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How do you write music?

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How do you write music?

Post  uglymutt on Wed Dec 02, 2009 6:46 am

Two questions about writing a song/music and the different methods you guys use to start a song whether it be in a band or some solo piece.

Part 1:
In a band situation what do you guys do? For example is there someone in the band who writes the music and you play what you've been given or do you jam something out like a riff then build upon that?

Part 2:
I'm becoming interested in creating original solo pieces but have only managed to come up with a few ideas simple little riff-like patterns and I'm uncertain on where to go from there

Any help is greatly appreciated
Cheers

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  Stryfer on Wed Dec 02, 2009 11:28 am

I've written about 14 songs with lyrics and all.
I'm in a bit of a hurry at the moment, but if you're intrested, I could write a guide about my approach to song writting later today.

Warning: It will be a rather long post

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  uglymutt on Wed Dec 02, 2009 11:30 am

If you feel like doing it then I would appreciate it a lot.
Thanks for the reply

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  Cliff em' all on Wed Dec 02, 2009 12:36 pm

I write lyrics everytime i feel like i want to write lyrics,I'm like,oh men gotta write that down.

Riffs well,i create stuff in y mind and then adjust them on the bass,or just random riffs when i play bass.
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Re: How do you write music?

Post  ThreeLetterSyndrom on Wed Dec 02, 2009 1:27 pm

I don't really make bass-only songs, but I play a lot of piano songs. It's basically improvising, messing around with chords. Somewhere along the line I find a pattern I like and stick to that, still improvising. I end up with a chorus and a bridge, and inbetween, I just improvise everytime I play the piece.

Maybe that helps Wink

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  Stryfer on Wed Dec 02, 2009 3:18 pm

So, as promised, here is a "guide to writing songs from my perspective".
Just to clarify, I write songs for the whole band and with lyrics and everything. In a sense, songs for a traditional band. Not solo performances or anything like that.
I heard most people suggest to write the lyrics first and then add melodies. The flaw is that, most of the time, the melodies will be dull and will just give some background to the lyrics. This will ruin a potentialy good song.
It is possible to do it the other way around. The problem there is that you could have the greatest lines of all time, and then what do with them? You add some random lyrics about how a dog ate your homework while you were out skateing and poof! Crappy song.
The way I do it, is to write music and lyrics seperately, then I try to mold them together. Modify one or the other so that they fit. The lyrics and music I combie were written with similar inspiration during similar moods though. Not necessarily in the same day, though.

Firstly a song would consist of two parts: Music & Lyrics

Let's begin with music:
Getting a good riff or line aka I could listen to that over and over and over and over...*collapses*
The first thing you need to start a song is a catchy line. Some would call this a riff, but because there have been a lot of debates around this place on what really is a riff and what isn't - I just call it a line.
I never sit down and say "now I'm going to write a good line", it doesn't work that way. Instead, whenever I feel inspiration (or even at times when I don't), I get my bass and start to play around. At first I only improvise (sometimes with a drum and sometimes without) and as soon as I hear a good phrase coming out of my instrument - I write it down. Don't stop when you get a good line, keep going. The key is to get as many lines as possible (today I have well over 100). Most of the time you can get a good 10-15 lines from one sitting of improvising. Go over them again and you'll realize that you will be happy with only two or three. Don't scrap the rest, someday you may go back to them, make changes and make something good out of it.
Now we have 2-3 lines that we can work with.

