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Jun 2, 2021 - 3:53:19 PM
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668 posts since 6/11/2019

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?

Jun 2, 2021 - 4:15:40 PM
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6013 posts since 9/26/2008

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.

Jun 2, 2021 - 4:20:20 PM
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2816 posts since 10/22/2007

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?

Jun 2, 2021 - 4:28:26 PM
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2816 posts since 10/22/2007

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

Jun 2, 2021 - 5:43:36 PM
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2127 posts since 12/11/2008

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.

Jun 3, 2021 - 9:04:57 AM
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306 posts since 12/2/2013

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.

Jun 3, 2021 - 12:55:09 PM

1997 posts since 4/6/2014

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...

Jun 3, 2021 - 1:15:10 PM
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carlb

USA

2469 posts since 2/2/2008
Online Now

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.

Jun 3, 2021 - 2:49:59 PM
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banjopaolo

Italy

245 posts since 9/14/2010

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


Jun 3, 2021 - 3:45:52 PM
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2599 posts since 7/12/2013

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.

Jun 3, 2021 - 6:55:07 PM

2127 posts since 12/11/2008

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

Jun 4, 2021 - 6:22:37 AM

668 posts since 6/11/2019

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...

Jun 4, 2021 - 6:27:47 AM
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668 posts since 6/11/2019

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.

Jun 4, 2021 - 7:46:11 AM
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513 posts since 7/18/2014

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.

Jun 4, 2021 - 10:31:15 AM

banjopaolo

Italy

245 posts since 9/14/2010

Jun 4, 2021 - 12:07:02 PM
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2816 posts since 10/22/2007

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

Jun 4, 2021 - 2:11:30 PM
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513 posts since 7/18/2014

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.

Nov 1, 2021 - 8:24:44 AM

2317 posts since 7/4/2007

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.

Nov 1, 2021 - 11:38:41 AM

1997 posts since 4/6/2014

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?

Nov 1, 2021 - 6:49:43 PM

596 posts since 7/30/2021

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.

Nov 2, 2021 - 12:33:50 PM
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1997 posts since 4/6/2014

Sweet is the melody

Sweet Is The Melody
 

Nov 2, 2021 - 6:27:49 PM

513 posts since 7/18/2014

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.

Nov 2, 2021 - 6:45:30 PM

6013 posts since 9/26/2008

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

Nov 2, 2021 - 7:42:22 PM

596 posts since 7/30/2021

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! :-)

Nov 2, 2021 - 8:11:46 PM

2816 posts since 10/22/2007

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.

Nov 2, 2021 - 8:15:32 PM

2816 posts since 10/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by NCnotes

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


https://youtu.be/8GuI4UUZrmw

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