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Thread: How did you develop as a songwriter ?

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    How did you develop as a songwriter ?

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    What got you writing songs in the first place and where along the line did you decide that your efforts were worth carrying on with ? At what point did you realize that it wasn't some mystical art reserved for a privileged and super talented few ?

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    Took me years to really try songwriting, after arranging a lot of choral music and pop songs for my old ensemble.

    I signed up for Berklee College's online beginning songwriting course thru Coursera (offered free at the time!) which gave me techniques to codify my storytelling, choose my form/structure, and learn more specifics about rhyming.

    After a job switch, I have had a lot more time to devote to composing over the past few years, played in a band for awhile, and managed to get a grant to write some accessible pieces for church choirs--Getting this kind of regular practice, I'm now comfortable writing in a lot of styles, just released my debut solo record, and am looking for opportunities to write for theater.
    I'm only competing with the person I was yesterday.

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    I started writing songs when I was about 16, and continued for many years. However, the songs then were naive, banal, full of cliches and not original enough to overcome their lack of appeal. I recorded them on reel to reel, and thought they were great at the time. But when I listened back I wanted to disappear into the floor. There is only so much cringe that one can handle.

    But in the nineties, in my day work I became involved in questionnaire design and business writing, the intent of which was to remove the content-free business-speak so prevalent at the time, and to produce forms, manuals and other written material in language that was simple, economical and to the point.

    This rekindled my interest in songwriting, to which I applied the same principles of simplicity and economy. But to that I also added originality, working hard to say things in ways that hadn't been said before. I don't write as much these days, spending more of my time on musical composition and arranging, but at least I can listen to the songs I've written and recorded and actually enjoy them.

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    In 1979 or 80 I bought a used Telecaster and wanted to learn to play. I had just broken up with my girlfriend and was in the dumps. I drove into a gas station where I knew a guitarist worked and asked if he'd teach me. He responded "There are a million guitarists for every bass player. Learn bass." I went that night to his house and within an hour was playing songs from The New York Dolls. We formed the first punk rock band on Long Island. Our name will never be mentioned again. But, it was pretty bad. We played for years, he joined the Air Force, I formed Frances Farmer My Hero. That's the name I've used ever since.

    I've grown bounds as a writer. But, being tone deaf is a big f***ing pain in the butt. Melodyne has helped with that problem to an extent. I work more on arranging parts now. If I ever get the two in sync, I'll make the recordings I have in my head. Arranging is much harder then putting chords to lyrics. That's the easier part. Fleshing out the proper melody is still difficult even with melodyne. Even though every song is different and almost demands a certain natural melody, making that melody change in progression of the song is something that most home recorders miss. Definitely myself included. But, home recording is a rewarding artistic experience if you can get 2 people to like the songs. I have my 2, so I'm satisfied.

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    As embarrassing as it sounds now, writing love songs for girlfriends in highschool is what got me started. 80's ballads FTW.

    Guitar lessons is what really de-mystified if for me. I'm a drummer, but I produce and do a lot of our bands guitar work on our recordings so that's why I started taking lessons.

    The theory I learned in guitar lessons is what made the biggest difference. My teacher gave me a lot of ideas for what progressions and scales to use when I want happy/sad/mad/weird and that's made a world of difference. I've always gone by feel and whack-a-mole, but I am much more intentional with patterns, how to do nice transitions/turnarounds, and couple those things with just being older and more patient, it's made a noticeable difference (I think)

    Can't come up with vocal melodies to save my life, so I leave that up to our singer who is phenomenal at it. I am really good with harmonies and adding tasty production elements though. I think...

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    It's been a long journey with various stages along the way.
    I used to mess about with snippets as a kid but it was never with any intention of doing anything with them. Usually it was just a case of putting my own words to already existing songs. At 17 I tried to make a serious attempt at writing lyrics and this flowed directly after hearing the album "Deep Purple in rock." But after 3 awful attempts I didn't try again for years.
    In the meantime, I bought a bass guitar and started teaching myself how to play it. From the second night I had it, I came up with my first piece written on it and from there really, I just kept coming up with snippets of music. I had a friend who was a drummer and we would jam and I would tape the jams and during them, I'd throw in bits and pieces that I had come up with, that I could remember. When I'd listen back, I began to notice that some of those bits worked pretty well and one bit would often develop into another bit and into another and as time went by, I began to think of some of those bits as one musical clump, with different 'movements' and that's really where I first began to put songs together.
    Much as I love Paul McCartney, his songwriting in a certain era and his bass playing and singing, I fundamentally disagree with him when he states that you can't write songs on a bass. I more than beg to differe ~ I wrote loads on the instrument.
    What I did find however, was because the songs were written on bass, making them into something coherent that translated as actual songs was a real challenge because the simple fact is that listeners do not 'hear' the composition of a song ~ they hear the song. Adding other instruments and especially vocal melodies really forced me to get to grips with certain other aspects of music but for the better.

