how do you compose your songs?

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shimpe
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Re: how do you compose your songs?

Postby shimpe » Fri Jan 13, 2012 10:31 pm

I usually start from a text (often a poem). If it inspires me, some of its lines it will automatically trigger melodies and harmonies and rythms which I write down and then flesh out behind the piano.

When I get stuck, I will start to continuously repeat the part I already had, and then each time try to randomly add something until I find something that sounds good to me and goes well with i already had - something between brainstorming and improvising. This can take several hours.

It also happens that a more recently added line of music makes me throw away the lines i had written before, because i like the new line better, but it doesn't go well with what i already had.

Finally, I keep around some of the fragments I come up with but I cannot immediately use in the context of my current project, and when I look back at them years later sometimes I'm surprised about what I find there (both positively and negatively ;) )

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Re: how do you compose your songs?

Postby dednikko » Sun Jan 06, 2013 1:46 am

I start with an idea of what I want the song to be like and what message I want to convey. This never ends up reflecting in the final product it seems, but I always start this way.

I generally follow the Liam Howlett school of thought, in that drums come first, then bass, then you craft the song around those. Once the other pieces are in, I end up changing the drums and bass to mesh with the atmosphere from the other layers. I grew up playing bass, and currently play drums live for an absolutely terrible band, so i'm comfortable starting from those points as well.

I used to write in the "intro, verse, chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus, end" format a lot. Now that I am bored with that, there is a lot more prechoruses, postverses or whatever. Litlle one off segments that don't repeat, but it certainly isn't jazz. I still try to work a bridge in there, because I get lost without a reason to get back to an ending.

The vocals start with lyrics, which I then edit to fit the melody for the vocals. They're usually WAY overwrought and sappy/morose/pensive/"deep". I'm not a huge fan of my vocal tone, so I am going to a coach the next few months to try to get something that sounds right. I always feel like I'm trying too hard =/

Once it's recorded, I edit it a lot more, usually shedding about 1/3 of the layers. If you've heard my stuff, you can tell it's opretty packed in there, sonically speaking.

Thne, in live performance, I pipe in some keys and a sampler/drumkit, with filters and FX before the fianl limiter. This lets me improvise and keep it fun.
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Re: how do you compose your songs?

Postby Retro Banana » Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:42 am

1. I either listen to music from Soundcloud or Daft Punk, or I browse Looperman (a great service, almost everything is royalty-free!).

2. I sketch out a riff in Qtractor with TAL Noisemaker or Calf Monosynth or put down a great loop that I might have found.

3. I build around it, adding drums and effects.

4. I bounce everything to audio and export as a 24-bit WAV.

5. I import that WAV into Audacity where I normalize it to -0.5dB and export it as a highly compressed FLAC.

6. I make a high-quality MP3 (320kbps cbr) to give to my family.

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Re: how do you compose your songs?

Postby ldevose2 » Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:05 am

I am new to using Linux. I have a dedicated machine that will serve as my recording and mastering machine loaded with KXStudio+Ubuntu. I am still very much in learning mode. :?

I compose using a very inexpensive package called Noteworthy. It is by far the easiest notation software I have tried, including its much more expensive competitors. I write from notation, as this is the best way to ensure that you can produce a hard copy to facilitate collaborations, copyrighting, etc. Also, writing from notation, while it does take some time to master, is the best way to get it just like I want it. When I first started composing in 2002, my competence with theory was nil and with reading was less. What I found, just like with foreign language, I transmit far better than I receive. :oops:

I have tried some of the notation software available for Linux, but have not found any that compares in ease of use and predictable behavior to Noteworthy. I am sure there is one out there. I have not been able to learn Linux well enough to consistently get it to produce sound. So, I have not been able to explore applications as thoroughly, since I have not yet been successful at operating Linux, which I am determined to use for my recording and mastering. Noteworthy's proprietary nws format can be exported to midi. :D

