My Songwriting Techniques Pt. 1: The Music

However there is one that I have developed that seems to work for me.

My Songwriting Techniques Pt. 1: The Music
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After almost two years of trying to write my own songs, but failing to produce anything worth keeping, I began to look at my technique. One thing that I noticed is that a lot of the songwriting advice that can be found on the Internet, while useful to hot girls who play all acoustic songs, are very useless to normal people. I began to question all of the advice that even great musicians have given me over the years. The truth is there is no one right technique. However there is one that I have developed that seems to work for me...

Step 1: LISTEN!!!

Find music that matches your mood. If you are calm, listen to reggae or jazz. If your girlfriend just dumped you, listen to blues. If you are feeling really friggin awesome, listen to metal. The list goes on and on. These are just suggestions. The truth is, you can listen to anything, as long as it inspires you. This first step is crucial for the rest of the process.

Step 2: Analyze

Once you have a few songs that inspire your creative process, outline the song structure of each of them. Take note of the rhythm, harmony, and melody used in each part of the song. Is the melody ascending or descending? Is the rhythm played in straight 8th or 16th notes, or is it in a weird 7/8 time signature? Is there a common pattern in the harmony (I like to use the 3rd interval), or is it seemingly random? Outline what is going on with every single instrument in the song.

Step 3: Select

What parts of each song inspire you? After outlining and analyzing each song, this part shouldn't be to hard.

Step 4: Copy

That's right. Many of the world's greatest musicians (John Frusciante for example) copied (within reason) from other musicians. Take the parts of the song in the previous step, and try to duplicate their sound.

Step 5: Make It Your Own

This is the part where you become part of the song. Make small adjustments, until you have something that sounds original, and sounds so great, that you are on the verge of achieving legend status(once you are done with it of course).

Step 6: Clean It Up

It is one thing to have inspiring parts of different songs put together, but it is another thing entirely to make them sound good together. Maybe you can find similarities between song parts. Or maybe, just maybe, you want to use your main riff to blend different parts together. This step takes some practice to get down to perfection.

Step 7: To Be Continued

Lyrics in Pt. 2.

