#1
Hey guys,


I'm just wondering if you guys could help share your writing methods for creating new songs. I was wondering where you start. Do you start with a chord progression, determine what key it's in, then try out the major scale in the same key for intros/solos/interludes? Or do you start with a scale come up with a riff then figure out a chord progression?

Any insight on getting the creative process started would be awesome. Thanks guys!!
#2
I start with a theme, then come up with variations of said theme, explore different textures etc
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#3
For me it can start pretty much anywhere. Even sometimes just a line of a lyric is enough to get the ball rolling
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#4
I'm with Paddy. Most of my songs start as I jam and notice that I have cool sounding riff. Then I start adding stuff to that riff and eventually it will become a full song, or not. My music theory is very poor so I don't usually pay lot of attention to it. I trust my ears. As long as it sounds good, it's ok. I know some theory wouldn't hurt but for now I go without it...
#5
I think of places i have been, and how I feel when I'm there, sort of a "where is this song" thing...and then sometimes I just hear a song in my head, it's strange, I almost say to my head "give me a song" and it gives me some pretty good stuff< but i have to be in the right mood and have inspiration forst (which oddly enough seems to happen all the time in the middle of a math test), and then sometimes i just start with chord progressions and go from there. It's all about inspiration, and everyone's inspiration is different
#6
Quote by Dalymiddleboro
Hey guys,


I'm just wondering if you guys could help share your writing methods for creating new songs. I was wondering where you start. Do you start with a chord progression, determine what key it's in, then try out the major scale in the same key for intros/solos/interludes? Or do you start with a scale come up with a riff then figure out a chord progression?

Any insight on getting the creative process started would be awesome. Thanks guys!!


The most important part of a song is either the melody or the riff, depending on the song and style.

The chord progression only exists to support those things. I don't really write much riff-based music, so I can't help you with that, but I can talk about the way I work.

I think the key to writing good songs is to work on your ear until you can hear melodies in your head. You do not want to go "fishing" around on the scale in your guitar until you hear a melody you like. Instead, you want to find the melody inside yourself.

So if I get a melodic idea first, I'll harmonize it. You find the stressed sylables, and harmonize them with your chord changes, using your craft and knowledge of harmony to pick chords which work well, and help you figure out when to change chords. (You harmonize the melody by picking chords which contain - usually - the stressed notes. But there are many chords which contain each note - good songwriting is about picking the chords which support the melodic and thematic ideas, changing them at the right moments to add to the song, etc. Bad songwriting is just picking whatever chord leaps to mind first).

If I have a chord idea first, I try to find a melody to go with it. I've found that the more specific and interesting the chord progression is, the harder this is - because the things that make a chord progression specific and interesting tend to have a very specific rhythmic structure, which you need to find a way to work with (you don't want to echo it exactly, but you can't ignore it either) and may rely on chords with tricky notes to compose a melody with.

But one thing I've noticed:

95% of my good ideas don't start at the guitar - they start in my head. Even if it's a chord progression. Let's say I get two chords with a rhtyhm that I'm trying to figure out what to do with. If I STOP playing, and go into my head, and THINK - let my mind tell me what SOUND it wants to hear next, I come up with something cool.

And if I, instead, simply move around the guitar looking for a chord that might fit, I tend to come up with something cloying, obvious, and cheesy. Similarly, I feel like when listening to amateur songwriters I can usually tell if they found a chord progression by strumming around until they found something - and that's not a good thing.

Of course, to hear things accurately in your head you need to develop your ear. That's really really important to songwriting. I would go so far as to say that if you can't think in music, you're not really songwriting, you're somewhere between a songwriter and the blind monkey chained to a typewriter that every so often bangs out - just by random chance - a sentence that works.
#7
Quote by HotspurJr
The most important part of a song is either the melody or the riff, depending on the song and style.

The chord progression only exists to support those things. I don't really write much riff-based music, so I can't help you with that, but I can talk about the way I work.

I think the key to writing good songs is to work on your ear until you can hear melodies in your head. You do not want to go "fishing" around on the scale in your guitar until you hear a melody you like. Instead, you want to find the melody inside yourself.

