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Songwriting


hags2k

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Hello again, everyone

 

I play semi-seriously, and almost exclusively with my band, Four Years Later. I write most all our lyrics, and I have worked out the music on a couple of our songs. My importance to the band is probably based a lot more on my songwriting than on my bass playing (though I'm working on that, too), and we have a great chemistry. When I write songs, the process is usually very collaborative. I write words and get a theme and feel, then I sit down with the guitarists and coach them as we hammer out a melody and Jon (rhythm guitar and vocals) works out a vocal melody, again with my help and coaching. Now, this is really a great situation and I'm not complaining. Everyone contributes, and nearly all our songs are true collaborations both in construction and performance. There are times, though, when I wish I was better able to write more complete songs on my own. I play guitar rarely, but I probably know more than enough chords to come up with something decent, but my love is bass and I wish I had better luck writing "from the bottom up" as it were. The words nearly always come first for me, and I would love for my bass to be a more powerful tool for me in the writing process and not just in the performance. Do any of you songwriters out there use your basses to a large extent in the initial writing process? I find that after we work out a guitar melody for the song, it is only then that I start to really hammer out my bass part.

 

I'm sure that some of this is also affected by the style of music and song being written. We're fairly simple, and our music is guitar driven, primarily, like most rock and roll. The fun is in the creativity and the solid implementation, I think.

 

Any thoughts?

unkownroadband.com - step into the unkown :-)
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Hello Hags2k, Great topic! Songwriting has always been elusive to me. I tend to be a "riff writer"on both bass and keys. I come up with interesting hooks but the few that have ever been fleshed out into songs have been through collaboration with others.However, there is plenty of evidence that it can be done.

I would be interested to read what ClatterAmy could contribute to this thread!

Nothing is as it seems but everything is exactly what it is - B. Banzai

 

Life is what happens while you are busy playing in bands.

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I've written a few songs from the bassline on up, but most of the time I write the bass line last.

 

We're bassplayers, we're supposed to be able to make up a bass line for anything at a moment's notice.

 

Usually I sit at the piano and write down what I am thinking. Then when I'm done, I pass out the music to the other musicians and make up a line from the chord changes at the same time they are making up their parts from the chord changes.

 

It works for me.

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I don't write a lot. But when I do it goes someting like this:

1. Come up with a catchy lyric to use for the chorus.

2. Find a melody and chords for that lyric on the car.

3. Then write first verse with chords and lyrics on the guitar.

4. Get out the drum machine to find a good beat and find a grove.

5. Write more lyrics for the other versus.

6. Play bass along with a recording of what I have so far to get the start of a bass thing going.

7. Run what I have by the guys in the band.

8. When the song begins to finalize I will find a bass line that best suits it.

 

Well, that is one way to do it. :D

HypnoBassMan

 

The deeper you go the better you feel! (True for bass and hypnosis.)

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I think that my songwriting exploded twice when I started really studying guitar, then again with piano.

 

You gotta know chords to be an effective, all around song writer. Piano is the best compositional tool, IMO.

I really don't know what to put here.
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Good comments. I certainly see what you are talking about, Jeremy. Working the line under the guitar and over the drums does indeed seem to be the (only) name of the game for bass (in rock, anyway). I have had some luck working out a vocal melody on the bass once or twice, though.

 

Dealing with so many guitar players and piano players I start to get a bit envious when it comes to composition (though when playing, I wouldn't trade the bass spot for anything). I just wish I could stay in my favorite place the whole time. Or maybe I should hang out with drummers more. I think I am beginning to understand what my drummer feels like when we're working on a song. He gives us feedback, but when it comes time to play, it is ususally just "okay, give us a beat, drummer!"

 

Perhaps there's no way around hitting the six string (and not a bass...) or the piano in the other room when writing.

unkownroadband.com - step into the unkown :-)
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I've always been careful when thinking about songwriting, because I believe you have to distinguish the song from the arrangement.

 

The chord structure, lyrics, and melody are the song. While the arrangement can shift these slightly, they are the main components.

 

The guitar strum and chord voicing, background vocals, drum part, bass part, stops (be whatever instruments) are what I think of as the arrangement.

 

While many of us identify the "main riff" as part of the song, I think the riff is the one element that could be either "song" or "arrangement". No one will ever do a slow vocal with backing chords of Zepplin's "Black Dog", because the riff is the song. But Clapton himself dropped the signature intro riff for "Layla" on the unplugged version.

 

That's why some people here have noted that they love a piano or guitar to form the chords, and they sing (lyrics and melody) over that to write a song. You can play chords on bass, or write the riff, but most find other instruments better suited to the task. I've used piano (can't play those damn little string things) when I've written.

 

While your thread is welcome and has a bass perspective, you might also want to visit the Songwriter's forum here.

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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I've written some songs from the bass perspective but interestingly enough I was hearing the guitar in my head playing along with it. So I guess I wasn't really writing from the bass perspective.

 

I usually write a song on a keyboard and bring it to the band to finish up. I'll show up with all the parts on keyboard and bass ready to go. I'm also not to rigid about it. I let everyone insert their ideas if they want.

Double Posting since March 2002

Random Post Generator #26797

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for me the hardest thing about writing "from the bottom up" is getting across to other musicians what i want to hear. even if you give them chords they can't seem to figure out exactly what it is.

