View Poll Results: How do you get inspiration to compose / write

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  • During noodling session

    11 13.10%
  • Playing scales

    0 0%
  • Chord comping

    6 7.14%
  • Hearing another music snippet as inspiration

    4 4.76%
  • Just sit down to write

    14 16.67%
  • Wake with a few bars in the head

    8 9.52%
  • All most of the above

    41 48.81%
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Posts 26 to 50 of 71
  1. #26

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    Hello. Pencil, paper, eraser, guitar and noodle, something usually starts to grow.




    Music is the key that can open strange rooms in the house of memory.
    Llewelyn Wyn Griffith

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #27

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    I just wrote a song. Discussing methods of song writing is interesting. Tonight I was on this forum, and something just popped into my head. I fired up Sibelius, two staffs - melody and 'acoustic guitar' - and manually entered a rhythmic accompaniment. Then, I improvised in real time the melodic line I heard over my progression with my Yamaha synth keyboard. And the song just evolved right there in fifteen minutes or so. I even start to hear lyric lines in this setting.

    For me the best song ideas and melodies or chord progressions seem to sneak up on me. I get a certain expectant feeling, and when that happens, I almost automatically set up my Sibelius software quickly to capture the moment. I'm kind of watching the process unfold like a spectator, like a photographer trying to capture a beautiful sunset as it blooms and inexorably dies. I try to capture that image before the sun sets, because this musical moment then is made manifest and thanks to technology, captured like a digital photo. I can then go back and refine, create a bridge, modulations - but it's that initial creative magma that seems to just erupt out like a volcano that is the precious "materia prima".

    It's like meeting someone special one night and really clicking. It happens when you least expect it.

    Jay
    Last edited by targuit; 01-06-2014 at 06:48 AM.

  4. #28

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    I write songs with lyrics, and the lyrics always comes first. Usually I have some idea about a topic that I want to write about, then sit down for a while and try to brainstorm a good "unifying theme" that encapsulates it. My goal is to try to find those simple phrases that govern the GAS catalog and focus the tune. Usually that phrase ends up being the last line of the verse or a refrain.

    Then I do a big brainstorming writing session trying to gather images, ideas, emotions that are tied to it. After that I come up with a rough structural framework.

    Then the music comes in. I try to think about (1) some technique that I'm working on and want to incorporate and then (2) the elements that will make the mood fit the lyrics. Is it a ballad, uptempo, etc. How will the song structure fit the structure of the thoughts developed in the lyrics process (AABA, ABAC, etc.).

    Then I start playing with melodic phrases that work with my "unifying phrase". Then I kind of work back off of that and slowly put things together. I am not a natural songwriter at all. I almost never have things just pop out, and it's usually a bit of a slog getting through.

    Just what works for me.

  5. #29

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    Yes, that's interesting. The 'visit from the Muse' bolt of lightning thing is not the only way I compose, but for obvious reasons it is my preferred. Who doesn't like a gift now and then? But I can craft music as well, though I'm not nearly as meticulous as you. For lyrics, I like to free associate to a degree, then distill what comes through.

  6. #30

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    I compose from the bottom-up. Pick a root tone, then there are only six intervals in either direction that the next root could be. The interval combinations above the root can follow any number of approaches, but the vertical intervals should normally comply with the math suggested by the overtone series.

  7. #31

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    Reviving an older thread. My best compositions tend to come during my early morning (4-6AM) music sessions.

    Last night I wrote a tune I'm very happy with starting directly from scratch with no preconceived melody working from my Sibelius software. Notation software is such an asset for composition that I cannot think of going back. I was using an approach of sketching out a chord progression first, then improvising a melody over it. I use two staffs - melody (vocal and/or instrumental) and guitar accompaniment. As I sketch out the chord progression, I'm thinking about the style. Tonight was a bossa nova or salsa style feel in a minor key. I chose the key with vocal range in mind as well as the melodic flow.

    Once I established the structure and melody of the verses (AA) over the first 16 measures, I created a B section or chorus, and then a bridge after a repetition of the A section, and finally an outro. The lyrics then spring from the emotional context of the melody, which I refine with the lyrics. All this time I play over the tracks with my classical guitar working on fills and refining my sense of the melody and harmonic directions.

    Once you have refined the initial motifs, the evolution of the song takes on a kind of life of its own. And in the process you feel like the song is revealing itself to you. Weird thing.

    A hard part sometimes is finishing. Though I like to stop and take a break from the song, I don't like to leave it incomplete, though the lyrics need thought and reflection. The final step today will be to try and record at least a scratch arrangement with my Korg D1200 digital recorder. I do not have Sonar or Apple or other DAW, so my tracks and recordings are not comped or manipulated. I have to get the track pretty correct, or I just redo the take. Another decision point is whether to try to record (guitar or keyboard} synth tracks with bass, strings, and other instrumentation. The problem there is dealing with the latency of going through the guitar synth, which is more noticeable than my Yamaha keyboard synth, which unfortunate does not have stereo outputs. So I have to have very clear harmonic ideas. I'm always fighting a tendency to 'clutter up' the soundstage.

    But it is always a bit of a thrill to compose something that is original and hear it realized. One could always wish for more and better equipment, but in the end it is about the quality of the song and the performance.

  8. #32

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    Knowing what you want to achieve might be good a start
    I get inspiration from trying to apply traditional techniques of composition and trying to work towards something that works as a whole from the beginning
    Last edited by vhollund; 07-31-2014 at 09:38 AM.

