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So, who here is a songwriter/composer/arranger etc?


alexclaber

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How do you get involved with the writing side of music? Do you co-write or co-arrange your band's/bands' music; do you write or arrange complete compositions with your bands, or do you do complete compositions which you record/perform solo; do you write lyrics for solo or group performance/recording; etc?

 

And in what genres does your writing tend to reside? Pop, rock, jazz, classical? What's in your groove gumbo?

 

Or do you 'just' play bass?

 

Alex

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From the begining, I always felt it more neccessary to write, to compose ( or to even "re-arrange" others tunes) than to copy stuff or do "covers".

 

As a kid, playing trumpet and piano, I would write my own stuff all time often making "variations" on pieces which were my studies.

 

I went to college as a composition major, and the fortyune to study under Phillip Glass, Steve Reich and John Cage.

 

For every band I was ever in, i brought in original tunes...or at least ideas to toss into the rehearsal when things got "difficult" (a very good tip, btw,: have some original grooves or bass lines handy just to jam on with your band. When the inevitable "brick wall" of practice comes up just toss these out. It breaks up the monotony, allows players to focus their creativity, and almost everytime allows the band to go back to the tune which gave such a problem with new zeal....a great way to keep things moving, and to develop your writing and arranging skills).

 

I do quite a bit of solo work now, most of which is original. I have two CDs coming out this year (sometime...when the back heals...), all original.

 

Tho I do not sing, I do write lyrics...and seem to be good at it, but prefer instrumental music.

 

I don't adhere to one style or genre....but probably my weakest, simply due to dis-interest, would be rock. I tend to cover a lot of styles, often fusing together disparate elements.

 

I am fortunate to have played and learned from many styles of music: Latin, jazz, classical, avant, cajun, blues, rock, pop, african, reggae, carribbean, asian, gamelan, indian.....

 

I often, as a solo bassist, work up arrangements of "cover" tunes: show tunes, jazz standards, classic rock songs. To do this, I simply sit down and learn the parts. Staring with the rhythm I "drum" the parts, internalizing and learning. I leasrn to play the melody...the phrasing..and then flesh out the harmonic movement of a piece. Doing this with solo bass means I can take some liberties...but I try at first to learn as much of the tune as I can.

 

As a composer, I have scored several documentary films for Discovery and TLC. Scored national TV ads for BMW and Subaru, and Industrial films for BMW Motorcycles. I also composed and conducted a score for a Musical play (not a "musical" per se..but a drama with a live score...) for playwright David Mamet.

 

I try to write something everyday..........

My computer hard drives fill up a lot and my file system is a mess.......

 

 

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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I like to write; problem is getting exactly what I hear in my head out on paper; my notation skills are horrid in spite of several years of theory classes. I do prefer to write for a band situation, even though I don't speak drummerese or Keyite. Collaboration is something I really enjoy. With my new band, I've been giving nippets that come to mind and others add on to it etc. Like one night on the way home from rehearsal, I had an outpouring of lyrics; pretty much intact. The music I heard in my head going along with it wasn't really what I thought fit the lyric/theme; so I just posted the lyrics to the band and said "see what you can do with them." I like for the singer to have input and see what they mean to her, and how she wants to project them. This time, the drumemr said" Hey, I think I've got some music for this" and next week brought a keyboard and hashed out a majority of it. A new dimension I didn't know he had! It's not what I would have come up with; but then again, I didn't like what I had come up with; and it now works.

Even in my old band, I had a lot of say in arrangement suggestions, even if it wasn't a song that I wrote. The main writer still has some veto power if it doesn't meet their vision. But input from all the members who have to play it can really help a song expand from the initial idea, especially in a band setting. If you're just backing up a songwriter, I gues you have to be a bit more tasteful in how you present a possible new arrangement on their work.

"Am I enough of a freak to be worth paying to see?"- Separated Out (Marillion)

NEW band Old band

 

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Well currently I'm in two coverbands ... I do adjust the bass lines to my liking though, as far as possible.

 

I have been talking with some friends about forming a more gothic-rock / metal type of thing, and I have written two songs for those. But the project has been "put in the fridge" for the time being, and so have my songs :D

 

So I guess I "just" play bass ...

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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Writing tunes and recording my own demos is what I mainly do.

 

I do all the writing solo.

 

My bass playing actually came about to support this (if anything Im a guitar player) - and not the other way around.

 

I spend no time working on covers.

All my energy is devoted to trying to improve my original stuff.

 

I'm totally addicted to this- except during the occastional dry spell.

