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Songwriting Question Modular Synthesizers
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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Songwriting Question

I hear some songwriters talk about ideas coming to them out of nowhere. This has never happened to me. Usually I write songs by improvising or coming up with a couple of notes at a time while editing, experimenting and moving them around. Is this unusual? Is there anything I can do to stimulate my brain to work on ideas subconsciously?
Old 1 week ago
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artist202 View Post
I hear some songwriters talk about ideas coming to them out of nowhere. This has never happened to me. Usually I write songs by improvising or coming up with a couple of notes at a time while editing, experimenting and moving them around. Is this unusual? Is there anything I can do to stimulate my brain to work on ideas subconsciously?
Yes!!!

www.teemingbrain.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/A-Course-in-Demonic-Creativity.pdf



~HW
Old 6 days ago
  #3
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Old 6 days ago
  #4
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Sometimes I feel that "I'm just a receiver and my minds ability to tune in the station through all the white noise is where the best stuff comes from". I wont say I don't come up with good things after a lot of work, but typically the best ideas are those born from the pure enjoyment of making music. And they typically come very quickly....

Sometimes the process itself can support that.....from another post, but certainly illustrates the point

"Write and record everything. Keep journals, have a topic, and instead of saying, "Ok, Im going to write a song today", I said, " I'm just going to play guitar for a bit and enjoy just doing that". I use Pro Tools, so it's pretty easy to hit the space bar and record every note that I'm going to play. Maybe 45 minutes or so before I would stop. then instead of listening back, I would put the guitar down and walk away. Literally, all the way away. Go to the park, watch a movie, go to the beach......whatever it was, anything but trying to write a song.


Next day, I would open the previous days session and just listen. No guitar in my lap.....just listening. Two things I learned about this process is 1) you really get a chance to critique your skills and find all your weaknesses and 2)there was always a song in there somewhere....it might be 40 minutes of absolute crap, but there was always 5 minutes or so of magic. The moments where the hairs on your arms stand straight up....so I'd make locate points and build the song from the magic. Discovery....

Same thing with lyrics. Write everything down and go back later and find the things that get you excited and focus on those ideas. Time is always involved no matter what your process is, but the more you enjoy whatever that process is, the easier it is to enjoy your writing and keep things moving forward. Surprising yourself can be the thing that dials you back in, and I can honestly say, the last 9 years have been the most productive, surprising and enjoyable.

If it feels like work or a burden, you probably should try to change it up. Music should be something you look forward to and enjoy doing and if you're not, then I'm not sure the point of doing it. Just my 2c and what has worked for me...."
Old 5 days ago
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artist202 View Post
Should I still follow the exercises here? They seem specifically designed for literary writers.

Yes!!
Writing here is being used as a 'vessel'.*

*"...for discovering your unconscious mind in its uniqueness and particularity..."


~HW
Old 5 days ago
  #6
I read a bit of the early part of the Cardin book. I think his approach to the idea of creative muses is one that may prove useful to others: at least as far as I've read, he's not so much insisting the reader buys into a supernatural world where faeries whisper inspiration into our ears as they flutter on gossamer wings so much as suggesting that such notions can provide a useful model for approaching as-yet-poorly explained psychological phenomena. Long before we knew about genetic disease, most cultures indulged the imperfect-but-potentially-useful-in-limited-ways model of 'the family curse.' Whether the 'curse' was a tendency to succumb to alcoholism or a high incidence of schizophrenia or other genetically influenced disease, such notions provided an arguably useful model for explaining and manipulating the public and personal understanding of such otherwise unexplained phenomena.

So, whatever the ultimate nature of 'muse phenomena,' looking at how others have viewed and tried to explain and illuminate the processes involved can give us important insights into how these phenomenal processes work on the practical (if not scientific) level.
Old 5 days ago
  #7
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I used to think I had nothing to say, so I couldn't write songs. But then I realized that lots of other people had things to say, and they said them constantly and all you had to do was pay attention. Keep your ears open in a restaurant or bar and you'll hear stuff you could never make up. Between her traumatizing new job and her breakup, a woman I play darts with basically dictated a whole song to me, all I had to do was make it rhyme... my late dad, near the end when the dementia got bad, was a fount of ideas... two of my close friends, thousands of miles apart, lost a severely troubled family member and then said almost the exact same thing about it... couple in the next booth at a diner, he had something important to talk about and she wouldn't look up from her phone... you get the idea.
Old 5 days ago
  #8
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Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it. You play the guitar on the MTV.

overheard in a bar
Old 3 days ago
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artist202 View Post
I hear some songwriters talk about ideas coming to them out of nowhere. This has never happened to me. Usually I write songs by improvising or coming up with a couple of notes at a time while editing, experimenting and moving them around. Is this unusual? Is there anything I can do to stimulate my brain to work on ideas subconsciously?
For me, and for everyone I know for whom song ideas come out of nowhere at times, that only happens once you've been working on songwriting diligently for a period of time.

