How to write songs quickly?

Ask questions and get answers about how to make music in any particular way. Hardware or songwriting or whatever.

Moderator: Mods

User avatar
Kevin Mellows
Snoopy
Posts: 62
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:21 am
Recording Method: Reaper and lots of plug-ins
Submitting as: Kevin Mellows
Location: Canada

How to write songs quickly?

Postby Kevin Mellows » Mon May 12, 2014 9:55 am

I'm often amazed when I read how long some songfighters here take to write and record a song. I find I am always trying to be so deliberate and it slows me down. Do any of you have some ideas about having a fast workflow?

-Kevin
User avatar
Manhattan Glutton
Hachikō
Posts: 1521
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 12:10 pm
Instruments: Angst
Recording Method: REAPER
Location: Madison, WI
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby Manhattan Glutton » Mon May 12, 2014 10:07 am

Which piece of the process are you hung up on?
If I had a dollar for every one of my songs j$ has called a 90s pastiche, I'd have $1 for every song I've written.

Nur Ein Archives | The New Ugly Podcast
User avatar
Kevin Mellows
Snoopy
Posts: 62
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:21 am
Recording Method: Reaper and lots of plug-ins
Submitting as: Kevin Mellows
Location: Canada

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby Kevin Mellows » Mon May 12, 2014 10:14 am

I find I'm either not happy with my lyrics or my melody (ha, basically the meat of the song), but if I have those two pieces I can easily arrange and record.
User avatar
roymond
Owney
Posts: 5098
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 3:42 pm
Instruments: Guitars, Bass, Vocals, Logic
Recording Method: Logic X, MacBookPro, Guitar Rig 5, Rig Kontrol 3, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, iPad3, Apogee Jam
Submitting as: roymond, Dangerous Croutons, Intentionally Left Bank
Location: brooklyn
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby roymond » Mon May 12, 2014 10:16 am

Back when I used to take part in such things, I found that I relied primarily on playing, recording and producing, rather than writing lyrics, so I let the music guide me. The DAW is my friend and I became efficient in laying down tracks and mixing them. I knew if I pondered over lyrics in the studio I would miss the date, so I tried to work them up while I was walking, commuting and shopping listening to a rough mix. If I could start early enough in the week and get a good night of recording in to make an initial rough mix, I could finish it all out the second time I had time. If for some strange reason I had yet a third session for tweaking and polishing, all the better, but that was the exception.

  • Become good at the grunt work...if you stumble over basic recording and mixing, take some time to master that so it doesn't slow you down and interfere with being creative.
  • Leverage your strengths...if you're really good at guy & guitar stuff and are pressed for time, now's not the time to learn how to orchestrate your song.
  • Also, collaborate with someone who compliments your strengths.
roymond.com | songfights | covers
"Congratulatons, roymond; you finally managed to write a song I don't really care for." - Märk
User avatar
Kevin Mellows
Snoopy
Posts: 62
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:21 am
Recording Method: Reaper and lots of plug-ins
Submitting as: Kevin Mellows
Location: Canada

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby Kevin Mellows » Mon May 12, 2014 10:31 am

Thanks! When you write lyrics is it with an instrument in hand, or do you sort of just come up with the lyrics melody in your head?
User avatar
Manhattan Glutton
Hachikō
Posts: 1521
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 12:10 pm
Instruments: Angst
Recording Method: REAPER
Location: Madison, WI
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby Manhattan Glutton » Mon May 12, 2014 10:45 am

Along what Roy said - basically, start running with your idea as soon as possible, even if it's crappy. Worst case scenario, you have a mediocre song you're not fond of. Best case scenario, you modify/scrap the idea and end up with a song you love.

I usually get the hook of my song first. This means a catch phrase and a catchy melody. IMO, hooks are usually easy since they're the part of the song that's stuck in your head. So chances are, you have a song stuck in your head that isn't yet real or you have a hook that came from the inspiration of another song's hook. A lot of times I'll have just listened to something and start humming it and jamming it in my head and then a completely unique hook comes out of that.

Once you have the hook melody, just ramble nonsense until something sounds like a word and it fits and doesn't make you cringe. The rest of the song should write itself at this point. You might have some related words in mind you want to use, so you sprinkle them in and find phrases.