Now, as to inspiration and ideas, this varies. I can hear one note and hear an entire sequence from it. While practicing, something in the exercise will take me to something else. As a music major at the Newark, NJ, campus of Rutgers University, I have to take lessons in guitar and piano. I often cannot get through a lesson without hearing something in the exercise package. I got mad at one of my influences, Herbie Hancock, for how he completely blew me off one morning on campus. :cry: I took elements of his song, "Chameleon", :twisted: rearranged and modified them and named the composition "Chopped Lizard". :x :lol: I have also been awakened from sleep with songs, or arose on mornings with a fully orchestrated melody. :shock:

All of my work is instrumental. I have yet to be given lyrics to go with the compositions. Since I am predominantly an instrumental musician, this is fine. However, sometimes my saxes are not what I hear for the melody. I have written melodies for flute, guitar, violin and vibraphone leads. :)

All of this I attribute to God as the source, as this gift was not turned on until I was 42 years-old. I am by far no 21st Century Mozart, but I know the God who made and endowed him, and it is He to whom I attribute all that has developed in my life in the last 11 years.

And this is how I compose my songs. :wink:
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Rocky
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Re: how do you compose your songs?

Postby Rocky » Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:43 am

Hello, everyone! I just starting on Linux, but I use to compose sitting and listening a rythm. It can be a drum loop or any beat I improvise. Then I start to creating some bass moviments and a melody. After that I use to listening and try to feel what that sounds means to me. Actually, I don't know how, but I start to write lyric. I am new in Linux, as I said. I use UbuntuStudio and I am having to learn how to record on it. On my previous platform I used Sonar for edition, Reason, Guitar Rig and EZ Drummer. Two controllers (M-audio Key Rig 49 and Alesis Q49), bass, guitars and a condenser microphone.

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Re: how do you compose your songs?

Postby baconature » Mon Dec 30, 2013 8:03 pm

For me, the compositions come to me generally. For the most part as a singer/songwriter, the lyrical form arrives first. Long ago I conceded that forcing the musical experience in creation led to little of value. I've struggled with “trying” too many times. Now I await the muse to bring the music to me.

For me songs come quite as an epiphany, maybe a line of poetic verse pops into my head, inspired by the mystery in being alive. Often times I hear a line of something in a film that triggers a mental response, causing a mental note. Sometimes these mental notices lead to a succession of thought that can lead to a poetic verse. During these moments, if the inspiration becomes strong enough I will take to a writing media, generally, I write in a word processor, to capture the thoughts. If I don't have one handy the pen and paper are usually available. I've found that I must capture it while the inspiration flows or it is irretrievable.

The process is always unique, coming as it will. Sometimes I write a few lines, then the muse wants the music before proceeding, thus I grab a guitar to form what the minds eye shows, other times I will write the entire lyric before attempting to form the music. Rarely does the opposite sequence occur with music first, though that too has happened for me.

I try to paint lyrical word images in, metaphor. Doing so allows the listener to interpret what they want it to mean, rather than my writing out every detail of the thoughts I seem to be implying. I guess I really don't want to be too concrete in the lyric. After all what is the true color of the blues. For some it might be the fire of anger, and for others it might be the depths of solitude.

After I express my theme lyrically and get a structured musical sequence for the tune, I quickly make a rough draft recording so my leaky head won't loose it. I have a simple cheap condenser mic set up always and make these recordings through t he stock Linux Ubuntu program “sound recorder”. After capturing a rough draft, sometimes very rough yet still capturing the essence of the song, I then set to really composing and editing the lyric.
Tom ~ Idaho USA

UbuntuStudio 16.04.2, Intel i5 3.30GHz 6600, Asus Q170Mc MotherBoard, 32Gb ram

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AnotherSubstance
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Re: how do you compose your songs?

Postby AnotherSubstance » Wed Jan 15, 2014 4:05 am

This is a great question, no wonder there's so many replies!

