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dizzie38
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#1
How do you guys normally start composing songs? Do you get the drums down first or what?
Hail
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#2
i use exclusively bass guitars and vuvuzelas in my recordings
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Sleepy__Head
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#3
First of all I get my vuvuzela and record that ...

Just kidding.

It depends. Sometimes I lay the beat down first, sometimes I get a melodic idea, sometimes I start with the lyrics, sometimes with the chords, sometimes I just have an idea that I want to write a song with a certain arc.

Now if it was recording the song then I'd lay the beat down first, then add guitars, then the bass. Or If its acoustic only ill lay a scratch track down using a metronome and then layer on top of that.
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Joshua Garcia
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#5
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The Riff!!!

This. Usually just the guitar playing a riff once by itself and again with the drums and bass, then everything else is up to you.
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J-Dawg158
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#6


How else?

But seriously, usually I'll get a guitar riff or hook in my head and build everything up around that.
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Nero Galon
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#7
First I like to record myself throwing up before I start playing anything. And then comes the vuvuzela!
ThrashUnleashed
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#8
I usually write a bunch of riffs, tweak them, improve them, and then decide which is going to go where.
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HotspurJr
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#9
For me, it's about the song's seed.

The challenge is that different songs have different seeds. For some it's the hook. For other it's a smaller piece of melody. For some it's a guitar part.

Usually what I do is develop out the seed - so if it's a guitar riff, I'll figure out where it wants to go. But I don't get too locked into it because I need to work on the melody.

I've found that it can be very hard to develop a melody if you wait too long in the process to put your attention on it. The melody is the most important part of the song, so you need to get cracking on it right away. I don't want to be locked into a rhythm or a set of chord changes, because those things all need to support the melodic content of the song, and I want to be free to substitute chords or reharmonize to support the melodic and lyrical content better.

But bear in mind I write rock/folk/singer-songwriter type stuff, where melody really matters. Melody is a lot less important in the various -core genres which a lot of UGers like.
macashmack
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#10
I start with the inspiration. A lot of the time i see a beautiful thing, whether it be the crystal clear mountains of the catskills, or the turquoise water of the carribean on my vacation, or a beautiful sunset over my city of new york, or the face of a beautiful girl. These thread themselves into idea's and i try to write them down. I hardly ever write with my guitar in hand (or any other instrument) and i find when i do, they aren't as good as my other works.
Not that my other works are good! I'm just a terrible writer
jazz_rock_feel
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#11
Quote by macashmack
I start with the inspiration. A lot of the time i see a beautiful thing, whether it be the crystal clear mountains of the catskills, or the turquoise water of the carribean on my vacation, or a beautiful sunset over my city of new york, or the face of a beautiful girl. These thread themselves into idea's and i try to write them down. I hardly ever write with my guitar in hand (or any other instrument) and i find when i do, they aren't as good as my other works.
Not that my other works are good! I'm just a terrible writer

Tempoe
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#12
You should always start with a melody
eGraham
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#13
Usually I'll get some kind of melody in my head, and then I try (and generally fail) to create whatever progression it works over. I'm not great at composing, though, so very few of my ideas come into the physical realm. It's something I must work on.
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CryogenicHusk
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#15
I haven't written anything in nearly a year now.

But my favorite way used to be just coming up with a riff at home. It would usually come from just casually noodling around on the guitar or something I heard in my head and I would figure it out on the fretboard or a combination of both. From there, since I was in a band, even if I only had just one or two riffs that didn't necessarily fit together sequentially, I'd work with the rest of the band and it was always super fun coming up with new riffs, changing rhythms, and making whatever I had come up with fit together.
DiminishedFifth
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#18
I typically hear or see something that makes me want to write or have an idea... and then I write.

Or not. I just kinda play with clean chords and I'll find something I like and then I'll branch off from there.
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#19
I normally start with an F7#9 chord.
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#21
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Jehannum
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#22
I usually start with an idea I like - either a vocal line, a melody, or (more usually) a rhythm guitar riff. Then I try to work out things that could go around it, usually from a library of riffs I've built up. If I can get two grade A/B+ riffs as the main parts a song then I can use lesser riffs behind the solo or as linking sections.

My new stuff is going to incorporate more developmental ideas where riffs return to the song bigger and better!

