Jump to content


Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

Songwriting


Professor Monkey

Recommended Posts



  • Replies 23
  • Created
  • Last Reply

What's giving you trouble with the bassline?

 

Keep it simple. Start off playing the roots of each chord (ie if the guitar is playing a D, play a D note for the bassline and so on) and then just progress from there.

 

See, making up basslines is one place where learning scales comes in really handy! :grin: Otherwise, just record yourself whichever way you can and play along with the recording. If you have no way of recording anything (not even on a casette), just sing the bassline and work out what you were singing later.

 

Percussion I wouldn't really know about.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, speaking for myself, *I* don't know anything about percussion.

 

But really, who CARES what people say? Just give it a go and see what happens. :D You've only yourself to please, really. Just try recording your song and then clapping your hands to whatever you're playing. Just for a start. And then go from there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, that's always a good idea because if the lyrics are (say) about hanging round a cemetery gate on a dark and rainy night in December, you know not to be too boppy and to keep the "la-la-la-la-las" at a minimum! ;) Having the lyrics in front of you gives you some parameters within which to work, and that can be pretty handy. You already know what to shoot for.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have heard that Sting often writes from a bass line. Slvrdragon your post is very vague, and since I do not know what level you are at it makes it harder to answer you.

 

Generally speaking you want to at the least accompany the vocal/lyric with a melodic instrument and usually that is a guitar or piano. So playing the chords along with the vocals is a good start. You have to have a grasp of how drum parts are constucted, the hihat pattern, kick and snare and the same for bass. If you do not know how to write drum and bass parts you might as well leave that to someone who does and get your song finished rather than trying to learn two new instruments.

 

Sometimes a vocal might sopund great with just a bass line or a percussion part, but usually full chords behind the vocal is a better bet.

 

As to how the initial idea comes, lyrics first, chords, riff, cool beat etc etc...anything goes and it could be any of these. You might get a single lyric line in your head that becomes a line in a verse somewhere or you might get the chorus line and build from that.

 

Lot's of possibilities.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Work on it in your head until you hear all the parts. Then yu just have to 'learn' to play what you hear, just like learing anyone else's material. It is a bit different to get used to writing this way, but it ends up pretty cool, and you also end up abandoning marginal quality material, as it will not stick in your mind.

 

Bill

 

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you do not know how to write drum and bass parts you might as well leave that to someone who does and get your song finished rather than trying to learn two new instruments.

+1 :thu:

 

First off, a song is words (lyrics) set to music. If you don't have words, you have a composition or instrumental. Neither is better than the other, but I just want to be sure whether you're writing a song or an instrumental. So which is it?

 

You have a guitar part. That's great! In fact for most singer/songwriters that's all you need to accompany your singing. (Or your singer's singing if that's how you're set up.) Typically the guitar part for a singer/songwriter is primary rhythm -- mostly strummed or arpeggiated chords and maybe some riffs -- but can feature some lead playing -- riffs, melodies, solos -- usually during parts where there is no singing. (Or, as fumbly mentions, piano/keyboard can provide a good accompaniment, too.)

 

Music has four basic parts: melody, harmony, rhythm and dynamics. Vocals and lead instruments typically provide melody. Harmony in guitar-based blues is usually provided by the guitar chords and is rooted with a bass line provided by bass. Rhythm comes from the rhythm section, lead by the drums and including bass and rhythm guitar. Everyone plays dynamics -- loud choruses and soft verses, accented notes and swells -- usually the band as a whole.

 

Most people listen to melodies. If you're writing an instrumental then you don't have vocals to provide a melody, so you'd better be providing a melody on a lead instrument. This could be guitar or piano or harmonica or sax or whatever.

 

A B.B. King song is fairly complete with just his voice and his guitar. He plays rhythm guitar (harmony and rhythm) while he sings, lead guitar (melody) when not singing, and dynamics throughout. Anything else you add to it is just gravy. Pretty much the same for Stevie Ray Vaughan.

 

So, in your song is your guitar part something like what B.B. or SRV would play?

 

When Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin plays a blues-based rock song it is often based on a riff, like "Heartbreaker". Is that closer to how your guitar part is?

 

In these examples, when the guitar switches to playing lead, who's playing harmony and providing the rhythm?