I decided that I wanted to write. So I sat down every single day--I'd set a time to start and I'd do it for a specified number of hours--and I wrote. I approached it just like you'd approach practicing any instrument. Just like you'd approach your job, or doing homework, or whatever similar "chore" you might have to do. I did that for days, weeks, months, years on end. And I still do it. I wrote whether I had any ideas or not. If I had no ideas, I "manufactured" ideas via various methods, basically "forcing" myself to write something, anything.

Only after I'd been doing it for a while and I had written a bunch of stuff did ideas start popping into my head "from nowhere."

You're training your brain to think creatively. Once you do that, once you rewire your brain that way, it just starts to happen spontaneously. It starts to happen when you're trying to do other things instead . . . and then you've got to run to get the idea down somehow before you lose it.
Old 3 days ago
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artist202 View Post
I hear some songwriters talk about ideas coming to them out of nowhere. This has never happened to me. Usually I write songs by improvising or coming up with a couple of notes at a time while editing, experimenting and moving them around. Is this unusual? Is there anything I can do to stimulate my brain to work on ideas subconsciously?
If this is your process, then this is your process. Regardless of how typical or not typical it is, there's nothing inherently wrong with it. Nor is there anything wrong with you if you never get struck with spontaneous ideas. Now, if you aren't satisfied with what you are coming up with, then it would be reasonable for someone to suggest that you try doing it a different way. But if this is the method that gives you the most results, then why mess with it? There's really no right or wrong way to write a song, if the end result is good.

Not being in the room when other writers write, I can't really say for sure how typical it is for a song to just appear out of nowhere. But my suspicion is that the reason songwriters like to share such a story is because it is out of the ordinary. And that makes for a far more interesting story than saying you just kept your head down and put in hours of work...even though the latter is probably how the majority of songs get written, and also the more efficient way of going about it. Not to mention, that's a far more valuable habit to have if you aspire to do it professionally than simply waiting around for inspiration to strike.

The only time in my life I can recall songs coming to me spontaneously was as a young kid, back when one can be completely un-selfconcious. Just making up little tunes for the fun of it...not worrying if they are "good" or not. That doesn't really happen to me anymore. And if it does, I tend to be suspicious that I may have unconsciously lifted it from something I've heard before.
Old 2 days ago
  #11
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My two cents...

I think a problem that a lot of people have is not that they cannot come up with ideas - but that their brain immediate (instantly) dismisses the idea as not worthy. It feels like your not coming up with ideas but you are actually coming up with ideas and instantly dismissing them. Try not to judge your ideas initially - for some this is difficult and something that needs to be learned.

Self confidence comes into play here. Also deadlines and self imposed quotas - if you have to produce something you'll be less likely to dismiss your ideas initially.

Write down all the ideas that come to you no matter how bad they seem at the time. Tell yourself - its only paper. If it sucks its only paper (or bits on a computer screen) - it cost me nothing to write it down. Then later go through them to determine which you want to invest time and energy into.

Ideas that seem stupid at first can turn out to be brilliant in the end.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Muser View Post
Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it. You play the guitar on the MTV.

overheard in a bar
...Would have been easy to dismiss these lyrics as stupid initially. But we all know how that turned out.
Old 2 days ago
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DougS View Post
I think a problem that a lot of people have is not that they cannot come up with ideas - but that their brain immediate (instantly) dismisses the idea as not worthy. It feels like your not coming up with ideas but you are actually coming up with ideas and instantly dismissing them. Try not to judge your ideas initially - for some this is difficult and something that needs to be learned.
That's an extremely important bit of information. It's imperative, when one is in the "creation stage," when one has one's "creator's hat" on, to turn off one's internal editor. Send your internal editor down the street to a bar while you do your creative work. Don't let him/her back into the house until you've finished.

I first encountered an explicit statement of that idea in Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. That's a very good book, though written from a literary perspective. The principles can be applied to any creative work, though.

Quote:
Ideas that seem stupid at first can turn out to be brilliant in the end.
I'd say that pretty much any idea, no matter how simple or stupid-seeming it is initially, can be turned into a work that you think is worthwhile.
Old 2 days ago
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artist202 View Post
I hear some songwriters talk about ideas coming to them out of nowhere.
They don't really come out of nowhere. I think they percolate up from the depths of amassed memories and experiences. Anything can trigger it ....or nothing.

You just need to always be ready to capture those muse-like inspirations as they tend to be quite random and ethereal in nature.

