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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Composers/Writers please get in here...


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/55324

Flat_the_3rd_n7th - Posted - 06/02/2021:  15:53:19


When you write a song, which comes first? The melody or the chord structure? Chord structure or melody? Chicken or egg?

I understand a lyrical story may drive the musical articulation, but where does it go from there into abstract?

ChickenMan - Posted - 06/02/2021:  16:15:40


In my writing days, songs came in all of those forms, but I often formed pieces of melody and maybe a lyric line or two first - chorus/hook. Lately, I'm working on a song that has yet to have concrete lyrics but is fully fleshed out with horn lines, bass, melody and counter melody. Words are eluding me. I haven't written in a long while and am now reminded why one should stay in the habit of writing - gotta exercise the word muscles too!

My favorite songs came in blocks of chords, hook then lyrics, really almost all at once. Oh to be young and inspired again.

farmerjones - Posted - 06/02/2021:  16:20:20


Theoretically speaking, chords are harmony while melody is, well melody. To take this school of thought along, a song/tune is composed of melody primarily. Then can be arranged with various harmony motifs.

I play by ear. Arguably, everything I play is either an approximation, or improvisation. (for better or worse) So if I play it different, or "wrong" is each a new work of Art? If I play Who Shot the Car Door, wrong, can I then name it Bob Knocked His Head? Is it Art?

farmerjones - Posted - 06/02/2021:  16:28:26


quote:

Originally posted by ChickenMan

In my writing days, songs came in all of those forms, but I often formed pieces of melody and maybe a lyric line or two first - chorus/hook. Lately, I'm working on a song that has yet to have concrete lyrics but is fully fleshed out with horn lines, bass, melody and counter melody. Words are eluding me. I haven't written in a long while and am now reminded why one should stay in the habit of writing - gotta exercise the word muscles too!



My favorite songs came in blocks of chords, hook then lyrics, really almost all at once. Oh to be young and inspired again.






You sound like a writer/producer. I was just listening to Rick Ruben interview Mike Campbell.  Of course, the subject drifted to Tom Petty. He would  often come up with songs, fully formed. Amazing.  



Bill Monroe also spoke of a collective consciousness one can tap into. 


Edited by - farmerjones on 06/02/2021 16:31:30

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 06/02/2021:  17:43:36


I've written a reasonable number of songs/musical pieces over the years. Maybe twenty or thirty (I just don't keep track). Sometimes they start with a lick or series of chords I might play on the guitar, fiddle or piano. My fingers will just begin to come up with something. Sometimes the piece will derive from a lyrical or musical fragment that shows up in my head. Sometimes a usable melody might appear when I let my fingers freely run through a modal scale, a scale that doesn't begin from a place where traditional western tunes usually derive. For a while I'd dutifully note my compositions in traditional musical notation.

mmuussiiccaall - Posted - 06/03/2021:  09:04:57


Mine come about in all ways but my favorite is when I have lyrics in a poem form. I read the words and determine the emotion in the phrase and just write above
m for sad
M for happy
M7 for romantic
m7 for majestic
OOK (chord out of key) for emphasis
etc.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 06/03/2021:  12:55:09


What type of a song? Is it a song or a tune? Does the melody follow the lyrics? do the Lyrics follow the rhythm, Are there any lyrics? is it a dance groove?.....etc...

carlb - Posted - 06/03/2021:  13:15:10


I've only written two songs and both are in the Woody Guthrie tradition, i.e. I use an existing melody or song and write new words.

banjopaolo - Posted - 06/03/2021:  14:49:59


I wrote a lot of music, instrumental music not songs, I usually start from a small melodic fragment and develop it with harmonies... It's funny because I often compose at the piano, an instrument I don't play so well... but I feel that having all the notes there on the keybord it is more easy to develop the tune. Many of the tunes I play on banjo and fiddle have been written on piano and then adapted to the string instruments
like this one for example


fiddlinsteudel - Posted - 06/03/2021:  15:45:52


I'll throw my half a cent in here. I've written a bunch of different songs, some have even been finalists in various song writing contests for whatever that's worth (not much probably). I would say that song ideas come from all sorts of different places. For me it depends more on the instrument I'm noodling around on. Fiddle, is going to be more melody based. Mandolin will be more melody based, but definitely more bluesy or even bluegrass funk. Guitar will be more chordal based.

If it's melody based, then I often start with fragements/phrases. I'll then build them out from there. I try and identify if it's going to be a A or B part and I try and the hardest part is trying to keep other melodies from creeping in. "Oh that's cool ... oh wait, that's the 3rd part of hangman's reel"

If I'm noodling around on the guitar, then either I'll have some sort of lyrical idea which I'll try and find chords that fit my idea, or i'll just strum around on the guitar and try and find interesting chord patterns. If I like something I'll try and sing some sort of melody along with it, or make up some lyrics on the spot just to give me something to sing.

