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I've been a musician for over 25 years and have never written the first song. is it n


RKO

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I can re-arrange tunes, combine them, play all kinds of original instrumental stuff, but I don't think I have a song in me. How do you guys start? Does a tune pop into your head or do you start with a riff or a progression? How do you do it?

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Go outside and listen. Hear it? It might be a bird, or a car driving by, or the wind blowing or your neighbor driving away on your lawnmower. Whatever it is, think about it.

 

 

Now go inside and play it on your guitar. Eventually, the song's structure and personality will start to come out. Don't fight it, since you have some music background you will imediatly start thinking "thats not right!" or "Wouldnt it sound cool if I did this?"

 

Ignore those thoughts. Just let it flow.

 

 

The hardest note is the first one. Once you get that, its simple.

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Go outside and listen. Hear it? It might be a bird, or a car driving by, or the wind blowing or your neighbor driving away on your lawnmower. Whatever it is, think about it.



Now go inside and play it on your guitar. Eventually, the song's structure and personality will start to come out. Don't fight it, since you have some music background you will imediatly start thinking "thats not right!" or "Wouldnt it sound cool if I did this?"


Ignore those thoughts. Just let it flow.



The hardest note is the first one. Once you get that, its simple.

 

 

I hear i everyday, but I can't translate it. I think you writers have a mojo that I just don't have...and I'm old, I've been playing for YEARS...

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I can re-arrange tunes, combine them, play all kinds of original instrumental stuff, but I don't think I have a song in me. How do you guys start? Does a tune pop into your head or do you start with a riff or a progression? How do you do it?

I started because I wanted to be a songwriter... I'd been writing poetry and it was working for me on some levels but not on others. (Musicians practicing their craft get non-musician GFs. Poets practicing their craft get other poets -- hopefully of the target gender. :D )

 

 

I was so much farther away from my goal than you (although I can appreciate the so-near-yet-so-far frustration of your situation). I'd been 'certified' talent-free as a kid, tried to play guitar in junior high, tried to play bass at 19 and finally, frustrated with my stake in the poetry world (and I was one of the cool ones, pitty those other fools :D ), I decided to make one last do or die effort.

 

I learned to play at the same time, so it was particularly rough. I had pretty sophisticated tastes, so every insipid piece of forced rhyme doggerel that I wrote down even for five minutes was just like a stab into my image of myself as a good writer. I wasn't actually a good writer but I was enthusiastic in my fiction and poetry, and people bought into it for the most part.

 

My first music audiences, on the other hand, just felt pity. :D Hell, I felt pity for myself. But I was so determined, I figured everyone had a first time; though it wasn't an expression then, I very much had the what doesn't kill you makes you stronger approach to life -- easier when you're 20. :D Anyhow, I knew how much I sucked. It killed me, because I felt like poetry had been so easy and this was so hard.

 

Maybe in that sense, our positions had some parallels, since it sounds like you've got a lot of expertise in one area (happily for you, it dovetails much more nicely with your apparent desire to write songs than my own musical obtuseness did ;) ).

 

It can be hard to let yourself be bad.

 

But it's something you do have to go through. Of course, it's not like you have to show folks the first few clumsy efforts -- but you should not be afraid of exposing your works once you get your feet under you. Everyone's different, of course, but I think good, thoughtful feedback is enormously helpful when one is learning something new. Just put on your newb beanie, allow yourself to not be an expert, and acknowledge, really own the sense at a gut level, that you are going to write some horrible songs. Everyone does. It's something you have to go through. You learn from it. It's all good.

 

I've seen the idea thrown around that everyone has a certain amount of horrible songs they are going to have to write in order to get to a place where they can start writings some not so bad and then some good songs. I don't know that it's a quota -- I kind of think you can write a few really, really horrible songs and it counts almost as much as a whole bunch of only kind of horrible songs :D -- but it's close enough to true, I think.

 

Go do it. Allow yourself to be bad. Keep doing it. Every time you see a glimmer of something a tiny bit not horrible, nurture it.

 

You will get there.

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Start with a blues. Use the standard progression and model/copy/imitate the lyrics from a blues tune you like or already know.

 

Maybe a blues about a bookcase?

 

Woke up this morning, had to build a bookcase.

I said, woke up this morning, had to build a bookcase.

Instead I drank some whiskey and got real {censored}faced.

 

Well, maybe you don't want to write about a bookcase. :o

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Great advice.

Bluetoblue, thank you for that. It makes perfect sense. I have been playing original pieces all ny life, but I have a block when it comes to a tune. And Chris, since I play more blues than anything else, I'll start with a standard 12 bar and see what happens. Don't look for any video until I come up with something that I think is worth letting out of the basement. I'm looking forward to trying! Thanks to everybody for the advice and encouragement...

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It's not alchemy. It's a craft.

 

But.......I think there is some alchemy involved....at least for me.

 

You need some inspiration....a spark....to get things off and running. Then let the crafting begin.

 

What's on your mind today? What's been bugging you? What stood out about yesterday?