This theory works best, of course, the older one gets and the more life changes that one goes through.
Old 2 days ago
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DougS View Post
[Those Knofpler lyrics] ...Would have been easy to dismiss these lyrics as stupid initially. But we all know how that turned out.
I think that was given as an example of something that was overheard, which gives it instant validity. For me anyway. The brilliant second verse, the one that's so un-PC it's always redacted, absolutely had to have come out of someone's mouth, not Knopfler's head.
Old 2 days ago
  #15
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"Right post... wrong thread"

how easy it is to miss a song idea
Old 1 day ago
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Muser View Post
"Right post... wrong thread"

how easy it is to miss a song idea
I always hate myself a little when I write joke songs. It doesn't stop me but...

Who'll Stop Lorraine


For those who get seasick, sorry about the 'rhythm'... my internal grid needs a bit of tightening.
Old 1 day ago
  #17
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Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
I always hate myself a little when I write joke songs. It doesn't stop me but...
Great groove, you've got something there. The seasick rhythm is terrific, don't fix it.

About the "joke," though, "Who'll Stop Lorraine" is funny and got you off the blank page, but what you have at this point matters more than that gag. And "Who'll" doesn't work because the listener won't know it's "who'll" and not "who" if they don't see it in print. Also "who'll" strikes me, in the context, as a bit overly... correct.

I'm sure you can beat this, but let me take a stab...

"Who gonna stop Lorraine."

Good song! I'll shut up now.
Old 1 day ago
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Great groove, you've got something there. The seasick rhythm is terrific, don't fix it.

About the "joke," though, "Who'll Stop Lorraine" is funny and got you off the blank page, but what you have at this point matters more than that gag. And "Who'll" doesn't work because the listener won't know it's "who'll" and not "who" if they don't see it in print. Also "who'll" strikes me, in the context, as a bit overly... correct.

I'm sure you can beat this, but let me take a stab...

"Who gonna stop Lorraine."

Good song! I'll shut up now.
Thanks for the kind words.

Not sure my Brit lit teacher, Mrs Lee, would agree with you on the correctness of who'll. She could be a downright stick in the mud when it came to trying to sneak contractions into formal writing. (And after I found out she knocked our essays down a letter grade per each, in her view, grammatical mistake, I got a bit more serious about learning these so-called rules of grammar -- and paid less attention to my rhetorical flourishes -- which she would always mark with a red pencil 'Rhetoric?!?' and a little crinkle-mouthed not-so-smiley. But if you didn't make a grammatical mistake in your rhetoric, it only earned you scathing commentary, not a downgrade.)


Anyhow, I wrote a lot of goofy parodies and joke songs before but usually over stuff I thought stupid/ludicrous. But I actually really like the Creedence song, "Who'll Stop the Rain." Given the obvious nature of the 'inspiration,' I felt I had to work to make 'Lorraine' into its own song. (At least once you get past the title and refrain... LOL)
Old 1 day ago
  #19
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Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
Not sure my Brit lit teacher, Mrs Lee, would agree with you on the correctness of who'll.
I'm sure she wouldn't. Eff that old biddy. :-)
Old 1 day ago
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
I always hate myself a little when I write joke songs. It doesn't stop me but...

Who'll Stop Lorraine


For those who get seasick, sorry about the 'rhythm'... my internal grid needs a bit of tightening.
well you have me at a disadvantage there. because I have a preconditioned liking of the kooky. probably stems from how much I like kid creole and the coconuts.
Old 1 day ago
  #21
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Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
I'm sure she wouldn't. Eff that old biddy. :-)
She was actually one of the best -- and certainly most demanding* -- teachers in an otherwise rather middle-brow school environment. I had a couple other good teachers but even after almost 5 decades, I still resent the utterly crappy math teachers at that school. The track coach won a lot of medals -- but in front of a class of college bound Algebra II students he was a complete and utter disaster. He couldn't even do the math. Seriously. He could not. We didn't even finish the course because all but four in the class [me and three others] were failing. He said he wanted to give everyone F's but would settle for D's -- but the four of us who could do the work -- which he could not -- insisted that it wasn't fair to penalize the others since they didn't actually have anyone to teach them. That didn't cut s--t, but when angry parents of college-prep kids thought their progeny were going to get D's, the school admins put the pressure on the teacher and he gave the rest C's while the four of us got A's -- and his apparent undying enmity. (I got blackballed for the National Merit Scholar thing by one teacher [I was informed by one of my other teachers] and, far as I know, that math teacher was the only one among my teachers who hated me. That said, I could be a bit oblivious to that kind of thing. I hated the school overall, so I didn't take it particularly seriously.) Sorry to go on. The wounds are still healing.