Often when I'm working on a song, I'll switch instruments around to try and get different perspectives on the same piece and just slowly layer things from there.

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 06/03/2021:  18:55:07


Paolo -- sweet tune!
fiddlinsteudel -- Yeah. What you're sayin'!

Flat_the_3rd_n7th - Posted - 06/04/2021:  06:22:37


quote:

Originally posted by mmuussiiccaall

Mine come about in all ways but my favorite is when I have lyrics in a poem form. I read the words and determine the emotion in the phrase and just write above

m for sad

M for happy

M7 for romantic

m7 for majestic

OOK (chord out of key) for emphasis

etc.






I like this--you sure won't find it in a scales book...

Flat_the_3rd_n7th - Posted - 06/04/2021:  06:27:47


quote:

Originally posted by banjopaolo

I wrote a lot of music, instrumental music not songs, I usually start from a small melodic fragment and develop it with harmonies... It's funny because I often compose at the piano, an instrument I don't play so well... but I feel that having all the notes there on the keybord it is more easy to develop the tune. Many of the tunes I play on banjo and fiddle have been written on piano and then adapted to the string instruments

like this one for example






That waltz is great!  My ear is not skilled enough to immediately call out the chords, but I can definitely hear some modal changes and chords more complex than just the 'big 3.'



Well done and thanks for sharing.

Astrang - Posted - 06/04/2021:  07:46:11


Awesome tune Paolo

Sorry I can’t add anything meaningful to the topic; however I will complain that it sure is getting hard to come up with a good title.

banjopaolo - Posted - 06/04/2021:  10:31:15


Thank you Flat_the_3rd_n7th and Astrang

farmerjones - Posted - 06/04/2021:  12:07:02


This is cool: youtu.be/RfxioOwQyK0
Fast forward to minute 37 for the songwriting stuff. But I've always been inspired by Jon Cleary.

Astrang - Posted - 06/04/2021:  14:11:30


Yep, it sure helps me to have a hook in mind for the tune. Usually the hook will establish the key signature, a few typical chords to use, and the time signature. That’s free information for me, right off the top, and makes for a good head start on building a tune around the hook. I don’t always start with a hook in mind, but many times there seems to be one when the tune is finished. I try to allow the tune to have input and tell me where it wants to go.

fiddlenbanjo - Posted - 11/01/2021:  08:24:44


Melody probably comes first unless you need some parameters or something to jump start you. Then deciding the chords first can be get you going. If you play guitar or some chordal instrument, it will help.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 11/01/2021:  11:38:41


I believe that the primary and simplest way of composition as taught to Royal Academy of Music students, is to be able to write a melody to a given verse. First finding a rhythm that fits the words, second, putting a melody to the rhythm, and third, harmonizing the melody in an appropriate major or minor key.

But i might be wrong?

NCnotes - Posted - 11/01/2021:  18:49:43


Great waltz, Paolo!!

When I make up songs, it usually starts with a chord progression on guitar, and me humming on top. When I reach a place where it "crystallizes" and I like it, I'll record it. Then eventually I lose the recording of my little scrap of music or record over it...that's where those compositions go...

On Bandlab (digital music mixing site kind of like Garage Band) I also tend to start with a guitar loop, then add bass line and beat, and work on melody last. (I will not share those because they are not folk or traditional! ) Bandlab was addictively fun, but was giving me carpal tunnel because my day job is also digital/computer-based! So I rarely use it anymore, and have gone back to "live" physical music.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 11/02/2021:  12:33:50


Sweet is the melody



Sweet Is The Melody

 

Astrang - Posted - 11/02/2021:  18:27:49


I’m sure it would help if I knew what I was doing, but I seem to need some kind of spark of melody to start with. It could be anything from a mistake I made while playing soldiers joy, too something that my wood splitter is screaming out at me trying to split that big elm tree. Any kind of unique noise might ring the bell, and it could be just a fragment, but I may be able to build the tune around it, or, that fragment may finally end up in the B part, but it seems to get the process started for me.

I make notes of my notes, before they get away, I write them down. I have little pieces of B parts lying all over the place. I try not to force it, just be thinking about it and let it come if it will.

