Breaking Down The Song Writing Process
Most experienced songwriters will have a process that they use to help them write their songs efficiently. I certainly do, and it's really useful to have this, especially when you've got writer's block and have no idea where to start!
It can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to put together a whole song in your head so it's best to break it down into stages and create your own process.
In this blog we're going to look at breaking down the song writing process into smaller chunks, which can really help if you're struggling with it. I'll be going through my own process as an example, but my process might not work for you so it's best to take ideas from this to come up with something that works best for you. I create mostly heavy rock and metal music but a lot of the steps in my process will work with pretty much any genre.
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1. Listen To Music For Inspiration:
This is usually the first place that gives me an idea for a song. Obviously I don't listen to a song just to copy it but the inspiration I get from listening to music gets my creative juices flowing.
This is a big help when it comes to the production stage of making music as well because you can listen to how certain sounds are in the mix and use them as a reference point.
2. Come Up With A Concept Or Theme:
I always think of a subject or theme for my soon to be songs before starting to write them. This can help to give you an idea of where to go musically in setting the mood and feel of the song.
For example you may want to have brighter sounding instruments played in a major key for more upbeat and happy songs, but rather darker sounds in a minor key for sad and melancholic music.
Deciding this early on can help you begin your songwriting process more efficiently and decisively.
3. Work Out A Basic Chord Progression or Riff:
Linking to the last section, spend a while playing around with different chords or a riff that suits the theme or mood of your song. I usually just plug in my guitar and try different chord progressions and riffs at different tempos.
I usually write my songs in a slower tempo that reflects the melancholic nature of the majority of my music.
If like me your music theory knowledge is limited, chords that work well together can always be found online to give you a starting point.
4. Create Rhythm Sections:
I usually come up with the drum and bass guitar sections once I've written the main chords or riffs. A lot of the time the majority of my bass lines follow the root note of the guitar chords and my drums reflect the mood and tempo of the song, whilst giving the chords or riffs some backbone.
5. Build Further With Melodies:
In the style of music I mostly make, the melodies that are played over the rhythm guitar sections are lead guitar parts, that are of course different but fit well to compliment each other.
More electronic styles of music may use synth melodies or samples instead, but the melodies can be created with any sound! As long as it works well with the chords and rhythm sections.
This is maybe the most thought about part of songwriting, depending on the genre of course.
The majority of the time I use a common song structure of: Intro, Verse, Pre Chorus, Chorus x2 followed by a bridge or middle 8, then a double chorus at the end.
I find it easier to go through each section individually just to get through it in smaller chunks.
A thesaurus can be a really good tool if you're stuck for words.
7. Work Out Vocal Melodies, Ad-libs And Backing Vocals:
It can sometimes take me a while to work out the best vocal melody for a song and I think it's best to spend time on this as it's usually the main focus of the music.
Once you have a vocal melody you're happy with, try to come up with some backing vocals, harmonies and ad libs to add more impact to your top line.
This is really important, as it's the stage where you decide if you're happy with how the song has turned out. As difficult as it can be, try to listen to it critically and neutrally so you can work out if you need to change anything or not.
I usually end up changing something, especially when in the production stage. It might not sound how you initially envisioned so may benefit from some adjustment.
Like anything, songwriting is a skill that is developed through practice and often trial and error.
Coming up with your own system can really help with breaking down the song writing process and make it less overwhelming at first. Again, you will discover the best way for you the more you do it, so just keep at it!