When recording I always start with drums and bass (software) and then add my guitar playing and finally vocals.
Hail
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#23
Quote by HotspurJr
But bear in mind I write rock/folk/singer-songwriter type stuff, where melody really matters. Melody is a lot less important in the various -core genres which a lot of UGers like.


huh?
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#24
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HotspurJr
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#25
Quote by Hail
huh?


Well, different genres emphasize different things. I wasn't trying to be dismissive.

But driving drums, shredding guitars, and "heavy" vibe are really important in some genres. I've heard some songs linked by people on UG where it's almost impossible to define the melody because somebody is screaming rather than singing. That's an extreme example, obviously.

But let's take an example of songs I like. Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" is about the riff more than the vocal melody. (Although I suppose we could describe the riff as a melody of its own, but in the context of this discussion that's not really what I meant). Soundgarden's "Birth Ritual" is much more about that driving rhymic thing - the melody doesn't do very much.

Heck, the Beatles "I Am The Walrus" has very little melodic content - musically it's much more about the constantly shifting harmony. The Jackson's Five's "I Want You Back" has a great vocal performance from Michael Jackson, but the song is really about that great bass part - that's where the emphasis is. (Try to imagine the melody without it - it's really hard.) James Brown's "Sex Machine" is much more about the groove than the melody. (Hum the melody - not much there to hold your attention, right?) "Pumped Up Kicks" is another one where there's just not a lot there in the melody, but it's bouncy and fun.

Compare those songs to, I dunno- Alexi Murdoch's "Orange Sky" - very simple rhythm. The song is the melodic hooks (and the song has a couple of them). Or Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." The emphasis is clearly on the flowing lines of the melody and the lyrics.

Obviously these things are all matters of degree, and the same band can have different emphasis on different songs. And I'm not trying to say one set of choices is better than the others. But different genres tend to emphasize different aspects of the song.
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#26
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
Why?


It's the heart of the song, the thing people remember, relate to, hum. Everything else should be built around it from the start.

EDIT, yeah riffs can work too, depends what kind of song. Metal Example, Enter Sandman, riff was written, Nothing else matters, probably the melody was done first.
Last edited by Tempoe at Oct 9, 2012,
jazz_rock_feel
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#27
Quote by Tempoe
It's the heart of the song, the thing people remember, relate to, hum. Everything else should be built around it from the start.

EDIT, yeah riffs can work too, depends what kind of song. Metal Example, Enter Sandman, riff was written, Nothing else matters, probably the melody was done first.

But what if I wanted to start with a harmony or a chord or a rhythm or a timbre or a texture or a dynamic shape or a phrasing or a lyric?

There are a lot of elements to music, you don't necessarily have to start with melody.
HotspurJr
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#28
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
But what if I wanted to start with a harmony or a chord or a rhythm or a timbre or a texture or a dynamic shape or a phrasing or a lyric?

There are a lot of elements to music, you don't necessarily have to start with melody.


My experience is that you need to start with the parts of the song that are important.

Or, at least, start with them as quickly as possible.

Because otherwise what happens is that the unimportant parts of the song limit your creativity.

Now, for me, melody is really important. YMMV may vary on that, as I discussed in my previous post.

But let's say that you want the song to be about the riff. And you spend all this time working on the drum track before you develop the riff. But now your riff is limited, you've got these certain drum moments getting in the way of the development of the riff - because maybe on its own the riff (the important part!) would want to go one direction, but it can't because it keeps banging up against the drums, which are forcing it in one direction.

So now you're no longer developing the riff to make it the most powerful riff possible. You're developing it to be the most powerful riff possible which fits in with the drums - and that's saying that the drums are more important than the riff.

Certainly this can be iterative. The drummer inspires you to play a certain way, but you need an extra beat so he changes the way he's drumming, which inspires you to tweak the riff a certain way, which inspires another change from him until you lock it down. In practice, though, I think this sort of group writing is pretty rare and requires musicians who are really great at listening to each other.

You're going to start wherever you start. Inspiration hits where it hits. But my point is that the moment you shift from raw inspiration to crafting the song, focus on part of the song that is most important.

Furthermore, I think a lot of people struggle to come up with melodies because they don't treat them as if they were important. They figure they'll add that last. But by the time you've really developed that guitar part down, you've drastically constrained your options, and you're not really free to follow the melody whereever it wants to go.
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#29
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
But what if I wanted to start with a harmony or a chord or a rhythm or a timbre or a texture or a dynamic shape or a phrasing or a lyric?

