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What songs inspire you to write?
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Danny Zuko
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4th January 2012
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What songs inspire you to write?

I like most go through a process before I start writing (although sometimes not!)

I normally listen to 3-4 songs to get a vibe going..

What songs inspire you to write?

I have a mix from The Beatles to Jay Z for my inspiration
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4th January 2012
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I play a few songs rather than listen, but I think the theory is the same. Something to get me focused on good songs, rather than just my favourite bands. Sometimes guitar, sometimes piano, always badly - but nobody is listening so I don't care.

Some Oasis/Noel Gallagher, Turin Brakes, Aqualung.

And if I am in the mood to try and write something fun for a change then a bit of Regina Spektor is always good for that.
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I'll go a half step further (pun intended, I guess):

Often, I'll just straight up rip off a chord progression I like - a verse or a chorus, maybe a bridge. Build up around that. By the time I have a basic mood/form down, I've basically forgotten about the song I've ripped off. By the time there's a lyric and melody, the original source is unrecognizable, even to me.
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I don't ever sit down to write a song.......my stuff comes from inside. The inspiration comes from an unconscious place and takes form around the music that has surrounded me for a great many years.

I never listen to anything while I have a song working.......and I almost always have one going.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unclenny View Post
I don't ever sit down to write a song.......my stuff comes from inside. The inspiration comes from an unconscious place and takes form around the music that has surrounded me for a great many years.

I never listen to anything while I have a song working.......and I almost always have one going.


Nice. If I took that approach, though, I'd never write anything. Question - do you make a living off of music? I'm curious simply because most (if not all) music making professionals I know simply can't afford to be so nonchalant about it.
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I don't.

But while my process as described above may seem a bit laissez faire on the surface, I am always working on new material. There are very few moments in my life when I am not grinding on a tune. It is a bit of an obsession.

Good question, though.......because as a working songwriter one would not always have the luxury of writing whatever they want whenever they want to write it, right?

In defense of my approach.....I do often times these days get involved in collaborative ventures that require me to focus on a song that is not totally my own and I find that all these years of going with the flow have had the effect of allowing me to access that creative place quite readily when called upon to do so.

Tell you what....because of this internal songwriting thing I have done for so long I do find myself ripping off my own stuff occassionaly. Need to be mindful of that.

This forum looks to be fun.

Thanks, Jules.
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I'll pretty much never purposely sit down and listen to a couple of tracks solely to get my creative juices flowing so to speak. Normally I've got something there in my head that wants to come out and that's why I'm sitting down in the first place.

The only time I'll do something like that is if I'm out, and I'm listening to a track and it sparks an idea that I can't get down to work on later, I'll make a detailed note of the track and what it sparked. When I get home I'll play the track, read the note, and hope I get in the same headspace I was in earlier.

I guess the only other time would be if I'm writing in a genre that I wouldn't normally write in - I'll sometimes listen to a few tracks to get an idea on structure, texture etc.


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If that's your question, I always listen to Linkin Park since Mike Shinoda is my idol and role model.

Other than that, some Japanese rock band.

Listen to the song, get the vibe... humm it... strum it... turn off the song... with the same mood... strum my guitar and try to sing some random words... with my iphone to record the session... I won't use pen or anything during this session.

Now I don't know how to describe my music.

Whether it's a rock, nu metal, pop rock or new sub genre I will make.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unclenny View Post
In defense of my approach.....I do often times these days get involved in collaborative ventures that require me to focus on a song that is not totally my own and I find that all these years of going with the flow have had the effect of allowing me to access that creative place quite readily when called upon to do so.

No need to defend! There are no hard rules, as you surely know. Thanks for the elaboration.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by evangelista View Post
There are no hard rules, as you surely know.
Just the ones we make up as we go, right?
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Quote:
I never listen to anything while I have a song working.......and I almost always have one going.
Yep, same here.
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4th January 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank_Case View Post
For me, good songs sung by non-english speaking musicians often inspire me to start writing just because I can't understand the lyrics and can't copy the words. So I then find myself trying to fill in my own words and then sometimes get a good song out of it. Of course I ultimately change the melody as well.

A big advantage of doing this is that it breaks you out of the INBRED nature of American music. In the USA everything is done by formula. When I listen to USA radio everything sounds way too similar for any given format/genre. But Rock/Pop songs out of Eastern Europe for example sound very different and I find this to be very idea provoking because it sounds so unused and new.

For example, here's a song sung in Spanish that I happened to stumble on the other day. I have no idea what the guy is singing but it sounds beautiful and inspiring and certainly made me think of new possibilities:

I like that idea quite a bit. I do listen to a fair amount of non-English stuff from time to time but I can't say I've consciously tried to draw inspiration.

