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Songwriting #2975476 02/13/19 12:22 PM
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marczellm Offline OP
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Originally Posted By: Bucktunes in the David Foster thread
I studied his arrangements quite a bit for a while when I was learning to write and arrange pop ballads.


How do you even start to learn songwriting? I'd really like to, but to me it seems a sufficiently handwavy art that one either "has it" or doesn't. It it easy to say "look at Stevie Wonder" but if do, I might feel "yeah, this is great" and nothing more; or I might feel "okay but that only tells me how to write a Stevie Wonder copycat song, certainly no one is interested in that?"

It would be awesome if this thread could go deep like the Reharm Room and people actually brought examples such as "I got this idea from this song and used it like this in another song."


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Re: Songwriting [Re: marczellm] #2975479 02/13/19 12:38 PM
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There are various ways to get "trained" to do any task but the most creative things come from just starting to do something.
Think of Lennon-McCartney.
Those cats were total autodidacts.
In fact everything in human history
(unless one assigns such things to space alien intervention rolleyes )
began as someone just starting to do it & evolved.

I'm sure there will be more suggestions & I'll be back w/ more myself but I think it's important to remember that the best basis of any art is a combination of what's worked in the past X something new & diff.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: marczellm] #2975481 02/13/19 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted By: marczellm
Originally Posted By: Bucktunes in the David Foster thread
I studied his arrangements quite a bit for a while when I was learning to write and arrange pop ballads.


How do you even start to learn songwriting? I'd really like to, but to me it seems a sufficiently handwavy art that one either "has it" or doesn't. It it easy to say "look at Stevie Wonder" but if do, I might feel "yeah, this is great" and nothing more; or I might feel "okay but that only tells me how to write a Stevie Wonder copycat song, certainly no one is interested in that?"

It would be awesome if this thread could go deep like the Reharm Room and people actually brought examples such as "I got this idea from this song and used it like this in another song."


There are few serious/consistent song writers from what I gather here.

I have 49 originals on SoundCloud:
https://soundcloud.com/user-898236994

A song writer is usually inspired by a few factors or circumstances.

You might have a musical idea[s] or chord progression rattling around upstairs.
Build on that and start laying down tracks is my advice.

Once you sit back and listen to that, other ideas to compliment will result or go further.

And a song generally should have some structure; such as intro, verse, chorus, verse2, chorus, bridge, verse 3, ending. For example.

I am not referring to lyrics or a vocalist at this point. Mostly an instrumental approach.
Its a bias I have since I can't sing wink

Anyway, this craft is flexible. I think each creative musician commits to a few approaches and it develops from there.

Re: Songwriting [Re: d / halfnote] #2975482 02/13/19 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted By: d
There are various ways to get "trained" to do any task but the most creative things come from just starting to do something


thu

I'm often inspired by a sound or a short riff I come up with, then I work on a drum pattern. I have a Korg M3 and its KARMA feature is very inspirational as well--finding a combination sound and developing/tweaking it until I create a song. I can record that right away with the sequencer and develop it later.



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Re: Songwriting [Re: Synthoid] #2975486 02/13/19 01:11 PM
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Like most good things musical its an inherent talent. My girl singer and guitar player dont always get along but make some decent tunes when they do get together. I kind of produce it and suggest changes in baselines or progressions. Its a good skill to have if you can write good hooks or songs. Also the audience reaction tells you a lot about how good your material is.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: Outkaster] #2975497 02/13/19 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted By: Outkaster
Like most good things musical its an inherent talent. something people work at for years, although some people are drawn to it more naturally and therefore get started earlier and appear to be impossibly better than you.


Fixed IMHO smile

Pick you five favourite songwriters/records/songs, pick them apart from top to bottom and see if there are any similarities. Analyze the rhyme scheme, vocal cadence, lyrical themes, lexical field (is that a thing in English?), melodic contour, arrangement, pocket, harmony, and every other little thing you might notice.

Then keep doing that for the rest of your life and while trying to inconspicuously steal a few tricks from them.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: MAJUSCULE] #2975507 02/13/19 02:56 PM
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Sorry a lot of music is inherent. I will defend that anytime. Yes you have to work at it but it has to be in you in the first place.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: Outkaster] #2975509 02/13/19 03:05 PM
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I'm not saying he (or any of us) is gonna become Stevie or Burt Bacharach or whatever, but everyone can definitely improve if they work at it. Yeah, certain people obviously have a higher ceiling than others, not debating that. Not everyone with natural talent fosters it, either, whether it's their choice or force of circumstance. You do what you can with what you have.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: Outkaster] #2975510 02/13/19 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted By: Outkaster
Sorry a lot of music is inherent. I will defend that anytime. Yes you have to work at it but it has to be in you in the first place.


