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

Voters
84. You may not vote on this poll
  • 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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  1. #1

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    I have a bunch of tunes in various stages of development and I wondered how other players get their Mojo

  2.  

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  3. #2

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    I vote the last one, but I have to say my biggest inspiration was one woman's beautiful blue eyes.
    That wasn't on the list.

  4. #3

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    Songs evolve down all of those paths plus some others. May be a bit different if it's an instrumental composition versus something with lyrics. Seems instrumentals get worked on more sitting in front of a keyboard.

  5. #4

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    I had this discussion with Reg in a post. The method he discussed has become the most effective for me. I call it a top down approach where you start with the big picture and work down to the detail from there.

    For example: I'm going to do a funk tune in this structure - intro, A A B A with a tag. I'll do it in Fm, melody in the A sections will be funky 16th note lines, a key change and modulations in the B section with slower melody line which will let the tune breate. The tag will be a repeating simple melody and chord progression.

    That's the start. When I write this way I'm able to just about complete a tune in a couple of hours.

    My other trick is to write it down immediately as I go. That way I don't dwell on one part, once it's written down I move on.

    Also, whether I'm thinking of the big picture or the details of the tune I like to do it in my mind first, i.e. hear it in my mind, and then transcribe it and find it on my instrument. That's the first pass which often evolves as I play it on the instrument. I write while I'm walking the dogs.
    Last edited by fep; 10-21-2013 at 10:28 AM.

  6. #5

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    I almost always start with a chord progression, then put a melody to it. I hate putting chords to a melody that's already "there". I've done it, and been pleased with the results, but it always seems like much more work.

  7. #6

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    i usually have some sort of idea or message i want to put out. i also tend to have some sort of tune stuck in my head. i grab one of my many instruments and experiment.

    If i like what i am doing i spend a month producing the track. i work at the cafe, in bed, in my studio, in front of my couch until i have something i am satisfied with.

  8. #7

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    Great subject!
    I usually start with what is here called noodling, which might be playing a blues, improvising a nice lick and thinking, 'whoa, that sounded good...Hhhmmm, might be on to something here'

    Other times---rare but more than once or twice--a title comes to mind and that's the impetus for a song.

  9. #8

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    my most interesting tunes have always been "melody first."

    Music plays in my head all day pretty much...so there's plenty of material...obviously not all good! Tunes come in bunches for me...I'll write three in a week, then play around with them for months until they're "good enough." Then I might not write anything for months...I'm glad I don't depend on it!

  10. #9

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    All of the above.

    What inspires me most is drums or any kind of rhythm. It sets up the space and relationships to notes that makes things much more interesting vs. a melodic instrument alone. Hearing a rhythm first dramatically changes the feel of things and how a line can be played. It's easier to "hear" notes inside of an existing structure ... then you can add, strip away, etc. like sculpture. I record as i write so that's much easier to see the results in real time.

    Sometimes i will set up an artificial limitation like "write a song in 10 minutes" or "only use these 2 instruments" or "use a bird chirp as rhythm". Any creative can tell you "do whatever you want" is the worst way to start anything.

    In some ways all of these things are similar to Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies and aren't limited to just music.

    I would actually love to hear anyone's music that has posted in this thread feel free to PM me or post in the thread if you are brave.

  11. #10

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    I have been writing songs for a really long time, in many styles: rock, jazz, country, funk, r&b, soundtracks, jingles, etc. Most of my writing is done with a specific project in mind: a solo CD, song for a band, etc. When I have a project, I go into my creative songwriting mode, which can be intense.

    The first and hardest thing is an idea. What do I want to say musically or lyrically? What is the song about? What feelings do I want to produce in the listener? These questions help me pick a general tempo and style.

    Whenever a musical idea pops into my head, I record it or write it down in it's raw form. Otherwise, it'll be gone. So I save these little moments of inspiration. Once I've figured out what kind of song I want to write, I'll refer to these "notes" to see if there's anything there to help me get started. It just takes one good idea to grow into a song, but it's gotta be a good one! The important thing is to get started.