 

Write it down. Or just get your most comfortable chord progression happening and tell me how the sky looked while you were driving home from work.:wave:

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But.......I think there is some alchemy involved....at least for me.

 

 

Songs with a little spark in them are certainly better than the ones hammered together. However, it's generally the case with aspiring songwriters that they wait for an entire song to spark out of their heads, rather than putting in the dull work of building a song from a little inkling.

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My theory: If you want to be a ballplayer, then play ball! If you want to be a writer, then write. Don't be intimidated by the prospect of failure. How many times do you think Hank Aaron didn't hit a homer, or Pete Rose didn't get a hit? Think of the enormous piles of absolute crap that people like Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Barry Manilow, Burt Bacharach, etc. must have squirreled away, that nobody will ever hear. 99.999% of what gets hauled out of a mine (diamond, gold, iron, copper, or whatever) is just, plain old dirt!

 

JM

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Knowing the craft is important, the reason my first song that I wrote many years ago doesn't suck is because I sat down and thoroughly analyzed songs in the genre I was writing in (actually sitting down and writing down the lyrics and progressions as if I were writing them myself and trying to figure out how they worked) and tried to write a song that fit the same general forms, but if 25 years have passed and you've never had anything inside you during that time that says you have to write a song, yeah, maybe you don't have it in you. While songwriting is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration you still need that 1% inspiration.

 

If so, that's not a crime, any more than me not being able to run a 5 minute mile no matter how much I trained for it, I'm just not built right to do it, that's all. Simple reality. If, on the other hand, you have had the urge that says you have to write a song many times over the years and just haven't given in to it, the advice others might be useful, as might the advice a professor gave me in a creative writing class many years ago, which was along the lines of, "your problem is that you want your stories to be perfect and that's interfering with you writing them. Just write, and worry about fixing it up later." Works as well for songs as it does for fiction.

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...I sat down and thoroughly analyzed songs in the genre I was writing in (actually sitting down and writing down the lyrics and progressions as if I were writing them myself and trying to figure out how they worked)...

 

 

^^^^^

 

I did that and still do for fun. I like seeing the mechanics of things. I like learning as much as I can in the lab. Take it apart. Count syllables, bridge goes to the IV chord? On and on. The melodic arc of a Bacharat vs. a Dylan. The rhythm of the great melodies. The universal lyric themes. The unique themes. Learn to spot those...

 

Analyze, analyze analyze.

 

Then just forget it all and start writing something. You don't just pull it out yer ass. You want to try and do that but you've had to have put a lot of work into studying what others have done so you can then shut it all off and make up some {censored}. Write a bad song. I do all the time.

 

But OP, you say you've done all that? Then just start writing bad songs and hiding them. But start... and make sure you finish. Then hide it and do it again.

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Part of me believes you have the hard part down, the 25 years of guitar playing. There are so many things in my head that I can't translate to the guitar. I myself am a late bloomer like some had posted before me but I was a late bloomer due to discipline. I played Bass for 2.5 years, picked up gutiar...dropped it, picked it up again...dropped it, then finally @ 25 it clicked and I said I'm going to do this. I play the guitar to write songs, although they aren't spectacular by any means but I can see myself getting better as I write more and more. I used to write a ton of poetry / stories so I'm sure that has helped but analyzing other songs, writing down ideas and then building them up, all of those things help. I seem to write the most when in a melancholy state but that's just me. Put yourself in to an environment that makes you feel good. Then let the thoughts take over and write some things down. Like the others have said, the first song may suck but it's a start, a beginning and as you develop that part more you'll get better at it. When I get too down on myself I think of Michael Jordan. His Sophmore year in high school he was cut from the team and busted his butt to become a good player. He did well @ UNC but no one thought he could do what he did in the NBA. When he was in the NBA everyone said he could dunk and do some great things but his shot lacked. When he came back from his first retirement he changed his game completely and had the best turn around in the game. Sure I might not have the talent of MJ but it wasn't just talent that made him perservere. Practice, Practice, and some more Practice got him to where he is. Just keep working on it and I'm sure some songs will come out.

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Sit down with a pencil, paper, and guitar, and do it. Songs come to fruitation in so many different ways, but if you don't sit down and actually write it, it will never come out. I am of the opinion that you shouldn't try to edit a song too much, there comes a point where it will either grow large or it will not and you just have to leave it be and move on to the next one. You should aim to make each song pleasing to you, and then move on to the next. If it's pleasing to you, then that's all you can really do. Whether or not it will be pleasing to others, well you won't know until you play it for others.

 

I've written some real stinkers, but it's all part of the learning process.

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If you have lot's of original material your half way there! Play a slow melodic line (guitar, piano, hum or whistle) over the music you have and then convert that line into lyrics. Sing about anything it doesn't really matter as long as you start to get a feel for it. The more you write the easier it will become and if you do enough you will start to develop some kind of style. Try different styles of songs and you will then get a feel for which one's you are better at.

 

Good luck!

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