Or a...
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ChamsRock
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#30
I usually start with the riff, then get a general idea of the song structure, with drums second. The bass usually follows the guitar, besides the occasional run, so it comes next. I arrange the parts into a structured song, and then add lyrics.
Jehannum
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#31
Quote by HotspurJr
Furthermore, I think a lot of people struggle to come up with melodies because they don't treat them as if they were important. They figure they'll add that last. But by the time you've really developed that guitar part down, you've drastically constrained your options, and you're not really free to follow the melody whereever it wants to go.


Yes, I've had that struggle in the past. With a riff based writing it's a matter of hope or faith that you will be able to come up with a decent melody in the end. It hasn't always worked out for me but I'm getting better at that side of things.

Of course starting with the melody would remove this problem. However, my brain doesn't seem to work that way naturally. I might try it as an experiment.
Markisawesome
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#32
I think you should get really grandiose with your intros, and start off with a fart into the microphone.
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The_Musician321
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#33
I'll start a basic beat then play a chord progression with it, when I'm satisfied with the progression I'll adjust the beat accordingly. Ususally I'll add the bassline last.
RadioMuse
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#34
We're talking about composing here right?

Usually I start by noodling around on guitar and coming up with a hook or having a 1-line lyric that I like and kinda feel the melody for and work around until I get the chords. Once there I usually try to keep pushing it around until I find a transition that feels natural but decently striking... But I'm also a very slow songwriter (usually).

Unless you have a "drum hook" like Maps or Atlas (LOL) you probably needn't start with drums. If you do have a drum hook it's perfectly appropriate to start with that.

And never be afraid to pile lots of ideas into each section and then strip them back.

As for RECORDING I usually start with a click-track recorded rhythm guitar that's often more "strummy" than the 'actual' part. Just 8ths or something. Then drums are recorded to that part with or without click and everything is recorded to that and the drums without the click. Usually the starting rhythm guitar part is removed entirely at some point because it was there purely to serve as a guide.
JayCartay
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#35
Recording wise I will get a recording of the main riff or the rhythm guitar, depending what I've come up with. Sometimes I will do this for existing lyrics, sometimes I will add lyrics after creating an instrumental track.

2nd thing is then to get a beat and record to it to get everything in time. I modify things from there.
Mathedes
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#36
How do you guys normally start a song?

I usually start with pressing play.

You all are getting too detailed.
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Hail
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#38
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ThrashUnleashed
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#39
Quote by HotspurJr
Well, different genres emphasize different things. I wasn't trying to be dismissive.

But driving drums, shredding guitars, and "heavy" vibe are really important in some genres. I've heard some songs linked by people on UG where it's almost impossible to define the melody because somebody is screaming rather than singing. That's an extreme example, obviously.

But let's take an example of songs I like. Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" is about the riff more than the vocal melody. (Although I suppose we could describe the riff as a melody of its own, but in the context of this discussion that's not really what I meant). Soundgarden's "Birth Ritual" is much more about that driving rhymic thing - the melody doesn't do very much.

Heck, the Beatles "I Am The Walrus" has very little melodic content - musically it's much more about the constantly shifting harmony. The Jackson's Five's "I Want You Back" has a great vocal performance from Michael Jackson, but the song is really about that great bass part - that's where the emphasis is. (Try to imagine the melody without it - it's really hard.) James Brown's "Sex Machine" is much more about the groove than the melody. (Hum the melody - not much there to hold your attention, right?) "Pumped Up Kicks" is another one where there's just not a lot there in the melody, but it's bouncy and fun.

Compare those songs to, I dunno- Alexi Murdoch's "Orange Sky" - very simple rhythm. The song is the melodic hooks (and the song has a couple of them). Or Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." The emphasis is clearly on the flowing lines of the melody and the lyrics.

Obviously these things are all matters of degree, and the same band can have different emphasis on different songs. And I'm not trying to say one set of choices is better than the others. But different genres tend to emphasize different aspects of the song.


Lack of melody isn't just found in harsh vocal music, composers like Stravinsky barely used any melody at all, and a lot of non-Metal music has rhythmic rather than melodic vocals. Melody is an important thing to start with if you're writing music that employs it, but melody isn't so important in general. I think to be a well versed writer you should experiment with more than basic rhythms and try to ween yourself off of melodies in at least one instance.
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