The two fundamental parts of music aka the bread and butter, the sugar and spice, the milk and cookies, the...I'm hungry
You need two fundamental parts for your music. To avoid confusion I shall call them the "pay attention" part and the "story" part (in lyrics this would be chorus and verse...but music and lyrics are not always one to one). The pay attention part is like the climax, it's the important part of a song that you want people to remember. This means it has to be memorable and must leave an impression. Most of the time this will be the catchy line you chose. The story part is where you digress away from the core line and play something different. Use the core line as a base to build a new line, or just modify the core line. It's a good idea to contrast the story part from the pay attention part. If one is complicated, the other should be simplified, if one is simple the other should be more complex. If one is louder and stronger, the other should be more mellow and vice-versa. This is important because otherwise the song will remain linear and dull. The contrast keeps it interesting. I usually make the pay attention part loud and to the point in order to get people up in the air and get them caught up in it. Then for the story part I simplify the core line by just taking the roots, giving it a more loose rythm and leaving a lot of room for improvisation (because all of this just serves to prepare them for the incoming blow).
In short, you need to alter the core line in such a way that you'll have two similar lines with opposite effects.

Adding musical variety aka there's a fly in my soup! - that will cost you extra
Once you have the two parts, it's actualy enough to make a decent song. We will want more variety though. This can be done by adding a break. A part in the song where the standard flow has changed or is interrupted. Most of the time this is where the solo comes in. Of course, it doesn't have to be a solo, it can be as simple as everyone shutting up and letting the drummer hit the beats on his bass pedal while the singer gets some lines in that the audiance should sing along to. A few more examples would be, doubling the rythm, changing the tone of the song (if the main melody was sad, now it starts to sound happier with only a few notes changed) or replaying the intro if it was unique. Sometimes it's fun to suddenly change the song completely! Maximum the Hormone has a song where they go from Hardcore to Pop and it works.
Another method of musical variety is to have transitions. These can be 1 or 2 bars long and will serve the prepare the audiance for the next part of the song (to let them know something different is coming up). It's good if the transitions are different, this adds subtle variety, but enough to keep the song interesting without risking breaking it.
The important thing is to make sure you give the listeners a break from the steady flow of the song. This will make the comeback that much stronger.

Mixing it up - aka your music is as stale as the 3 year old chunk of cheese in my coat pocket
You don't always have to have 1 part where they pay attention, 1 part for telling the story and 1 break. Sometimes you can have two pay attention parts - one is the core line and the other the chorus, for example. You can have as many story parts as you have verses. You can have a different break after every verse. You can do anything really.
Remember though, your music must have a story, sometimes it's the same as the story of the lyrics you are writting it for and sometimes the music will inspire the lyrics, but it must have a story! Otherwise it will be boring, meaningless and not much fun to listen to. No lyrics or great soloists or musicians will ever save a song with dull music.
A good idea is to make it bumpy. Where the music goes up-down-up-down-slightly higher-very lower-reach the clouds-jump down a cliff-say hi to the angels-meet satan....well you get it Smile
Another very good idea is to have a strong intro. If the intro to a song is good, it will get the listeners to pay attention immediatley. Then they will start to notice the song and as long as it stays intresting they will remain hooked on it till the end.

Lyrics aka turning your audiance into mindless zombies that obey your every command
They have to fit the music. Plain and simple. The main message should be in the chorus, while the verse should elaborate on the message. It's very mechanical stuff. When it comes to writting lyrics, either you got it or you don't. The best tip I can give is to use simple short words to make it easier for everyone to understand. Also to make them singable and memorable. You want the audiance to sing along right? It's a good idea to have the melody of lyrcs, or the rythm in your mind when you're writting music for them. If you can spend hours talking about a single topic, you can definetly write nice long lyrics that make sense. If you're quiet and don't know what to say, you'll have problems. There isn't really much help I can give here. I just started to write one day and poof! It worked. Yay, I can write lyrics bounce

A few examples aka songs you could check out, but can't be bothered to
In Black Night by Deep Purple - you can hear the main riff and how simplified the next part is when the verse comes in.
Maximum the Hormone - Koi No Mega Lover (very uknown band, but they made the hardcore/pop mix work)
Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Iron Maiden - is a great example of a break in a song.
Another good example is the prayer in Enter Sandman by Metallica.
Although most people consider Linkin Park a childrens band, their earlier stuff has amazing examples of contrasting song elements and creating anticipation for the coming explosion of the chorus.
The perfect contrast example would be Chop Suey by System of a Down
Although I haven't covered this, RHCP songs are an amazing example of unity within the band. They built on eachothers lines, but in order for this to work the band must be a solid unity with decent musicians.

