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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.
    True,

    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.

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    • #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.

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      • #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.



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        • #19
          Originally posted by bill5 View Post
          True,

          Writing a GOOD song, however......isn't. . . .
          Really, who's to say? We all write songs that some people like and others don't. Are Taylor Swift's songs good or bad? Ozzy Osborne's? Kanye West's? Merle Haggard's? Whether we like a song or not says everything about us and nothing about the song.

          Just write 'em. Leave the critiques to the critics.

          Del
          www.thefullertons.net
          ( •)—:::
          Sent on my six-string jumbo ukelele

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          • #20
            PS: I never answered the questions, did I?

            When: 1968.

            How: Pen and paper in front of me, a guitar on my lap.
            Del
            www.thefullertons.net
            ( •)—:::
            Sent on my six-string jumbo ukelele

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            • #21
              I write songs here and there. I will go through phases of writing and then stop for a while. It's not like I make money at it.

              Since I am more of a singer songwriter, ideas and lyrics usually come first. Then I'll grab a guitar and work out how I want the chords to be arranged in the melody.

              Then I change this and change that, I might let a tune season for a few days and come back to it. I might let it season longer.

              Some stuff I spend an hour on, sometimes I save a verse that might end up in another song.

              There no right way.

              I have worked riffs, but I find it difficult to play a riff while singing, so that might come later.

              I almost never think about instrumental leads until I get some recorded down.

              I usually have Rhyme Zone a dictionary and a thesaurus at hand on my pc. I like writing on the computer better than paper and pen, just because I can move works and phrases around quickly.




              Last edited by Mikeo; 07-30-2018, 03:05 PM.
              _____________________________________
              Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Mikeo View Post
                . . . I might let a tune season for a few days and come back to it. I might let it season longer. . . . Some stuff I spend an hour on . . . .
                That's interesting. For me, it usually takes ten or fifteen minutes to write one and a year or more to rewrite to the point where it's presentable. (Luckily, I always have a bunch getting rewritten at any given moment.)

                Originally posted by Mikeo View Post
                sometimes I save a verse that might end up in another song.
                Yup, all the time. Like, it's a good line, but not for this song. So save it.

                Originally posted by Mikeo View Post
                There no right way.
                Ever!

                Originally posted by Mikeo View Post
                I have worked riffs, but I find it difficult to play a riff while singing, so that might come later.
                Ditto!

                Originally posted by Mikeo View Post
                I almost never think about instrumental leads until I get some recorded down.
                For me, the lead might come first, second, last, or never. (Ref. "There's no right way" above.)

                Originally posted by Mikeo View Post
                I usually have Rhyme Zone a dictionary and a thesaurus at hand on my pc.
                Me: Never! My brain is already too full of words and rhymes. Can't shut the voices up. So I just write 'em down (or lose 'em).

                Originally posted by Mikeo View Post
                I like writing on the computer better than paper and pen . . . .
                I usually don't resort to the computer until there's too much crossed out and written over on the page(s) for me to read my own writing.

                ____________________________
                "Whatever it takes, and by any means necessary!" "Neon" Leon Fullerton


                Del
                www.thefullertons.net
                ( •)—:::
                Sent on my six-string jumbo ukelele

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Delmont View Post
                  Really, who's to say? We all write songs that some people like and others don't. Are Taylor Swift's songs good or bad? Ozzy Osborne's? Kanye West's? Merle Haggard's? Whether we like a song or not says everything about us and nothing about the song.

                  Just write 'em. Leave the critiques to the critics.
                  Anyone who knows anything about music is to say. There are exceptions, of course, and it can all vary a lot, but writing truly good songs is, generally speaking, not easy...in the same way that doing most anything really well is usually not easy. I think I'm stating the rather obvious. PS: not sure why you brought liking a song into it. I'm not talking about liking a song. I'm talking about it being of a high quality. Two different things...which, granted, extremely few people seem to grasp. We can like songs that aren't very good and dislike songs that are.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by bill5 View Post
                    Anyone who knows anything about music is to say. . . .
                    Yeahbut. That just begs the question. There's no objective way to draw a line between people who know anything about music and people who don't. Even profoundly deaf people feel rhythms.

                    For practical purposes, we all know something about music, and we're all entitled to a say in what's good or bad.

                    Try this: walk into a bar and start asking people whether the Grateful Dead's music was good. To me, it was the best, but a blues harp friend I've played with for years says it didn't even qualify as music. (We love arguing about it.)

                    Originally posted by bill5 View Post
                    . . . I'm not talking about liking a song. I'm talking about it being of a high quality. . . .
                    That begs the question, too. How do you measure good and bad? You can measure how many singles were sold, how many hours the artist has spent honing the craft, how many hits a song has gotten online, how many awards it'as gotten, and so on.