That is 100% accurate IMO and from my experience

Having some instrument skill will help the craft, for sure.

Re: Songwriting [Re: GregC] #2975511 02/13/19 03:07 PM
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Anyway, point being you can study songwriting just the same as you can study bebop lines, big band arranging, counterpoint, etc.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: Outkaster] #2975582 02/13/19 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted By: Outkaster
Sorry a lot of music is inherent. I will defend that anytime. Yes you have to work at it but it has to be in you in the first place.

Nah, nothing is totally inherent.
Even the way you state that ["I'll defend that..." ] suggests that you are not open to another idea but there is no progress w/out the element of change.

The idea that "every/all" is inherent kinda precludes the idea of development.
One can learn how/what others did but for any art to advance there has t'be that intellectual DNA cross-wiring effect.


d=halfnote
Re: Songwriting [Re: d / halfnote] #2975589 02/13/19 09:53 PM
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Tom Petty said "The First 100 songs you write are going to be no damn good."

It's a craft. Like anything else, it takes discipline, practice, tenacity and dedication. A writer writes. That's really the only truth there is out there.

Just start writing. Get all the shitty ideas out until they start becoming good and then hopefully great ideas. There's nothing wrong with looking at or studying those who came before you. It serves as inspiration and gives you insight into the craft.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: Dreamchilde] #2975598 02/13/19 10:20 PM
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Sometimes I start with a lyric, sometimes with a lick, sometimes with a chord progression/groove. No rhyme or reason to it, as far as I can tell. idk

I write differently depending on what instrument I'm using. Not just melodies/harmonies, etc - key choice as well. Picking up a bass frequently inspires me to write something.

dB


Re: Songwriting [Re: Dave Bryce] #2975600 02/13/19 10:23 PM
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Yup, starting the process differently will always yield different results. Ditto with involving other people, your ideas will go places you'd never imagined, theirs will spark things in you that will surprise you.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: MAJUSCULE] #2975642 02/14/19 03:05 AM
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Regarding innate ability...sure, different folks have different aptitudes. But I think the real distinction is a personality trait that allows tolerance for the disproportionate amount of time that your future song sucks, in return for the (eventual) super-hero-like feeling when you emerge on the other side with one that doesn't. Not a lot of people can find equanimity with their own lousiness long enough to get to that other side.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: MAJUSCULE] #2975687 02/14/19 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted By: MAJUSCULE
Yup, starting the process differently will always yield different results. Ditto with involving other people, your ideas will go places you'd never imagined, theirs will spark things in you that will surprise you.


This.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: MathOfInsects] #2975715 02/14/19 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted By: MathOfInsects
Regarding innate ability...sure, different folks have different aptitudes. But I think the real distinction is a personality trait that allows tolerance for the disproportionate amount of time that your future song sucks, in return for the (eventual) super-hero-like feeling when you emerge on the other side with one that doesn't. Not a lot of people can find equanimity with their own lousiness long enough to get to that other side.


The great thing about music is that there's always something to learn. The frustrating thing about music is that there's always something to learn!
Re: Songwriting [Re: Joe Muscara] #2975719 02/14/19 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted By: Joe Muscara


Com. Plete. Ly. And I am actually referring to a smaller and more continuous slice of time than he is there; for me, every song is like the storage meter on your phone, where there is a huge slice of "red" during which the song sucks and I don't even know if I'm up to the task of finishing it, and this tiny little green spot at the end, where somehow I managed to vanquish the onslaught of lousiness and at least in my estimation, find the little nugget of potential value inside it, which was only findable by wading through the crap.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: MathOfInsects] #2975730 02/14/19 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted By: MathOfInsects
Regarding innate ability...sure, different folks have different aptitudes. But I think the real distinction is a personality trait that allows tolerance for the disproportionate amount of time that your future song sucks, in return for the (eventual) super-hero-like feeling when you emerge on the other side with one that doesn't. Not a lot of people can find equanimity with their own lousiness long enough to get to that other side.


+1000.

I don't think this is fundamentally different than other creative ventures. I once heard a famous short-story writer say they averaged 15 revisions on a short story. To go through that, you have to be able to look objectively at your work (not too negative, not too positive) and trust that it will get better.

