubase, a basic audio interface, some midi drum package, and download some free VSTs and you have a little self jamming studio ready to improvise and spontaneously create the way you were meant to . Chances are powertab is stunting your songwriting completedness.

*** Back on the Topic of Songwriting Completeness ***

Anyway rant over it sounds to me like you're thinking too much. As far as progressing a song, songs naturally progress. They don't progress by forced thinking ahead. You should be able to imagine in your head a fairly vivid idea of what could come after said riff, and experiment around. If you can't imagine anything DON'T continue on with it, or at least save it till a later date so when you come back to it you can go, 'woooaahh, this is amazing, I could do this and that and this to it'. Analysing is BAD when writing.

*** Analysis Sucks ***

Don't think analytically in the midst of creation, it will stunt your songwriting. As a catalyst for the argument. Say you're trying to find this magical signature melody (From your OP). You're searching and searching. Trying different melodies. Nope... Nope... Ah that one's alright, I'll use that. Chances are you're compromising another area of the song which actually needs even more attention... But you won't have noticed this because you're so busy trying to find this golden melody.

Signature melodies come on their own, or they don't come at all. Infact, what's to say that you even need a signature melody?? Where in the big book of the rules of songwriting (the metaphorical one), does it say, make a signature melody? Just let it do it's thing and see where you end up. If you let your subconcious take over the songwriting and tell analysis to **** off and get drunk in a bar, then your song will sound at least 5 times better, THEN you can analyse what you have done and feel the pride as you unravel all that madness you created.

I noticed you said, listening to how other artists write their songs. This may be controvesial but try to keep this to a minimum. You may run the risk of sounding like them. It's fine to be influenced. But if you're writing a song, just let what you feel pour into the song with no outside influence on how to do it. Do it your way. The only way, the way you feel it should be.

*** Nice... ***

I really really hoped this helps man. Songwriting is boundless... There are no rules, and when you truly realise this, complete songs will be much easier to create. You don't even need a verse or a chorus for a song to be a song . I have 2 songs I have near enough finished on my profile page if you're interested and if it helps out. I've been told they're alright XD. One of them is quite forced (I'm ashamed of myself), see if you can tell which one this is.
#23
I think this forum helps me a lot..!! I am learner of playing Guitar..
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#24
Write a bunch of good melodies and put them in different categories.

When you find a riff you want to develop, go back to your categories, find what you think goes with it and transpose it both rythmically and melodically.

Rythm is MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than melody, and most times it's bad rythm that makes the riffs not fit.
#25
Quote by CloudArchitect
Arghhh!! Don't use powertab, guitar pro, sibelius, WHATEVER, they're horrible, they make life more difficult for songwriting, and when you finally write the first riff, you'll have forgotten how you were going to progress. Buy cubase, a basic audio interface, some midi drum package, and download some free VSTs and you have a little self jamming studio ready to improvise and spontaneously create the way you were meant to . Chances are powertab is stunting your songwriting completedness.

I disagree.
I haven't been using Gp5 that long, but since i started it helped me and my music grow amazingly.
I decide and plan everything that is going to happen in the song first, and often don't need to touch my guitar or drumkit after i've decided how my song will sound.

my process:
1) brainstorm, what do i wan't to write, how should it sound? will it be minor or major? what kind of beat?
2) write out main riff to start first part of song
3) expand/modify/simplify main riff
4) add beat
5)modify riff again
6) add more instruments (bass first, then more guitar layers and or keyboard)
7) tweak more
8) decide how the next part of my song will sound.
9)repeat.

sometimes the part 1 will be started by noodling on the guitar.
i find that Guitar pro helps me to teach the rest of the band the song easier as well. and being fairly efficent at using gp5, i find it is easy to add and subtract stuff quikly. as well as allow me to put in instumets i myself don't have access to.
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#26
Quote by Mr.Cuddles
I disagree.
I haven't been using Gp5 that long, but since i started it helped me and my music grow amazingly.
I decide and plan everything that is going to happen in the song first, and often don't need to touch my guitar or drumkit after i've decided how my song will sound.

my process:
1) brainstorm, what do i wan't to write, how should it sound? will it be minor or major? what kind of beat?
2) write out main riff to start first part of song
3) expand/modify/simplify main riff
4) add beat
5)modify riff again
6) add more instruments (bass first, then more guitar layers and or keyboard)
7) tweak more
8) decide how the next part of my song will sound.
9)repeat.

sometimes the part 1 will be started by noodling on the guitar.
i find that Guitar pro helps me to teach the rest of the band the song easier as well. and being fairly efficent at using gp5, i find it is easy to add and subtract stuff quikly. as well as allow me to put in instumets i myself don't have access to.


Given if you are good at guitar pro and entering things you can write a whole song in about 10 minutes without needing to record anything, but otherwise I find it's far too constrained. You have to add accents, little things that make a persons soul come out in a song, little grace notes, all this is a pain to add... I used guitar pro for many years for writing songs and at first I found it to be a godsend (I realise I appear to be contradicting myself, don't lose hope yet XD), but eventually the constraints of the program got on my nerves. Eventually when I came to record a song, I really just couldn't be arsed. I had it all on guitar pro so replicating it all in cubase was just like a transcribing act rather than a fun experimentation process. I switched from guitar pro to cubase a fair few months ago. I have loads of guitar pro things scattered everywhere. Guitar pro is a useful tool for prototyping a song quickly and learning songs from and not much more. You can't judge any naunces that'll occur from jamming with yourself on cubase, you can't set the reverb level or delay or feel of an instrument, mess around with different ways of playing it unless you painstakingly edit the song to try one thing. Just see what comes out when you play into a computer or something. It always sounds better than brainstorming, the creative process isn't logical and calculated, or at the very least it shouldn't be.

Personally this is my creative process, it makes interesting comparison

1, sit around, feeling inspired, play something, if it makes me go 'WOW' (literally) open up cubase

If I'm unsure how to carry something on go to (2)

2, do the 'creative mind****', which is go mental in cubase, add shit all over the place, weird instruments everywhere, the most obscure thing ever until I find something awesome I could use and mishmash everything until its a giant piece of madness and use pieces of it that I feel works.

elsewise go to 3 (usually I go to 3 because I usually find I know what I want to do with it and can imagine vividly what should come next)

3. Jam it out with myself. Add a beat, then jam over it on loop and play something on bass maybe, keep going with it.

4. Eventually it'll have some shape and I'll just carry on from there doing whatever I want to it as I feel. Sometimes what I went in with an idea of will end up as something completely different.

If i was in a band I'd probably then add it to guitar pro and send people different parts along with an audio clip of stuff I'd come up with.
Last edited by CloudArchitect at Dec 22, 2009,
#27
Quote by ingames

Rythm is MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than melody, and most times it's bad rythm that makes the riffs not fit.


Rhythm and melody are equally as important, as is the mood you give and the dynamics and the way you present each and every note. It all comes together to form one big picture of a song which everybody will hear, you have to convey all of this through every facet of your song.

I do agree with what you said about the bad rhythm not fitting though dude, it is very very true.
Last edited by CloudArchitect at Dec 22, 2009,