Coming up with Songs

Posted by: Islansoul

Coming up with Songs - 12/07/17 11:06 AM

How do you all make such wonderful songs in the user showcase? I can barley come up with one.
Posted by: Guitarhacker

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/07/17 11:19 AM

How does one create? That's a hard question to answer. Kinda like my dog.... she's a cadaver dog. We taught her what she's looking for and we know she can find what she's looking for, but we don't know how she does what she does. Same thing with writing songs..... it just happens. Some people struggle and some people can write a good song in 15 minutes and do it consistently. If you dig deeper, you will generally find that the ones who struggle don't spend the time writing or learning about writing, and the ones who can consistently knock out good songs every week are students of the craft and have thousands of hours invested in their instrument, their recording techniques and in their writing and you'll find them writing lots and lots of songs.

The more you write and create, and study the art and craft of songwriting and actually spend hundreds and thousands of hours doing it....and become knowledgeable with the software tools you have to the point that they don't impede your work flow, the better your musical creativity becomes.

Study the songs in the genre and style you really like and try to use those songs as a template for writing your own. You'll often see people commenting on a song here say that the song sounds like a certain song or artist. Chances are really good that the writer is a huge fan of that artist. I know I do that and I've seen it in so many other writers as well.

This doesn't even scratch the surface but it's a starting point. Songwriting, while having a natural talent for it helps, is, for the most part, an acquired skill. Acquired through endless hours of writing songs.
Posted by: Islansoul

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/07/17 11:32 AM

Thanks, I see so many songs on the forum and I feel sad that I can't come up with songs most of you do. I end up writing backing tracks to famous songs.
Posted by: Samuel Davis

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/07/17 12:30 PM

I agree with what Guitarhacker has said above. Like the old saying goes "Practice Makes Perfect." I find my recording and producing techniques becoming better and better the more I do it. Same with my songwriting skills. (Always remember there is a difference between writing a song and producing a song.)

As far as producing I am probably not the best at describing how to go about that. Half the time I'm not even sure exactly what I'm doing. I just try to make it sound good and BIAB has helped make that a lot easier.

As for writing a song itself there are many different ways to go about it. Nobody does it exactly the same. You have to experiment until you find something that works for you. If you are rather new to songwriting I waould suggest reading a few books about the subject and the techniques that others use. Perhaps you will find something that works for you. As for myself I use different methods when writing different songs but let me tell you what I do a lot of the time.

I like to strip things down to the basics when writing a song. Usually I will start with just my acoustic guitar, a pencil, paper and my phone. Once I have an idea to write about I will usually start by coming up with a chorus or hook. I sing a melody and strum the basic chords sometimes recording it on my phone for a reference. I'll write it down and go over it a few times to see if I like what I have. Then I move onto the verses following the same steps as I used to write the chorus. I find it useful here to have an online rhyming dictionary and thesaurus at your disposal. (It will help you find word to tell your story that rhyme) Once You have all the verses and chorus written you have your song. Then you can move onto putting your chords into BIAB and finding a style you like to start producing your song.

I hope this helps you out.
Posted by: JohnJohnJohn

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/07/17 01:54 PM

Join a songwriting group and write lots of songs.
Posted by: Guitarhacker

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/07/17 05:17 PM

many songwriters simply observe life and write about what they see.

I get song ideas all the time and titles for songs from what people say. Example.... I was out with my wife and we were in WalMart when we met a friend we hadn't seen in a long time. In the conversation something was said and I instantly thought..... Hey that's a damn fine title for a country song.... I gotta remember that and I did..... I'll be working on it as soon as I finish a few other projects first.

I also get ideas to write about from listings. Some of the publishers I work with put out listings with specifics as to what the producer is looking for. If you really want to sharpen your skills, try writing for a subject that a producer wants and has to have in a day or two. Deadlines either blow you out of the water or force you to focus and get the job done. Fortunately, the last one I did like that was a cover tune, but I still had to put the music together, record it, sing it and get the wave to them. With BB/RB/SONAR, I had it done in a few hours.

One song on my website..... RAINY DAY was an original that was done under a very tight (2 days IIRC) deadline. They gave the details of how they wanted to use the song in the movie and the details of what it needed to be about. I had to write it, record it, and get it to them before the deadline expired. That one was a TAXI listing. That is a good place to get song ideas and songs that have deadlines. Even if you're not a member, you can go there, see the listings, and write to the listing. You can also hear what others are writing for the very same listing if they post it.