From a very uneducated view: Just play what you feel. Simple as that. Get a good line, play around with it, think of how you would sing to it, let your heart and soul speak. You shouldn't think as much as let your hands and emotions speak for them selves. Get lost in the sensation. I just cut loose when making a song, I don't think untill the final stages when I have to make everything fit together. Also, if you make something that sounds good, even if there is no rule or logical reason for making it that way...make it that way! For example, I said that it's good to have a song to have a lot of contrast - most Nirvana songs have almost no contrast, but they made work, by producing a different effect (however, it is hard to do such a thing without actualy making the song dull)

The most important thing is to let your heart speak, instead of your mind.

I hope I've covered everything. I have no energy left to look it over or keep writting, if I think of anything, or if you have any questions, I'll add more. Also more examples to come if I think of 'em. Good luck, for now Smile


Last edited by Stryfer on Wed Dec 02, 2009 4:04 pm; edited 2 times in total

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How do you write music?

Post  willba on Wed Dec 02, 2009 3:45 pm

wow.....i think ill finish reading that later. Should be stuck though afro

Thanks dude!
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Re: How do you write music?

Post  SuperMaximo93 on Wed Dec 02, 2009 6:38 pm

Great guide! Really helpful and interesting Very Happy

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  Stryfer on Wed Dec 02, 2009 6:39 pm

I remembered something.
Another important thing, although it should be obvious to a bass player, is the groove.
If your core line is more like a riff or if it is used as music for the chorus, it's a good idea to give the story part a groove.
Let the audiance dance through the important details and hammer them for the chorus Smile

Again, the groove should be similar to the core line. The easiest way being just playing the root and say fifth and third with a solid rhythm.
However, the groove can also be the core line. For us bassists, thats exactly what it will be most of the time.

It's why I call it a line, because in some cases it's a riff and in some it's a groove.

Also, if you are really stuck and don't know how to move beyond your core line. Think of a simple rythm for the verse..and just play the root. Later, listen to it again and you will find yourself changing the line slightly because you think it will sound better. Then again, the same thing untill you are finally happy with it.

This should get you started if you have a lot of trouble. Making new lines and modifing existing ones will become natural very soon and you wont even need to think about it. Very Happy

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  maxf13 on Wed Dec 02, 2009 8:25 pm

*looks at dman and his admin powers*

this definatly needs to stickied
i was gonna reply but then that would seem inadequate compared to what stryfer said

+10 if i could


Last edited by maxf13 on Wed Dec 02, 2009 8:51 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  danthewelshy on Wed Dec 02, 2009 8:49 pm

maxf13 wrote:*looks at max and his supermod powers*

this definatly needs to stickied
i was gonna reply but then that would seem inadequate compared to what stryfer said

+10 if i could

Dman is the only man who can sticky topics

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  maxf13 on Wed Dec 02, 2009 8:51 pm

oh
my bad
edited

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  Dmanlamius on Mon Dec 07, 2009 11:02 am

Yup, that's a great post! really interesting insight...

(Will make this a sticky btw)

It's hard to describe how I write music. One thing is certain-it gets easier with time and experience...

When I'm jamming with my friends, I tend to dictate the direction of the song, which is strange for a bass player. It's normally guitarists that come up with structure, but I can write a whole song on bass, and be lucky enough to know that the players I play with understand me enough (and I, them) to put something good over the top. Here's an example with my new band (bad quality) (Oh, and the vocals were being jammed here as well. They are making them up on the spot):



Jamming is important.

Normally, when we jam, we'll stay in one key. I'll then move the line around, until we find something that works. Once we hear something that is good, we'll try and pin it together with something else we might have written. It's finding the feel or groove. Anything. It's like we're constantly fishing.