Check out some tunes here:

http://www.garageband.com/artist/KenFava

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Alex,

 

First, you probably already know this, but there is a Songwriters on Songwriting forum on this site. So I assume you want to pose your question strictly from the viewpoint of people whom play bass.

 

Obviously, if you're in a cover band, there's no (or little) writing involved. For an "originals" band, somebody has to write the material. For rock and other popular genres, it is possible that as a bass player you could be given note-for-note what to play, although I would think this unlikely.

 

It's more typical that you're called on to write your own bass line for a given song, as I have done. (The drummer writes his/her own drum part, etc.) If the band you are in has more prolific song writers than you, then you won't need to bring as many whole songs to the table. I'd guess this was the case with George Harrison, as Lennon/McCartney just cranked them out. So, for the most part, you just stick to writing your part of the composition.

 

In the situations I've been in, you're not asked to write ideas or whole songs, it's something you're self-motivated to produce. It just comes out of you. You don't need to write the drum part, for example, because your band's drummer can do it. As a bass player you can bring a bass riff and maybe a chord chart, too. It helps if you can play an instrument capable of chords, like a g****r or piano.

 

As Max points out, you don't have to sing to write the lyrics. For me this is often the hardest part, since I find it difficult to express myself in words. If your singer is capable, you can let them figure out how to sing the lyrics, i.e., write the melody. For some genres (I'm thinking mostly jazz), lyrics/vocals are optional.

 

If your only instrument is bass, and you only ever listen to bass, melody can be an unfamiliar beast. Having some experience with some sort of "solo voice" instrument (like Max's trumpet) helps, as well as listening to melodies, sung or otherwise. (Once upon a time I was once a decent trombone player and played 1st chair in my high school jazz band.)

 

(Learning music theory and composition at the university level doesn't hurt, either. I'm jealous of you, Max!) :)

 

If you're capable of playing all the instruments for your composition, you can record your songs solo. Otherwise, you're probably going to have to collaborate with one or more people. This is often the better choice, since it's more likely to be "a jack of many trades and master of none" situation. For a Stanley Clarke solo cd, for example, he doesn't play all the instruments himself.

 

Although it's tempting nowadays to use synth instruments for things like drums and other parts you don't feel comfortable playing, it's generally not a good idea. If you've ever heard someone else's recording with a cheesy synth bass programmed in, you'll know what I mean. Besides, we don't want to piss off our brethren drummers. ;)

 

If I could sing, I'd love to try my hand at being a singer/songwriter with bass and voice. That should be worth a few gigs just for "being different".

 

What's the difference between a Police song written by Sting and a Sting solo song? I think that difference defines a "solo" performance from a "group" performance.

 

So, how am I involved in songwriting now? Well, I'm "in between bands at the moment" :) so I'm working on my "solo" cd. I've already asked one friend to play sax on one track, and I'm hoping to get another to add drums. I don't know who I'll get to sing yet. And the lyrics are not finished yet. :( But I still want to do this "by myself"; it's a personal challenge that I want to overcome. If I were in a band, these would probably end up being songs "by the band", so this is a chance for me to do something "solo".

 

Previously, I've recorded on two full-length and one EP-length cds, all unreleased rock originals in which I wrote all the bass lines.

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Originally posted by Max Valentino:

As a composer, I have scored several documentary films for Discovery and TLC. Scored national TV ads for BMW and Subaru, and Industrial films for BMW Motorcycles. I also composed and conducted a score for a Musical play (not a "musical" per se..but a drama with a live score...) for playwright David Mamet.

Max,

How did you land these deals? Did the people you met in college (instructors, etc.) play a part? I mean, it's not like you place a newspaper classified ad that says "songs/songwriting for sale" and are deluged by calls. :)

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I have several reviews from another forum about my composition and playing skilz. I could post them if no one minds me bragging.

You can stop now -jeremyc

STOP QUOTING EVERY THING I SAY!!! -Bass_god_offspring

lug, you should add that statement to you signature.-Tenstrum

I'm not sure any argument can top lug's. - Sweet Willie

 

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I've always done arranging - as keyboardist (only an occasional bassist), those kinds of roles seem to naturally gravitate to me.

 

Although I've played for 30+ years, I never did any serious writing until a "Holy Spirit Moment" happened about 9 years ago. The floodgates opened then. Now I write a lot of the stuff our church uses, and I have one piece published with GIA Publications out of Chicago.

 

I write in a lot of different styles, gravitate toward Gospel(ish) most often. My writing probably wouldn't pass the "Is it really Gospel" test of the Gospel market, but in Catholic liturgical circles, it's pretty successful at bringing that musical style to the texts we're required to use.

