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  • when you just can't find the melody...

    I've found that lately it's been working better for me to write lyrics before the music, the lyrics tend to be better. The problem is I've been having a harder time finding melodies for them. I used to come up with a melody and fit the lyrics to that, but then I was always unhappy with the lyrics in the end.







    Anyone write lyrics first? How easy/hard is it for you to find a tune for them?

  • #2
    I sometimes write the lyrics first...or a first draft of the lyrics first, before doing the music. Depends how impatient I am to start working on a song before I can get to the music part.



    The times when I have difficulty finding a good melody tend to happen regardless of whether I've done the lyrics first or not. I do find that if you do the lyrics first, once you get to the melody, it helps (me anyway) to try and "forget" the lyrics (or at least to the extent that they restrict things) while you come up with a melody, sort of as if the lyrics don't exist yet. And then once you find a melody that holds your interest, you can amend the pre-existing lyrics to allow them to fit that melody...make sense? lol
    All things must pass...

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    • #3
      I'm with Grace on this one. How well does melodies "come to you" in a general sense? Some songwriters it is a struggle and some it is their strong point. If you write the lyrics first and become too attached, then you will more than likely have to make many adjustments with melodies to get it to feel right.

      That is unless you get lucky the first go. If you are willing to make lyric adjustments to fit what you find a nice melody, then you are on the right track. I think in many cases, it is playing with both, and tweaking to make it all work

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      • #4






        Quote Originally Posted by MarkofCainband
        View Post

        I've found that lately it's been working better for me to write lyrics before the music, the lyrics tend to be better. The problem is I've been having a harder time finding melodies for them. I used to come up with a melody and fit the lyrics to that, but then I was always unhappy with the lyrics in the end.







        Anyone write lyrics first? How easy/hard is it for you to find a tune for them?




        It's a balancing act, fer sure.



        If you write the lyric with a strong rhythmic motive and organize the lines in a regular meter and stanza pattern it becomes easier to set the words to music.



        We did a Blockbuster Challenge setting lyrics to music a while back.



        http://acapella.harmony-central.com/...oisJack-Lyrics)
        Lyrics Songs Demos Videos Covers Facebook Tumblr

        Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.

        -Coco Chanel

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        • #5
          +1 on it being a balancing act.



          I do it both ways.



          Like Ras pointed out, thinking about the rhythmic aspect of the words we use and organizing the lines accordingly is crucial. It took me a while to figure this out when I first started writing songs. I knew some songs worked really well and others didn't, but because I always thought of melody in terms of pitch, that is what I blamed for a song not sounding good.



          As I starred paying more attention to the natural cadence in the words I was using, focusing on the patterns in syllables and accents, I began to get A LOT more comfortable with my writing.



          Lee Knight has a couple of great threads he started a while back that deals with these issues. Maybe he can post a link.
          ...

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          • #6






            Quote Originally Posted by rhino55
            View Post

            +1 on it being a balancing act.



            I do it both ways.



            Like Ras pointed out, thinking about the rhythmic aspect of the words we use and organizing the lines accordingly is crucial. It took me a while to figure this out when I first started writing songs. I knew some songs worked really well and others didn't, but because I always thought of melody in terms of pitch, that is what I blamed for a song not sounding good.



            As I starred paying more attention to the natural cadence in the words I was using, focusing on the patterns in syllables and accents, I began to get A LOT more comfortable with my writing.



            Lee Knight has a couple of great threads he started a while back that deals with these issues. Maybe he can post a link.




            I don't know about any links, I'm not that organized. But yeah, the very nature of the words, phrases, meanings... they all mean something to me. They all suggest melody and rhythm. Lately, I've been a lyrics first guy out of necessity. I'm at work and get an idea. So why wait?



            but what rhino is saying is so true. To craft a lyric that drives a melody, for me... that's the key. Even more important than concept and content, the lyric has to drive. Or float, or have some other musical attribute. Consonants balancing with vowels all in some sort of rhythmic dance.



            That's what I go for at least. That then makes coming up with melody so much easier and successful. For me.
            Thomas Jefferson said... "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." hmmm...

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            • #7
              I'm one who likes to have a strong melody in place before I start crafting lyrics.



              That said.....I generally have a rough lyrical idea first.......A direction or concept for the song. That will drive the development of a strong melody which will in turn usually drive the real writing.



              It is really so important to craft both together so that they work toward the same end in perfect synchronicity.



              I find that lyrics that have been fully formed without a melody tend to get changed drastically when they are put to song.



              Just realized that I have not addressed the real question here......what to do when I just can't find that melody. When that happens I take the most melodic lyric that I have and put the rest aside. With that one good lyric firmly in my grasp I pick up my guitar and play. Quite often the very first thing that comes from that becomes the lyrical/melodic hook for the song.
              Leonard Scaper

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              • #8
                Songwriting for me is pure spontaneity. I pick up the guitar or I sit at the piano and fiddle around until I get a spark. Then I just sing whatever feels natural and the first words that spill out tend to offer clues as far as what the lyrical direction will be. Once the thread is caught, the rest of the song is fleshed out from wherever it came. It sounds like a step-by-step process, but it is really quite organic with all of it happening simultaneously.