Lyrics are particularly hard because they require a sense of confidence if you are too self-conscious. I recently took comedy improv classes, and they totally help with the concept of just saying something rather than feeling verbally constipated. Again, it's better to run with your crappy idea and come back to it rather than try to make it perfect on the first try.
User avatar
roymond
Owney
Posts: 5098
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 3:42 pm
Instruments: Guitars, Bass, Vocals, Logic
Recording Method: Logic X, MacBookPro, Guitar Rig 5, Rig Kontrol 3, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, iPad3, Apogee Jam
Submitting as: roymond, Dangerous Croutons, Intentionally Left Bank
Location: brooklyn
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby roymond » Mon May 12, 2014 11:15 am

I struggle with lyrics. Either they present themselves almost whole (rarely, though usually produce the best lyrics I've come up with) or I have to get really crafty and deliberate (and I'm not very confident here). I usually write lyrics to a rough mix, when I do it with instrument in hand it feels too forced. I often compromise on lyrics a lot, and have gotten beaten up for that quite a bit. But my main focus is the music and production so I don't let it get to me that much. You usually have to compromise on something in a week-long competition, so that's my thing to improve on.
roymond.com | songfights | covers
"Congratulatons, roymond; you finally managed to write a song I don't really care for." - Märk
User avatar
ken
Scrappy Dappy
Posts: 3247
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 6:10 pm
Instruments: Guitar, bass, drums, keys
Recording Method: BLA modded MOTU 828mk2, Cubase 5, UAD-2
Submitting as: Ken's Super Duper Band 'n Stuff
Location: berkeley, ca
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby ken » Mon May 12, 2014 12:44 pm

Don't think too hard. Just get it done. Trust your instincts and just use whatever ideas come into your head. Try again next week.

I find that Songfight is best for practicing craft. You can't get too hung up in the art. When you are good at the craft, making the art is that much easier.
Ken's Super Duper Band 'n Stuff - Berkeley Social Scene - Tiny Robots - Seamus Collective - Semolina Pilchards - Cutie Pies - Explino! - Bravo Bros. - 2 from 14 - and more!

i would just like to remind everyone that Ken eats kittens - blue lang
User avatar
jast
Hachikō
Posts: 1153
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 7:03 pm
Instruments: Vocals, guitar
Recording Method: REAPER, Steinberg UR44
Submitting as: Jan Krueger
Location: near Aachen, Germany
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby jast » Tue May 13, 2014 4:26 am

Don't take it too seriously, and don't be too fixated on your initial goal. Just do stuff spontaneously and, if you like, a bit experimentally, be ready to adjust your plans if you find that something else works better in the moment. Also, make priorities: don't spend a lot of time on each individual bit. If you have spare time, invest it in one thing, and even there be somewhat spontaneous: whenever you're tempted to analyze or think through a problem, just put it aside and do something else instead, or deem it Good Enough(tm).
When you're done, take pride in the things that worked out to your satisfaction, and don't sweat the rest.
This has worked extremely well for me.
most of my music
Song Fight-related stuff I host: ZIP archives // Circle of Titles
User avatar
Caravan Ray
Dingleberry
Posts: 8082
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 1:51 pm
Instruments: Penis
Recording Method: Garageband
Submitting as: Caravan Ray,G.O.R.T.E.C,Lyricburglar,The Thugs from the Scallop Industry
Location: Toowoomba, Queensland
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby Caravan Ray » Tue May 13, 2014 6:19 am

ken wrote:I find that Songfight is best for practicing craft. You can't get too hung up in the art. When you are good at the craft, making the art is that much easier.

I don't know if it is art or craft - but Songfight is the thing that helped me.

I wrote a handful of songs as a teenager in a punk band (most of which have now been dishonestly recycled as Songfight entries) - then spent 20 years wanting to write more - but never actually doing it. Then Songfight gave me a starting point and a finishing point. You get a title - you have a week. That made all the difference.

I remember reading "On Writing" by Steven King, where he said that people always ask him how to become a writer. His answer was "Writers write" i.e.. just do it. You will probably turn out a whole lot of crap - but some of will be good - and you can work on that. If you waste time trying to perfect everything - you will never produce anything.

Manhatton Glutton wrote:I usually get the hook of my song first. This means a catch phrase and a catchy melody. IMO, hooks are usually easy since they're the part of the song that's stuck in your head.

I have 2 steps before that.

I get the story first. You have to decide what the song will be about.
Step 2, after that - you get the mood you want. For me that means copying of some band or song you like. That is good for me, because I am a crap musician - and when I copy something, I do it badly and usually no one can tell where it came from.

This week, I did a song for Nur Ein and Songfight (same song). Nur Ein song was called "Watertight" and had to include a family member. Songfight title was "Who Called the Ape". So there was the story. A song, sung from the point of view of an ape, who had a watertight case for excluding humans from the family Hominidae.

Next came the mood - I had just listened to REM in my car - so I went for a "Losing My Religion" type chord progression.