On a related note: Aimee Mann and Ted Leo just started a new podcast called "The Art of Process", which is about the creative process in general (not just music). I listened to the first episode and it seemed promising.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: Sam Mullins] #2975777 02/14/19 06:12 PM
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Thank you everyone! It's really motivating to hear that trying to write and then not liking it what everyone goes through. It does seem like I just need to write and write. So the question then becomes - how would that look like? Do I record several albums worth of bad demos over the years?


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Re: Songwriting [Re: marczellm] #2975778 02/14/19 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted By: marczellm
Thank you everyone! It's really motivating to hear that trying to write and then not liking it what everyone goes through. It does seem like I just need to write and write. So the question then becomes - how would that look like? Do I record several albums worth of bad demos over the years?


You might start by trying to write something that is very short..pretend you are writing the intro to a television show or a jingle (like 20-30 seconds). And keep doing that until you have something you think is catchy, interesting, and well crafted. You can quickly try out many ideas and go through that process of rejection/retention. And once you have done that for a 30 second piece of music, it will seem much more obtainable; you say to yourself "oh...i Just have to do 6 times that work for a reasonable 3 minute song." Obviously simplistic, but you get the idea.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: Sam Mullins] #2975786 02/14/19 06:52 PM
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I do songwriting on arranger keyboards, all the rhythms inspire me to do a variety of genres without needing a full band. And help me translate that to maybe a full band. Reggae and jazz are still hard for me.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: Sam Mullins] #2975787 02/14/19 06:55 PM
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Unless the subject is a "creative writing class" I think it is hard to escape camp fire or summer camp crazy night musical activities as a pop song writer. Usually what's needed besides talent is acquired musical skills and an understanding about life. It's not like a computer program should be given authority to decide on what's a proper hit song, just because some people have total lack of honorability concerning methods to success.

T

Re: Songwriting [Re: marczellm] #2975807 02/14/19 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted By: marczellm
Thank you everyone! It's really motivating to hear that trying to write and then not liking it what everyone goes through. It does seem like I just need to write and write. So the question then becomes - how would that look like? Do I record several albums worth of bad demos over the years?


If that's what it takes, yeah. At least you've recorded SOMETHING. I have a thousand amazing ideas I've never written down or tracked. Someday I'm gonna get Alzheimer's and it's all gonna be gone.


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Re: Songwriting [Re: d / halfnote] #2975850 02/15/19 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted By: d
Originally Posted By: Outkaster
Sorry a lot of music is inherent. I will defend that anytime. Yes you have to work at it but it has to be in you in the first place.

Nah, nothing is totally inherent.
Even the way you state that ["I'll defend that..." ] suggests that you are not open to another idea but there is no progress w/out the element of change.

The idea that "every/all" is inherent kinda precludes the idea of development.
One can learn how/what others did but for any art to advance there has t'be that intellectual DNA cross-wiring effect.


Well of course not but it's kind of the same thing I said over in the classical music thread. You do have to foster it and work at it but what I have a problem with is when musicians think you can take some kind of class and just be a song writer. Sorry things don't work like that it in the real world. Everyone always wants and easy out for everything these days instead of sweating it out in the trenches to have experience to write from. Some people just have it. I am not saying the OP is insisting on that but I think music is approached way to clinically a lot of the time.

Last edited by Outkaster; 02/15/19 10:05 AM.

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Re: Songwriting [Re: Outkaster] #2975853 02/15/19 10:31 AM
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An old bandmate of mines is studying songwriting at university, working towards his Masters Degree (he already has a music performance degree).

I've not heard any of his songs since he started so can't comment, so it certainly seems to be something that can be "taught." Either that, it's just a con grin


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Re: Songwriting [Re: N4dr0j] #2975885 02/15/19 01:30 PM
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From when I'm wearing my author's hat:

1) Writing can be learned, but it can't be taught.

2) There's a saying that anyone can be an author...they just need to write a million words as practice.

3) You have to be your own editor...and a tough one, at that. You have to be honest and admit that if something's not working, it needs to be changed or dropped entirely.

Analysis and commentary:

1) Yes, you can go to school and take creative writing courses, but if you don't have writing in you, you're wasting your time and money. (And the teacher's, but they're getting paid, so they're not going to chuck you out...) If you do have something to say, it can help you polish your craft. Maybe. It can also just plain f*** up your voice by forcing it into an artificial mold that doesn't fit. The best possible way to learn to be an author is to read. Then read some more. Voraciously. All the time. As much as possible. You'll soak up the rhythms and pacing and characterization through your fingertips as you turn the pages. Once it's in your blood, you're half-way there.