    I never think about the final song structure until I'm well into the process. That's too constraining to creativity. Many times I find that the original idea that inspired the song is limiting me, so I throw it out! If I come up with a cool musical phrase or clever lyric, but have to force it to fit into the song, that's no good. I'll use it some other time.

    Rough draft, demo, critique, edit, another rough demo, repeat. We all have warm feelings for our precious creations, but you must be ruthlessly self-critical and get rid of all the clichés, derivative stuff, and lame shit that wants to creep in and ruin your song!

  12. #11

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    Almost none of the above beyond sitting down to write. Inspiration for me comes from life. Experiences or often seeing other firms or art, including other music of course! But sculpture, painting, stories in novels or short stories and poems.

    I consider myself self a composer. I almost never write from noodling or playing scales, practicing etc. I write music very often standing around doing something without a guitar in my hands. I hear it first.
    Last edited by henryrobinett; 10-26-2013 at 02:46 PM.

  13. #12

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    If I come across something I think is unique while noodling, I'll try to expand on it and play it over and over until memorized. Sometimes I'll have to quickly record it as well, especially if in a different tuning.

    If I'm inspired to write lyrics, then I'll try to get to pen and paper ASAP, because I'll forget things faster than I can write. My big writing block is that I can't write lyrics AND music that will match. That, for me, requires collaboration.

  14. #13

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    I still find the best way for me to write music is away from the guitar, at least initially. Just imagine some music. After I've got the vibe and the melody I pick up my guitar and find the notes: the bass line or chords to go along with the melody. The melody will probably have transformed itself by the time I get to the guitar, or try to learn it. Sometimes it's while playing the guitar I'll come up with a chord sequence.

  15. #14

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    I agree! Sitting with a guitar and trying to come up with an idea can really limit you. My best musical ideas always happen in my head first.

    It helps to be able to write musical notation, even at a rudimentary level, to jot down a melody if one occurs.

    I think a lot of what we call "creativity" is just being open to the world around us, noticing it , and re-arranging it from one's personal perspective, then having the self discipline to work at making something that communicates.

  16. #15

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    Depends on the genre.

    I always start with a mood that's triggered by a potential title or other concept.

    For jazz/swing, I find a progression which speaks to the mood and then I write a melody to the progression. Sometimes I might start with a melodic fragment and then build the progression around the fragment, but usually the chords come first.

    If it's pop or avant-garde I'll start with a riff and then deconstruct it to find the changes.

    I hate writing lyrics and always try to pawn that part off onto someone else
    Last edited by D.G.; 10-30-2013 at 02:38 PM.

  17. #16

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    I start with chords I really like and add melody to them. Usually standard AABA or AB formats.

    wiz

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    I had this discussion with Reg in a post. The method he discussed has become the most effective for me. I call it a top down approach where you start with the big picture and work down to the detail from there.

    For example: I'm going to do a funk tune in this structure - intro, A A B A with a tag. I'll do it in Fm, melody in the A sections will be funky 16th note lines, a key change and modulations in the B section with slower melody line which will let the tune breate. The tag will be a repeating simple melody and chord progression.

    That's the start. When I write this way I'm able to just about complete a tune in a couple of hours.

    My other trick is to write it down immediately as I go. That way I don't dwell on one part, once it's written down I move on.

    Also, whether I'm thinking of the big picture or the details of the tune I like to do it in my mind first, i.e. hear it in my mind, and then transcribe it and find it on my instrument. That's the first pass which often evolves as I play it on the instrument. I write while I'm walking the dogs.
    I go pretty much in reverse order from this. I don't like defining what I want to do, because when I do I fall into a box of "well I can't use that because it's not funky" or "I need something that's more straight and this is swinging!". I like to improvise for a good 10-20 minutes, and I'll either stop as soon as I play something, or listen back to what I did if I'm recording it. I'll take a very small idea, a measure or something, and develop that, then try it in different time feels, elongate the melody (play it in triplets, double the rhythmic values), or shorten the melody (cut the rhythm values in half, etc), or maybe try it in different meters and adjust it to see how it sounds that way.

