Jump to content


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

Which Comes First--Words or Music?


ProfD

Recommended Posts

When asked that question, lyricist Sammy Cahn said, "the phone call". :laugh:

 

Publishers and songwriters carried a lot of weight at one point in time.

 

Personally, I used to write lyrics and add music or come up with a track and add words.

 

Nowadays, I learn and play great tunes that have already been written and recorded. :)

 

Songwriters and composers, let us know your process. :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

Link to comment
Share on other sites



  • Replies 30
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Back when I was writing songs, I always started with lyrics. Then again, that was 20+ years ago, so I have no idea how I would do it today. :D

 

Noah

 

P.S. The stuff I wrote in my teens was always shite, which explains the multi-decade layoff.....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

'

If you're lucky enough to work with a good singer, you can (as I've done in the past)

write your own music and let the vocalist come up with the lyrics/melody he wants to sing - it's callled working together!

 

This can lead to conflict if you're not careful - copyright issues & so-forth can rear their ugly head.

.

John.

 

some stuff on myspace

 

Nord: StageEX-88, Electro2-73, Hammond: XK-1, Yamaha: XS7

Korg: M3-73 EXpanded, M50-88, X50, Roland: Juno D, Kurzweil: K2000vp.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've always done the music first, which I think is why I've never been happy with anything original that I've done.

 

I think people who do the words first can write the music to create the mood of the lyrics and it makes for a better composition.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

More often than not, I get the melody and lyrics in my head at the same time. A few times, I've written words & melody to a chord progression. I recently wrote a melody and a chord progression for words someone else wrote (my sister, actually).

 

Last week, I wrote words with no concept of melody nor music at all. I guess there's a first time for everything. :laugh:

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Music first, typically a simple progression with a strong melody I can build on. I have made a conscious decision to leave the lyrics to the professionals.

Yamaha (Motif XS7, Motif 6, TX81Z), Korg (R3, Triton-R), Roland (XP-30, D-50, Juno 6, P-330). Novation A Station, Arturia Analog Experience Factory 32

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have made a conscious decision to leave the lyrics to the professionals.

 

Yep, this is another reason why I stopped writing originals: My lyrics were terrible. I'd like to use the excuse that I was just a teenager, but I've tried writing lyrics many times since, and they all blow!

 

In fact, the only thing I've ever written that I still sorta kinda like is an instrumental piano piece.

 

Noah

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I write at least 2 new jingles a week, and it's always lyrics first, then I make the music fit.

 

Does anyone know, or have informed speculation, on how Steely Dan would answer this question? Their music comes to mind as the ultimate in both deep lyrical, emotional meaning - - combined with deep, musically emotional meaning.

 

Lots and lots of music focuses on one over the other, but these guys are the Mixed Martial Artists of songwriting.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can barely think of two compositions that started the same way, but most come to me in a gigantic blinding flash, full arrangement, all parts intact.

 

The same cannot be said of lyrics, usually. Sometimes those come in a flash, and sometimes with the music (at the same time).

 

Thus it is probably more common for me to write or finesses lyrics afterwards. But I usually have placegolder scat lyrics right at the start that help inform phrasing and rhythm, like McCartney's famous "scrambled eggs" which morphed into "Yesterday".

 

Most of my music is instrumental though, as I primarily write outside the pop/rock idiom (classical, jazz, folk, ethnic, world, etc.).

 

Now that I think about it, the most common cases where words and music hit me like a brick right at the beginning, are reggae songs. Every now and then one comes to me, and sometimes I don't write it down in fear that it's someone else's vs. my own.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

Link to comment
Share on other sites

for me it's really a tug of war betwen the two, and I would probably look neurotic or at least ADD if someone ever watched me write. I guess I'll start with a simple tag line (I write more jingles than songs) and then try to find a melody to fit it, which might lead to a groove, which will inspire some chord changes & ooh, let me throw down a quick loop and play on top of it, and then I'll start debating on whether a Wurly or a RHodes will work better.... and then I delete everything, tell myself to stop getting distracted and go back to developing some more lyrics. And then the process repeats ad nauseum.

Custom Music, Audio Post Production, Location Audio

www.gmma.biz

https://www.facebook.com/gmmamusic/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hardly ever write music that has or goes with words, but I know from a Classical standpoint, you can't just write a melody first and then stick words on it without consideration for diction, where vowels go, and all that sort of stuff. Otherwise it can sound very un-singable.

 

Now as a Jazz player I have to say a lot of the tunes where someone came along and wrote words to a pre-existing Jazz melody/tune drive me nuts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Even Chaka Khan's setting of "And the Melody Still Lingers On (A Night in Tunisia)"?

 

I think that was when I started worshipping her as a goddess, and also decided that it can completely work, to add lyrics to an already-established instrumental melody.

 

Think of how people like keith Jarret, for one, naturally sing along as they play. Melodies by their very nature inspire words and verse, even when the nuances and expression of words are instead translated to a lead instrument.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, a verse line or a chorus hook will appear out of nowhere - music plus lyric. Then all kinds of kludging around to finish, usually trying to complete the musical structure first, and then filling in the rest of the lyrics.
"The Doomer allows the player to do things beyond which are possible without the accessory."
Link to comment
Share on other sites

words are there for people who are incapable of enjoying music

Yep, it is disheartening to me that those people make up a majority of the audience that 'likes' Jazz nowadays. :laugh:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's always different for me but lately it's been melody with a few lyrics, theme or hook that change as I harmonize it and start adding missing pieces like verse, chorus or bridge. Few arrive complete and most are sketches that I develop from the original building blocks. In fact, some original ideas don't survive at all or become scraps of ideas in my new song ideas binders.
Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer. W. C. Fields
Link to comment
Share on other sites

words are there for people who are incapable of enjoying music

Yep, it is disheartening to me that those people make up a majority of the audience that 'likes' Jazz nowadays. :laugh:

 

Well, from my perspective, being a teenager and all, I can say that most people that I hang out with/play with actually prefer instrumental jazz.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Either way for me. Most of the time, I always have the lyrics first. That's just how my gig works. When I'm doing instrumental stuff, melody/changes happen at once and then there are times when I'll write out a pattern in whole notes as a sketch for a tune and intervals come first.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

words are there for people who are incapable of enjoying music

Yep, it is disheartening to me that those people make up a majority of the audience that 'likes' Jazz nowadays. :laugh:

 

Well, from my perspective, being a teenager and all, I can say that most people that I hang out with/play with actually prefer instrumental jazz.

I should have qualified my statement with 'around here'. But, I do think there is a stronger appreciation for instrumental jazz in other places. :cool:

PD

 

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return."--E. Ahbez "Nature Boy"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It Can go either way for me. I keep a scrap book of lyric ideas. If I have a nice melody/chord progression then I may search for something from my scrapbook that I can work in. Alternately, I sometimes become so attached to a lyric idea that I will write music to it. Sometimes it comes together at the same time while improvising. I've had good results (and mediocre results) with all three methods.

 

I've never written a complete song of lyrics and then wrote the music afterwards. The closest I came to that was to write one long verse with no reference to music.

 

Similarly, I rarely write a complete song's worth of music and then start the lyrics. The exception is a couple songs I co-wrote with our guitar player where he had complete chords/riffs and I added lyrics/melody.

 

Most of the time, I have to be really happy with 2-4 lines of lyrics WITH the music, before I will actually got to the trouble of finishing the rest of the lyrics and music. That "good kernel" of a song is what gives me the hope and energy to finish the rest.

 

The other thing that is interesting for me is that I write almost exclusively from the keyboard (I'm a hack on guitar), but the band I write for is (for lack of a better term) alternative/power pop. So there is a heavy guitar component to many of the songs and it's interesting to see how they change character from the writing to the recording. But I have found that if the chord progression and melody are strong, then it teh song can work on many levels.

 

I've found I do care about lyrics much more than most musicians I know. I simply can't record a song unless I'm happy with the lyrics. Probably comes from early obsession with Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan.

 

 

Nord Stage 3 88, Korg Kronos 2 61, Moog Sub 37, Yamaha U1 Upright, Casio CT-S1, Spacestation V.3, QSC K10.2

www.stickmanor.com

There's a thin white line between fear and fury - Stickman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I typically write music first and then get involved in an elaborate process of jigsawing words in to an existing melody, which can be taxing to say the least. I have written words-first, with interesting and atypical results. Sometimes, I coax them along at the same time, give and take, and have some of my best results that way.
Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hope by this point in the thread it's well established that there is no right or wrong way. I usually write music first but along the way a set of "dummy" lyrics emerge. Like "scrambled eggs".

But I find as I have become a better lyricist the lyrics come sooner in the process and I never completely sign off on a melody till the lyrics are also complete. Integration is essential.

JP

1935 Mason & Hamlin Model A

Korg Kronos 2 73

Nord Electro 6D 61

Yam S90ES

Rhodes Stage 73 (1972)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hope by this point in the thread it's well established that there is no right or wrong way. I usually write music first but along the way a set of "dummy" lyrics emerge. Like "scrambled eggs".

But I find as I have become a better lyricist the lyrics come sooner in the process and I never completely sign off on a melody till the lyrics are also complete. Integration is essential.

JP

 

That's it!! Lyric idea with jibberish words for meter. Scrambled eggs!!. Original words will most likely be changed. New hook line will most likely change the melody. Re-write re-write re-right.

We play for free. We get paid to set up and tear down.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I work with a songwriter who has a good intuitive melodic sense. He usually comes with lyrics and the basic vocal melody. He sometimes has some chords, but as often as not we'll change them.

 

He often looks to me to arrange the song with hits and some kind of instrumental hook. For the instrumental hook, I usually take some element of the vocal melody and change it around a little.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me it's lyrics first, It's always been a spur of the moment rather than a planned thing. Typically I'll be driving around or hanging out by myself and start singing, humming, grooving, etc.

Situations which I don't plan on are the best inspiration.

I've written lyrics, hooks, choruses, and forgotten more than than I've transcribed.

I finally picked up a handheld tascam recorder/ mp3 player so I can remember the moment.

One example was riden down the intersate after Katrina while off to the mountains. "No matter Where You are there's Something Going On"

You can check out the result by going to this link and clicking on the "Something's Going On" sound clip sample

 

http://www.fpband.net/

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It can go either way with me, and I have lyrics I never wrote music for, and vice versa. Which is why I work best when I have a collaborator in crime!

 

Lyrics can be pointless filler and/or very beautiful and profound. Having said that, I'd much rather listen to good instrumentalists than read books of lyrics and ponder their in-depth meaning, and yes there are people who do so!

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

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

×
×
  • Create New...