Collaborating is another good way to force yourself to write. Having another person to bounce ideas around with is good. Often, I find that at least half if not more of the ideas I try to work on with collaborators doesn't pan out very well...... but..... if you and they are willing to let it go and keep trying, those magic moments will happen, as is evidenced by a number of the songs I have had the pleasure to work on with others.....

Whiskey For Breakfast is one example of a more recent collab with David Snyder from the PG forum here.

Lots of ideas and things to try.... the important thing is to do it.
Posted by: Sundance

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/07/17 08:20 PM

You've already had some good advice. I'll add this -

Since you are already comfortable making backing tracks for famous songs - go to one of the sites that post lyrics from wannabe lyricists - find one that moves you - what do you feel hear when you read those lyrics. Offer to put it to music. Will you find the next number one hit there - probably not but you will get great hands on practice.

Do what you can do now. Learn more as you go. Read articles, books and watch any videos you can find by Jason Blume. There are many great songwriting books teachers and online classes. Jason's road to success is inspirational and he's a great teacher who I always recommend for anyone interested in learning to write songs.

Posted by: rockstar_not

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/09/17 11:27 AM

What do you think are stumbling blocks? Lyrics, chord selection, song section and form decisions, etc.? If it is none of those what is the biggest struggle? All of the posts above have great advice. Maybe you need a self imposed constraint to finish a song in a weekend, start to stop and ‘publish’. Experiment, try different song forms, etc. as stat d before it takes lots of practice writing throwaway songs to get a few keepers. Make sure it’s fun. If it isn’t it might not be for you.
Posted by: Jim Fogle

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/11/17 05:09 PM

Try taking a free, six week, songwriting course taught by Pat Patterson. It's available on Coursera and Pat Patterson is a professor at Berklee College of Music. You will be urged to pay for certification but you can audit the course for free. +++ Find Out More HERE +++
Posted by: Don Gaynor

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/11/17 06:02 PM

Lots of excellent advice above.

A great Nashville songwriter and forum-mate, Floyd Jane, posted his workflow today. He has been very successful with it

You may need to be on Facebook to view it but I think PG Music has posted it also.

Several of us took the Songwriter Course by Professor Pat Pattison. It's the same course taken by 5-time Emmy winner, Gilian Welch. You will learn a lot in the course. Pat is a great teacher.

Thanks for reminding me, Jim Fogle.

Posted by: Don Gaynor

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/11/17 06:20 PM

Since chord progressions are not copyrighted, try "borrowing" the chords from a favorite song then let BIAB create a brand new melody.

I borrowed the chords from Beatles' "Yesterday" and came up with this:

You will hear the original trying to escape.

Posted by: dcuny

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/11/17 09:36 PM

Perhaps you might want to also consider why you might not be creating songs. I think I'm eminently qualified to speak on that topic. wink

One of the best ways to not create songs is to wait for inspiration. I've spent years waiting for inspiration to strike, and she never seems to stop by. Fortunately, there's an endless stream of YouTube videos and Facebook posts to keep me distracted while I wait. This allows me to engage in hours of activities entirely unrelated to creating a song.

It's also important to set unreasonable expectations. Sure, I've had some ideas that could be crafted into a decent song, but they weren't really great. I don't want to write a good song, I want to write something great. Discarding ideas that aren't mind-bogglingly fantastic is a good way to stop myself from writing that's merely OK. Discard anything that isn't entirely original.

Speaking of craft, it's also best to treat all aspects of the process as something magical. While there may be a handful of songwriters are successful with a workmanlike approach to composing, it that sort of music inspired?

Spend lots of time looking at musical gear. While there are still some folk who think that a guitar and a pad of paper are enough (I'm looking at your video, floydjane), for the rest of us, we know that it was the cool gear that made other people's songs so great.

You might think that buying music gear isn't the same as writing a song. But that's just backwards thinking - you're just not buying the right gear. Look at all the gear real musicians have. Surely that's the key to writing and producing great music.