2) Which brings us to practice. I got lucky. I only had to write 100k words as practice before I sold my first story. Practice, as a word, is used more in music than in writing, but the principle remains the same in both fields.

3) I had a story. I got two-thirds of the way through and my main character went flat. Without your main character, you ain't got shit. I labored and labored and could not get the story back on track. I finally realized that my main character was dead. (No, really...he'd been shot and I had him in the hospital, and that's where the story fell apart.) I tore out a massive hunk of the story and rewrote the stupid thing. A ridiculous amount of work. It worked. It worked so well that I started getting Hallmark condolence cards in the mail from readers who had cried reading the scene. Note that this was pre-internet. How the hell those people got my address, I'll never know. I've still got the cards. When you get that sort of feedback, you know your story touched someone.

With music, the same thing applies. You need to be brutally honest about your song. If it's not working, it's not working. Tear out the part that feels flat and ordinary and come up with something completely different. I don't care how much work it's going to take, quit whining and do it anyway. If you can't bring yourself to let go, it's one of two things--your ego's in the way or you're lazy. Maybe both. If you still can't let go, set the song aside and work on something else. Sometimes if you let something sit for a while, when you come back to it with fresh eyes you can see the problem more clearly.

I read that Yes made a pact when they were writing Close To The Edge: No cliches. "Ordinary" was not an option. For those of us who are into classical/prog rock, I think you'd find that a large proportion of people would give that album a thumbs up. I'd say their recipe worked.

I used to work with a guy who's a drummer. He couldn't understand why audiences weren't responding to an original song his band had written. On investigation, I discovered that the tune was a completely predictable, garden-variety, 12-bar blues tune with absolutely no distinguishing characteristics, whatsoever. Nuthin'. No wonder people weren't gaga over it. It was just regurgitated cliches. But my coworker never got it. He kept insisting that the song was great. Moral of the story: Just because you wrote it doesn't mean it's great. Stevie Wonder may be able to turn out a great song at the drop of a hat. Ditto Billy Joel. Miles Davis. Tchaikovsky. You and I? We're not those guys. We need to keep our egos in check until we've got a track record of writing seriously good music.

Need to keep egos in check afterwards, too, but that's another thread...

Grey


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Re: Songwriting [Re: N4dr0j] #2975959 02/15/19 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted By: Outkaster
Originally Posted By: d
Originally Posted By: Outkaster
Sorry a lot of music is inherent. I will defend that anytime. Yes you have to work at it but it has to be in you in the first place.

Nah, nothing is totally inherent.
Even the way you state that ["I'll defend that..." ] suggests that you are not open to another idea but there is no progress w/out the element of change.

The idea that "every/all" is inherent kinda precludes the idea of development.
One can learn how/what others did but for any art to advance there has t'be that intellectual DNA cross-wiring effect.


Well of course not but it's kind of the same thing I said over in the classical music thread. You do have to foster it and work at it but what I have a problem with is when musicians think you can take some kind of class and just be a song writer. Sorry things don't work like that it in the real world. Everyone always wants and easy out for everything these days instead of sweating it out in the trenches to have experience to write from. Some people just have it. I am not saying the OP is insisting on that but I think music is approached way to clinically a lot of the time.

Originally Posted By: N4dr0j
An old bandmate of mines is studying songwriting at university, working towards his Masters Degree (he already has a music performance degree).

I've not heard any of his songs since he started so can't comment, so it certainly seems to be something that can be "taught." Either that, it's just a con grin


There are valuable things that can be taught abt composition.
One can get shortcuts on such things as the effect of key modulations, etc.
However when it comes to the actual creative aspect, if one follows only what is taught there will not be much newness to the result.

That said, lemme "however" again grin to point out that after the roll gets going in any artform, there's a mix of what one learns, either by guided or unguided study (such as simply hearing a lot of diff material) & one's own impulses (which can even include accidents like hitting an unintended note or some cross-wired neural synaptic snafu).
I think those impulses might be what is described as "inherent" idk
but I don't believe in anything like special inborn creativity that's not available to everyone, if they haven't been inhibited by
It's all a mix of what we've been exposed to + our own sense of free play + whatever skills we work on.
No visual artist, for example, ever started just drawing great realistic images inherently.
Originally Posted By: GRollins

1) Writing can be learned, but it can't be taught.
.......................
1) Yes, you can go to school and take creative writing courses, but if you don't have writing in you, you're wasting your time and money. (And the teacher's, but they're getting paid, so they're not going to chuck you out...) If you do have something to say, it can help you polish your craft.



What's taught is either the nuts & bolts of a craft &/or the polishing of one's initial ideas.


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