#1February 19th, 2007 · 04:21 AM
97 threads / 43 songs
500 posts
Constructing/writing a song
Dunno if this has been covered before, but I'd like to explain the techniques/processes I got through to write a good song. Now, I know it isn't a "one method to fit them all" but, maybe if it was discussed, it would help out people who have trouble, to give some direction.

I like to start with a guitar.
There are a few key elements in building up a guitar part. The chords, rhythm, riffs and several other techniques to liven up a song. I find it best to strum chords, with no particular direction, and slowly change between several to get a feel of what sounds nice in what order. Then start strumming with rhythm, bring in some patterns to add interest, shifting chords each bar, half bar, leading into the next bar etc. Don't be confined to the 4 beat bar, mix it up with 6 beat bars and 3 beat bars, whatever works best. Figure out another progression or two that can run smoothly between eachother, it is conventional to keep the same time signature, but changing the stressed beats can liven it up a bit, so can a change of time signature, which helps break the piece up more clearly into the verse, chorus, solo break etc. but a change in chords and pattern works great too. Next is the riffs. Riffs usually follow the chord progression, or the notes in the chord. Technically speaking, if your riff plays on the accent of the bar (usually the first and third beat, if you're not sure, there's a thread: genre specifics, that goes into a bit of detail), it should have a note from the corresponding chord. However, the rest of the bar can have any note from the scale, but sounds best when the notes are within a 4th or 5th (intervals, if you don't know what they are, I'd say type the word into wikipedia and read the corresponding page) of each-other. Also, the rhythm of the riff should be simple, and short, and catchy, probably similar to the strumming pattern, or something similar.
Next, if you want to take it further than strumming and riffs (outside acoustic songs, I mean), you can add bass! Well, I'm no master of bass, I don't play bass, I don't own a bass, but it can be just as easy figuring a bassline as the rest of it. Of course, the chord structure comes back into it and, I've heard people saying the bass follows the root of the chord (for roots and inversions of chords, check wikipedia again), this is not true! However it will sound best playing the root on the first beat of the first bar, and the root or 3rd or 5th on the beat of the chord changes. However, like the riff, you can be flexible with the notes, providing they're within the scale (I probably should mention passing notes, pass between two distanced notes and not necessarily in the chord, for more, there's wikipedia: intervals). The bass can have the riff if you desire, as it is written in similar fashion, but it provides a great support for the other instruments too.
Drums, well, what DON'T I know about drums. A lot really, I'm no master of drums, I can't play drums, I don't own some drums, but I have done a little fruity loop drums and if you have a rough idea and know the accented beats then you can fill in the rest with a bit of trial and error (or consulting someone who knows their stuff). As you may have figured, I'm not the complete band guy, the bass and drum info aren't my forte, but, there's still one crucial concept of the song missing: the vocals. A song can be anything, but to bring good vocals to a song is to sign the deal and complete the package. If you stuff this up, the song will collapse. But vocals aren't too difficult. You just need some inspiration. Once the instruments are completed, you should have a pretty good idea what your vocals will do melody-wise. If not, sometimes the riff can fill out the vocals, say for the chorus or verses, with the instrument peppering it out in instrumental fills to illuminate the song. Of course the song shoud have all the chorus/verse parts. If you keep the verse a tone down from the chorus, but still with melodic flow (this can be worked out on an instrument, or vocally). However, the chorus should be something else, the height of the song, the part that gets lodged in your brains. Also, it doesn't hurt to add a little vocal break, maybe as a climax to the song, or leading to a final chorus (which should be more energetic than the others). For that matter, the song should have a climax near the end somewhere, to give the listener the satisfaction that the song is over.
The lyrics should tie the song together nicely, not overly complicated (like some examples of poetry), or too simple (you want people to know you have emotion and depth in your music). I'm not sure how to explain further without narrowly nitpicking on a particular specific, so just try to feel for the words, work with the mood of the song.

I think I've covered the right stuff. Missed anything? Got a better way of doing things? Disagree?
Then please post here. I'd like to see how other people work things. Maybe this thread could narrow down on specifics.