If it has a unique rhythm or punch to it somehow, I probably should make a short recording of it, just to jog my memory from day to day. Just a few days before I came down with the covid, I had just finished writing a real pretty little tune. All the notation was complete, the A part, the B part, Intro and Outro, even a variation for the second time through, all wrote down and just like I wanted. Real pretty! I’m looking at the notation of it right now as I write this, I’m holding it my hand, but for the life of me, I can’t remember how to play it. I just can’t remember how it went. Maybe it will come back around someday, but a short recording of it, or a small part of it, sure would help.

I’m currently working on a little tune like that, I’m in the learn how to play it phase. If you don’t get the first little part just right, then you loose the whole tune. I did make a little recording just of that part and I’ve had to use it several times to remind me how to get the tune started again. Without it, I would have lost it.

Chords seem to come in last thing for me, but usually I have an idea where they are going.

I know my little tunes will never go anywhere, but it’s fun to play them and good practice in all regards.

ChickenMan - Posted - 11/02/2021:  18:45:30


To be clear, writing a tune is not the same as writing a song.



No words, maybe could be considered a verse and chorus but likely no bridge.



And having words given to you to write melody for is a piece of cake. I can improvise repeatable melodies all day.angeldevil

NCnotes - Posted - 11/02/2021:  19:42:22


Not a piece of cake to me, at all! Don't know how you do it!
But if you play a series of repeated chords on guitar or piano...a melody will come into my head. It's interesting how everybody is different.

And, I like pete_fiddle's musical interlude! :-)

farmerjones - Posted - 11/02/2021:  20:11:46


IMHO, a song complete with lyrics is the most evocative entity. While instrumental composition seem to impress musicians, and other composers.
Remember, Musicbox Dancer? Top 40 instrumental. They exist, but are rare.

Some songs are so evocative and emotional to play, it doesn't matter to me if I didn't write it. This to me, serves as more proof of some stream of common consciousness, many fluent writers speak about.

farmerjones - Posted - 11/02/2021:  20:15:32


quote:

Originally posted by NCnotes

Not a piece of cake to me, at all! Don't know how you do it!






youtu.be/8GuI4UUZrmw

Astrang - Posted - 11/02/2021:  20:22:25


I was referring to a song, in that I would need the melody to write the lyrics to. I just went on to ramble about coming up with a melody.

JonD - Posted - 11/02/2021:  20:44:18


I never thought about which came first… now that I’m thinking about it, of the few songs I’ve written it seems to me the ‘hook’ of the melody and maybe the first line of the chorus just showed up at the same time. Then I would chase them along till the rest of the melody fell into place, with maybe more lyrics or maybe just humming it out. But anyway the hook and the theme of the lyrics came to light together somehow, or maybe the one suggested the other almost instantly. I hope I haven’t jinxed myself by examining the process. I’d like to write more, just haven’t for a long time….

NCnotes - Posted - 11/02/2021:  21:20:33


farmerjones Ha, love it. People even started nodding their heads and clapping. :-) And it has a finale?!

My brain can not function that way.
( The composer of famous musical Hamilton - he said that he was reading the biography of Alexander Hamilton, and rap lyrics started coming into his mind. When I read the biography of Hamilton, I fall asleep...)

pete_fiddle - Posted - 11/03/2021:  13:41:32


The "Chords First" thing works with me if it is in common, cut common, or even 3/4 or 6/8 time. But it seems to me to be a bit of a broad brush if i need to get things "just right", or i need to use a weird time signature (or change time sigs). Then i have to get into the words, and even what is behind the words. For me the words don't have to be sung, but they do dictate the rhythm and nuances of a melody, even if they are not there in the final tune. They just form a "backbone" for a melody. The same as a dance rhythm forms a backbone for a dance tune.

Anyhoo.. What i reckon is, that Words form the backbone of a "Listening Tune" and Rhythm forms the backbone of a "Dancing Tune" and the words can be sung to either....Or not

ChickenMan - Posted - 11/03/2021:  14:21:07


Words are the gold ring we reach for that can make or break a song.

fiddlinsteudel - Posted - 11/03/2021:  16:16:42


I think for me it happens all sorts of ways, sometimes it's a melody fragment that I find after noodling around, sometimes it's a story idea that I want to turn into song. I find being able to play different instruments really helps my creativity. I'll often start off with a song framework, then try playing it on mandolin, then switch to guitar, then switch to banjo, and because I play them all differently they add/change the way I think about the song.



I've entered a handful of songs over the years in the Great American Song Writing competition and had a few place in the finalists, never actually won a category though. Here are two the last songs I wrote with my old band. What's sorta interesting is the first song, I wrote on an airplane without any instruments, but I had been listening to lots of Infamous Stringdusters, which is sorta why it kinda sounds like it. And of course none of these songs would be what they are without my band mates.


Edited by - fiddlinsteudel on 11/03/2021 16:21:48


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