*She took the name of the course seriously, we got a BIG load of Shakespeare, a pleasure with which I was barely acquainted at the time. Cat had a way with words.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Muser View Post
well you have me at a disadvantage there. because I have a preconditioned liking of the kooky. probably stems from how much I like kid creole and the coconuts.
Kid Creole has been an ongoing inspiration...

Anyone who loves tropical rhythms and trombones and goofy lyrics as much as he does is A-OK in my book.
Old 1 day ago
  #22
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Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
Not sure my Brit lit teacher, Mrs Lee, would agree with you on the correctness of who'll.
It's the only thing that'll work when you want to know who your pirate partner is going to be:

Who'll 'Aargh!' you?

Who who, who who
Old 1 day ago
  #23
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Originally Posted by Carnalia Barcus View Post
Who'll 'Aargh!' you?

Who who, who who
Hard to Aargh you with that.
Old 1 day ago
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
Kid Creole has been an ongoing inspiration...

Anyone who loves tropical rhythms and trombones and goofy lyrics as much as he does is A-OK in my book.
this is probably a precursor. not bad for 83
Old 1 day ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnalia Barcus View Post
That's an extremely important bit of information. It's imperative, when one is in the "creation stage," when one has one's "creator's hat" on, to turn off one's internal editor. Send your internal editor down the street to a bar while you do your creative work. Don't let him/her back into the house until you've finished.

I first encountered an explicit statement of that idea in Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. That's a very good book, though written from a literary perspective. The principles can be applied to any creative work, though.



I'd say that pretty much any idea, no matter how simple or stupid-seeming it is initially, can be turned into a work that you think is worthwhile.
Should you always go with your first idea then?
Old 1 day ago
  #26
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Originally Posted by artist202 View Post
Should you always go with your first idea then?
You should "go with the flow" rather, whatever it is, without evaluating it in a editor's or critic's frame of mind. So that might not mean going with your first idea. Related or alternate ideas might simply arrive in the flow. What you want to avoid doing until you've got something reasonably developed is mentally stepping back from it and critiquing it. If an idea you like better arrives in the flow, go with it. Otherwise don't worry about it. Just go with whatever is happening.
Old 1 day ago
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnalia Barcus View Post
You should "go with the flow" rather, whatever it is, without evaluating it in a editor's or critic's frame of mind. So that might not mean going with your first idea. Related or alternate ideas might simply arrive in the flow. What you want to avoid doing until you've got something reasonably developed is mentally stepping back from it and critiquing it. If an idea you like better arrives in the flow, go with it. Otherwise don't worry about it. Just go with whatever is happening.
What about when you want to get out of certain writing habits? Like avoiding writing melodies that step up and down too much
Old 14 hours ago
  #28
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What about when you want to get out of certain writing habits? Like avoiding writing melodies that step up and down too much
In the beginning stages, you really don't need to be avoiding anything. An exception would be if you think it's a fun personal challenge for you to avoid using certain musical devices. Sure, limitations can breed creativity. But in general, when you first start writing a song, you want to just get your ideas down, regardless of how you may be feeling about them in the moment. The thing you really should be avoiding is overthinking and analyzing too much. It can be hard to resist sometimes, I know. I'm almost always underwhelmed with an idea when I first come up with it. But you have to be careful not to kill your ideas before they even come out of the gate.

Once you have the initial draft of your song worked out, then you can start putting on your editor's hat and be a little more critical of your work, figuring out which parts of it could be changed or improved upon. But that comes later. In the beginning, your mind still needs the time to wander and be as open as it can be.

Last edited by kadeemusic; 14 hours ago at 06:41 PM..
Old 14 hours ago
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnalia Barcus View Post
You should "go with the flow" rather, whatever it is, without evaluating it in a editor's or critic's frame of mind. So that might not mean going with your first idea. Related or alternate ideas might simply arrive in the flow. What you want to avoid doing until you've got something reasonably developed is mentally stepping back from it and critiquing it. If an idea you like better arrives in the flow, go with it. Otherwise don't worry about it. Just go with whatever is happening.
I like to work fast, grabbing every idea or fragment I can, even if I don't see how it will all fit together later. Sometimes, when I'm in the early stages, there can be different lyrical or musical elements that suggest entirely different songs. Part of the refining process is melding those together if they fit or refining each and possibly creating a composite/complex work or two works or simply saving the bits that don't fit for later.

Like many, I struggled at first, with my 'inner editor' at first perched right on my virtual shoulder, bitterly criticizing just about everything I seemed to come up with... It was rare for me to get to even a second rhyming pair before giving up -- until I 'convinced' my inner editor to back the hell off until the song was roughly complete and then come in and fix things up incrementally (or fundamentally, as required, though that could often require going back into creative mode).
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