I usually start with a riff, beat, bassline or lyric or two, and build more off of that:

I build a full very basic verse chorus verse song, add some parts, take some away, and then start playing and adding. Different tempos, fills, little break parts... once the basic structure is created.

Then I just keep adding sounds and parts and tweak until it's done.
You know what I need? Criticism! I like it, thrive on it, need it... and take it well.
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What to learn to start learning: composing from the melody s

Postby Silgrin4D » Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:06 am

studio32 wrote:Maybe you got inspiration but lack enough music/ songwriter theory knowledge? Maybe you should take lessons or search for another source of good education? Just a suggestion

ntnunk wrote:studio32: I've been working to educate myself on songwriting techniques and theory, that's part of the "more structured approach" I mentioned. As for music theory, I think that might be part of the problem too, but from the other direction. I have a bad habit of getting hung up in the "rules" of music theory instead of just doing what sounds good.

As if I`ve heard myself... Another mortal annoyed with stuff like "just write down what is playing in your head". Just like me!
ntnunk wrote:It's depressing for us mere mortals to see. :D


I have a dire need of some more theoretical knowledge, which seems necessary for me to start with any further insights into composing. I am trying to find what part of knowledge I am missing... and not finding it out yet (thus far: some harmony, stuff like Composing for Dummies, etc.). At this stage I am highly skeptical towards buying hardware and attending to commercial courses, etc. - which is btw prohibitively expensive for us here. The only realistic idea how to start seems to be to write the piece on a (virtual) note paper and then have it played by the software... In other words, I have to compose THEN play, not compose BY playing. This sounds like a cyclic problem: get something work.. before I can know what to get to get something work:P

I need some "rules" to start with - an EXAMPLE FRAMEWORK, even if it will serve just as a departure point! Contrary to the Only Proper Advice in all the "beginners`" manuals my "internal music" isn`t clear-enough to make me just write it down and THEN clear it up to the "rules"; rather obvious with no prior musical experience. So what I can do (I hope) is to grasp the "rules" and write FROM them first, and THEN explore the buzzing "spheres music" if it turns out worthy that! I.e. I need to compose FROM theory, sth in the kind of "intellectual construct". But the composing advices I`ve found are either far too general or too advanced for me... or say stuff like "if you know the theory well, you can compose from it"! Real excuse for a nervous breakdown :mrgreen:

I have found a number of classical views on how the chords "should" be put together. Okay, this could help, but... it still does not tell me how to approach the melody side - the "beginners` guide" writers and Web authors claim it should result "automagically" from the chord progression. However, no magic seems to work in this case and I need any idea how to compose starting with the MELODY, not chords.
AND THIS IS WHAT I CAN`T FIND. Any suggestions - "rules" of melodic progression of sounds? The only thing I know they actually exist(ed).. but can`t get any idea / keywrd / etc. to find them. I have found the data on consonance and dissonance, I know which snd is the dominant, tonic, etc., but I can`t find any text that would suggest HOW to ACTUALLY USE this knowledge in CREATING a melody (they started with the tonic, but what tf next?!). I guess most people consider this a question you just ask a friend over a cup of coffee, if at all... and it may sound stupid for people who already passed this stage (or didn`t notice they did!!) However, all the People I can give some coffee are at least pathologically deaf to music and to make matters worse crossing the first border is always the most nasty part for me (I really need seeing and understanding what I do, and borders obstruct the view, I guess...) The border clerk wants some (simple) thing from me but he speaks strange language;)

So the big, inflated, dumb but impossible-to-overcome QUESTION I would love to get answered / hinted / suggested / redirected / shouted at / fill-appropriate-idea is:
How can I find (painfully basic) suggestions how to start composing from the melody side? It can be some kind of (obsolete or not, that doesn`t matter) "rules" of composition. By "rules" I mean ANY set of expectations how the sounds "should" be used in a melody - some framework I could start with. Maybe the common practice period composing manuals? Or an example workflow at the most fundamental level? This way I could really learn WHAT TO LEARN to start really learning...

