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Post  Admin on Sun Mar 23, 2008 7:06 am

01 Introduction:

No-one can tell you how to write a song. But we can show you all the elements, and give you a few ideas on how to improve on what you're doing.

This section is mainly hints and tips which you can use to get started, including:

The elements of a successful song
Tips for the professionals

02 Elements of a Successful Song:

Impact - is it going to stand out in its first listen?

Melody - is it catchy?

Lyrics - will people be able to sing along/will people relate to them?

Structure - does it "make sense" musically? Does it sound complete?

Musical Setting - is it set in the right genre? Does it use sounds that are in fashion? What about the harmonies?

Delivery - do you believe in the performer?

03 Melody:

If you don't already play an instrument it will help you massively if you can get hold of one. Remember you don't have to learn it well enough to actually perform with it - you can let other members of the band worry about that. You only need to know enough to use it as a tool to help you develop ideas.

Keep writing all the time.

Set some words that aren't your own: If you've got a favourite poet use something from him/her.

Write a tune quickly, then shift the notes about - make the distances between the notes one bigger, or one smaller.

Limit yourself initially to 3 notes, and grow from there.

Write something with a regular even rhythm, and then make it swing.

Write a straight melody, and then change the mood, adjusting the rhythm or the pitch. It could be that by playing it in a sarcastic, sad or comic manner you come up with something interesting.

Using unusual chords can help spark off melodic ideas. Try playing simple chords but with one of your fingers moved up or down the keyboard or fretboard. Try moving different fingers until you find a note that you like.

Try learning other peoples' songs and see if you can pick out why you like them. There may be a chord or a change between chords that you can adapt for your own uses. (Using more than this could land you in trouble, so don't get too carried away...)

You can buy books of chords which fit together in a particular key. Try playing around with these and listen to the way some chords sound following others. Some changes are strong and will lead into a chorus in a way that really sells it to the listener. Others are weaker and won't sound as good. Decide which is which and use this to help your song writing.

04 Lyrics:

Take a well known myth, legend, such or story, think about what it means, and put your own slant on it.

Songs are not every day conversation - you can get away with being as shocking, unhinged or controversial as you like.

Most people have had a difficult relationship with someone in their lives. Think about yours, even if it was a long time ago: think about how you felt in this situation, why it was difficult, how you wanted it to be different.

Keep things simple and let the music do the talking sometimes. Make the two complement each other.

A whole load of songs are about "me and you". Remember relationship lyrics can be as simple or as difficult as you want.

People love gossip. Songs as confessionals can be fascinating listening, which keeps people hooked to the end.

Think about how you'd feel if your wish came true, and it went horribly wrong.

Eavesdrop everywhere - someone's on the phone on a train. What are they talking about? Can you imagine the person on the other end of the phone, what are they saying? How do you think the person speaking is feeling, compared to what they are saying?

Go somewhere you've never been on your own and see what happens.

Write a song, make every other line rhyme. Go back to it, and change every single cliche, find another way of saying the same thing.

There are all sorts of places you can find odd phrases which can kick off a lyric. Newspaper headlines or cryptic crossword clues can be a great source of ideas.

Try organising your ideas with the "cut-up method". Think of the theme you want to write on. Cut up a piece of paper into small scraps and write down odd phrases or single words, one on each scrap. Don't worry about rhyming or making sense at this point. Now you can form a finished lyric by moving the bits of paper around, re-writing the phrases as you go until you're happy.

Avoid obvious rhyming words. If you have to write a line just to get to a word which rhymes with the last one, then you're probably going off course!

Avoid Americanisms (unless you're actually American, obviously).

Pay attention to the accents on words. A word like "seven" has a definite accent on the "Sev-" bit. If your lyric forces the singer to put the emphasis on "-ven" then it's always going to sound wrong when you sing it.

05 Tips From The Professionals:

"To avoid writer's block, I just keep mumbling to myself until something comes up. I have loads of bits like minidisks and Dictaphones and loads of bits of paper with things written on it, so I've always got something to fall back on if I ever dry up."
Roots Manuva - Hip Hop artist

"In this country there's a definite heritage in song writing. There's this suspicion that you're not a real artist unless you're writing your own material. But I think it's also great that we do have this tradition - I think that's one of the musical strengths of this country."
Larry Newman - Head of Music Department, Lewisham College

"You should be as free with your music as you want to be. It's like writing, art, painting you don't need to present things to people unless you're ready. That alone should inspire you to experiment as much as you want. I've got tapes and tapes of four track recordings that no-one needs to hear but in some shape or form it kind of moulded what Cave In represents today."
Stephen Brodsky - Cave In

"If you're writing songs it's because you have something to say; express yourself - write about things that move you and are important to you. A song is a journey, so take me somewhere interesting, show me something new."
Pete Whitfield - Lecturer in Performing Arts and Polpular Music, City College Manchester

Serge: "Buy some equipment that so that you can record yourself. Learn to write songs. Just start and you'll get better, keep writing and writing. It sounds silly but your best bet is to do it everything yourself. Don't ask for help. Part of the fun is not knowing what you're doing."
Tom: "None of us could play an instrument; we just wanted to be in a band. After a few years we got better and learned how to write better music. We bought our own PC and started recording songs and sending demos and it all went from there. We were just innocent kids who wanted to take over the world. You just have to believe in yourself, it's not arrogance."
Serge & Tom - Kasabian

Via the BBC.


Well...actually, it's local Live music in Kent and Medway, but you get the idea...

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Post  JimGoesSolo on Sun Mar 23, 2008 8:45 am

I always start with lyrics. Normally I get all excited once I've finished and bash out a few ideas for the music, mess around with it. Then I try to leave it for a week or so and come back to it. Let a few ideas for how it sounds to formulate, like the high notes in the chorus of Little Love Notes or the walking bassy part of Sheltered Shrubs.

It helps to record everything, the more ideas you have knocking about for music, the more you can fit around the words. Words always need editing too, words taking out to fit in with puffiness, that tends to come once you've played the whole piece for a few weeks.

I think everyone looks back at the first stuff they wrote and probably realise it isn't great. I think everyone will improve if they allow time to formulate ideas, and not just rushing out songs for the sake of it. It takes practice and attention to detail over a long period of time, but it can really become a matter of pride.

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Post  carryonanon on Mon Mar 24, 2008 3:52 am

you will probably write a hundred sets of lyrics which are proper cheesy and use rhymes that have been overused about a thousand times. the sooner you get to grips with assonance and original metaphors the better.

i do think it's probably better to start with lyrics otherwise you end up just writing about nothing to fit in with the melody.

definately pick a subject, NEVER write a generic lovesong, or a generic anti-establishment song, etc. write as if you are talking to someone specific, and always use detail. it makes things much more believable.

general good creative writing practice is to pick an interesting place, person or event you know very well and just write about that. it will come out better than you think.

if you're serious about becoming a songwriter it's time to get a black book, if you don't already have one. things will start coming to you everwhere and they will quickly disappear if you don't write them down.

the only other thing i can think of is even if one person (i.e one very pretty girl/boy) really inspires you to write loads, but all means keep writing until you can't think of any more ways of saying it, but when it actually comes to putting together a setlist or putting tracks down on a cd try to mix your subjects up a little bit.

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