    Right now, I'm working on composing a suite for guitar quartet, which I was inspired to do I've been listening to Anthony Wilson's Seasons for such a long time. I'm writing it bar by bar, so I'll write a measure on one guitar, then arrange that measure, then I move on. I'm not a fan of doing one thing all the way down first, and then another thing (like melody first, or chords first). Not that I haven't done it, but I think music is more organic if it stems directly by what comes before it. I might be writing a melody line, and then I might try a chord that sounds nicer than how I hear it. If I don't have anything written after that, then the rest of what I write could be heavily affected by that change I made, but if I have something written out already, it will just sound like it doesn't belong.

  19. #18

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    Sometimes, it's nice to start composing with just a pencil and some manuscript paper.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    Sometimes, it's nice to start composing with just a pencil and some manuscript paper.
    How quaint...

  21. #20

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    Manuscript paper? Is that the stuff with the lines close together that old guys like Beethoven used to use? I thought went out when Sibelius was writing in the early 20th century.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    Sometimes, it's nice to start composing with just a pencil and some manuscript paper.
    Yes. I still prefer this, either with actual pencil and manuscript paper or virtual like Sibelius.

    I like the process and really dislike writing in a DAW like Digital Performer, Logic or Pro Tools. I have those tools but I use them for production, not for writing. Only after the tune is basically finished do I fire up the DAW.

    Quaint? What an silly thing to say.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by henryrobinett
    Quaint? What an silly thing to say.
    It was a joke, Henry. Chill, dude...

  24. #23

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    Well, the poll doesn't apply to me because I am usually starting with lyrics. The first thing I do is get really into the words. I count the number of syllables and I count the number of phrases. And I pay a great deal of attention to the poetry of the words. I do scansion. And I look for structure and inner structure, symmetries, etc. Then I get some idea of the bare form.

    Then, I sit with the guitar and sing. I have tried some other methods, but that works best. I thought I might use Finale more, but it is just too slow. I have found that my best ideas come very quickly and often on top of each other. I don't think it is that hard to write a good phrase. I think that the hard part is having the next phrase fit with the first. And the even harder part is having the next section fit. So I even need to have the "tape" rolling most of the time. Also, I've stopped worrying about the harmonization. The heart for me and is really 70% melody, 20% rhythm/feel, 10% bassline. And really, if I have a killer melody and feel, I'll be able to fill in the rest.

    But it is really an iterative process. So I just did a song where I started with a lot of structure because the lyrics were very tricky. Then I got a chord progression. Then worked out a melody. Then massaged the melody repeatedly until it was catchy. Then I redid the whole chord progression. And I did that whole thing twice because the first version just wasn't cutting it. So there, a chord progression did come before the melody, but the chord progression that was actually used came last. Melody rules! Don't fight the melody. Let it go where it wants. Chord progesssions are a dime a dozen. Can't even copyright them! Melody rules! Jobim, Monk, Giant Steps, and Dolphin Dance are the exceptions that prove the rule IMHO. I've also found that the most interesting chord progressions I have come up with are when I've had to harmonize an interesting melody.

    I know the question is about how you start, but since we are looking for "unity" as they say, the start is really part of a whole process, at least for me.

    Lastly, what I want is to wake up the next day and not be able to get the whole melody out of my head. Not just a phrase, but something extended. It is actually really annoying. But that's how I know I'm doing it right.
    Last edited by jster; 12-02-2013 at 04:52 PM.

  25. #24

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    They say rhythm trumps everything in jazz, but the great melodies are the things that get trapped in our memory.

  26. #25

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    Usually, I start with a melody. But I get a lot of inspiration from random rhythmic sounds- the repetitive whir-whir-whir of the dishwasher, or the spokes on my bicycle or the sound of my footsteps on the sidewalk. I start snapping my fingers and next thing you know I'm humming a tune and have to find the voice recorder on my phone so I can work on it later.