                    But that would point, in my opinion, to some of the worst, lowest-quality music ever produced. (And some of the best, too.)

                    You're making the old Adorno/Horkheimer case: that there's commerial music for the unschooled masses (uncultivated people who know nothing about music) and good music for the well-educated, who know something about music.

                    I love those two guys, but I think the fence separating high and low culture went down a long time ago - maybe the night that Aretha filled in for Pavarotti.

                    And yes, I consider both Aretha and Pavarotti "high quality" - my opinion, whether I know anything about music or not. But my dad would never have given Aretha the time of day. So he had an opinion and I have an opinion.

                    Does that make either of us right? Do we need to present credentials to determine whether we "know anything about music"? Who's to decide whose credentials are valid? Other people with credentials? What if I don't choose to recognize their credentials? What if you don't? What if one of us does and the other doesn't?

                    Or - can we just have (and share) opinions - and maybe have some fun and learn something in the process?
                    Last edited by Delmont; 09-16-2018, 08:13 AM.
                    Del
                    www.thefullertons.net
                    ( •)—:::
                    Sent on my six-string jumbo ukelele

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                    • #25
                      Good is the song I finish and bad is the song I finish but don't like after it's recorded. It's usually a content thing with songs and a dynamic thing with instrumentals that puts me off. I judge no one else because I typically won't listen to anyone else (air play). Writing music for me is a personal thing that I'm not expecting to showcase.

                      There's plenty of stuff I've heard (public air play) that does not set well in my ear for one personal opinion or another, and even if someone else loves it I still eschew it as unlistenable. And, it tells me there's a disconnect between me and the person who does like that stuff that further isolates me from the musical community at large. That's okay, though, I was not born to commune with the musical aspect of society at large. I take my own path, expect no one to follow and oblige myself to no one as well. Just as this opinion has air to live and breathe so do others.

                      The thought that there's good or bad music in the overall community or at the personal preference level is valid, IMO. If not, we'd all be happily listening to the tribal drumming of our primal beginnings and never find need for changing that. Then, some jackass created the banjo and the world took license from that to accost the human ear in all manner of hurt.

                      Edit: I write full melodies now. Percentage-wise, I probably have 3 melodies to every lyrical verse I write. The idea is to "cross streams" when the mood directs to create songs from them or finish melodies into instrumentals. The lyrical side of me is a rare visitor these days, though. Life at my age is a collection of memories that vaporizes the spirit of the art one loves to embrace in youth.
                      Last edited by Idunno; 09-16-2018, 12:19 PM.
                      - The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule it. - H.L. Mencken

                      - Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. - President Eisenhower in his Farewell Address

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Idunno View Post
                        Good is the song I finish and bad is the song I finish but don't like after it's recorded. . . .
                        That's as good a criterion as any!

                        Del
                        www.thefullertons.net
                        ( •)—:::
                        Sent on my six-string jumbo ukelele

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          I wrote my first "song" after seeing my favorite band in concert. 2 days after the show I woke up with the first 2 lines going through my head over and over and over. I had never written before and didn't own an instrument. I went out and bought a notebook and wrote down those 2 lines and the rest of the lyrics just poured out. 3 verses and a clear chorus. When I was writing it though I clearly heard it as a song with a full band.

                          I have never been able to put that music to that song.

                          I always start with lyrics ( I know I know I know) but when I am writing I hear the music. Because of my playing limitations some "songs" have never had the music put to the words.

                          I have also never sat down and tried to write a song. Everytime I have, nonsense and triteness comes out. The ones I have written just come from some unexplained place. Usually when I don't have any paper around. ( Thank God for smart phones)

                          Once they get started though I become obsessive about trying to finish it. I have about 30 or 45 songs. I think about 12-15 are decent. Some of those dont have the music put to them yet but I can hear how they should sound. Best part is they are all mine.



                          ​​​​​​

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                          • Delmont
                            Delmont commented
                            Editing a comment
                            I saw Greg Brown do the shortest songwriting workshop in the history of songwriting workshops. Three songwriters went before him and took five or ten minutes each to describe their "process."

                            Then Greg took his turn: "First I write the words. Then I write the music."

                            He was the only one who made sense.

                        • #28
                          I started writing songs when I came across with programs called trackers in the 90s.
                          After playing with them and my guitar for a few years, everything music related somehow faded. Now I'm back at it again!

                          I wish I could find my first trackerfiles somewhere.

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                          • Delmont
                            Delmont commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Cool! It takes all kinds! Never heard of trackers. I need pen, paper, and instrument to write a song.

                            When it gets to the point where there are so many cross-outs I can't read the pages anymore, I type it all out on a computer and work from there.
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