Then - as MG said - comes the hook. I wrote two lines "Who called you ape/you are not worthy of the name" to a simple 3 chord progression and recorded it. Then over the next few days I added to that - and before you know it - there is a song there.
User avatar
Kevin Mellows
Snoopy
Posts: 62
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:21 am
Recording Method: Reaper and lots of plug-ins
Submitting as: Kevin Mellows
Location: Canada

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby Kevin Mellows » Tue May 13, 2014 7:26 am

Thanks for the advice guys. I'm missing this week's fight, but I'm eager to try some of these techniques for the next one!

-Kevin
User avatar
ken
Scrappy Dappy
Posts: 3247
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 6:10 pm
Instruments: Guitar, bass, drums, keys
Recording Method: BLA modded MOTU 828mk2, Cubase 5, UAD-2
Submitting as: Ken's Super Duper Band 'n Stuff
Location: berkeley, ca
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby ken » Tue May 13, 2014 2:59 pm

Caravan Ray wrote:I remember reading "On Writing" by Steven King, where he said that people always ask him how to become a writer. His answer was "Writers write" i.e.. just do it.


I know an author who said the difference between him and the other graduates of his MFA program is that he sat down and wrote a book.

I feel like writing songs is the same, and sometimes you just have to stay in the chair and focus on the task long and hard enough to get it done.
Ken's Super Duper Band 'n Stuff - Berkeley Social Scene - Tiny Robots - Seamus Collective - Semolina Pilchards - Cutie Pies - Explino! - Bravo Bros. - 2 from 14 - and more!

i would just like to remind everyone that Ken eats kittens - blue lang
User avatar
Generic
Owney
Posts: 5421
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 11:45 am
Instruments: Piano, Guitar, Harmonica, Mandolin, Accordion, Bass
Recording Method: Cubase 5AI, Cubase 6
Submitting as: Jon Eric, Hunky
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby Generic » Wed May 14, 2014 11:03 am

Caravan Ray wrote:This week, I did a song for Nur Ein and Songfight (same song). Nur Ein song was called "Watertight" and had to include a family member. Songfight title was "Who Called the Ape". So there was the story. A song, sung from the point of view of an ape, who had a watertight case for excluding humans from the family Hominidae.


Ohhh, I thought it was one group of humans talking to another group of humans. Your song makes a lot more sense now!

I wonder if there would be some way to make that clearer. Perhaps some soundbyte or nod to Planet of the Apes?
"Warren Zevon would be proud." -Reve Mosquito

Jon Eric - Get your feel on.
Website powered by Spud's Amazing Website Machine.

Circle of Titles!!!!!!
User avatar
Generic
Owney
Posts: 5421
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 11:45 am
Instruments: Piano, Guitar, Harmonica, Mandolin, Accordion, Bass
Recording Method: Cubase 5AI, Cubase 6
Submitting as: Jon Eric, Hunky
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby Generic » Wed May 14, 2014 11:14 am

Kevin Mellows wrote:I'm often amazed when I read how long some songfighters here take to write and record a song. I find I am always trying to be so deliberate and it slows me down. Do any of you have some ideas about having a fast workflow?

-Kevin


There's a time and a place for being deliberate. I would caution you to not completely "unlearn" that behavior, because you'll want to come back to refining things eventually, once you've gotten the gunk out of your gears.

But for just getting started, the best advice I can offer is to push forward with ideas you know are bad. Make a stupid song. Make a stupid song on purpose. Rush through and record the first idea you have - recording it will force you to commit to the idea before you get a chance to second-guess yourself. If you're writing lyrics and you hit a wall, pick the first phrase that rhymes and jot it down. Tell yourself (if you must) that it's a placeholder lyric which you'll go back and change later. Don't worry about whether it's perfect, or even whether it's "good," just get something down now. You can always tweak it later.

When you're done with your rush-production stupid song, you'll probably notice a few things...

First of all, many of your instincts will have proven good. The melody might get stuck in your head, or you might find yourself being surprised at how good some of your "rushed" lyrics turned out. You might also notice that the recording has a lot of "heart" or "soul" or whatever you call that je ne sais quois factor that can't be met just by polishing a piece to perfection. This is because you've intentionally circumvented the thought processes that erode away at that soulful shagginess.

You might also notice that some aspects of your song—some of the same aspects you thought were intentionally bad—get the best feedback from your listeners. Either your "bad" idea wasn't as bad as you thought, or you were stressing about a "flaw" that no one really cares about but you.

And the last thing you'll notice is that you can do this over and over again. If a week goes by and you've got a song that you don't like or want to pursue any further, then you'll be glad you didn't waste more time trying to polish that turd. Once the song is done, the world is wide open: You can go back and tweak it some more based on the feedback you get, or you can move on to the next project!

Good luck!
"Warren Zevon would be proud." -Reve Mosquito

Jon Eric - Get your feel on.
Website powered by Spud's Amazing Website Machine.

