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  • The 'Bono' method of lyric writing

    It seems, from reading interviews and seeing documentaries, that Bono writes an awful lot of his lyrics by simply scat singing along with the band when rehearsing new songs, until words start forming.
    I remember one interview in which he said something along the lines of having an aesthetic, emotion or story in mind, but that the rhythm, melody, and vowel sounds are the most important things. Once these are working as a vocal performance, the words then start to condense around the sounds.
    It's certainly true in the ancient Irish poetic tradition that the vowel sounds are hugely important to the flow of a piece.
    I've started using this method lately, (on a couple of songs that I haven't posted here) and I'm finding that the results seem a lot less forced, and more inspired than simply sitting down with a pencil, paper and guitar.
    Many of us say that we don't 'write' our best songs, that instead we seem to simply 'hear' them, or catch them out of the ether. Maybe this is a way of staying in tune with that sort of inspiration throughout the whole writing process?
    What say you all?
    flip the phase

  • #2

    gubu wrote:
    It seems, from reading interviews and seeing documentaries, that Bono writes an awful lot of his lyrics by simply scat singing along with the band when rehearsing new songs, until words start forming.
    I remember one interview in which he said something along the lines of having an aesthetic, emotion or story in mind, but that the rhythm, melody, and vowel sounds are the most important things. Once these are working as a vocal performance, the words then start to condense around the sounds.
    It's certainly true in the ancient Irish poetic tradition that the vowel sounds are hugely important to the flow of a piece.
    I've started using this method lately, (on a couple of songs that I haven't posted here) and I'm finding that the results seem a lot less forced, and more inspired than simply sitting down with a pencil, paper and guitar.
    Many of us say that we don't 'write' our best songs, that instead we seem to simply 'hear' them, or catch them out of the ether. Maybe this is a way of staying in tune with that sort of inspiration throughout the whole writing process?
    What say you all?

    Works for me.

    I find it's much easier to pick up the flow of words when the tune is already in place than the other way around.

    “I started being a songwriter pretending I could do it, and it turned out I could.” —James Taylor.

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    • rsadasiv
      rsadasiv commented
      Editing a comment

      Can't argue with his success....

       

      Not my thing, because it puts a heavy burden on in-the-moment inspiration and doesn't allow for incremental progress.


  • #3
    I need to try this more often. I used to write this way and to good effect. It just seems logistics more than anything push me into writing lyrics first the past few years.

    It never hinders my melodies so much as paint into corners lyrically, I'm going to try some of this today.
    ___

    Comment


    • gubu
      gubu commented
      Editing a comment

      Thanks for the replies guys!

       

      Whether or not I come up with the tune first, or the lyrics first, the songwriting process always seems to become hampered by trying to develop the song's full set of lyrics to a specific meter/melody. Maybe it's too divorced from the feel, but sitting down to 'write' to the da-dum da-dum of whatever melody I've got nearly always ends up with pretty forgettable, and often clunky sounding, lyrics.

       

      So, I think I'll be using this method quite a bit. It's always been part of the process for me, but for now at least, it's the main part of the process. It is song-writing, after all.

       

      The other thing I neglected to mention in the OP was that I'd worked for a few years under the diktat 'finish the song before you turn on the recording apparatus', and I've thrown that out the window lately. Anything the freshens up the process and makes it 'new' is a good thing, I suppose. Nowadays, I'll find myself coming up with a line or two of a verse or a chorus during that (hugely important) first flash of inspiration, and I'll record the basic backing tracks in the DAW, to scat/hum/screech along with until the song starts to take shape.

      It just seems like a much more intuitive process, writing with the feel.

      ~ 'Da-da dah da DUH' - ok that's where the middle-8 goes, and it begins with ii, not vi. Record the backing for the middle-8, a digital snip here and a paste there, and carry on with the process.

       

      Am I getting overexcited about the whole thing?

      Probably

       

      Do I care?

      Not a jot!

       


  • #4
    I think this explains a lot about why I don't get much pleasure out of the music of U2... There are very few verse lyrics from them that stick with me, and so my attempts to sing their songs tend to sound like, "I wanna ih, I wanna ih, I wanna tay nah nah nah, tay nah dah nah" (opening lines of Where the Streets Have No Names).

    Different strokes for different folks, of course, and if the method works for you it works. It certainly seems to be working for Bono. It 's interesting that songs I'm more drawn to seem to be built on consonants rather than vowels (though vowels will always be important, at the very least as the foundation of rhyme). "The Mississippi Delta was shining like a National guitar" seems to be built on an intricate pattern of hard vs. soft and vocalized vs. articulated consonant sounds, rather than the vowels. I'd love to offer some U2 lyrics as a comparison, but, as mentioned, none really stick with me, despite their ubiquity at the open mics I attended during my college days in the late 90s.
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