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Do you have the Song first or does your instrument dictate the Song/Tune?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Gear Maniac
Do you have the Song first or does your instrument dictate the Song/Tune?

What I'm asking, is that do you have a song/tune in mind first (regardless of the lyrics), then look for the instruments to create it? (ie. your vision).

OR


You have the instruments first, then play some random tunes and sounds, then create a song out of it?

For me at the moment, I play random things, and depending on the "sound" I get, then I'll go in a direction which becomes a song. That is, the sound absolutely influences the song. Then the lyrics will come later.

To qualify what I mean: Tune means a series notes becoming a song. Sound means what I hear off the instrument: a guitar or synth etc - regardless of ITB or OTB.

Please discuss.

Last edited by stixstudios; 4 weeks ago at 01:08 PM.. Reason: Optional Information.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 
bitman's Avatar
Always the riff comes first. If it's cool the a song has to be made around it so it can be heard.
Only once did I have a song and first lyrics come to see out of the blue.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
Gear Maniac
Keystone, CO.

Columbia?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
Gear Nut
 
Ed Driscoll's Avatar
It all depends. I've written songs starting top down, chorus first, when the catch phrase or title pops into my head. I then record a (very) rough vocal of that phrase, and structure the chords and timing underneath to fit. I've also written loads of songs from the middle out, starting with a guitar or keyboard part, and build everything up from there. I've occasionally written from the bottom up, when I've stumbled over a great drum loop or drum sound and build everything up from there.

In all cases, the most important thing is to simply get that initial spark of inspiration, get started exploring the options, and then the craftsmanship kicks in to finish the rest of it.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
I've awakened hearing stuff that I had no idea what instrument to use in order to get the sound. The problem was getting as close as I could without 'chasing away' the sound in my head with the sound that I was making in the attempt to get the sound that was in my head. A terribly stressful process.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by stixstudios View Post
What I'm asking, is that do you have a song/tune in mind first (regardless of the lyrics), then look for the instruments to create it? (ie. your vision).

OR


You have the instruments first, then play some random tunes and sounds, then create a song out of it?

For me at the moment, I play random things, and depending on the "sound" I get, then I'll go in a direction which becomes a song. That is, the sound absolutely influences the song. Then the lyrics will come later.

To qualify what I mean: Tune means a series notes becoming a song. Sound means what I hear off the instrument: a guitar or synth etc - regardless of ITB or OTB.

Please discuss.
I go both ways.

But when I started out, I mostly learned by exploration and experimentation and that laid a foundation for the way I have often written. I'd come up with a vibe, a phrase, and then pick up a guitar to 'find' a good way to make that half-notion come into focus.

That said, when I moved for some years to often writing from my keyboards in a DAW environment, I really did work more from the foundation up... laying down a rhythmic foundation first, coming up with the harmonic framework by filling in bass and accompaniment, and finally adding in lyrics/singing (where applicable) and filigree work with keys or guitars or both. Other times, though, I'd write on a guitar and then just move over to the DAW and come up with keyboard parts mirroring the changes.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Lives for gear
 

I've gotten to the point where I usually have the whole song in my head before touching a DAW or any kind of recording other than voicenotes with my mouth to help remember ideas. Not all the words, but the hook idea at the very least word-wise, and most everything else. I'm pretty dialed in sound-wise and don't mentally go in directions I don't go so I'm not finding myself in any "what now?" corners that can come from working this way. Really enjoying it, my favorite way of working so far, everything is purposeful.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Gear Nut
 

I used to riff first then lyrics but lately I'm liking lyric first then a riff that matches the amount of syllables. That makes it easy to play guitar a sing at the same time.
Old 1 week ago
  #9
Lives for gear
 

It’s nice to be able to do both.
I’m going to be a bit opinionated here and say that, the goal for any musician, producer, or songwriter should be to reach an ability where they can translate what they hear in their head to an instrument or a daw (which is basically used as instrument these days).
You don’t have to be there yet, but it’s a good thing to strive for.
For me it’s more rewarding than fishing or trying to randomly come up with melodies/riffs drawing in modi notes.
If you play a genuine physical instrument and can experiment that way, it’s more ideal to try random things that way.
If you know your instrument fairly well and have a good memory log of lots of your favorite songs/progressions, you can hear where the melody or riff could/should go from your random riff you made up.
Old 1 week ago
  #10
Gear Maniac
Hey, thanks for the replies people.

I find it fascinating how others go about things to meet the same end.

Thanks, I've learned something valuable.

Cheers.

[ADDITIONAL INFO]

The way I'm going about it is using the tools (instruments) that I have, to create "ideas". Not full songs/compositions, but to say, "here's the idea".

The issue for me is what next to do with these ideas.

I believe I've got good ideas and good enough gear to produce a great song.

Combining this together is my problem. Well, at least one of my problems

Last edited by stixstudios; 1 week ago at 11:39 AM.. Reason: Additional Info
Old 1 week ago
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by stixstudios View Post
Hey, thanks for the replies people.

I find it fascinating how others go about things to meet the same end.

