The Acoustic Guitar Forum

The Acoustic Guitar Forum (
-   PLAY and Write (
-   -   Do you have a method for writing music? (

smic28 03-01-2021 05:48 PM

Do you have a method for writing music?
I have been writing fingerstyle guitar instrumentals since I learned how to play at 10 years old. It took several years before I created something that I thought was worthy to play for other people. And those were few and far between.

Since then, I have created a lot of lousy songs that that I just bury under the rug. Stuff I don't even want to play much less listen to.

But over time, I fell into a song writing routine that has produced some pieces I really like. It usually starts with the discovery through noodling of a new lick that can serve as a hook for the piece. From there, I work with that, usually change it (rythm, notes, runs, timing), and start building it into a song. Then I have to fill in the rest - song parts, transitions, variations, resolution/ending, etc. At some point it becomes work, as if I am writing a manuscript - moving ideas around, editing the parts, etc. And then its done and recorded.

What is your process for writing music?

Brucebubs 03-01-2021 05:53 PM

Very similar - 'creative noodling' - joining pieces together - some work, some don't.

Earl49 03-01-2021 06:06 PM

I've only written a few songs, but a serious songwriter buddy of mine detailed his process. Start with a classic folk tune that you know. Re-write the lyrics. Then go back and change some chords, timing, time signature, etc to fit your new words. Bingo! He called it the "tyranny of the blank page" and that was his way to get over the hump.

With so many great songs out there, I have been inhibited in my writing. Why should I bother? As a happily married soon-to-be retired engineer, there is nothing all that dramatic or unique for me to say, and not nearly enough lifetime remaining to learn covers of all the songs that I like. A well-turned poetic phrase or a nice chord progression is a thing of beauty, but I don't feel the burning drive to create them myself.

The few instrumentals I've developed mostly were built from licks and snippets from other fingerstyle tunes that I had already learned, often taken out of context. Sometimes things just drop into place, then you work on it from there.

Mr Bojangles 03-01-2021 06:10 PM

There is a good book by Paul Zollo called "Songwriters On Songwriting". It is a series of interviews with famous artists that explains their writing methods and guess what, they are mostly all different. Besides being an interesting read, it is filled with techniques for creating new songs.

DukeX 03-01-2021 08:24 PM


Originally Posted by Earl49 (Post 6650751)
I've only written a few songs, but a serious songwriter buddy of mine detailed his process. Start with a classic folk tune that you know. Re-write the lyrics. Then go back and change some chords, timing, time signature, etc to fit your new words. Bingo! He called it the "tyranny of the blank page" and that was his way to get over the hump.

That's an excellent exercise that I've seen folks use before.

mjh42 03-01-2021 08:35 PM

I've been writing a few songs a year for last couple of years......mostly in an acoustic blues kinda of way....I get inspired and write things down.....Saturday I started a tune.....not yet done...and tonight I wrote down another one....pretty much done.....

I always come up with the lyrics........

The music-- the cords ---that is the area I fall short on.....not enough knowledge and experience there....

Most of my songs are simple 3-- 4 cord songs.....

I can sing most of them....But I can't translate that to the instrument....

Many just stay in the lyrics stage until I can get the rest done.....

I've used the Nashville Numbering system to help me work through a song or two....find the beginning and then play around with the other cords to find the sound....

I'm a neophyte with all this but learning as I go.....

elninobaby 03-01-2021 09:08 PM

Iíve written and co-written hundreds of songs over about 50 years. Iíve done it all kinds of ways. One way Iíve used lately, and I recommend, is learning to use a DAW (digital audio workstation) and going to it early in the process to help structure and document a song. I use Logic Pro, but GarageBand would be good, too, and several other possibilities. I use a keyboard to input notes, but there are ways to do it with a guitar. My songwriting process almost never involves complicated instrumental parts (if a song of mine has any of that, it comes later, after the writing is finished), so I usually input the equivalent of a lead sheet (vocal line and just chords). Once itís in, Iím forced to decide on structure. There are only a handful of structures. Of course, a person can invent a totally new structure for a song, no rules against that, but itís hard to find a satisfying new structure and so everyone is 99% of the time using a form thatís been used before. So you put your half-formed ideas into the DAW, and then maybe you decide the song will be verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-coda. That goes into the DAW, and then there it is right before your eyes. And you can easily see what you have to do (write more lyrics, create an interesting accompanist, whatever). Anyway, lots of other ways to go, but maybe you should give this one a try!