#2February 19th, 2007 · 07:15 PM
144 threads / 25 songs
1,880 posts
United States of America
Cool Thread WB
my writing style changes at times. In the old days, I used to jam on the guitar and try to play what i was hearing in my head for the guitar, and build the song around that(sometimes is still do it that way).  Lately I've been working on the melody first, trying to learn how to write, building up the melody line first, then building the other things in around it. I don't always write like that though, cause I have messed around with a midi drum beat (just goofing in the drum editor) and found a real cool beat that I liked, and worked up some chords, and a melody from that.

   When I do the melody first it allows me to not be specific to any one scale and gives me the the ability to write the chord forms around the melody (better/ different chords).  I'm not the greatest at doing this yet, but I find I'm getting better with practice.

When I go to lay a song down I tend to follow what we did in the studio, scratch track first with beat or click track.  then  build the rythymn tracks up from that (drums,bass, rythymn guitars,keys) then lead stuff, then vocals
lead vocal usually first then chorus's then backups( harmonies). This is not etched in stone though cause sometimes a vary the order if it's easier or I'm not satisfied with a particular part.

 I also try to get a structural idea of how the song is going to go (it usually changes from the very first idea though). Into....verse1....turn around/break verse 2... chorus... verse..bridge....verse....chorus ,.outro  or  whatever  all changeable as the song starts to develop.

  Anyway that's just some basic ideas I don't think there is any one true way to do it just whatever works best for you..
#3April 16th, 2007 · 02:18 PM
2 posts
United States of America
song writing
i think my writing process has inproved over the last few years. my early songs seemed confined and there werent many lyrics. the past four song i heve written have all been on an acoustic . when i write i strum through different chord progressions i have come up with to try to find the overall feel i want the song to have. as for the lyrics i write down things that come to mind and try to work them out into verses a bridge and a chorus.
#4April 16th, 2007 · 09:59 PM
10 threads / 3 songs
69 posts
United States of America
I usually write a bunch of riffs and compile them in notebooks. Then i go back and find ones that fit together and are in the same key and get the over-all structure of the song. get lyric Ideas, write awsome guitar solos that require me to strive to get better to play them. then I finish the lyrics and practice it. ( when I'm in need of solo-inspiration i listen to Marty Friedman's solo work, for riffage ideas AC/DC, Pantera, and Mastodon or Rush.)
#5April 17th, 2007 · 11:17 PM
50 threads / 12 songs
305 posts
United States of America
When playing guitar melodies usually pop into my head.

I think I need a recorder or something to be able to play the pieces back to myself so I can sing over it and get my melodies done properly.

Who knows?
#6July 29th, 2007 · 12:19 PM
5 threads / 5 songs
51 posts
United States of America
cool thread!  I used to just write what came into my head as I was playing some chords, but lately I try to do what toastedgoat does, that is start with the melody and chords.  They I try to figure out what I want the song to be about based on the feel, mood, etc.  Then I try to write an interesting story (to me) that I think others may relate to in plain English, just getting the idea out.  then I work on getting that story/idea into words that fit the song in terms of rhythm and rhyme.  I used this method for the last song I wrote Alone in a crowded room.  Thanks for starting this thread WritersBlock!
#7February 17th, 2008 · 10:04 PM
2 threads
49 posts
Inspiration!!! the essential ingredient to writing a song. I would NEVER "try" to write a song.
I usually get a couple lines of lyric together with the melody and a groove, mostly they pop into my head but sometimes when I am just running through some chords without concentrating too much. The best ones tend to come quickly and almost write themselves. If you have to spend hours and days rewriting and reworking, it usually ends up in the bin. Never throw away lyrics though, you can nearly always find a place for at least a portion of a lyric in a later effort.
When you think you  have it straight in your head - gig it or jam with some friends. it will naturally begin to evolve and will normally continue to do so. A truly great song will sound good whether just played on guitar or piano, by an ensemble or by an orchestra.
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