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how and when did you learn to write a complete song?

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  • #16
    Originally posted by mbengs1 View Post
    Writing a song is so easy.

    Writing a GOOD song, however......isn't.

    I first took a stab at songwriting when my older brother (unlike me a true musician) did...I was in my teens. Most of it was forgettable, but looking back, even then I see real potential. It's not like I was writing a lot of weak tired cliches etc. Never have I or will I write a song with things like "cold as ice" or "cuts like a knife." But I did it on a lark and didn't think to put more than a modest effort into it. Again I wasn't a musician, I knew it, so why bother?

    Between now and then was largely a void, with just occasional ideas popping into my head and most soon forgotten, as I didn't think anything of it, i.e. I didn't think "hey this is something I should take seriously and try to record one day"....the idea to me was laughable. I didn't play an instrument and I wasn't a composer or musician in any real sense of the word, after all.

    That has changed in recent years for various reasons. Not saying I'm anything great all of a sudden, but my effort and my ideas have suddenly taken off...and has my ability, I think. I write more songs ("songs" meaning mostly lyrics, but some have the melody/etc too) in a year now then I had in the 20-30 yrs previously, and while some are still forgettable, some have potential, and some I dare say are actually good.


    • #17
      My voice isn't that good to begin with. So I can make a song that I like a bit. but I think i'd prefer to get someone to sing my ideas since vocals really isn't my forte. but I like to try and think that I can sound as good as the pros.

      The way I write a song starts with a riff. then I add parts to it. then I make the drums on my drum machine. then I record the bassline. all the parts are done so I just have to arrange those parts as A-B-A-B-C-A-B (which is the most typical arrangement in my case). then I dub the vocals or sometimes the lead guitar (when i'm making instrumentals). I make the lyrics then on notepad. I just write the first thing that pops up in my head. It doesn't have to make sense, as long as it sounds ok.


      • #18
        I started writing songs within a year of learning to play guitar in 1968. I had already been playing violin for 3 years and knew how to read music.
        The songs I wrote really weren't very good at that point. They consisted of chords and melody and I was still in copycat mode idolizing other artists.

        In High School I took music theory classes and learned to write 4 part harmonies which really opened my mind up to the possibilities. The instructor made us write those songs "Without the aid of an Instrument" which is where the key to writing really is - in your minds eye, or should I say minds ear.

        The instructor played all the compositions on keyboard so we could hear what we had created too. I hadn't heard it played on an instrument before then and I was quite surprised. Mine had some kind of Russian flavor to it though I wouldn't know hoe that happened but it was interesting and got me hooked on writing.

        I wrote and performed original songs with several High School bands and use to get a standing novation on the original music we played on a regular basis. We didn't just write music we developed whole shows around the music which was what most bands near NY were doing in the late 70's 80's

        I had gotten into recording those originals by the late 70's too. It was a big factor which drove me to doing it all the time.

        I can say many of the songs I wrote still had allot of similarities to music I listened too back then. I think the biggest changes to writing came when I was on the road driving 9 hours a day and listened to music all day then played out at night. I'd listen to my own recordings and all the cover music I could get my hands on, and listened to music on the radio all the time.

        You could say I became super saturated with all the music. When I'd play in a cover band and they chose a new song I typically had my part down after only hearing it once or twice. I had learned how to learn by listening and visualizing the notes being played.

        Later I started composing up to 8 parts for a band. Never had much need to go beyond that because I didn't work with more then 4 to 5 piece bands, sometimes a keyboard added in or a sax player. Even with the multitrack capabilities recording I tend to keep things simple and transparent.

        Its been at least 25 years now where I quit listening to other artists music like I had been. I'd learn songs when playing in a cover band but that desire to be someone I could never be ended. I became quite comfortable walking around in my own shoes writing and recording my own music. I've never run out of ideas and I can safely say I don't have allot of instances where I subconsciously borrow other artists music any more.

        The way I see it is I spent the first half of my life drawing in all the music available, like a sponge until it could no longer hold any more liquid.
        Then in order to draw any more moisture in I have to squeeze some out.

        I write now straight to tracks. I used to write to paper first but writing by hand is too slow for my mind. I can simply play the parts as I hear them in my mind much more quickly and loose far less in the process.

        At any given time I may have several dozen songs in progress being written. Its kind of like building houses. Why build one house at a time when you can build a dozen at nearly the same speed.

        I have a program on my cellphone called music memos which is really handy. When I come up with an idea practicing, I jot it down, playing a few measures so I don't forget the ide. When you play back the parts in that program it shows the chords you used and it will even add a basic bass and drum part to the chords you played. Not always accurately but it at least gives you an idea how it could sound.

        From there I'll go into the studio and with the ideas I collected on the IPhone I'll track up to 10 songs consisting of guitar and drums or sometimes bass or keyboard and drums. From there its just a matter of adding the other parts and building the songs up, typically over several sessions. I used to knock down a dozen songs a week and have literally written thousands of songs and often many revised versions of songs which showed potential.

        In the past 5 years I've decreased the numbers of songs I complete per week. Maybe its my age catching up or maybe its because I'm making every song count and the perfectionist in me doesn't want to be bothered with songs that lack that spark of magic. The percentage of well performed and well recorded songs have gone up as a result of being more critical of my own work. Instead of a dozen a week I may only do a dozen a month.