Actually, I'm afraid I hone close (perhaps too close) to Lenny's when-it-comes-it-comes approach these days.

I used to write a lot more (to paraphrase Richard Hell, it comes in spurts) but a lot of what I wrote in those periods was dross/filler. But I was performing a lot and I always liked to have a few new songs at a gig.

That said, it's too easy for me to lapse into a fallow period. I do need to find a way to get myself in harness -- that won't scare away the muses. I know one thing: without inspiration, my songs are thin gruel.
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I'm more likely to be inspired by drum tracks than whole songs. I think the whole inspiration thing is a big mind game. Tell yourself you have writers block or your not being very creative right now...you'll have writers block and you won't be very creative..I program my brain to believe I can write any time I want. And I stopped working out other people's songs...I have plenty of ideas and I don't need to clutter up my subconscious with a bunch of other stuff. Not to say it isn't good to learn from other's..pick up licks and perhaps certain chord changes, but it's just my opinion that if you want to write and you're going to fill the closet with a bunch of other people's luggage, don't be surprised if you can't find your own pants when you want to wear them.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lenzo View Post
I'm more likely to be inspired by drum tracks than whole songs. I think the whole inspiration thing is a big mind game. Tell yourself you have writers block or your not being very creative right now...you'll have writers block and you won't be very creative..I program my brain to believe I can write any time I want. And I stopped working out other people's songs...I have plenty of ideas and I don't need to clutter up my subconscious with a bunch of other stuff. Not to say it isn't good to learn from other's..pick up licks and perhaps certain chord changes, but it's just my opinion that if you want to write and you're going to fill the closet with a bunch of other people's luggage, don't be surprised if you can't find your own pants when you want to wear them.
L.



I very seldom -- pretty much never these days -- set out to draw inspiration from a given song or artist but every now and then some vibe I pick up off some song sparks something in me. I used to worry about it, but when I compared the results to the sources of inspiration, there was seldom much overt connection.

That said, in my early years, turns of lyric phrase used to pop up in my songs, typically just a few words, and often, I didn't realize where I had lifted them from until years later, but it could occasionally be problematic.
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Often if I listen to a song that's new to me, often by a band that's new to me, I'll here some signature chord change or melodic idea and think 'wow, that's cool'.

Then I go away and a few days later I'll be noodling on the piano or guitar and suddenly come across it. And previously I'd have probably not even noticed it, but now it jumps right out at me as something interesting -- OK, so you CAN go from a IVmaj7 to a III7 there! -- and very often I'll end up building a hook or a song around it which turns out to be quite different from the original inspiration, and only I know where it originally comes from.

Often it's just a single chord change with a vocal melody over the top.

One of the other things I do is go to a bar with a friend of mine and play dumb covers, just us singing and a couple of acoustic guitars. We play anything and everything, the dumber and hokier the better. But doing this really exposes you to stuff you wouldn't otherwise play. I mean, everyone learns Neil Young covers, but figuring out (for example) old Platters tunes or Simple Minds songs or Slade or Loverboy anthems an hour before and then bashing them out really gives you an appreciation for other ways that a song can be constructed, without making you want to particularly copy them.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lenzo View Post
I stopped working out other people's songs...I have plenty of ideas and I don't need to clutter up my subconscious with a bunch of other stuff.
I think that's a good way to stagnate. Unless of course you're already at a genius level and everything you write is a classic for the ages. Otherwise there always something new to learn from somebody else's work.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank_Case View Post
For me, good songs sung by non-english speaking musicians often inspire me to start writing just because I can't understand the lyrics
Thats some great advice there!!!
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The whole topic of how to be inspired goes through my mind constantly. I don't pretend to know anything, except how to make my life work for me. But I've avoided a real job for 25 years and get paid to be creative everyday. Again, that doesn't mean I know anything, but I'm going to throw something out in as few words as possible and you all take it or discard it as you will.
If there is a creative force in the world, and I think there is..not in a religious sense, but a force that is just there. Everything around us is made up of the same spinning molecules and they are constantly in flux...constantly growing and changing and creating. Is there some kind of mysterious creative energy behind it all? I think there is. If we are somehow connected to that force and I think we are, then how do we access it for our own creative ends? How do we access it to basically create the lives we want to live. I contend that it is as easy as believing it exists and training your subconscious or whatever part of our brain that is tied to that thing to interact with it. It's easy for doubt to come into play but if we constantly work at keeping our minds in the right frame of mind, maybe it becomes second nature. And at that point you are to some degree at will to take your ideas from the well as you want, so to speak. Not to say you don't need to hone those ideas and to develop your skill at crafting that first inspirational thought. If I were on a bar stool and the person next to me tried to engage me in conversation and I kept turning away, they would eventually leave. If you want to think that there is no creative force, then for you their probably isn't. If there isn't and you train your mind to believe there is, then maybe you still trick yourself into believing to the point that wonderful and mysterious things happen. Everything on this planet that was created by man, started as a idea, from a great song to a 747. The idea is the beginning of it all. Again, how you get that great idea is a personal thing and these are just musings from a guy who is extremely fortunate to be able to create everyday...I think I had a little help in that department. Whether that is true or not is a question without a answer, but I keep telling myself that it's true and it seems to be working out.
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A lot of 90s Mariah Carey. Her vocal arrangements have always been a huge inspiration.
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Old soul records.