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    There have been lots of influences and movers in my songwriting evolution and one of the biggest was mixing !
    My earliest attempts at multitracking and mixing, as they say in all the controversial political dramas of the day, "are what they are." That is, awful. But that was good for me because I long ago made the connection between writing songs and recording them. There was a time when I tried to write songs purely for a church gathering to sing but I just could not do that. Even songs that fitted that vein would be kind of deep, nuanced and sometimes subtle because that's how life is and should be reflected in songs pertaining to faith. But even I could see that people weren't going to sing my songs and that's when I remembered that the thing I had wanted to do since I first became interested in writing songs when I was a teenager was to record them. I was never truly interested in playing live though I've done that 1000s of times. I liked jamming but only as a conduit to try out song ideas and come up with bits that ultimately developed into songs.
    So as I got a little better in mixing, my songs got better. When I'd write, at some level or some point, there was always in the back of my mind that this was going to have to make sense outside of my imagination. And to that end, I've never been one to hear the finished product in my mind. I deliberately keep things loose and I've found that as I've done that, I write all kinds of songs. I mix and cross genres, I'll mess about with time signatures and different instruments. Although obviously there can be some familiar elements turning up in some songs and areas of commonality, I'd say overall, I write from a varied palette. I'd be in one of those bands that never makes it because of musical schizophrenia ~ not sticking to one particular style or genre.
    What recording and mixing has done is that it has gradually made me think about how what I'm writing is going to apply to an actual listening experience. In my early days, if I went to any point in a song and played from there, I often would not know which song I was playing ~ and it was my song ! That was a waker-upper for me. I'm not a good mixer but at least through the mixing, the songs make sonic and organizational sense.

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    well Grim, its like this. I had a multitrack reel to reel 1/4"early on. On that reel my buds and I would record instruments and drum loops. It was a nice way to experiment with sonics, you pressed 'record'. It captured a huge sound that pumped out the PA. Arranging parts, was part of the song writing experience. Most of the time you had to play the whole song threw. You needed to hold your own with your instruments or youd be punching in and out all day. It recorded exactly what was played, or a ready to listen to version of it.

    I tried digital once before with a 6i6 interface but it was broken I believe. Then I got an Apollo. The Apollo sounds nice, but the DAW is a problem. Still I have never been able to record digitally and have it sound like what is in the room. NOT EVEN CLOSE. I can make it sound harshly different normalizing the track to a common db and choosing a bitrate. I have no fucking idea what thats about. So I am totally disappointed. All the convenience but none of the sound. It turns out to be tricks and settings that nobody tells you. Total crap.

    The most important tool had the ability to record my projects and save the songs for further development. Shame on the digital era.

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    I started writing songs in my teens when I got my first guitar.......a crappy acoustic from a downtown discount department store. I had one of those old cassette players that you could record on with a small plastic mic that came with it. I have no real idea what actually inspired me to try to write songs. I guess it was the Beatles. Like many of you.......it was obvious that one track was not going to get it done. Once I got to writing songs.......it became addictive......and remains that way for me today.

    So.......I began my "real" recording "experience" long ago on a Fostex X-15 4 track cassette recorder. It came with a small 9 volt battery external 4 track compressor which produced some really interesting results. Since then I've gone through many recorders and am now using an R16 as an audio interface and control surface for Reaper. Reaper did take a little time to learn but it was sure worth it.

    LazerBeakShiek......I've read through a number of your posts outlining your frustrations with Reaper.....and to be honest.......I can't understand what the problem might be..........so I can offer you no real advice there......sorry. All I know for sure is that Reaper.....as you download it and open it for the first time.......is basically ready to go and will produce / render a wav file that accurately represents what the input signal was or what was dropped into a track. I'll assume you don't live near me in South Florida. If you do though......come on over and we'll get you going on Reaper.
    Just A Song Writer..........

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    Fisher Price tape recorder... Wanting to be like Weird Al when I grew up... Cassette Singles in the late 80's that included Instrumental versions of songs... Creating my own Weird Al-esqe tracks like the classic "Ugly Baby" based on "Ice Ice Baby" in 1989 as a 9 year old... Oh yes. I'd like to think that I've gotten better over the years...

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