Here's another vid of me jamming with my new band (bad quality). Notice how we're all in the same key, but it's me that's changing the riff constantly. We'll jam like three hours like that, with different feels, different styles, look back and take the best parts out. One of my guitarists might say that they have written something that fist perfectly with one of the jams. We'll pin them together, and voila! Notice how there are three potential lines within the jam that we could use...



So that's one way. Or, someone might have written a whole song at home, and I just create a line with the chords and notes they have given me. Simple as that.

It's important that you communicate with the people you're writing with. There HAS to be an understanding there. You'll know right away if there isn't.

Solo stuff is completely different....

I'll just sit at home, noodling away. In the past, if I came out with something, i'd try and transpose that idea to my band. If it's too complicated or really could only be played as a solo, i'd do nothing with it. I've wasted such good music/riffs in the past. Thousands of them. And it's literally been because I didn't know what to do with it...

Now I have youtube, and share with you guys.

Again, with the solo stuff, i'm constantly fishing. Looking for something interesting, that pleases me musically. Again, like with my band, I might find a good line that works as a verse, but might have written a chorus in a completely different jam. It might have even been years ago.

So it's important that you document yourself somehow. WHOLE songs rarely come together. It's normally a case that you'll pin stuff together. Don't rely on your memory. Record it. Write notes down, tape it. Whatever. Once you get into doing this, you'll find the process a lot easier.

I have other ways of working as well, but i'll stop right there, coz i'm probably boring people...!

Smile

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  Pippynip on Mon Dec 07, 2009 3:29 pm

I don't really write music yet. I've jammed a few riffs that have stuck in my head and will probably be used if I write music, but that doesn't really count Razz

And yeah, what I came here to say is stating the obvious really (and I believe Stryfer said something along these lines in his wall of helpfulness), but I think it should be mentioned... Get the drums and the bass locked down first. Before anything else, make sure you've got a good groove going on. I reckon this is especially important, not just to us as bassists but because I play the steel pans as well. With those things, if the bass drums and double seconds are even slightly off, it sounds rubbish. Same applies here, methinks.

That's of course not saying you can be lazy with the vocals and the ol' six string, though Smile
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Re: How do you write music?

Post  Stryfer on Mon Dec 07, 2009 4:43 pm

If doing a song with a band, then you can either start by forming a groove with a drummer, or you can let the guitarist play a riff.
A riff! Not what one of my former guitarists did. We were soposed to try and get some music together, the guitarist starts with a riff and switches to something else..and something else and start improvising and soloing. None of us knew what do to at all. Keep it simple and expand it later.

I find it the easiest for a drummer to just give a rythm that the bassist follows with a groove and the guitarist solos over untill a riff is found.

When I write my own stuff, I play everything on the bass. Then the more melodic or riffy part is given to the guitar, while the drums are set up so that the bass drum and snare follow the bass beats, while the rest is just added as needed.

Finally, Dman, it's not so strange for the bassist to lead a jam session or even the band. I have a DVD of one rock bass player from Berkley who leads his band. He says it's because the bass has to bring the melody and the rythm together. It's like Rome (in the phrase "all roads lead to Rome). It's the center where everything meets and thus a bass player makes a brilliant band leader.

In short, either everything meets at the center where the bass is, or everything comes from the center where the bass is.

However, the one to dictate the song will, in the end, always be the most musical member of the band - regardless of instrument.

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  uglymutt on Tue Dec 08, 2009 5:55 am

Cheers for the responses, I haven't read them all yet but they seem really helpful
Thanks Guys Smile

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  mts on Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:07 pm

REALLY GOOD POST!


I play in two bands and 2 these bands have totally different ways to make songs.