 

As to other styles, I've written bluegrass, blues, country pop, hard rock, foursquare hymns, contemporary pop, funk, salsa (okay, salsa lite, LOL), folk - but gospel is what I keep coming back to.

 

Daf

I played in an 8 piece horn band. We would often get bored. So...three words:

"Tower of Polka." - Calumet

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Blessings.

I started writing in 1989 when I was 17. I've written over five hundred songs to-date. I had my own band while in college, and I used to arrange all the music and show each player what to play...from guitars, Keys, drums to Horns.

I didn't play any instrument then :o , I just used to teach them tunes from memory. I did this for years up to abt song 350 when I started using piano to write. I knew ALL my songs arrangements by memory.

 

Currently, I play all the music for my projects.

One Love

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RicBassGuy: In response to your q's:

Y'know, like much of everything that happens in the music biz it is a matter of networking and having your name out there.

 

For BMW, an engineer at a studio where I had done some session work per gratis knew someone on the film crew for the BMW motorcycle piece. He just mentioned to the engineer that they were looking for music, and that the producer wnated something that had that 80s, "Miami Vice" kind of vibe (they were filming with stedi-cams mounted on K1000s at Sears Point and Laguna Seca Raceways). The engineer mentioned it to me...I loaded up the sampler and put togteher a few ideas....and they went with it.

 

That led to meeting folks from the ad agency who were handling their national tv spots, and they gave me a shot at a 45 sec ad (they also had, at the time Subaru as clients).

 

Of course that also threw me into the deep waters with guys who did this kind of scoring regularly, with greater results and so greater reps as well...

...but that led to someone who producing a play with Mamet and wanted to have it run with a live score, altho not being a musical (interesting notion, but not without it own logistical landmines...)

...that got me into to doing commercial jingles as a bass player...and led to some session and then sideman work....

 

It is all usually by word of mouth. I recently, in fact just prior to my back surgery, had an audition with a major, multi-grammy winning artist, who got my name from another very renown bassist who had heard my solo stuff and liked it...

 

The best thing to do, if you wish to try your hand at composing (and mind you I view this as different than songwriting) is to get out and do it. Go to a local college, even a junior college and see if they have a film school; an easy way in to trying to do scores or cues. Check into local poets and writers who do readings and see about a collaboration (writing a "score" to accompany a spoken word perfromance).

 

If you have programs like Sonic Foundry's Vegas, you can even copy scenes from movies and "re-score" them as practice.

 

In short...get out and do something....and then network. Get your name around.

 

After that it comes down to luck (which is defined as the point where preparation and inspiration meet).

 

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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I actually have a dozen songs in the can for a rock project right now. I just have to try and organize everything with the players. The guitat player I'm working with is in uerope right now and I'm having some troubly finding a reliable drummer. When it comes though, I'll be ready.

I'm also trying to start a solo, or semi-solo, project right now. I have a few songs written that I could apply to that format.

In that last band that I was in I would write, but it was always a group process for writing...as opposed to writing a song and then teaching the other players their parts.

It seems that whenever I'm thrown into an original project I'm inclined to write or refine the music. Recently a friend had a showcase that he needed a band for, as he usually would play solo and acoustically. In that project I actually rewrote some of his stuff and worked with him on refining his ideas. Of course i didn't just go in and change all of his stuff, I asked if he would mind my throwing in ideas. I told him he could keep what he wanted....he kept all of it.

 

I guess I'm just inclined to write. I mainly play rock, but I've never been tempted to write lyrics. It just doesn't interest me I suppose.

 

That being said, I'm seriously considering buying an eight track or some recording device so I could record my ideas, with maybe one track of bass, two guitar tracks, and live drums. I'm confused by all of the stuff out their though. I'm not looking for an internal drum machine or effects built in to the system. If I knew gear I would need, well that would definitely make things easier.

Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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in my current band i write some complete songs and roughly about half of the lyrics. i would write them all but we have a new singer that we are testing to see if he is capable in that area.

most of our songs come about when we jam at practice. someone has an idea or what not.

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I've written many songs over the years.

 

When I write, I'm usually sitting at a piano or sometimes playing a guitar. I write everything, words, music, parts for the other players, and I mean I actually write it down with a pencil in real notes on the staff.

 

The interesting thing about it from the perspective of a bass player is that I usually write the bass part last. Only a few of my songs have started with a bass groove.

 

That does seem logical to me....my usual job is to walk into a room, listen to what is going on, and make up a bass part. So with my own music, I come up with everything else first and it is reasonably easy to come up with a bass part afterward.