Thanks, I've learned something valuable.

Cheers.

[ADDITIONAL INFO]

The way I'm going about it is using the tools (instruments) that I have, to create "ideas". Not full songs/compositions, but to say, "here's the idea".

The issue for me is what next to do with these ideas.

I believe I've got good ideas and good enough gear to produce a great song.

Combining this together is my problem. Well, at least one of my problems
I find that’s one of the advantages to hearing things in my head first, or playing an instrument. I can quickly dictate where it can or should go.
I’ll often lose ideas super quick when other music is playing, if I’m out and about, or even picking up a guitar. So I’ll play really really lightly to try and find the notes and rhythm I’m looking for.
Trying not to interrupt a melody I hear in my head and end up forgetting it.
Also, a lot of times if I have an idea and I’m stuck, it’s better to step away and either repeat it in my memory until I come up with different ways I could go with it, or sometimes I’ll try to forget about it being that the idea is already recorded, and I’ll listen to something totally different just a mental break.
Maybe come back and pick up a guitar, a bass, or tap out a or beat box a rhythm of the first 3 things that come to mind when I come back to it, if I don’t have any ideas.

I think the longer you do it you find what works for you and doesn’t break your creativity and productivity the best. Because regardless of how you do it, it’s not going to work out great every time. In a lot of ways, I think people just find out how to carve out all the excess, the things that don’t work for us, or don’t work at all.
And that’s basically how we find our most comfortable and confident path.
Doesn’t mean you can’t use and learn other ways.
I would definitely still encourage anybody to keep learning.
It’s just good to figure out what really works best for you so you can have a good starting point and something to fall back on, gives you more confidence in your abilities and what you contribute, etc.

Last edited by Tnevz; 5 days ago at 06:08 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by stixstudios View Post
Hey, thanks for the replies people.

I find it fascinating how others go about things to meet the same end.

Thanks, I've learned something valuable.

Cheers.

[ADDITIONAL INFO]

The way I'm going about it is using the tools (instruments) that I have, to create "ideas". Not full songs/compositions, but to say, "here's the idea".

The issue for me is what next to do with these ideas.

I believe I've got good ideas and good enough gear to produce a great song.

Combining this together is my problem. Well, at least one of my problems
In that regard, don't be afraid to exploit modern editing/music construction approaches in learning how to assemble your bits and pieces into coherent wholes. Being able to move things around (and even pitch-shift/transpose) and combine or recombine, repeat, etc, may feel a little 'frankensteiny' at first and may take a while to get used to and produce rough hewn results as you learn your way -- but it can be a great tool for playing with the IDEAS behind the music you're making.
Old 1 week ago
  #13
Gear Nut
 
Ed Driscoll's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
In that regard, don't be afraid to exploit modern editing/music construction approaches in learning how to assemble your bits and pieces into coherent wholes. Being able to move things around (and even pitch-shift/transpose) and combine or recombine, repeat, etc, may feel a little 'frankensteiny' at first and may take a while to get used to and produce rough hewn results as you learn your way -- but it can be a great tool for playing with the IDEAS behind the music you're making.
I think the ability to experiment with a song's structure is one of the best benefits of using a DAW. I often start with just a drum loop, then a rhythm guitar part, and a scratch vocal, and then cut and paste and move around verses and choruses until I have a structure that works. It's very easy to do when you've just a few parts to move around, and then you can start layering up the parts from there, once you've settled on a structure.
Old 6 days ago
  #14
Gear Maniac
Thanks for that.

I'm going through a period of wondering why and/or what the f*ck am I doing?

As I mentioned before, I have good enough gear, so I have no excuse. I have some tunes together. This is one of them:

https://soundcloud.com/user-56643446...ght-hard-limit

I'm not sure how to put words to it. Or, perhaps there are no words?

The song pretty much sums up where I'm at.
Old 6 days ago
  #15
Lives for gear
 
Carnalia Barcus's Avatar
 

As always, "it depends." I don't do the same thing all the time.

If I'm writing on piano, or just using a simple piano sound on a synth/sampler, for example, then that won't dictate anything about instrumentation (aside from the fact that it would have to be arranged for instruments that can cover all of the pitches and the range that needs to be covered).

But I might write something by goofing around with synth patches, or with particular guitar effects, etc.--in that case, aspects of a specific sound might be very important for what I wrote. So that will dictate some of the instrumental choices re the arrangement.
Old 5 days ago
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Driscoll View Post
I think the ability to experiment with a song's structure is one of the best benefits of using a DAW. I often start with just a drum loop, then a rhythm guitar part, and a scratch vocal, and then cut and paste and move around verses and choruses until I have a structure that works. It's very easy to do when you've just a few parts to move around, and then you can start layering up the parts from there, once you've settled on a structure.
Precisely my thinking.

Maybe Mozart could do it all in his head -- me, I'm very glad to have a DAW environment to work in for song crafting, demo, and production.
Old 3 days ago
  #17
I write differently with a guitar than I do sitting at a piano. Sometimes I will pick the instrument because of the vibe I am looking for.