The genre: more to classical / ambient / "space" electronics (Debussy, Stravinsky, Eno`s Apollo...) than pop / rock - like (drums, rhythm-above-all)... Particularly, no lyrics... I know, this makes matters more complex... but I really do feel the need to stick to that (well before I`ve even thought of thinking of daring any active approach to music...)

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Re: What to learn to start learning: composing from the melo

Postby StudioDave » Fri Apr 25, 2014 12:12 pm

Silgrin4D wrote:How can I find (painfully basic) suggestions how to start composing from the melody side? It can be some kind of (obsolete or not, that doesn`t matter) "rules" of composition. By "rules" I mean ANY set of expectations how the sounds "should" be used in a melody - some framework I could start with. Maybe the common practice period composing manuals? Or an example workflow at the most fundamental level? This way I could really learn WHAT TO LEARN to start really learning...

The genre: more to classical / ambient / "space" electronics (Debussy, Stravinsky, Eno`s Apollo...) than pop / rock - like (drums, rhythm-above-all)... Particularly, no lyrics... I know, this makes matters more complex... but I really do feel the need to stick to that (well before I`ve even thought of thinking of daring any active approach to music...)


I'll take this opportunity to list the materials I went through while studying composition with a private teacher in LA :

Fux - Gradus Ad Parnassum
Modal counterpoint with emphasis on melodic construction.

Kennan - Counterpoint
Tonal counterpoint, more chordal in focus but valuable stuff.

Piston - Harmony
A solid textbook for common-practice harmony. I also went through books on harmony by Roger Sessions, Arnold Schoenberg, and Vincent Persichetti. I sequenced a metric ton of examples from those books, it's crucially important to know how they SOUND.

Blatter - Orchestration And Instrumentation
My indispensable reference.

Edlund - Modus Novus/Modus Vetus
Ear-training courses for tonal and non-tonal music.

We also did a lot of analysis of old and new works. We went through a bunch of Bach chorales, and I sequenced a couple hundred piano pieces from printed music, including a few big things like Ravel's Sonatina and Sessions' Piano Sonata #3. Learned a lot that way.

The counterpoint studies were absolutely the best thing I ever did as a composer. Counterpoint study introduces novel ways of thinking about music, it's not a mere slavish follow-the-rules-or-else kind of work. At least it shouldn't be, but that depend on your teacher. Fux especially has much to offer regarding your original question, i.e. the construction of melody. Of course the book's bias is towards Palestrinan counterpoint, but in truth the values of its teachings are not bound by any era.

I hope that helps at least a little bit. Good luck !

Best regards,

dp

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Re: how do you compose your songs?

Postby DepreTux » Fri Apr 25, 2014 12:32 pm

@Silgrin4D

If what you need is an introduction to melody composing, you can use schönberg's models for begginers in composition here:

http://www.artisiou.com/bibliotheque/ha ... sition.pdf

It's divided in two booklets that are more comfortable to have printed, as they are short anyway. Even though it was written by one of the most avant-garde composers of our time, it's pointed to the starters and focuses on melody.

From your post, I immediately thought of this.

Take it into account, you really get to hear all the possible chord arpeggios as the excersices are exhaustive, but nonetheless enjoyable.

Have a good time with this!

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Re: how do you compose your songs?

Postby briandc » Sat Apr 26, 2014 10:14 am

I recently re-connected with my piano teacher after 25 years! I am happy to connect again because he teaches me a lot of interesting things about chord structures. The more I hear new chords, the more I get inspired. The melodies often come from hearing something interesting in the chords. This is another way to get inspiration, imo.


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Re: how do you compose your songs?