46 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Jazz1992
    "If you are feeling really friggin awesome, listen to metal." 'nuff said.
    henrihell
    that makes me really frigging awesome 24/7, because I have metal songs that fits every mood
    sk8board3r
    He's right, pretty much every great musician completely ripped off others. He's not saying go out and steal songs, he's saying take parts of songs and make them your own.
    jinsu2301
    Well, this "emulate what you like" may work for some, it most certainly doesn't work for me. Whenever I hear something and think "hey, that sounds awesome, I should try something similiar too", it ends up being exactly the same. And when I try to make adjustments, it starts to sound "wrong", like fixing something that isn't broken.
    Yoda_is_real
    ^ This! : ) Just to throw in my two cents, and contribute, and provide help for anybody who is aspiring to write the best music that they can, I, usually, come up with my most unbiased, free from outside influence, interesting, and fresh musical ideas while inebriated(No, completely ****ing baked).
    ijackson57
    Okay, then listen to what you wrote while "baked" when you're sober. Won't be worth the hangover.
    jordonlees
    who gets hungover from getting baked? YOU FAIL WITH THE KIDS HIP NEW LINGO YA OL LOG!
    iaceu
    Yes, I agree. However, I also think today that most musicians unintentionally copy others. When I improvise, I find I have my own, very simple style (I am working on developing that). However, it frequently reminds me of Jimmy Page (naturally, as he is by far my favorite) or old blues guitarists, because that music really speaks to me. That said, I have lately heard rhythm sections that I have changed a bit, or started in a different key. I find that if I start the same progression in a different key, it usually resolves differently due to the key change and my mood. As a result, I end up producing something entirely different. Although I hear similar songs all the time. One that is not the same melody or chords, but has the same rhythm, is "Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven. Every time I hear it, I hear "My Prerogative" by Bobby Brown. Seriously. Compare the two and you'll see what I mean, especially over the chorus.
    ijackson57
    " One thing that I noticed is that a lot of the songwriting advice that can be found on the Internet, while useful to hot girls who play all acoustic songs, are very useless to normal people." I would say that copying is probably bad advice, which puts your advice in among the "useless", I suspect.
    Stalk027
    Step 4: Copy That's right. Many of the world's greatest musicians (John Frusciante for example) copied (within reason) from other musicians. Take the parts of the song in the previous step, and try to duplicate their sound.
    Woaw. I couldn't agree less. Why copying would inspire you ? In MY OWN technique, I just let my fingers go anywhere on the neck, and if something sounds about great, then I work it out. If there is one thing which works for me, it's writting on night sessions. Just be in a quiet environment, put your headphones on, and let the music go through you. But hey, the "I don't agree with you" thing is not offensive, I just explain my view. No offense dude !
    Cavalcade
    If your "fingers" come up with something completely, totally, 100% original that's never ever been done before, either I'd be really interested in hearing it, or it's random cacophony. You know what they say: "there's nothing new under the sun". Music is born from what came before it, one way or another.
    TwistWhisper
    (In response to your Stalk027 reply) Correct me if I'm wrong, but, there's a difference between coincidence and copying.
    webber243
    Yeah there is a difference - artists who "copy" are generally more successful with their songs.
    Maxmetpt
    Most of the time, you may even copy a song or a part of a song accidentally. I mean, you've heard that somewhere, although you didn't really take notice to it, and you end up playing that same thing in "your" music without realising. But hey, sounds good! You keep it and are proud of it, until you listen to the original song again. Then you go "Crap, I know this..."
    My Last Words
    He's just talking about the sound, and I agree. I mean, Opeth sounds alot like Camel. Opeth never duplicated anything by Camel, but you can still hear the heavy Camel influences. See for yourself and you'll feel me ; )
    agentjimbo
    concise, good advice... I do use this technique and it helps with writing the music =) I look forward to your lyrical article because that's where I've always had problems..
    primus182
    with a C5, G5, A5, F5 progression you are copying and stealing song from all punk rock band
    jamesnix47
    my roomate's ex-wife makes $83/hour on the laptop. She has been out of work for 8 months but last month her income was $16454 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this web site http://Bing30.com
    INSULIN
    NOTHING ORIGINAL NOW .TOO MANY BANDS ETC.I CAN WRITE A SONG NOW AND SOMEONE WILL SAY I STOLE THERE SONG .IF I PLAYED G EMINOR C AND D GOD IT WILL SOUND LIKE TONS OF SONGS .ETC
    Cavalcade
    YOU'RE TYPING TEXT ON THE INTERNET. THERE'S NO NEED TO SHOUT, AND IT WON'T MAKE YOU ANY MORE RIGHT. YOUR CAPS LOCK KEY MAY BE ON, IN WHICH CASE, LOCATE IT AND PRESS IT. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME.
    dvanhandel96
    Hey INSULIN try using adifferent rythm than just the same beat over the whole song. Like instead of just using quarter notes try using complex rythms.
    Toasted_Waffelz
    I failed an assignment at school because I copied an article and changed every few words. Why is music any different?
    CoolMcAwesome
    one is plagiarism, the other isn't. I mean really, the author clearly isn't talking about plagiarism. He is stating an obvious truth: musicians listen to music, and are influenced by said music. If you are a musician and have never heard a song and tried to emulate it, then you are doing it all wrong friend. Some of the best guitar songs out there are blatant copies of other songs, only tweaked enough to sound new.
    Kueller917
    As someone said above, taking existing works and doing slight changes is plagiarism. The copying in music is more like lifting an author's sentence structure, or organization style, or maybe a direct phrase/word here and there, and then slowly using it until you have your own developed from it.
    Rock Prodigy
    I like setting up a beat, groove... and sing melodies on top. Then, you can use them as a riff, verse, choruses etc... It could be a good way to start
    Valgoroth
    There's really no technique to songwriting. When you have a melody in your head, use an instrument to bring it out (in this case, guitar). I don't understand the point in music theory other than to help you figure it out quicker.
    RonaldLearner
    Ladies and gentlemen, because our music is timed and tonal you have a limited number of chord proressions and rhythms. What identifies songs are hooks and melodies (vocal or instumental). The best way to learn how to write, study great songwriters' and composers' work from a theoretic standpoint.
    brokndwn06
    " After almost two years of trying to write my own songs, but failing to produce anything worth keeping, I began to look at my technique." and stop trying to write songs i hope.
    C8PT81N
    i personally don't condone "copying" artists. Although, there is a fine line between "inspired by" and "copied from". If a band/person inspires your music, you will hear it in the music...if you're just straight up copying and tweaking then you're just a con artist testing their hand in music...even paraphrasing (without citing your source) is considered plagiarism.
    jordonlees
    was gonna check this article out, but the picture scared me away. i dont need songwriting lessons from someone who looks like they put more effort into their hair then their music!
    Cavalcade
    That isn't the author. The admins add a random picture related to the topic. But if you judge someone's abilities by their image, then you're just as bad as you think they are.
    INSULIN
    DAY TRIPPER RIFF -JOHN MAYALS-WHAT I'D SAY-MOST EVERY E RIFF IS EITHER DAY TRIPPER-BEAT IT OR -PRETTY WOMAN HA HA
    AndyGray
    RHCP Dani California has the same chord structure as a Tom Petty song. Lamb of God's Laid to Rest sounds very similar to Into The Pit by Testament. Trivium Pull Harder has a very similar riff to some band I can't remember.
    dvanhandel96
    The main riff for The Call of Ktulu is also in Hangar 18, so even if you take a riff from another song you can make it sound like an original song by changing minor things here and there.The main riff from Seek And Destroy is a Priest riff so you cant rat on him because he says you have to copy to a degree.
    JMCerium
    The thing is that Dave mistaken made that riff, so he is allowed to use it since it is his mind doing it. Same with mechanix on killing is my business. It is the exact same song as the four horsemen but played faster and different lyrics. It would be copying and stealing if he hadn't made those songs himself.
    JoachimR
    It takes time learning to write your own stuff. Best advice is to write and write a lot. Writing songs takes practice, and hell of a lot of it. Have patience. I started playing music 5 years ago and it took me 3 years of intense dedication until I figured out the logic of my music and what I wanted to express and how to do it. 2 years later, I have came to the level where I can compose and write a descent song anyday, and every 5th or 10th song may be good or better. If you truly want to be somewhat of an original song writer, listen to all sorts of music. The best songs I've written for my band is inspired by very different genres than the band I'm in are playing.
    dvanhandel96
    I used to use the same technique as stalk027 and the songs sounded like sh*t. You have at least have inspiration from other songs. I personally learn songs and use the techniques from about seven songs and structure them into one song,