Evolution of your composing?

jbarry

New member
Hi, first post here. I play finger style acoustic guitar, just at home, no vocals. I lean towards Celtic music and write from that perspective.

So I started writing an instrumental piece the other day, CGDGAD #10. After the 4th revision I went on to writing something else as it just wasn't happening.
Many times I will start with a chord fragment and a transition to another which sets the basis for a theme, more than a melody. I get better results, but it takes longer
if I start with melody and fit the chords/intervals around that.

What is your process and how many revisions does a tune go through on average?
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
er ...Hi - not sure we can really help, because it's (well, for me) not a formula at all, and I don't think I've ever considered it as a process to follow. Sometimes it could be a chord sequence (not sure what a chord fragment is?) that suggests a melody. Other times it will be a melody, that generates the chords. Sometimes I'll write in small sections that can be copied and pasted to create the format, other times, I'll start and then at some point it ends. For me - the sounds I choose to do this steer the way. Often whole projects start out when I find a new sound, that then generates the music? Sometimes there will be no formal revisions, other times dozens. Is a revision one note, or is a revision a new instrument or sound, or is a revision chopping it up? Who knows?
 

gecko zzed

Grumpy Mod
What Rob says ^^

I have no one method of composing, but instead, inspiration will come from a variety of sources.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
I could go through lots of minor revisions or none at all. I'm not really a 'routine' person when it comes to writing. There are a number of ways that songs come. It's so rare that I've ever said to myself "now I'm going to write a song" and sat down to do it that I honestly can't, off the top of my head think of an example. On the other hand, tons of times, pieces of music have been in my head or have come in a dream or have arrived when I have a guitar or bass in my hands and I'm doodling or have developed in a jam.
Relatively early on, I'll have a fair idea of what instruments will be in the song, if there'll be vocals or harmonies etc, but even they're not set in stone. Many a time, I'll set out to do a very sparse song, but then, I'll hear other lines of music that change my original idea. Or I'll set out to try a basic two guitar rocker but as things develop, I can hear other instruments and counter melodies or harmonies. To be honest, until a song is completely mixed, I can't say for certain that it is finished. And even then, there have been times when I've finished a song, then some other bit comes to me and I'll try to ignore it but I know that if I don't make the revision, I'll probably always hear it so........
But by the time you've written loads of songs there are bound to be a whole load that fit into all kinds of categories. I love hearing about how artists songs came to be, what went into them, their genesis, the revisions, additions, arguments, recording sessions, production input etc.
But nowhere near as much as I just like hearing the songs themselves.
 

spantini

COO of me, inc.
... I love hearing about how artists songs came to be, what went into them, their genesis, the revisions, additions, arguments, recording sessions, production input etc... But nowhere near as much as I just like hearing the songs themselves.
Seeing their original lyric sheets with all the revisions (crossed out words and phrases; circles and arrows; food stains; etc.) is just as fascinating to me, if not moreso.
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
A good way to compose a song, don't think.
At first glance that seems like such baloney or one of those daft mystical statements that emanate from a certain songwriter elitism. But it's actually great advice when it comes to songwriting. Sometimes, when one's critical faculties are turned off, it's noteworthy what can come out of one's head ~ and how original it can be. :thumbs up:
 

DM60

Well-known member
At first glance that seems like such baloney or one of those daft mystical statements that emanate from a certain songwriter elitism. But it's actually great advice when it comes to songwriting. Sometimes, when one's critical faculties are turned off, it's noteworthy what can come out of one's head ~ and how original it can be. :thumbs up:

Yes, I wasn't trying to be flippant. I know for me, when I am in free form, all sorts of ideas come out. I can always go back and "clean it up". But once I get going, as soon as I put structure around my thoughts (or focus), I go cold quick.
 

Cosmic

Active member
"Punching through the reluctance" is one term I use; be it hesitation in general, specific hangups about my writing or vocal abilities or simply a lack of faith in the material. To allow myself to sound foolish or incoherent on a scratch track is a great liberation. It takes fear and preconception away by looking it in the eye (or ear).
C.
 

endlessrain

New member
I took a free online songwriting course by a Berklee professor named Pat Pattison a while ago and it helped me a great deal with the lyrics part. He had a great method for coming up with the lyrical content i.e. boxes with summaries, combination of words with different rhyme relationships, etc. For someone like me who really struggled to write even a single line of lyric, this course really helped me get the words flowing again and actually complete the lyrics for my songs!
 

Delmont

Member
Hi, first post here. I play finger style acoustic guitar, just at home, no vocals. I lean towards Celtic music and write from that perspective.

So I started writing an instrumental piece the other day, CGDGAD #10. After the 4th revision I went on to writing something else as it just wasn't happening.
Many times I will start with a chord fragment and a transition to another which sets the basis for a theme, more than a melody. I get better results, but it takes longer
if I start with melody and fit the chords/intervals around that.

What is your process and how many revisions does a tune go through on average?
Hey, J!