So if I get a melodic idea first, I'll harmonize it. You find the stressed sylables, and harmonize them with your chord changes, using your craft and knowledge of harmony to pick chords which work well, and help you figure out when to change chords. (You harmonize the melody by picking chords which contain - usually - the stressed notes. But there are many chords which contain each note - good songwriting is about picking the chords which support the melodic and thematic ideas, changing them at the right moments to add to the song, etc. Bad songwriting is just picking whatever chord leaps to mind first).

If I have a chord idea first, I try to find a melody to go with it. I've found that the more specific and interesting the chord progression is, the harder this is - because the things that make a chord progression specific and interesting tend to have a very specific rhythmic structure, which you need to find a way to work with (you don't want to echo it exactly, but you can't ignore it either) and may rely on chords with tricky notes to compose a melody with.

But one thing I've noticed:

95% of my good ideas don't start at the guitar - they start in my head. Even if it's a chord progression. Let's say I get two chords with a rhtyhm that I'm trying to figure out what to do with. If I STOP playing, and go into my head, and THINK - let my mind tell me what SOUND it wants to hear next, I come up with something cool.

And if I, instead, simply move around the guitar looking for a chord that might fit, I tend to come up with something cloying, obvious, and cheesy. Similarly, I feel like when listening to amateur songwriters I can usually tell if they found a chord progression by strumming around until they found something - and that's not a good thing.

Of course, to hear things accurately in your head you need to develop your ear. That's really really important to songwriting. I would go so far as to say that if you can't think in music, you're not really songwriting, you're somewhere between a songwriter and the blind monkey chained to a typewriter that every so often bangs out - just by random chance - a sentence that works.


Thank you for this, it's a long thought out and helpful response. I have a question for you however, How should I go about ear training? I know to an extent the intervals on the neck, and for ones I don't know I have a diagram pointing them out. I've only been playing for about a year, but I am at the point where I am starting to delve into theory ( I want to catch it early ). So without digressing too much, how should I start training my ear? I would love to be able to put melodies and rythms in my head onto the fretboard!
#8
There are so many possibilities. A song can be grown around many things - a melody, a rhythm riff or lead guitar riff, a line of lyrics, a chord progression, a bassline, a weird drumbeat. Try them all.

I mainly do metal, so the riff is king for me.
#9
Quote by Jehannum
There are so many possibilities. A song can be grown around many things - a melody, a rhythm riff or lead guitar riff, a line of lyrics, a chord progression, a bassline, a weird drumbeat. Try them all.

I mainly do metal, so the riff is king for me.


I do a lot of pop punk stuff. So what I've been doing is coming up with either a scale melody or a chord progression and use those two as reciprocals to eachother working in the same key as eachother. In other words if I use a chord progression to start, I think use a major scale in the same key to compliment it, and vice versa if I start with a major scale. Is this ok practice?
#10
Quote by Dalymiddleboro
Thank you for this, it's a long thought out and helpful response. I have a question for you however, How should I go about ear training? I know to an extent the intervals on the neck, and for ones I don't know I have a diagram pointing them out. I've only been playing for about a year, but I am at the point where I am starting to delve into theory ( I want to catch it early ). So without digressing too much, how should I start training my ear? I would love to be able to put melodies and rythms in my head onto the fretboard!


I at least, have found it best to just learn the songs you like, or even just small bits and melodies such as the vocals, by ear and try to play it on your guitar. You will probably struggle with this at first since you have only played for a year and it will annoy you at times, but if you stick with it you will find that after having failed for forever, it will slowly but surely start to become a little easier and when you've finally have gotten good at this, then you are not far from getting to where most musicians want to be: being able to play whatever they hear in their head. Which is nice.

Also, some will probably recommend so called "Ear training programs", which basically is like a flash game where the computer plays two notes and you are meant to tell the distance between these. I personally don't like this approach at all. I used to do this a lot a couple of years back, but it didn't really seem to go anywhere. It wasn't until I just started figuring out real songs that I really noticed that my ear got any better, and looking back at it, those programs kinda feels like learning grammar for a foreign language in school as opposed to actually just talking the language with others. I mean you learn stuff, but it never gets as fluid as it should.

But, if you feel like you struggle too much it's probably a good idea to start with some really simple things first (you know Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Happy Birthday, christmas songs etc.).

Cheers!