Other people's talent greatly exceeds your own! Reinforce this by being hyper-critical of all the perceived flaws in your lyrics/voice/mix. Be sure that you only compare yourself to the best of the best!

Make sure that you do everything yourself. Other people on the forum would be happy to collaborate with you on the process of writing, singing, and mixing. But don't fall for this trap! Can you think of any real musicians who collaborated? I can't. It's important that you be an expert in every step of the process, from songwriting, arranging, singing to crafting a final mix.

Most importantly - songwriting is like dieting: you can start... tomorrow.

Follow these steps, and soon your output can be almost as minuscule as mine! grin
Posted by: Deryk - PG Music

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/12/17 07:46 AM

I just try and stay inspired by always actively listening to music. I listen to about 5 or 6 new albums a week. Both old and new music, too. And across all genres. Even if it's something I'll never go back to, oftentimes it will help spark an idea for me. Also - I used to keep a notepad handy and jot down little ideas as they come to me. Now a days my phone has replaced that notepad.
Posted by: Jim Fogle

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/12/17 12:47 PM

David, your post was inspiring. grin Sarcasm at its finest.
Posted by: dcuny

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/12/17 06:16 PM

Originally Posted By: Jim Fogle
Sarcasm at its finest.

Actually, there's far more truth there than I'd like to admit. blush
Posted by: David Snyder

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/13/17 10:37 AM

To echo a few other comments here, I think one big rule is you have to listen to a lot of different music. Love it or hate it, I check in with Spotify once in a while and browse stuff in the various categories across all genres to see what is hot. Sometimes I get profoundly depressed and other times I get inspired, and a melodic idea or vibe will pop into my head. smile

One thing I have noticed about music as opposed to other forms of writing is that you can't (or at least I can't) choose to sit down and write a good song. (A bad song maybe, but not a good one.) I can sit down and force myself to write a book (and it is about as fun as driving a nail in your head) but it can be done.

Songs don't work that way for me. I can't try and write them. They just have to come out of the thin blue sky. It is like you are at the mercy of the gods or something. But, listening to other stuff helps, and I also spend a lot of time auditioning BIAB demos because they teach you A LOT about chord progressions and styles that work. That's golden.

Finally, there is the act of observing and taking notes.

Once upon a time, I went for a walk after a concert with one of the most famous singers and band members of the 80s and 90s. We ended up sitting on the hood of a burned out Pinto for 3 hours shooting the breeze, and while we did so a very intoxicated guy in a cowboy hat came up and started to share his life story. This famous singer pulled a cheap K-Mart notepad out of his pocket and a Bic pen and asked the guy to start over--and then wrote down every thing he said--and the talkative drunk guy was more than happy to oblige him. The beginning of this story was that God told him to stop listening to Elvis and to go Alaska and work on the pipeline and listen to the Grateful Dead. The end of the story was that God told him to hitch hike back home across the United States, read more of the Bible, and start listening to Elvis again. The stuff in between was more dramatic than the Grapes of Wrath. When the songwriter was taking notes, I have never seen anybody write faster in my life.

Later, when the band's next album came out, I heard a lot of stories and lines that sounded awfully familiar.

I learned so much from that I can't even begin to say, but I think it is all about careful observation of people, careful listening, and note taking.

Paul McCartney's Penny Lane is about a real barbershop. You can google the roundabout he is talking about and also see the barbershop building I believe. He just wrote down what he saw. It still give me goosebumps.
Posted by: DaveBrooksMusic

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/13/17 10:56 AM

Hey Mr. Dave;

Very thoughtful stuff. I've never really thought about song writing in this or any other manner because they just pop into my head and won't leave me alone until I write them down. Sometimes the lyrics come first, sometimes the music, but mostly the music comes first either by guitar of piano.

Once I have an idea, a song seems to take on a life of it's own until completed (if there is ever such a thing). I never really know how a song is going to turn out until I'm done. In many cases, they never sound the same way I first heard them in my head, but I tend to like how they morph into something that surprises the heck out of me! Revise, revise, revise...

Please keep up the good work!!!