The first shot just takes a few minutes — rarely more than about fifteen. Then the revising starts, and that goes through many, many pages. I've written a couple hundred songs, and they've all gone through dozens of rewrites. Example:

First verse, first draft:

Yesterday I was feeling so blue,
I was so far away from you.
I know you told me we were through,
but I still could not stop loving you.

Countless problems there, right? Not much rhythm, no originality, not enough alliteration or assonance, no internal rhyme — not enough heart, really. But the important thing was to get it down. Then I fixed and fixed:

First verse, final draft:

Yesterday my heart was bleeding black and blue,
a thousand miles from you, what else could it do?
The touts and the tabloids all said were were through,
but I still could not stop loving you.

And the chorus, bridge, and other two verses got the same treatment. Every line of it (except for "but I still could not stop loving you") got worked over relentlessly until it was keepable — both the words and the music. It's a short, simple little song, but it's a short, simple little song that took time to complete.

I've even written songs where none of the original words or none of original music made it to the final version. You're never done until the song is done.

I heard Salmin Rushdie interviewed when he was working on a book. The interviewer, Terry Gross, asked him if it was good. He said, "No! If it were good it would be done!"

Another writer story: Someone at Paris Review asked Hemingway what the point was of rewriting the end of A Farewell to Arms 38 times. He said, "Getting the words right."

So I just revise until it's good and until I get the words (and music) right.
 

BroKen_H

Re-member
My major fault is not recording when I'm playing with new ideas...I get great ideas and think of melodies and themes, and ...and I can't remember them two days later. lol
So, for me at least, a major component of songwriting is recording the sessions as I play around, then go back a week later and pick out what really catches my ear. I just have to remember to do it all the time.
 

Mickster

Well-known member
In my early days of recording...I was so excited about doing the tracks and getting them into a final mix....and making my "song". I often disliked my results a day or two later. "What was I thinking?" I learned that....for me at least....I REALLY DO need to put some time between my starting efforts and my ending results. No matter how much experience I have piled up and how my ear has developed over time.....I STILL need to put at least a few days between mixing efforts...and sometimes even tracking efforts. When I began.....you could have told me all that a hundred times....and I wouldn't have taken you seriously.
 

DM60

Well-known member
These days, I lack inspiration, but I record anyway. Just play, try, experiment, push until I get something to happen. I am also trying to move outside of my comfort zone. But mainly patience with the song. Just let it happen and grow itself.

If it isn't coming to me, I have to figure out how to get it to come to me.
 

Delmont

Member
My major fault is not recording when I'm playing with new ideas...I get great ideas and think of melodies and themes, and ...and I can't remember them two days later. lol
So, for me at least, a major component of songwriting is recording the sessions as I play around, then go back a week later and pick out what really catches my ear. I just have to remember to do it all the time.
Different strokes! That makes sense, but I never start recording until the song is done. The recording is just the drudge work. All my ideas come from writing and playing, none from recording. I do throw tracks out that don't work. But I go into it thinking they will. (I remember one song that had a very bendy pseudo-steel Tele solo. Couldn't get it right. Tried for hours. So the recording has, gues what, no bendy Tele.)

So, J, you have lots of choices. As if you didn't know!
 

BroKen_H

Re-member
I sit in the studio and plink around. Two of my favorite (of my own) songs have come from small snippets of larger recordings. Hello was based on a 12 second ditty in a 7 minute recording. Sometimes I have an idea and I flesh it out over weeks and never hit a record button. Sometimes I hear a completed song with intros and bridges and all the parts in my head, and I have to decipher exactly how to make it sound like it does in my head... Just depends on the muse.
 

Delmont

Member
Funny how people take the time to join, don't hear what they want to be told and then bugger off!
Hey, maybe J got exactly what he was looking for and is running with it. Or doesn't go online every day. (I don't.) Or forgot about the thread. (I do.)

Anyhow, I didn't hear any "Bugger off!"
 

spantini

COO of me, inc.
I had a catchy line of lyric pop into my head the other day. I kept repeating it, then a bit of music popped in next to it. I knew I was going to forget it so I grabbed a sheet of copier paper (my favorite writing media) and wrote it down along with the date.

The line would seem to make a good title so I wrote that at the top of the page - only 4 words.

I knew it was probably going to be the chorus or refrain so I moved down and wrote it again in the middle of the page, along with an additional 3 words tagged on. Then repeated that at the bottom of the page where I figured it would play into the ending somehow.

Now there's still 2 large 6-inch gaps on that page that need filling in with verses, etc. and I have already forgotten the music part of it - only the few lyrics are left. I leave sheets of this stuff in a pile on my desk so I can see them many times each day. At some point, the music part of that tune will come back around and pop into my head again and that's when I'll grab my guitar to find the chords - then I'll write the chords down and that usually is enough to keep me from forgetting it again.

Now, each time I look at that paper, I can replay (in my head) what's there which, after multiple replays, will generate additional phrases and lyrics until it all comes together - or not..

I've got a few sheets in this pile that were started several years ago and aren't completely finished yet. But I'm getting there! 😋
 
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