Circle of Titles!!!!!!
User avatar
Caravan Ray
Dingleberry
Posts: 8082
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 1:51 pm
Instruments: Penis
Recording Method: Garageband
Submitting as: Caravan Ray,G.O.R.T.E.C,Lyricburglar,The Thugs from the Scallop Industry
Location: Toowoomba, Queensland
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby Caravan Ray » Wed May 14, 2014 2:14 pm

Generic wrote:
Caravan Ray wrote:This week, I did a song for Nur Ein and Songfight (same song). Nur Ein song was called "Watertight" and had to include a family member. Songfight title was "Who Called the Ape". So there was the story. A song, sung from the point of view of an ape, who had a watertight case for excluding humans from the family Hominidae.


Ohhh, I thought it was one group of humans talking to another group of humans. Your song makes a lot more sense now!

I wonder if there would be some way to make that clearer. Perhaps some soundbyte or nod to Planet of the Apes?

Hmmm..fair enough. I can see how that could be misunderstood. Especially as it is sung in a human voice. Obviously the video clip would make it clear (maybe I should hire a gorilla suit and film one). But, obviously it is bad writing to rely on a video clip to make it clear. I will re-work those lyrics and try to fix that as I start playing it live.

And there lies another important point to the original question. No song is ever really 'finished' if you don't want it to be. I made a song with a major flaw that I didn't really notice until Jon's feedback raised it. I can now try to fix it. Getting stuff done and putting it out to Songfight is really just part of the whole writing process. You won't get the feedback if you don't have anything to give feedback on.

And I play a lot of my songs live - and they always undergo constant tweaking as I see what works best on stage and what the punters seem to react to. Most of songs I do that get the best reaction are now vastly different to how they first appeared on Songfight. But that process can't happen unless there is some raw material to work with in the first place.
User avatar
jb
Scrappy Dappy
Posts: 3563
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 10:12 am
Instruments: Guitar, Cello, Keys, Uke, Vox, Perc
Recording Method: Logic X
Submitting as: The John Benjamin Band
Location: WASHINGTON, DC
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby jb » Wed May 14, 2014 7:02 pm

Kevin Mellows wrote:Thanks for the advice guys. I'm missing this week's fight, but I'm eager to try some of these techniques for the next one!

-Kevin


That's your problem. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO MISS THE FIGHT. Come hell or high water, if you have to stay up all night and miss that important client call, get the fucking song done.

This is the secret to writing quickly, if you're gonna.

JB
User avatar
chocolatechips
Rin-Tin-Tin
Posts: 301
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2011 1:29 pm
Submitting as: The Chocolate Chips
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby chocolatechips » Thu May 15, 2014 12:04 pm

I usually come up with the core of an idea pretty quickly but then I spend a lot of time trying to expand/mold/arrange that core idea into something more ... this seems to me where the learning is and that's what I do this for really, as a way to learn and improve my songwriting/producing/musicianship. And to get unbiased feedback.

Coming up with that core idea can happen a lot of ways... my sort of fall back method is to come up with a set of chord changes (often nicked) and then just sing melodies over it (with random lyrics based on the title) until something sounds interesting. Sometimes nothing will. But usually I have some bit of a thing to get started with. I used to be really precious about keeping that original idea and making everything else work around it - but now I think that's bonkers, this idea is really just a starting point - I almost always change (improve, I hope) my melody quite a bit before I'm done.

I also sometimes start off searching for a melody (on keys) and then fit chords around that ... I do this less often but I've got some good results from it and want to use this method more often.

What I almost never do is write lyrics first, as can probably be seen by anyone who reads my lyrics I don't really care about lyrics, at least not in the "they should tell a complete story" or "read like poetry" sort of way... to me they should just conjure up some sort of image and by far most importantly - sound good.
User avatar
HeuristicsInc
Owney
Posts: 5226
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2004 6:14 pm
Instruments: Synths
Recording Method: Windows computer, Acid, Synths etc.
Submitting as: Heuristics Inc. (duh) + collabs
Location: Maryland USA
Contact:

Re: How to write songs quickly?

Postby HeuristicsInc » Mon May 19, 2014 9:26 am

Manhattan Glutton wrote:Lyrics are particularly hard because they require a sense of confidence if you are too self-conscious. I recently took comedy improv classes, and they totally help with the concept of just saying something rather than feeling verbally constipated. Again, it's better to run with your crappy idea and come back to it rather than try to make it perfect on the first try.


this is probably my biggest problem with writing songs. maybe i should try an improv class also.

sometimes i write down some (bad) scratch lyrics then send them to one of my friends, who makes them into an actual song.
-bill
152612141617123326211316121416172329292119162316331829382412351416132117152332252921
http://heuristicsinc.com
Liner Notes
SF Lyric Ideas

Return to “Help and How To”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests