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queensamaria
Deinonychus
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03 Dec 2014, 12:37 pm

Hi. I decided to dabble in songwriting. I have been writing songs in middle school, but it was based on watching cartoons and anime. Now, I am writing songs about being yourself. The only problem is I don't know how to compose music. What should I do?


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creativeconsumption
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03 Dec 2014, 3:28 pm

You can easily find places online where you can learn the basics of music theory for free. Trust me, even a little knowledge goes a long way. If its just a hobby, there are tons of websites, or youtube videos about this. But if you are serious about it I would recommend playing an instrument, preferrably the piano. It usually kickstarts a whole new understanding of how music works, and will help develop your 'ear' :)
As far as putting together lyrics, nothing works better than practice.

good luck :)



MadHatterMatador
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03 Dec 2014, 4:34 pm

Basically, it's hard to go wrong if you just make sure all the instruments are in the same key, and stay in the same key (I know there are exceptions on both sides). This ensures the instruments sound well together. Timing and rhythm should also be consistent among instruments and consistent with each other (though there can be exceptions on both sides). Also, in post-production make sure the volume of each instrument is mixed well, so they blend, to a point that sounds good to you. These are just general guidelines, but the song will probably sound decent if you stick to those. Lyrically, just avoid cliches, filler lines or words, write what you can connect with, and don't go out of your way to write deep lyrics because sometimes people can see right through that. My main piece of advice would be don't try to make the song good. I know that sounds weird, but I mean, write what comes to you. Don't sit there and think about what you can put in there to impress people, or to have a good song. More often than not, the result will be less than stellar.


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AngelRho
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04 Dec 2014, 2:56 pm

Songwriting? Nah…you don't need all that theory and crap. Here's what you do:

MOST songwriters don't work alone. Most songwriters are either strong with writing lyrics OR they are strong with writing melodies/harmonies. Quite simply, write the lyrics you want and don't worry about the "music" part. Find someone interested in putting music to your words and make it a collaborative process.

If you want to go it alone, having keyboard or guitar skills are virtually mandatory. It just ends up being quicker if you can find a writing partner, especially if you lack time/patience to learn an instrument. And, of course, learning an instrument is a chore in and of itself. To make playing an instrument work for you as a songwriting tool, recording demos, etc., you ARE going to have to learn theory. For basic songwriting requirements in major keys, you need to know I, ii, IV, V, and vi chords, or in the key of C, it's C, Dm, F, G, and Am. You'll want to understand how to use the circle of 5th's to plot out chord progressions and a good ear to help you know what's going to sound best with your melody.

Online collaboration is also an option… If you can hear it "in your head," just make a quick audio recording with your smartphone or internal mic on your computer. Send that to someone who will put music to it, and BAM! You've got a demo. Although personally, I'd rather see you invest in a decent microphone. I'm a huge fan of the Shure SM57 (although SM58 is the de facto standard in dynamic vocal mics). Great sound, low price. And there are a few products out there that will send a mic signal to your computer via USB. You need something like Garageband to record to (turn the metronome off before recording this way). On the PC side you have Reaper and Audacity.

That is the ultra-quick way to get started. There are plenty musicians here on WP who'd probably be glad to work with you in bringing your songs to life!

Good luck and happy writing!



AngelRho
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04 Dec 2014, 3:35 pm

Incidentally, here's an online collaboration I did with a singer in Second Life. I'll give the details of how this particular collaboration worked, but if it's too tl;dr for you, you can just skip to the video! lol A simple piano-voice demo is pretty quick, whereas a full production on something is going to take some time. You do demos so you can get your songs to artists. Producing your work isn't for getting their attention but rather selling/promoting yourself. A lot of people don't like getting the complete mix but rather prefer leaving a lot to imagination. So the actual technical demands of songwriting are going to depend on what you're really trying to do.

So, anyway, this song "You Can't Have Me"… She sent me an a cappella stem, which was interesting because she has an amazing ability to keep pretty rock solid pitch throughout, and that made my job sooooo much easier. I've found a lot of people lack a solid sense of rhythm/tempo, so when I got that vocal stem it was all over the place. My process for handling that has evolved over the years. What I do now is create a tempo map and chop up the stem if there needs to be more space. I'll usually have a basic drum loop going in the background just to get a sense of how it fits. Then I'll add piano to get a sense of the harmony that it needs. I'll layer other MIDI instruments to make tempo better defined, and I'll delete the tempo map after that. I like to play MIDI drums in after that, quantize, and then delete my original drum loop (though lately I'm preferring looped drums to faking a live performance). I'm a decent bass player, so that'll be the next thing I record, and then I'll delete the synthesized bass track. Guitars take a little longer since I'm not a very good guitar player. And I'll finish up with whatever else acoustic instruments I want, take another look at softsynths if I'm using those, and then I'm pretty much done. I'll make two versions of that--one with the original scratch vocal and one without. My singer can then record a new vocal stem that will flow more naturally with the track, email that back to me, and I'll add it to the mix. After that, it's done.

In this particular collaboration, she wanted to feature another instrumentalist besides me. I'd originally recorded a half-decent guitar lead, so I had to make a third version without my lead guitar, though I kept the guitar 2 stem more in the background. He recorded a guitar stem and sent me back two recordings, a reference with the guitar dubbed over my recording, and a lead guitar stem that I could balance with my mix. When we were done, we had what amounted to a complete studio recording and a separate performance track she could use any time she wanted.

Not long after that she started teaching herself how to play guitar so she could avoid using tracks altogether. I haven't been in SL in years. It's a lot of fun getting together songwriters and doing cool projects like that!



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06 Dec 2014, 5:58 pm

I am the absolute worst at songwriting. I just have no "follow-thru" to get it together, plus when I do I'm embarrased for some reason at pretty much any lyrics I write, even if in a vacuum I feel like they are acceptable.

I've played guitar for nearly 20 years and I've only ever written one complete song, and it's about 2 minutes long. It's incidentally the only song I ever even started on that didn't have some big-time fundamental reference to something significant in my life.

The circumstances were I was going to meet a friend while I was in the process of moving and went to and waited all day in a completely wrong city :lol:

That maybe should have been an indicator in advance of grad school, I apparently smoked so much ganja that I went to the entirely wrong city on a mistake, but whatever at least the school thing worked out :lol

So I was inspired to write a quasi-"love song" that didn't have anything to do with the situation and was basically about me being a fool, it took me only the drive time between cities (~4 hours) to get it dialed in, but that ridiculous s**t is all I've got and it's not great.


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queensamaria
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20 Dec 2014, 5:43 pm

MadHatterMatador wrote:
Basically, it's hard to go wrong if you just make sure all the instruments are in the same key, and stay in the same key (I know there are exceptions on both sides). This ensures the instruments sound well together. Timing and rhythm should also be consistent among instruments and consistent with each other (though there can be exceptions on both sides). Also, in post-production make sure the volume of each instrument is mixed well, so they blend, to a point that sounds good to you. These are just general guidelines, but the song will probably sound decent if you stick to those. Lyrically, just avoid cliches, filler lines or words, write what you can connect with, and don't go out of your way to write deep lyrics because sometimes people can see right through that. My main piece of advice would be don't try to make the song good. I know that sounds weird, but I mean, write what comes to you. Don't sit there and think about what you can put in there to impress people, or to have a good song. More often than not, the result will be less than stellar.


Thank you very much. I enjoy the advice. :D


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queensamaria
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20 Dec 2014, 5:48 pm

Thank you all for the advice. Not there is only one problem. I am scared to sing on YouTube. What can I do?


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AngelRho
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20 Dec 2014, 7:07 pm

lol

Well…the way I see it, you have two options…

First, find someone on Youtube who WILL sing your songs.

Second, just sing your songs on Youtube anyway. Have you actually SEEN some of these beginner songer/singwriter types? ;) They're awful. Trust me, either you'll at worst either be in good company or there will always someone a lot worse than you.

I myself lean more towards experimental instrumentals. But in order to build a good following in social media, I've decided to drift just slightly towards mainstream EDM. I'm currently arranging a dubstep version of "O Sing a Song of Bethlehem." Hey, it's almost Christmas! So rather than working from the beginning, I'm starting with my bass drop, since I've never really done that sort of thing before, and spending most of my time getting those loops down before I work on the intro and main sections.

Thing is, I'm terrible at this sort of thing. So I'm going to listen to as many other musicians I can, make my mixes as good as I can, and get them out there. Doesn't have to be great. And if experienced EDM producers rip my stuff apart, I'll simply thank them for listening and make sure the issues I'm having are corrected in the next mix I do.

You're going to be up against a lot of criticism. What you want to avoid is not getting any kind of response at all, positive OR negative. If it's so bad people can't even come up with something negative to say about it, you're in trouble. What I'm doing as a critic at this point, because I'm trying to make friends and get my music heard, is just encouraging other people on the same level that I'm on. I tend to avoid watching youtube videos that show pics of mostly-naked women, profanity, and if the track doesn't give me SOMETHING even modestly attention-worthy within 30 seconds or it offends me, I move on to something else and I don't bother leaving comments. If you go to my youtube channel and view my liked videos, there are over 100 there, and they are all over the place in terms of genre. Some of these people you'd wonder why on earth I'd like their videos. It's not always so much a level of ability or quality, but simply the fact that they are courageous enough to post music they believe in.

I count my own successes by how much something I did gets noticed. To me, there is no difference between getting one new subscriber and getting picked up by a major record label. If ONE other person hears your song, you succeeded. I have a large-form piece that's been viewed over 4,000 times. And while it's not the millions and millions of views Taylor Swift probably gets, it's still a lot to me.

And, despite the criticism, you'll find there are tons of songwriters just like you who are awesome people and will encourage you. Live for those people, ignore the haters, and crank out as much music as you can.



queensamaria
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22 Dec 2014, 2:39 pm

AngelRho wrote:
lol

Well…the way I see it, you have two options…

First, find someone on Youtube who WILL sing your songs.

Second, just sing your songs on Youtube anyway. Have you actually SEEN some of these beginner songer/singwriter types? ;) They're awful. Trust me, either you'll at worst either be in good company or there will always someone a lot worse than you.

I myself lean more towards experimental instrumentals. But in order to build a good following in social media, I've decided to drift just slightly towards mainstream EDM. I'm currently arranging a dubstep version of "O Sing a Song of Bethlehem." Hey, it's almost Christmas! So rather than working from the beginning, I'm starting with my bass drop, since I've never really done that sort of thing before, and spending most of my time getting those loops down before I work on the intro and main sections.

Thing is, I'm terrible at this sort of thing. So I'm going to listen to as many other musicians I can, make my mixes as good as I can, and get them out there. Doesn't have to be great. And if experienced EDM producers rip my stuff apart, I'll simply thank them for listening and make sure the issues I'm having are corrected in the next mix I do.

You're going to be up against a lot of criticism. What you want to avoid is not getting any kind of response at all, positive OR negative. If it's so bad people can't even come up with something negative to say about it, you're in trouble. What I'm doing as a critic at this point, because I'm trying to make friends and get my music heard, is just encouraging other people on the same level that I'm on. I tend to avoid watching youtube videos that show pics of mostly-naked women, profanity, and if the track doesn't give me SOMETHING even modestly attention-worthy within 30 seconds or it offends me, I move on to something else and I don't bother leaving comments. If you go to my youtube channel and view my liked videos, there are over 100 there, and they are all over the place in terms of genre. Some of these people you'd wonder why on earth I'd like their videos. It's not always so much a level of ability or quality, but simply the fact that they are courageous enough to post music they believe in.

I count my own successes by how much something I did gets noticed. To me, there is no difference between getting one new subscriber and getting picked up by a major record label. If ONE other person hears your song, you succeeded. I have a large-form piece that's been viewed over 4,000 times. And while it's not the millions and millions of views Taylor Swift probably gets, it's still a lot to me.

And, despite the criticism, you'll find there are tons of songwriters just like you who are awesome people and will encourage you. Live for those people, ignore the haters, and crank out as much music as you can.


Thank you for the advice. I feel better. I'll try, but only because I want to show everyone the real me. For that, thank you.


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