EDIT: Hehe, seems like Spurs and I have quite different approaches to this ear training stuff
I should maybe add that the Ear Training Programs part is just my own experience and how I feel about it, it could very well work for someone else (however I'm still skeptical towards it). Maybe you should try both ways and see what works for you
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Last edited by Muffinz at Mar 14, 2012,
#11
Quote by Dalymiddleboro
Thank you for this, it's a long thought out and helpful response. I have a question for you however, How should I go about ear training? I know to an extent the intervals on the neck, and for ones I don't know I have a diagram pointing them out. I've only been playing for about a year, but I am at the point where I am starting to delve into theory ( I want to catch it early ). So without digressing too much, how should I start training my ear? I would love to be able to put melodies and rythms in my head onto the fretboard!


I make this recommendation all the time - it should probably be in my sig. But I don't think people read sigs.

Download the functional ear trainer from miles.be. It's free. Use it a couple of times a week. Expect it to be very challenging at first, but it really does get easier over time.

And get a book on ear training. I recommend Wyatt et al's "Ear Training for the Contemporary Musician" which will also teach you a fair bit of theory (in the context of learning to hear it, which is the only way that matters). If your ear isn't very good, the beginning of this book will go very slowly, and you'll want to use the functional ear trainer a lot.

It's like learning a language. You can't cram it. Slow and steady, a little bit of work every day, and you'll make real progress.
#12
Quote by HotspurJr
I make this recommendation all the time - it should probably be in my sig. But I don't think people read sigs.

Download the functional ear trainer from miles.be. It's free. Use it a couple of times a week. Expect it to be very challenging at first, but it really does get easier over time.

And get a book on ear training. I recommend Wyatt et al's "Ear Training for the Contemporary Musician" which will also teach you a fair bit of theory (in the context of learning to hear it, which is the only way that matters). If your ear isn't very good, the beginning of this book will go very slowly, and you'll want to use the functional ear trainer a lot.

It's like learning a language. You can't cram it. Slow and steady, a little bit of work every day, and you'll make real progress.


Once again very concise and useful information! I will download the ear trainer and start using it. However, The book you mentioned is it a requirement to know standard notation for this? Because that's something I have zero knowledge on.
#13
I start with the chord progression, I decided by how I want it to sound whether to play in a major or minor key. then I try to come up with a melody that is catchy, and guitar and bass parts as I go.
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#14
Quote by Dalymiddleboro
Once again very concise and useful information! I will download the ear trainer and start using it. However, The book you mentioned is it a requirement to know standard notation for this? Because that's something I have zero knowledge on.


The book does not require an understanding of notation. It will, however, teach you the basics of reading notation. (It doesn't go into depth, but you will be able to sight-sing melodies in the key of C by the time you finish it).

This is a good thing.
#15
Quote by HotspurJr
The book does not require an understanding of notation. It will, however, teach you the basics of reading notation. (It doesn't go into depth, but you will be able to sight-sing melodies in the key of C by the time you finish it).

This is a good thing.



I've tried installing that miles program you recommended but it isn't working (I've tried uninstalling Adobe Air and reinstalling it and that isn't working either) can you recommend another program? I'm soon to lose my internet connection so something that works offline would be great.


Also is this the book you mean?http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essential-Ear-Training-Contemporary-Musician/dp/0634006401/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331768340&sr=1-1


It's not by the author you said, but I can find no other.
#16
The book I meant was this one.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/MusicianS-Institute-Essential-Concepts-Training/dp/0793581931/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331772390&sr=1-2-fkmr0

Or, at least, that's the cover. That link says "abridged" but I think it's the same thing - that's the cover of the book I have.

I can't recommend another program, unfortunately. I don't know another that does that. You'll have to figure out what's going on on your computer.
#17
Quote by HotspurJr
The book I meant was this one.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/MusicianS-Institute-Essential-Concepts-Training/dp/0793581931/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331772390&sr=1-2-fkmr0

Or, at least, that's the cover. That link says "abridged" but I think it's the same thing - that's the cover of the book I have.

I can't recommend another program, unfortunately. I don't know another that does that. You'll have to figure out what's going on on your computer.



Thanks man. Once I get some money I'm going to get that book, sounds ideal.


That's a shame about the program. I'll try fiddling with my computer tomorrow, no idea why it wont let me remove Adobe.