Postby apathity » Sun Aug 17, 2014 7:03 am

I usually just play guitar for 10 minutes or so, to warm up a bit. If/when a good riff comes out I will open hydrogen to create a basic beat for the riff, then I will import the beat into Audacity and play the riff again properly. Then I save the Audacity session into my chaotic riff library, giving it some kind of name (usually just some word which comes to my mind, like "explore", "hero" or "faint")

The riff library is synced to all my devices. So when I'm in a songwriting mood I will go through some of the old riffs and listen to them on my laptop, taking out a riff or two and try to fit them into a song. The unreleased songs I am working on right now are produced just in the same way. I will open some text file, write the riff names into it and give the song a name. The song name or lyrics can even be a combination of the riff names, like "Faint Hero" from the above examples. Kinda makes sense for me.

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Re: how do you compose your songs?

Postby gerg » Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:31 pm

Well, an important distinction is in order. A "song" is a "piece" of music with words.

For some of us, myself included, the music comes to me in my head, ocassional even in dreams. If I don't write it down - even a measure or two on a scrap of paper for later - it will be lost, but sometimes returns.

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Re: how do you compose your songs?

Postby nkfarwell » Sat Oct 17, 2015 9:05 pm

Unless you're some sort of prodigy or extremely talented, you will need some level of education and knowledge of music and music theory, rather than just "inspiration", which is a nebulous term. What instruments do you know how to play? Have you ever taken lessons? Do you have some sort of education in music? Composition isn't really something where you can sit down one day and just make a great piece.

What I do (I'm a pianist/keyboardist) is I just sit down and start comping until I have an idea going, usually following a jazzy or bluesy progression (along the lines of II V I or 12 bar, with substitutions), since that's where my education lies and what I enjoy. From there I try things that may or may not be conventional and in several keys. Then I create an idea, record it or write down the progression that I'm doing, and revisit it at a later time with new ideas.

However, that process is backed by years of knowledge, experience, instruction, and experimentation. It's not something you can learn in a few weeks, or even a few years. So asking "how do you compose" is kind of a weird question, as it's just something that is born from creativity and the necessary skills to channel it. Same goes for any art.

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Re: What to learn to start learning: composing from the melody s

Postby nickture » Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:41 pm

Silgrin4D wrote:
studio32 wrote:Maybe you got inspiration but lack enough music/ songwriter theory knowledge? Maybe you should take lessons or search for another source of good education? Just a suggestion

ntnunk wrote:studio32: I've been working to educate myself on songwriting techniques and theory, that's part of the "more structured approach" I mentioned. As for music theory, I think that might be part of the problem too, but from the other direction. I have a bad habit of getting hung up in the "rules" of music theory instead of just doing what sounds good.

As if I`ve heard myself... Another mortal annoyed with stuff like "just write down what is playing in your head". Just like me!
ntnunk wrote:It's depressing for us mere mortals to see. :D


I have a dire need of some more theoretical knowledge, which seems necessary for me to start with any further insights into composing. I am trying to find what part of knowledge I am missing... and not finding it out yet (thus far: some harmony, stuff like Composing for Dummies, etc.). At this stage I am highly skeptical towards buying hardware and attending to commercial courses, etc. - which is btw prohibitively expensive for us here. The only realistic idea how to start seems to be to write the piece on a (virtual) note paper and then have it played by the software... In other words, I have to compose THEN play, not compose BY playing. This sounds like a cyclic problem: get something work.. before I can know what to get to get something work:P

I need some "rules" to start with - an EXAMPLE FRAMEWORK, even if it will serve just as a departure point! Contrary to the Only Proper Advice in all the "beginners`" manuals my "internal music" isn`t clear-enough to make me just write it down and THEN clear it up to the "rules"; rather obvious with no prior musical experience. So what I can do (I hope) is to grasp the "rules" and write FROM them first, and THEN explore the buzzing "spheres music" if it turns out worthy that! I.e. I need to compose FROM theory, sth in the kind of "intellectual construct". But the composing advices I`ve found are either far too general or too advanced for me... or say stuff like "if you know the theory well, you can compose from it"! Real excuse for a nervous breakdown :mrgreen:

I have found a number of classical views on how the chords "should" be put together. Okay, this could help, but... it still does not tell me how to approach the melody side - the "beginners` guide" writers and Web authors claim it should result "automagically" from the chord progression. However, no magic seems to work in this case and I need any idea how to compose starting with the MELODY, not chords.
AND THIS IS WHAT I CAN`T FIND. Any suggestions - "rules" of melodic progression of sounds? The only thing I know they actually exist(ed).. but can`t get any idea / keywrd / etc. to find them. I have found the data on consonance and dissonance, I know which snd is the dominant, tonic, etc., but I can`t find any text that would suggest HOW to ACTUALLY USE this knowledge in CREATING a melody (they started with the tonic, but what tf next?!). I guess most people consider this a question you just ask a friend over a cup of coffee, if at all... and it may sound stupid for people who already passed this stage (or didn`t notice they did!!) However, all the People I can give some coffee are at least pathologically deaf to music and to make matters worse crossing the first border is always the most nasty part for me (I really need seeing and understanding what I do, and borders obstruct the view, I guess...) The border clerk wants some (simple) thing from me but he speaks strange language;)

So the big, inflated, dumb but impossible-to-overcome QUESTION I would love to get answered / hinted / suggested / redirected / shouted at / fill-appropriate-idea is:
How can I find (painfully basic) suggestions how to start composing from the melody side? It can be some kind of (obsolete or not, that doesn`t matter) "rules" of composition. By "rules" I mean ANY set of expectations how the sounds "should" be used in a melody - some framework I could start with. Maybe the common practice period composing manuals? Or an example workflow at the most fundamental level? This way I could really learn WHAT TO LEARN to start really learning...


I'm sure that you've heard this before, and it isn't because everyone who says this is just being facetious or whatever else. There really, truly, absolutely are not any "rules" for composing or writing music. There isn't any kind of framework or blueprint on "How to Compose x or y Kind of Music".

Let me ask you this--can you read music? Again, not being a jerk here in asking this, just seeing where you're at. I believe that the only really crucial parts of music theory you must understand are the very basic things--knowing the notes on the staff, being able to identify key signatures and time signatures, the difference between major and minor keys. These are the building blocks of understanding the language of music. All of the other stuff (like being able to compose ambient/impressionistic music in the vein of Eno, Debussy, Glass, etc. etc.) is secondary. While it's certainly possible to analyze and diagram the dickens out of La Mer or whatever else and emulate what the composer is doing, you aren't really making your own music. You're just recycling and re-packaging something that someone else has already done. I don't think you'll be as satisfied with your music if you limit yourself like that.

All of the great composers of the past of present don't have necessarily have a formula that they follow to make beautiful sounding music--they may borrow ideas from others but from there they inject their own ideas. Debussy for example incorporated "exotic" sounding southeast asian scales into his music. He had a basic understanding of musical language and he borrowed a pre-existing building block(s) (some far-eastern scale systems) that he incorporated into his creation. If anything, he was going outside of what was "generally accepted practice" in Western music at the time (and so did pretty much every 20th century musician/composer from that point on...). You're not sure where to go after starting a melody on the tonic? Go anywhere! Don't even start with the tonic! Boundaries get pushed and real creativity happens by those who won't be constrained by pre-supposed norms. Sure, the things they create might sound weird and unconventional but that's because they're blazing their own path of individualism. I remember the first time I listened to Thelonious Monk I thought "dude this guy can't even play piano, how is he so revered in jazz??" Then I came to understand (and even appreciate) the fact the no, even though he didn't sound or play like Hank Jones, Art Tatum, etc. he was creating his own fiercely individualistic musical voice.

I don't know that you're going to find exactly what it is you're asking about here, and I don't think that you need it (at least in the way that you're asking for it). Being able to understand counterpoint, analysis, etc may come in handy in understanding why or how a composer did what they did but it won't make things clear as day for you. As I mentioned, if you don't already know how to read music and understand basic scale structure (major vs minor) I think you would be best served to start there.


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