 

this can be a good thing or a bad thing. fortunately for you you are in a colaborative situation with people whos abilities and sensibilities you admire so it would probably work. my advice is to suss out what you want, give the charts to the guitar players, then play the bass part and see how they fit the chords to what you're doing.

Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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Originally posted by Bastid E:

for me the hardest thing about writing "from the bottom up" is getting across to other musicians what i want to hear. even if you give them chords they can't seem to figure out exactly what it is.

 

this can be a good thing or a bad thing. fortunately for you you are in a colaborative situation with people whos abilities and sensibilities you admire so it would probably work. my advice is to suss out what you want, give the charts to the guitar players, then play the bass part and see how they fit the chords to what you're doing.

Interesting idea. Many thanks. I will certainly give that a try.

 

Everyone's responses are really giving me a new perspective on this. I really hadn't thought about it the way that some of you guys have. I truly appreciate the suggestions.

unkownroadband.com - step into the unkown :-)
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Hi Hags2k,

 

When I first started songwriting, which was just a few years ago, I was not yet a bass player. I did have a piano/clarinet/oboe/acoustic guitar background, but don't play any of those instruments really well. I can read and write music, which is helpful.

 

Now that I am a bass player, I am dying to write a really cool song which has the bass as a main feature, you know... like a super cool riff that defines the song.

 

My problem is that I don't write "super cool" songs, as I write primarily novelty songs. But, I think the day will come, when I do it. Maybe it will be a "super cool novelty song!" Something funny, and catchy... because of the awesome bass line! :wave: ... connie z

"Change comes from within." - Jeremy Cohen

 

The definition of LUCK: When Preparation meets Opportunity!

 

http://www.cybergumbo.com

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A bit off-topic here, as I'm not a songwriter, just a bassist and occasionally I do some arranging, but...

Originally posted by hags2k:

I play semi-seriously, and almost exclusively with my band, Four Years Later.

No way! My old band - the one I was in before my current project - was called Five Years Later!

:eek:

 

small world, eh?

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Originally posted by bassinvader:

A bit off-topic here, as I'm not a songwriter, just a bassist and occasionally I do some arranging, but...

Originally posted by hags2k:

I play semi-seriously, and almost exclusively with my band, Four Years Later.

No way! My old band - the one I was in before my current project - was called Five Years Later!

:eek:

 

small world, eh?

First of all, that's amazing and freaky. Actually, we were thinking about Five, but decided to go with Four for some reason I can't remember now. I guess that's a good thing.

 

Anyway, I'd like to thank everyone for thier tips...I went ahead and tried some of them and wrote a song from the bottom up. It's becoming a bit more bass heavy than I had expected at first, but my band loves it. It's going on the CD we're working on right now, in fact. It really was much easier when I came at it from a totally different perspective.

unkownroadband.com - step into the unkown :-)
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Nice topic for bassists. It's a good thing to know that we're taking up a part in songwriting also(at least we take another role from the pianists and guitarists this time, haah!).

I've read once that Flea used to write RHCP songs from the bass up. Now if you really want to highlight the bass, well, it may be a bit progressive sounding but hey, we're making music that we love and if it sounds great to you, then that's great.

I definitely agree with Hypno Man with the steps well, i don't have a car but i usually write during my "moments of inspiration", e.g. during work breaks, in the bathroom, you know.

anyway...

We all have our inspiration somewhere and I'm a bassist and some of my songs are built from bass grooves, so i believe if you would be able write a song using the bass as the primary foundation, congratulations for writing a truly authentic song. Coz only a few could write songs from the bass up. Take pride for a composition written in an unconventional way. Coz it's still music, that's the bottomline, period.

If Jaco's bass sound farts, please forgive me for doing it always!

 

ONCE A LEVITE, ALWAYS A LEVITE.

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Those are some uplifting comments for us all, I think. I hope to acquire more formal musical training so I might be able to write truly musical compositions this way, not just "songs". I say that only in reference to myself, who I consider to be a songwriter, but not quite a musician yet, even though I know many people who call themselves songwriters yet are truly amazing musicians as well. Just being able to express myself in this way is incredibly rewarding, just as personal journals and other writings are truly rewarding to me, even if I'm not a true author or a novelist quite yet.
unkownroadband.com - step into the unkown :-)
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I've written 50+ songs, mostly in the funk/rock/jazz vein, and I almost always begin writing from the bassline up. Not really a conscious decision to do so, but it usually seems to go that way because that seems to be what inspires me. Sometimes I'll come up with a neat riff on the bass that I'll transfer over to keyboard or guitar, then flesh out the song with more of a supporting bassline, etc, etc. But in a lot of my songs, the bassline itself is the "hook." Bass is not my primary playing instrument, but it's definitely my primary writing instrument.
All your bass are belong to us!
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i've only ever written one song from the bassline. the bass is the featured instrument of that song.

 

it's funny, because bass is my main instrument, and it's the instrument that i feel most expressive playing, but i don't really write songs with it. i've come up with some damn cool basslines that probably sound like they were written first, but it's almost always chords first and then bass melody later.

 

i just did a first for me yesterday, though. i wrote a song based on a guitar melody, and fitting the chords to the melody. i've never been able to do that before.

 

robb.

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