 

Some instrumentals are written as solo pieces; that is, they are meant to be played by a single instrumentalist. These are typically clever arrangements that allow a melody and harmony/rhythm to be played simultaneously. Although you could add other instruments like bass and drums, as in Led Zeppelin's "Black Mountain Side", these are often meant to stand alone. So I'm guessing this isn't how your guitar part goes.

 

Collectively, all the different instrumental parts are called the arrangement, and writing the individual parts is called arranging. In most bands everyone just arranges their own part. Perhaps the most well-known arranger in popular music is George Martin with The Beatles. My personal favorite is John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame (although he has arranged for numerous other groups). Jones is a successful arranger because he is a multi-instrumentalist, meaning he plays many instruments.

 

As fumbly points out, you kind of have to learn how to play bass and drums before you can arrange parts for them. It's possible to arrange very simple parts for these instruments after a quick introduction to them, but you may not like what you end up with. For example, root quarter notes on bass (as discussed above) is a perfectly legitimate bass line, but is that what Tommy Shannon would play behind SRV? (Probably not.) Probably the simplest drum pattern is alternating quarter notes between kick and snare -- boom tap boom tap -- and playing 8ths on the hihat or ride. Is that what John Bonham would play when he was in Led Zeppelin? Never in a million years.

 

In summary then, if you're writing a song and you don't sing you need to find a singer, pronto. Then hook up with a bassist and a drummer. Depending on your style of guitar playing, you may want to add a 2nd guitarist or key player to help fill out the sound, or even some wind players for more variety, although blues sounds fine with a sparse arrangement. Typically one guitarist will play lead and the other rhythm, but in bands like Aerosmith Joe Perry and Brad Whitford don't stick to strict roles like that.

 

Note that you don't necessarily have to form a band. You can collaborate with other musicians in order to write songs. It is customary in this setting to either give your collaborators recording credits (as a potential source of income for each copy of the recording that is sold, licensed, etc.) or a payment as a "hired gun" instead (especially when the recording is just being used as a demo to shop the song). However, other arrangements can be made (such as providing guitar parts for your collaborators' projects and everyone works for free). Most online collaborations of this sort are gratis (free of charge). [Check out the Collaboration Corner forum on this site, or other collaboration sites. And BTW, there is also a Songwriting & Composition forum here. ;) ]

 

Alternatively, buy yourself a bass, bass amp, and drum set, then start taking lessons (including voice, if necessary). Be aware this will take time away from perfecting your guitar playing.

 

Or at least learn the theory of what makes a good bass and drum part (maybe at a 4-year college or music school) and then use MIDI and sample libraries on your computer to approximate those parts being played.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

As fumbly points out, you kind of have to learn how to play bass and drums before you can arrange parts for them.

 

 

Mmmmmm...I disagree that you need to learn to play bass or drums or whatever.

Any competent musician that's played in bands or worked on songs should be able to hear the song in his head and therefore arrange the various parts as needed.

 

A little theory goes a long way when you are dealing with typical Rock/Pop/Country...etc. :thu:

 

Like Bill said:

 

Work on it in your head until you hear all the parts. Then yu just have to 'learn' to play what you hear, just like learing anyone else's material. It is a bit different to get used to writing this way, but it ends up pretty cool, and you also end up abandoning marginal quality material, as it will not stick in your mind.

 

I've been writing this way for about 30+ years now. I actually never considered writing any other way.

 

Also...I would not call myself a "true" bass player or drummer...

...but I can pick up a bass and cover most of my needs as far as coming up with bass lines that fit the rest of my music.

Same goes for the drums...I can hear the rolls, the crashesthe hat...etc.

 

I think that is maybe the root of the problem...NOT being able to hear which parts work and which don't...

and not so much about learning how to play all the instruments.

Heck...you maybe be able to play quite well and STILL not be able to compose even the simplest tune. There are a lot of players out there who have never composed a song in their lives...and many who actually shy away from the idea (though I dont know why?).

 

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Point well taken, Miro. And before someone else takes the ball and runs with it, I'll admit famous composers weren't virtuosos on all the instruments they arranged for, either.

 

Still, there needs to be a basic understanding of the bass role in an ensemble, the limitations of the instrument and enough proficiency on the instrument to play what you hear in your head, no? (Like, not playing a shredding tap part that covers the vocals, not playing full barre chords, and being able to play scales with a good tone.)