rick-slo 03-01-2021 09:28 PM

Usually have the main focus on the melody line(s). Get a couple or three of those going that flow well back and forth with each other in an instrumental and you can build your variations off of those.

Chipotle 03-01-2021 10:14 PM


Originally Posted by Mr Bojangles (Post 6650757)
It is a series of interviews with famous artists that explains their writing methods and guess what, they are mostly all different.

Heck, even the same songwriter (like me) can use different methods for different songs. Sometimes it's a fragment of melody or a cool riff that starts it off. Other times I stumble on a chord progression. It can be a random lyric that pops into my head. I've had to compose commissioned songs based on a particular topic.

One thing I sometimes do, regardless of the starting point, is to identify the overall "feel" I want in a song, find other song(s) that have a similar feel, and borrow/adapt bits and pieces, whether chords, rhythm, or melodic cues. By the time I'm done, it seldom copies the original(s) very closely. (I do try to avoid borrowing lyrics.) It's a bit along the lines of Earl49's bit about modifying old folk tunes.

For example, the tune I'm working on now was inspired by some names written in a concrete sidewalk while I was walking the dog, and I decided I wanted it to have a "feel" a bit like some of the tunes from Nilsson's "The Point", where he does some neat circle-of-5ths stuff with the chord progressions and the songs have a certain "bounce" to them. Not that my song will sound like The Point at all, but... you get the point. :)

The Bard Rocks 03-03-2021 10:14 PM

I just answered this elsewhere, but here is the gist of it:

The melodies come when noodling. When I like something that has discovered me, I start playing it, trying to refine what I hear (and trying to play it the same way twice when I do something I like). Then I think of what kind of song it sounds like to me. (If any - I write as many instrumentals.) Once that is identified, the initial words come pretty fast. Then comes a long period of refining them. Once it is captured in notation, I am less likely to mess with it.

BoneDigger 03-03-2021 11:34 PM

For me, it kind of all just happens at once. I come up with melodies as I'm writing the words. I would say the words take precedence but they also tend to lead me into the melody. In a way, the flow of the words dictates the melody.

stanron 03-04-2021 03:20 AM

I wrote my first song before I learned to play an instrument by putting words to a tune I knew. When I learned my first few chords I made up songs strumming the chords I could play. Later I could finger pick chords and made up songs that way. Then, as my technique improved, I would start with some clever phrase or combination of notes on the guitar. Writing songs was a way of adding to my performing repertoire. When I stopped performing that need stopped and I stopped writing songs.

Now old age has left me with fingers that can't bend enough to reach the fret board as I used to. Last month it occurred to me that I could still 'think' of tunes. I came up with a small musical phrase and put it into a notation editor. I worked it up into a complete melody and later added lyrics. Between then and now I've come up with nine melodies, two of which have lyrics. For me this is a very easy way of composing. I don't do it every day. Time travels too fast for an old man but this new way of writing is, to me, exciting.

Andy Howell 03-04-2021 05:22 AM

It's all about creating a varied practice regime for me.

Often I will pick a guitar and play existing pieces but Imake time for some sessions where I start in a different place. I might start with a different tuning, maybe a minor scale rather than major or use the capo to deliberately explore a key that I don't normally sing or play in.

Ideas come from noodling around. But it I noodle witb the same old chords and keys I jsut get the same old stuff!

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 01:31 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions Inc.
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, The Acoustic Guitar Forum

vB Ad Management by =RedTyger=