1. With this crust/grindcore/hc/metal/sludge/whatever band we make most of the riffs and songs first at home with guitar. Now it has been my and our drummer who makes the songs.
So we make riffs and then either one of us has couple riffs and song structure in mind we record that idea and send that new song to each other. At this point those songs are almost ready. Then first just talk about it on messenger. Make changes if we think something is needed or try to make it work better. Then we take to rehearsal room.
After couple of rehearsals when we can manage through that song we take it to our rehearsal set. And after some time we talk about new songs again on rehearsal room or messengers and make some more adjustments so it would work better and maybe make hooks bit better.

I dont know how our drummer writes his ideas/songs but i just play stuff on my guitar or bass, when i get really good riff/line i just keep on playing it over and over and over and over...
I dont write my riffs down. If i dont remember those riffs tomorrow or later on that week then that riff wasnt strong/good enough and thats that. If i remember it then i play it bit more and try to come up with next riff or couple other riffs that works with that first riff. After that im starting to get aome kinda basic structure for song and then i record it and send it to our drummer so he can criticize that song idea. So this goes on and on as long its needed to. Some times first time is enough.

Also rarely but still sometimes some good riffs ideas come with jamming but after we FINALLY got our bass player those jam sessions have been really rare. Its so much harder with 3 people when playing fast and aggressive stuff. But it is really fun to do just with drummer.




2. Everything is done at rehearsal room. Either one of the guitar players starts to play with some idea and starts to play some riff and rest of us tries to get involved with his playing. This basically happens between songs, on breaks or at any time when we are not playing songs that are finished. Of course people have ideas that we try on at rehearsals but rarely anyone brings any riffs and says that he has new song or even a riff for a song but of course this also happens some times. But still it is rare.

This is slow process but everyone is involved and its really fun when it works. Some times when we start jamming stuff that comes out is something that we just cannot use. Like last time we started to play some reggae just for a laughs.

Also on this band i just play bass and mostly let guitar players come up with riffs/lines.



So this is how i do it or well that way numĀ“ber one is it mostly. I just start playing.
Also i have some original stuff that i just cannot use with either of these bands. Some times just weird riffs and songs just come out. Sucks to that i cannot ever really finish them for full songs cause:
1) I really dont understand drums good enough. So i could play or make drum loops specially fills on computer.
2) Also to make bit change/twist to that song i have notice that i need someone to say something about it. You know someone who is outside of the box.
3) I dont write lyrics or i cannot sing.

And i think that is basically it.

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  Albinorhino on Mon Mar 01, 2010 5:20 pm

Thanks for the tips guys. I'm a beginner bass player and I jam with a few of my friends. I like to bring my video cam to practice so I can record us and get the riffs that the guitarist plays. When we find something good, we play it over and over, and I take the video home and make a line to go with it. I follow the root notes, make a groove that goes with the drums, and it seems to come together. I don't make anything that is too difficult I just try to make it sound right. My ability to do more difficult things will come with time. I am new to the bass and when I play with the band I progress faster cause we can bounce ideas off one another. I will use these suggestions for help making songs, so positive rep.

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  Nocturnal_Pulse on Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:48 pm

I know it's stupid to ask....... but in theory am all alone here.

How do you stay on one key...?

(Pardon my st00pid question)
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Re: How do you write music?

Post  ThreeLetterSyndrom on Sat Jul 10, 2010 11:45 am

Nocturnal_Pulse wrote:I know it's stupid to ask....... but in theory am all alone here.

How do you stay on one key...?

(Pardon my st00pid question)
Only play the notes that are in the key and you'll be in that key. Wink

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Re: How do you write music?

Post  Nocturnal_Pulse on Sat Jul 10, 2010 2:03 pm

ThreeLetterSyndrom wrote:
Nocturnal_Pulse wrote:I know it's stupid to ask....... but in theory am all alone here.

How do you stay on one key...?

(Pardon my st00pid question)
Only play the notes that are in the key and you'll be in that key. Wink

Roger that!
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Re: How do you write music?

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