That said, I have also written a song as a melody and lyrics only, and later added the chords to fit the melody.

Each song has been a new adventure for me.

Scott
Old 3 days ago
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by stixstudios View Post
Thanks for that.

I'm going through a period of wondering why and/or what the f*ck am I doing?

As I mentioned before, I have good enough gear, so I have no excuse. I have some tunes together. This is one of them:

https://soundcloud.com/user-56643446...ght-hard-limit

I'm not sure how to put words to it. Or, perhaps there are no words?

The song pretty much sums up where I'm at.
I don't think this track is suitable for forming the basis of a song. It's too disjointed and the chords are a bit "unfriendly". I actually like it as a piece of music, but it sounds more like an improvisation to me.

Songwriting requires a lot of discipline—if that isn't your thing then maybe music-for-picture would be better as you can get away with being a lot more abstract.

If you do want to pursue songwriting then I'd recommended starting with a lyric or even whole chunks of songs sung into your phone. Then build an arrangement around it like some of the posters here suggested.

You haven't stated what kind of songs you want to write but if it's anything to do with pop then there are certain rules and principles that make it POPular. You can learn those in a course or by absorption meaning being glued to the radio/Spotify/Youtube. Fastest way is to do both!
Old 3 days ago
  #19
Gear Nut
 
Ed Driscoll's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by stixstudios View Post
Thanks for that.

I'm going through a period of wondering why and/or what the f*ck am I doing?

As I mentioned before, I have good enough gear, so I have no excuse. I have some tunes together. This is one of them:

https://soundcloud.com/user-56643446...ght-hard-limit

I'm not sure how to put words to it. Or, perhaps there are no words?

The song pretty much sums up where I'm at.
I love the piano tone and the reverb is very professional and "expensive" sounding. But it's difficult to picture it as a backing track for a vocalist. Why not either try the suggestion from "Uncovered Pitch" and begin with a top-down melody, or mix some chords with a guide melody and then record a scratch vocal on top of it to get started?
Old 1 day ago
  #20
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncovered Pitch View Post
I don't think this track is suitable for forming the basis of a song. It's too disjointed and the chords are a bit "unfriendly". I actually like it as a piece of music, but it sounds more like an improvisation to me.
Thanks Pitch. The "unfriendly" tone is on purpose. It is meant to be sad, very sad, but with positivity in the end.

I agree, in that the piece of music is an improvisation. It absolutely was. And it would take me a great deal of effort to say what chords were played, because I don't know, nor do I really care.

The music is probably more suited to a soundtrack of a movie, which is but one of my grandiose visions ... than a song for someone to sing.

I appreciate what you have pointed out. Your view has clarified an important issue that I must take note of.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Driscoll View Post
I love the piano tone and the reverb is very professional and "expensive" sounding. But it's difficult to picture it as a backing track for a vocalist. Why not either try the suggestion from "Uncovered Pitch" and begin with a top-down melody, or mix some chords with a guide melody and then record a scratch vocal on top of it to get started?
Thanks Ed.

Glad you like the "tone" and "sound". Like I pointed out above, I agree that it is not a tune/song that would be easy to sing to. That's not to say it couldn't be done.

----

Nevertheless, and sticking to the question I originally posed "Do you have the song first, or does your instrument dictate the Song/Tune?"...

Well I say the instrument (including applied effects), absolutely does have an overall bearing on what you come up with.

There is no way that I would ever have come up with the "tune" posted, if it was not for the "sound" I heard. The sound I heard from the keyboard dictated the tune to me. When you hear a "nice sound", then you try to play something, and you go along with it.

Thought I should point out, whether for good or bad, I actually played what I played. No Midi. The "sound" made me "feel" something, so I played it. The instrument told me what to play, but it's still a work in progress.

Last edited by stixstudios; 1 day ago at 04:57 PM.. Reason: Additional Info
Old 23 hours ago
  #21
Yes I'm all in favour of using inspiring sounds to start off a new song. What myself and others suggested was an "antidote" to what led you to post here: not knowing where to go with your music despite having professional equipment. Great sounds can be seductive and misleading as well as inspirational. So by starting from a "pure" song you'd be turning your usual workflow on its head. Then, having experimented with coming from the other side, you can make a decision on which procedure gets the best results.

At least this "antidote' principle works for me when I'm addressing issues: for example if my singing is too loud and full-on, I will practice nothing but delicate Sam Smith or Jamie Woon songs for a few weeks and then go back to rock songs and see whether there are now new intricacies I can bring to them.

Noodling around on an instrument is great but at some point it's no longer enough and you need to establish a set of parameters and limitations(also called "begin with the end in mind") to make the next step up. It sounded like making that step was your goal.

If I'm not starting from a title or vocal melody, then my workflow would be:

1. Decide on the genre(often determined by the artist/co-writer I work with)
2. Put together a playlist on Spotify with the best music in that genre
3. Call up the sounds and plugins I'll need for this type of music
4. THEN start noodling around and let the sounds take me places

Works for me...
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