All the Best,

Posted by: edshaw

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/13/17 06:04 PM

Some of the great writers of the Nashville heyday
used to associate with one another. Certain places, off the beaten track.
That is what goes on here, in a very real sense.
Let me add, just this week I was learning a new scale form and chord progession. Those who feel scales are boring don't get it that is is not just running up and down the scale pattern that is important. Sure, you have to do it. The pay day is when the notes begin to speak, and the combinations take on a life.
Posted by: David Snyder

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/14/17 12:28 PM


I have never understood why some people don't see a value in practicing scales in different keys.

To me, that is like a doctor saying "I don't need to learn anything about the sound of a heart beat" or a conductor saying "I don't need to know what those silly little dots mean. I just wave my wand."

Never made sense to me.

Posted by: dcuny

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/14/17 02:05 PM

Originally Posted By: David Snyder
I have never understood why some people don't see a value in practicing scales in different keys.

As Ed said, scales are a means to an end. If you want to be able to make music, playing scales is essential, but that's not all you need.

Some people are able to bridge that gap themselves, turning the scales into music.

But others could practice scales all day long, but be no closer to creating something musical, because they can't see beyond the notes.

Similarly, one of the key to writing good songs is to write lots of songs.

Most people will get better with practice. But some will continue to churn out one mediocre song after another.

There's a way of thinking musically that some people can grasp innately. For others, it's a struggle and we need all the hints we can get. Fortunately, the end result is often indistinguishable.

Dave talked about inspiration, but that's not something you can rely on. And we all have limited experiences, so that well runs dry some time or another.

Deryk mentioned listening to new music, and you told about the importance of getting inspiration from other people's stories. floydjane told about how he actively listened for some idea to use as his next song's hook.

For what little writing I've done, I've found this method is the most reliable for me:

  • Come up with a hook. This is the "inspiration" part.
  • Write verses that justify the hook. This is the "workmanship" bit.
  • Make sure each verse says something new that moves the song forward.

Whether music comes first or second really depends on you.

Sometimes you might start with a great idea, and end up with a great song. Other times, you'll have a mediocre idea, but manage to bang away at it until it's fairly solid.

Once the song is recorded and done, congratulate yourself and move on to the next song.
Posted by: Will Rockwell

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/24/17 05:07 AM

I find the writing of song is like unraveling a sweater. The hard part is to find that first thread, but then when you start pulling it the song Just falls out of the ceiling. That said lately I've been using BB to write songs, just fooling around with chord configurations and instrumentation until I get something that sounds good. Sometimes I'll even transfer to Pro Tools before I have a word of lyrics written. This technique has opened up new styles of songwriting, and made it much easier to get a song started.
Here's an example. I wrote this last month, I wanted to write a song that honored Tom Petty, so it needed to be Southern, and laid-back. Beyond that the only connection to Petty is the mention of Highway 441. The music was created by changing chords around in BB, I was looking for a chord progression that was repeatable and interesting. Once I got all the chords worked out, I drove around in the car listening to it until I got ideas for the words.

Listen to Blue Southern Sky by WillRockwell #np on #SoundCloud
Posted by: Will Rockwell

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/24/17 02:51 PM

I found a thread today, we'll see how it goes. I had made a BB track I just called guitar song. Today as I worked on it I remembered something that happened in Home Depot yesterday, a man was staring at the cans of spray paint and clearly baffled. He was holding a can of Robins Egg Blue, and told me he was looking for silver. I helped him find his paint, and today was thinking about how many people disagree just because they see the same things with different eyes. I have an idea to call this song Color Blind. That's the thread, now I'll start pulling.
Posted by: duncanwhyte

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/27/17 12:47 AM

I refer to the song 'the first time ever I saw your face'. As a good example of how a song began in an obscure original version and then grew into something quite outstanding. Look it up and see what happened to it. Along the way the composers and performers and the listeners participated in a long process of realisation.

I think composing works well when there is a balance of life. So having a 'musical home', a real home, a technical discipline and practice and time to let creativity come through.
Posted by: Will Rockwell

Re: Coming up with Songs - 12/27/17 06:50 AM

Originally Posted By: duncanwhyte
I refer to the song 'the first time ever I saw your face'. As a good example of how a song began in an obscure original version and then grew into something quite outstanding. Look it up and see what happened to it. Along the way the composers and performers and the listeners participated in a long process of realisation.

I think composing works well when there is a balance of life. So having a 'musical home', a real home, a technical discipline and practice and time to let creativity come through.

interesting. Here's the original version, from 1957