 

How much does the "competent musician" learn about other instruments by playing in bands and just listening to music in general?

 

One example. My former band. We'd been working on the guitarist's original for weeks and it was now time to record. I come in to track my bass line and the guitarist (who's now being the engineer) incredulously tells me, "wow, I didn't realize that's what you played". This is the same guy that stood less than 10 feet away from me at several rehearsals when I played the same part.

 

OTOH, we played together for 20 years, and when he finally bought a bass and learned how to play it he started to sound like me. After a couple of years he was even able to put the pick down and cop me fairly decently (as long as there weren't any fast or tricky parts). He said he plays that way because that's what he hears in his head (after I beat it in there over the decades ;) ).

 

I know a pro/gigging drummer that writes and arranges songs without knowing how to play any other instrument. He vocalizes the various parts to the other players in the band. It's pretty basic (3 chord) rock.

 

 

Maybe you're right, Miro. Maybe the original poster isn't hearing the bass and drums in his head. Maybe a good place to begin is to start listening to other bassists and drummers as attentively as he listens to other guitarists?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, I did a little detective work to find out more about SlvrDragon50.

 

Keep experimenting, keep writing, keep learning, and keep listening. Just keep at it.

 

Maybe you've got a little thing going with C7 F7 and G7 in a bluesy kind of way. For a blues you really don't need any more chords, but if you happen to discover something that fits, go with it.

 

If you're hitting a brick wall with this song it's ok to put it down for a little bit until you're ready to finish it. Just make sure you save it some how; a recording (even a rough one) is probably the best bet. I've written down notes on songs before, like chord charts and melodies, but sometimes it's hard to recapture where I was with it. Don't let it sit so long that you forget it.

 

Go ahead and start writing some other stuff. Try to get some more experience writing songs. It might help to write another blues, but maybe in a different style. If this one is up tempo and boppy, try a slower, darker ballad. If this one isn't a twelve-bar blues, maybe try writing one using that time-tested structure. Since you don't have to work out a chord progression you can concentrate on the other details instead.

 

Keep listening to your favorite blues recordings. Since you're interested in how the bass and drums work, pay extra attention to them instead of just listening to the guitar.

 

Ask if you want recommendations of stuff to listen to. Other than B.B. and SRV I like Koko Taylor, and I have the Guitar Player blues guitar collection (whatever the name of it is). Of course Robert Johnson is always a good bet.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

As fumbly points out, you kind of have to learn how to play bass and drums before you can arrange parts for them.

 

 

Mmmmmm...I disagree that you need to learn to play bass or drums or whatever.

Any competent musician that's played in bands or worked on songs should be able to hear the song in his head and therefore arrange the various parts as needed.

 

Yup. +100. :thu:

 

Speaking for myself, I can program a drum machine easily enough, but whenever I try to play real drums I can't do the hats.

 

And, what? If you want to arrange a piece for a full orchestra you are supposed to know how to play every single instrument, including the cor anglais, triangle and bass tuba? It'd TAKE you a while, wouldn't it? ;) :grin: A couple of years here, a couple of years there and you'd be dead before you arranged so much as the first bar! :D Sorry, I just noticed you've addressed that point. ;)

 

I don't know how important it is to learn arranging a priori. It's a bit like saying, "Before we go out for a walk in the park, you better put on this straitjacket". If you want to be commercial and make money and all, you better learn all that stuff, but really, there's no harm in recording a song and seeing what comes out.

 

If the bass does weird things and the drums play a non drum like role, so much the better. Originality is a rare commodity these days.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

RicBassGuy: YOur good... hehe.. Thats all I know.. C7 F7 and G7

 

I think the largest problem is, I keep getting these nice and cool tunes while IM at Orchestra but then all the orchestra playing makes me forget it..

 

The biggest problem is that when I do remember the tune, i jsut cant find the correct pitches to start on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

RicBassGuy: YOur good... hehe.. Thats all I know.. C7 F7 and G7

 

I think the largest problem is, I keep getting these nice and cool tunes while IM at Orchestra but then all the orchestra playing makes me forget it..

 

Well, get yourself something to record on. There's heaps of devices out there. Sing into it and work the tunes out later.

 

The biggest problem is that when I do remember the tune, i jsut cant find the correct pitches to start on.

 

Well, if you can play the tune on your guitar, you should learn some theory and work out the chords from there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...