If it's got a good groove, and strong cadences, often I can just sing a new melody along with it.

By the time I'm done, it ends up with different chords, etc... but it's often a good starting point.
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Alternate Posting Reality Playhouse

Alternate Posting Reality 1...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Apollo Soul View Post
Old soul records.

[...]
You mean like Nick Drake? If there was ever an old soul...



Oh, wait... you mean like Aretha and Otis. Got it.

Of course, Otis was an old soul, too...




___________________________________________

Alternate Posting Reality 2...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Apollo Soul View Post
Old soul records.

If it's got a good groove, and strong cadences, often I can just sing a new melody along with it.

By the time I'm done, it ends up with different chords, etc... but it's often a good starting point.
That's how I wrote three of my biggest hits, "Where Did Our Gloves Go?" "Baby Glove," and "First I Look at the Gloves."
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The thong song X_X
On a more serious note, gospel and blues have been a huge insiration to me. I mostly write commercial dance pop. Gospel melodies, if harmonized differently, carry a lot of potential for a good pop song. Say you rip off a melody, ditch the I-IV-V chord progression and go for vi-IV-V-I, you can make a couple of subtle modification to the melody and the rythm and you're in business!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank_Case View Post
For me, good songs sung by non-english speaking musicians often inspire me to start writing just because I can't understand the lyrics and can't copy the words. So I then find myself trying to fill in my own words and then sometimes get a good song out of it. Of course I ultimately change the melody as well.
Never thought of this before.
Brilliant!
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Also, really any song I enjoy can inspire me to write. Any band of any genre. Sometimes i hear just one lick and think of how they could have expanded that or what I would have done differently. But a lot of times it just comes from jamming, and what youre feeling at the time.
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I do cover songs for inspiration. The twist is that they're almost never done in a style that is close to the original--same chords and melodies, but completely different arrangement.

My current cover project song is Jefferson Starship's "Miracles". I'm doing the ska/reggae/dub version with tempo changes between verses and choruses and very different instrumentation.
My previous cover du jour was Tool's "Stinkfist" in a spicy salsa/meringue feel with flamenco guitar, keys and Latin percussion.
Other faves include:
The hardcore punk version of "Plenty" by Sarah McLachlan
"Do You Believe?" by The Cardigans done as an ultra-manly thrash metal send-up.
Foo Fighters' "Low" rendered as a jazz/lounge ballad.
And who could forget the up-tempo Hillbilly Bluegrass version of "Jesus is Just Alright" by The Doobie Brothers (complete with waltz breakdown)?

These songs are always in some form of completion during composition and recording of original material and truly serve as inspiration in the creative process. Some see complete fruition, while others are still awaiting a final push.
If I'm recording a Sabbath-sounding track, the last thing I want to listen to is Black Sabbath (or anything in the style). That's probably just me.
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15th January 2012
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Imogen Heap - Speak for Yourself.

This album isn't really my type of genre in terms of what I compose, but it's really good. I also like some Frou Frou material as well.

She's just so good at composing and mixing and sampling and stuff. And she can actually perform music too. Every tune is kind of a journey. They seem so complex. I wish I could see how she makes a tune from start to finish.
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anything that wets my creative appetite
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What's worked for me lately is hearing certain parts of songs that come up during certain tv shows. They create a mood (which I suppose is the main reason they get picked in the first place) and give a starting blueprint for ideas that are similar when starting out. Then, the more stuff I add/edit, the more the song becomes its (or my) own.
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It's funny you say that. There have been a bunch of times where I've been watching a movie and something about the incidental music gives me an idea and I have to pause the movie and get my idea down real quick. I think maybe because the music is sometimes kind of low and indistinct and so it hits you in more of a subliminal way. But also as you say it creates a whole mood together with the story and imagery and that can sometimes spark something.

I get a lot of inspiration from intros. Often I'll hear an amazing intro on an old song I've never heard before and I'll stop it and add it to a special playlist of stuff I want to copy. There are a lot of songs where the intro is like this great untapped potential that's never actually realized in the rest of the song. I guess that's basically how sampling in hip hop works.
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