                I've never once had a situation where a melody just wouldn't come. I've had the occasion to tweak and existing melody if I felt it needed sprucing up, and often times I need to flesh it out to be sure it meshes properly with musical changes, but that is about it.
                Don't listen to Justin.
                LCK - 2/21/2012

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                • #9
                  This is an often recycled topic with no correct answer. Whatever works for you.
                  Hamilton Steele CD's / Hamilton Steele MP3 Downloads / Hamilton Steele iTunes

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                  • #10






                    Quote Originally Posted by rhino55
                    View Post

                    As I started paying more attention to the natural cadence in the words I was using, focusing on the patterns in syllables and accents, I began to get A LOT more comfortable with my writing.




                    This is what I find as a point of difference between when I write lyrics at work or while walking somewhere, out and about, and do not have the music playing and when I actually sit down to create the melody / chord side of the song. Once the music is playing and being actively created, the CADENCE of the words becomes vital and this is when lyrical amendments begin. And new or altered lyrics flow very easily too.
                    All things must pass...

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                    • #11
                      Mozart frequently used the infamous, "1, 2, 3" method. Lots of music used this very simple and powerful method of melody creation.



                      Think of a short little melodic phrase. how about:



                      1. Happy birthday to you



                      Now repeat it. But add a small variation. One possible small variation might be the way the melody changes but the rhythm stays the same in that 2nd line of Happy Birthday. Just the last note of that phrase go to different notes, but the first few are the same as the 1st line.



                      2. Happy birthday to you



                      The 3 part is where the melody sort of takes off on a flight of fancy



                      3.Happy birthday dear George, happy birthday to you.



                      ^ You can see that it's really a 1, 2, 3, 4 technique here... reincorporating that first theme at the end. And yet, we don't have to to make it work. It really is a 1, 2 ,3 for that reason.



                      It's fun to try it. 1. A simple melody, 2. a repeat with small variation, 3. then a longer, more fanciful answer. 1, 2, 3 method. As soon as you do it you go... "AHA! I've heard that a million times. I get it!"
                      Thomas Jefferson said... "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." hmmm...

                      Comment


                      • #12






                        Quote Originally Posted by Lee Knight
                        View Post

                        Mozart frequently used the infamous, "1, 2, 3" method. Lots of music used this very simple and powerful method of melody creation.



                        Think of a short little melodic phrase. how about:



                        1. Happy birthday to you



                        Now repeat it. But add a small variation. One possible small variation might be the way the melody changes but the rhythm stays the same in that 2nd line of Happy Birthday. Just the last note of that phrase go to different notes, but the first few are the same as the 1st line.



                        2. Happy birthday to you



                        The 3 part is where the melody sort of takes off on a flight of fancy



                        3.Happy birthday dear George, happy birthday to you.



                        ^ You can see that it's really a 1, 2, 3, 4 technique here... reincorporating that first theme at the end. And yet, we don't have to to make it work. It really is a 1, 2 ,3 for that reason.



                        It's fun to try it. 1. A simple melody, 2. a repeat with small variation, 3. then a longer, more fanciful answer. 1, 2, 3 method. As soon as you do it you go... "AHA! I've heard that a million times. I get it!"




                        Hmm...to my ear, 4 is absolutely necessary because that is the only melodic line that resolves to the tonic note of the scale. I guess if the first 3 lines comprised a short introductory section that led into a longer verse, the lack of resolution would work as a nice tension-builder.



                        By the way, the reason that particular 4-line melody works, in my opinion, is because it doesn't resolve until the very end. Landing on the tonic at the end of too many lines is a mistake I seem to make over and over in my melodies. I can't seem to help it while the melody is forming in my mind. And once it is formed, it seems to be very difficult to change.
                        Beware of deepities.<br>-- Daniel Dennett

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                        • #13
                          ^^^ chalk it up to my lack of ability to communicate here. Watch this video from 7:30 to 120 or so for a great explanation of the 1,2, 3 method. I can't believe I found this. I don't think I've seen this since I wasn't much older than the me in my avatar... this is a master communicator and musician...






                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AFovpvDRCI
                          Thomas Jefferson said... "The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." hmmm...

                          Comment


                          • #14






                            Quote Originally Posted by Lee Knight
                            View Post

                            ^^^ chalk it up to my lack of ability to communicate here. Watch this video from 7:30 to 120 or so for a great explanation of the 1,2, 3 method.




                            Very cool. This explains what I (and perhaps most of us) do routinely, but on a mostly unconscious level.



                            When I get around to posting the music to my latest song -- "On the Other Side of Blue" -- I'll have to remember to point out how that 1, 2, 3 ... structure shows up in the tune.
                            "I write from a different place. I do not even know what it is called, or if it has a name. It just comes and I sculpt it. But it is also a lot of hard work." —Van Morrison

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                            • #15
                              Better yet, here's a small excerpt, showing how I used this technique in an older tune.



                              "Where Did She Go?"

                              (0:45)



                              I think it would be cool to hear other people's samples as well.

                              "I write from a different place. I do not even know what it is called, or if it has a name. It just comes and I sculpt it. But it is also a lot of hard work." —Van Morrison

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