Music writing – how to do it properly?
Knowing the ins and outs of writing music is one of those bigger than life kind of topics. But since we have covered another, related topic of the same kind recently – who wouldn’t remember the famous “Tips on writing lyrics” article – it was only natural to have a go at the other part of the equation… or whatever you want to call it. Well yeah, music it is. Just like in case of the lyrics stuff, we are not going to attempt to cover this shit scientifically or literally either. It’s just our usual, eternal wisdom oriented approach. So you want to know how to create great music? Well, here we go!
Get your songcraft together, melodically
- Start with the melody. Starting with the chords will put you in a rut that’s hard to get out of. Listen to the endless stream of recent “hit” songs with the I-V-vi-IV chord progression. Once you get into this music creating thing deeper, you’ll realize that chords are just chords. Without a memorable, strong melody, these songs tend to sound the same. Who needs this bland shit?
- Structure is your friend. Listen to your favorite songs and pay attention to their structure. Knowing when, where and how many verses and choruses to put in your song is a useful knowledge.
- Don’t be afraid to create your own structure. Not every song needs to be a hit, after all. There’s about as much truth in it, as there is irony. Doncha think?
- If melody and chords come to you at the same time, it’s all good. If melody, chords and lyrics come to you at the same time, don’t be alarmed either. It just means you’re a pro.
- Try to have the music first, to avoid the textbook/poem effect. What is the textbook/poem effect? It’s the rather disturbing phenomenon of having no distinguishable melody whatsoever, because the lyrics were born first. It results in the singer outputting (let’s not call it singing) a seemingly endless stream of words in a droning way, so the audience eventually falls asleep.
- Write for the singer. Sure, it’s possible to transpose any kind of music to any key. But if the range of what you wrote exceeds the vocal range of your singer, where are you going to transpose it? Out the window, and into the trash can, maybe?
- When for some strange and amazing reason you get the urge to create music, get away from your instrument(s). We are impressed with the scales, chords and stuff you’ve learned so far, but we don’t want to listen to another practice session. Not even if you put some lyrics on top of it. We want to hear all the colorful musical ideas you have on your mind. YOUR MIND. What, there are none? You better just give up on this shit, mate.
- Dare to be random. Randomness means abandon. Abandon means freedom. Nuff said (not muff, Mr. Guttermind!).
- Repetition. Unless you are into free jazz, contemporary classical music, serialism or other esoteric genres only 1 out of 100 people listens to, you better incorporate some serious repetition into your music. That’s a sure fire trick to get it ingrained in the listeners’ memory. Not to mention prog rock. Just kidding.
Music theory is overrated
- Theory is good. But it’s only good if you have learned it and are able to use it subconsciously. In other words, theory will not teach you how to write a good song. It will only give you some useful tools and guidelines. Ones you can even neglect later on.