  9. #33

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    This thread is likely dormant, but anyone ever try to write a song backwards? I am serious. Backwards. Very interesting approach. Last night I wrote three very interesting tunes taking that avenue.

    jay

  10. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by targuit
    This thread is likely dormant, but anyone ever try to write a song backwards? I am serious. Backwards. Very interesting approach. Last night I wrote three very interesting tunes taking that avenue.

    jay
    I think this is a pretty standard way of learning to write in classical circles, right? You start with the ending cadence, and then kind of work backwards. Maybe not so much for the initial melody, but definitely for the SATB-style arranging.

  11. #35

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    Js Bach wrote a symmetrical piece i think

  12. #36

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    Yes, sometimes I write backwards. Not precisely backwards, but I sometimes write the climax first, then what leads up to it, then go to the beginning - A sections, then the bridge or sometimes multiple bridges or connecting sections, then intro and coda.

  13. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by ecj
    I think this is a pretty standard way of learning to write in classical circles, right? You start with the ending cadence, and then kind of work backwards. Maybe not so much for the initial melody, but definitely for the SATB-style arranging.
    I don't think so
    Classical music is often based on développements from the initial themes
    There will be an initial decision on form and structure and sometimes complete vision of the final composition to begin with but
    There will often be a part of the form which is development which merges different parts of the initial themes into new material
    Not impossible though but...
    Last edited by vhollund; 09-07-2014 at 02:22 PM.

  14. #38

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    The ending to a composition i sketched down and finished yesterday
    Not necessarily in the order that they appear on the page, but… kinda fun little tresure map : ;-)
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/6arpaupd6e...2004.11.48.jpg

  15. #39

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    Vhollund, that chart made me smile....I do the same thing...arros everywhere

    I've tried writing in some different ways recently. Right now I'm working on a tune with a set melodic rhythm/idea that I'm going to change the harmony under (a la Nefertiti) and another tune where I sat down, picked three key centers, and I'm going to try to make them work together. Its fun to approach writing as a puzzle to be solved sometimes...and its still cooler than sudoku.

  16. #40

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    For sure ! I had the same thought but thought of it like a crossword puzzle :-)
    The page I posted is only the ending of a longer composition of 133 mesures though, where I expose a few themes and put them through variations and modulations
    Sometimes I get an idea of how to get from a to b , and sometimes I find the solution to another problem in the same time
    So in order not to have to delete, a could be regretted development on the original sheet, i sketch it on a sheet apart.

    What i find is the most difficult in composing is making a successful coda and making it all hang together so the time it takes feels proportionate
    A little mentoring would make things go better faster

    But it sure feels good trying
    I've never had as much fun as now with writing music
    I hope we can have more discussion about composition, and theme développement here and hopefully learn something
    From each other
    Last edited by vhollund; 03-01-2015 at 05:53 PM.

  17. #41

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    I think it was Bob Dylan (not exactly a jazz artist although I hear that he just did an album of standards) said that once you had one line of lyrics and a melody the rest was fairly easy.

  18. #42

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    I heard somewhere that some of the great classical composers would improvise for lengthy periods and write down phrases as they went that sounded good and work them up into full scale pieces at some point. Or have a supply of things they could use somewhere else. Although someone who knows more about classical music than I do, which isn't saying much, disagreed with this.

  19. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrcee
    I think it was Bob Dylan [...] said that once you had one line of lyrics and a melody the rest was fairly easy.
    later adding "...if you're me." and then cackling maniacally.

  20. #44

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    Miles Davis would just get stoned and call his band members at 3 in the morning to come over and jam, and he'd record everything. If he heard something he liked on tape he'd just say "I like that part, send it over to Gil (Evans) and tell him to transcribe me a chart.

  21. #45

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    Words and melodies first, then arrangements.

  22. #46

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    Miles Davis also wrote a heavy bunch of pretty everlasting standards before that

    Donna Lee
    Blue in Green
    Boblicity
    All Blues
    etc
    Last edited by vhollund; 03-01-2015 at 05:52 PM.

  23. #47

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    I'm not sure about those tunes. Many people believe Parker wrote Donna Lee. Gil Evans probably wrote Boplicity. Bill Evans wrote Blue in Green.
    Last edited by henryrobinett; 03-02-2015 at 12:46 PM.

  24. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by EightString
    Words and melodies first, then arrangements.
    Sammy Kahn (-great lyricist) was asked, 'What comes first, the words or the music?' His stock response: 'The contract comes first!'

    Sometimes words and music come together. That's when it seems like it is happening of itself. But most of my songs have started with me plunking around on guitar, stopping at some point to say, "hey, that sounded good" and then messing around with it some more.



    By the way, I think the reason so many writers of great songs have said of a particular one or two that it was written in five minutes do this because however long you may spend tinkering around like that, it seems like five minutes....

    Duke Ellington once said that he would come home after performing and while heading toward the bedroom run a hand randomly across the keys of his piano. Then stop, thinking that was an unexpected sound. Next thing he knew, the sun would be coming up...

  25. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by henryrobinett
    I'm not sure about those tunes. Many people believe Parker wrote Donna Lee. Gil Evans probably wrote Boplicity. Bill Evans wrote Blue in Green.
    Interesting
    Is it possible for you to find more concrete evidence/reference than "most people believe" and "probably" ?

    I haven't read all of the biographies yet myself
    so...
    Just Parker, Gillespie and Miles
    Last edited by vhollund; 03-03-2015 at 05:57 AM.

  26. #50

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    Nothing concrete, just various people all claiming Miles stole their tunes. Bill Evans has said he wrote Blue in Green. John Lewis said he wrote Milestones (original version). Four and Solar we written by someone whose name escapes me. I always ant to say Von Freeman but it's not. A tenor player.

    Plus there's always been a controversy about Donna Lee.
    Last edited by henryrobinett; 03-03-2015 at 07:00 AM.