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I wrote more in the past. Now, my guitarist has the fits of inspiration. My job is to make sure they are musically correct, record, write down the music and lyrics, and fill in the bass part. I just write down chords since he can't read notation.

 

I do, currently, have a few song ideas that are bouncing around in my head and am trying to straighten them out.

 

ATM

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Originally posted by jeremy c:

I've written many songs over the years.

 

When I write, I'm usually sitting at a piano or sometimes playing a guitar. I write everything, words, music, parts for the other players, and I mean I actually write it down with a pencil in real notes on the staff.

 

The interesting thing about it from the perspective of a bass player is that I usually write the bass part last. Only a few of my songs have started with a bass groove.

 

That does seem logical to me....my usual job is to walk into a room, listen to what is going on, and make up a bass part. So with my own music, I come up with everything else first and it is reasonably easy to come up with a bass part afterward.

The way I'll write is very similar, with the exception of the actual writing. It's really rare for me to actually write out the music with pencil on staff. This is mainly because I can only read and write bass clef and it is usually easier for me to hear the part I played...it reminds me of what comes next. There have been times when a melody will pop in to my head though, and I do my best to figure out the intervals and write it out on paper...probably in c ;)
Hiram Bullock thinks I like the band volume too soft (but he plays guitar). Joe Sample thinks I like it way too loud (but he plays piano). -Marcus Miller
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Just last month when visiting with my son, I wrote the bass lines to three songs. I got involved simply because I was the only person my son knew that actually READ AND UNDERSTAND MUSIC THEORY.

 

Their second guitar actually does bass duty, but they were recording three songs where the needed the two guitars and I wrote a bass line just by watching my son's hands, picked out the chord and just played scales/cords based on that chord.

 

Granted, I'm no writing genius, but it didn't really turn out all that bad. Hopefully the songs will be mixed soon and I will get copies of the CD.

 

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

 

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Writing songs and instrumental music is my main thing, but, I've been doing much less of it since I started playing (and gigging on) bass semi-seriously. Two reasons, I think:

 

1. Bass is hard--it has taught me that my time and feel are not half what I thought they were, and that my hands are weak, that my technique, which can even seem somewhat facile on guitar and keys, is pretty shoddy in fact. I have a generous but still limited "music time" budget in my life, and chasing competence on bass is taking most of it, along with learning all the tunes for the two groups I'm playing bass in, of course.

 

2. When you sit around with a guitar in your hands, you write songs almost by accident. That does not seems as likely to happen on bass.

 

Anyway, making up ditties is what I've always done and someday will be restored as my focus, but this bass tangent I'm on has been really useful and illuminating. I doubt I'll ever play a bass track on keyboard again, and that's a wonderful thing!

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
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It varies.

I have been "just" the bass player, playing what someone else's song calls for.

 

I have been the guy in the band, writing parts (not only bass) with the guys.

 

I have been the guy bringing in parts for everybody, showing them what to play. In these cases, I have written chord charts, or I have just shown them what to play, depending on our level of communication.

 

And, I have written full pieces, arrangements and all.

I have done a couple of things for short films, nothing of real note. I enjoy writing for

picture, a different discipline in many ways.

I'd like to do more of it.

 

It varies. :)

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Am I being rhetorical? With past bands I used to contribute the odd song (but it usually required tweaking to fit), plenty of riffs, most of the basslines and was very involved with the arranging.

 

Over the last few years I've been doing a lot of writing, arranging, recording on my own, and have finally got to the point where it's all come together, lyrics/melodies/chords/basslines, working by multi-tracking ideas onto the computer, cutting/pasting and iterating until it gets there. Most songs are getting 90% finished within a few hours - speed writing/recording seems to stop me stagnating. I'm hoping to either perform this stuff solo (bass & voice), as a guitar/bass duo or maybe with a power trio.

 

Genre wise, I seem to be somewhere between rock, pop, funk, jazz, latin, reggae. Everything into the pot!

 

I really love 'just' playing bass, but the challenge is getting musicians to play the music that I really want to play bass for. As they're few and far between, it makes sense to write it myself... And I have to be in a band for just playing bass to remain interesting, and sometimes life logistics prohibit that.

 

Alex

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I write music. I arrange parts and structure. I can't write lyrics if you put a gun to my head, though.

 

I do about three-quarters of my writing on guitar; in rock, it is a lot easier for me to do it that way.

 

I have come in with complete ideas that just needed lyrics. I have also come up with ideas. I have also taken other member ideas and bastardized them. All of my current bands are rather collaborative.

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