Describe your habits of song writing and producing, in a few steps

How do you get your inspiration? Do you write melodies first or lyrics? What are your habits of writing a song?
What obstacles do you face usually? I’ll go first:

  1. Compose the instrumental beat. Usually i start with drums, bass then develop a catchy tune for the chorus.
  2. Then i’ll write the lyrics. What i find hard here is to be original, but also blend in. Also a challenge is how to make the song beneficial for the listener.
  3. Preparing “The Flow” for the song. Usually i sound best with nice flows.
  4. Recording and making adjustments to the lyrics as i record.
  5. Mix and master the song.

Sometimes i’ll write lyrics for the wrong beat and make another whole beat for the lyrics, but that’s a whole messed up story. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

  1. ALWAYS starts with an EZ Drummer programmed drum beat first. Intro/verse/chorus blah blah…whatever tempo suits my fancy at that moment. That is then imported into a template in Reaper

  2. Guitars are laid down generally in order of the song parts…writing as I go. Decide on a key and a tuning. Write and intro which usually has nothing else to do with the song lol. Then verse, maybe prechorus, chorus, repeat, bridge etc. I generally go for a mood change or key change on the bridge

I have literally over a hundred “songs” on my HD that are at that point. Sadly most of them wont get finished in my lifetime

Some get some overdubs and a few get solos


A loose one where i didnt bother to take hiss out lol. Typical breakdown/mood change at bridge and a nice solo with one bad punch lol

Rocking/amotspheric Hendrix inspired Wah jam with a DUMB double speed section lol

  1. At this point the rare one might get bass. this one was actually WRITTEN on bass before any guitar parts were conceived. there are stereo mp3 drums from a live drummer from

most of these were written before I considered myself a singer. one reason I took 2016 to study singing was because all of these good jams were going to waste and I got tired of begging people to sing

“there’s a Road”

  1. Some get vocals but never get bass or solos…so they dont get “finished”. this one was written as a 'group" song where other people on a singing forum were supposed to send me their vocals but only 1 guy did lol. it was always intended that the guitars on here would be rerecorded

My process on lyrics and vocal melodies. No set method but usually I write down some chorus lyrics and maybe most of the verse lyrics and I have some idea of the melody lol. I step to the mic and start putting it together, erasing as I go etc. Usually the lyrics arent finalized until I sing them…as sometimes u find that certain lyrics dont sing well, usually because of too many syllables.

  1. the rare one gets bass and vocals and solos. This is one of the rare ones I “finished”. Rock with some gospel vibe and social commentary. This was later into 2016 when I started tp feel my oats singing and I sort of went crazy with dozens of vocal fills. Quite a bit going on.

i am not ashamed to say the mix sucks. Thats why im on this site…to get better

What would seem to be an ideal method to me would be to get a drum beat going, play guitar along with it and try to come up with the chorus melody/hook to go with the chords you are playing. So youd at least have the chorus idea together and then you go program the rest of the drums and start coming up with verse parts etc and fill in the song that way

Also I have dozens and dozens of partial song lyrics written down. usually a chorus and one verse. How, or whether, I will ever implement those remains to be seen lol

Its sad to be creative but also unfocused and undisciplined. cest la vie

peace, JJ


I use dummy lyrics. Placeholders, since I can’t write lyrics worth a shit. So I’ll take a song I already know the lyrics to and completely re-write the music. But for some crazy reason, I need formed sentences to write over. I can’t do it over la-la-la-la or whatever. Then I show the song to a lyricist and ask them to remove the lyrics and write something original.

A good lyricist will know what liberties they can take and where melodic phrasing needs to be left alone.


ive often thought of schemes like that. For instance take a song, say, “Bad Boys Running Wild” and just write your own lyrics with the same syllables etc. that way at least you know that you have written something with a decent structure.

“bad Boys Running Wild” could become “here we go again” or “it’s my time to win” or whatever…youd just change the melody while keeping the rhythmic structure

The only trick is that you then have to totally forget the original song because you have to come up with your own melody lol. That would be a good method for 2 people working together. You could write lyrics based off of another songs but dont tell your partner what the other song was. Just hand them the lyrics

  1. Songwriting:
    Sketch out idea on acoustic guitar and vocal and record with iPad. Record guitar parts on one track in Garageband, vocals on another track, usually just scatting, but often improvising finished lyrics
    Move around ideas as sections (Verse, Chorus, Bridge etc) and form into song.

  2. Arrangement & Recording:
    Export finished song to DAW. Start mapping out parts, usually using a very basic drum loop. Bassline usually comes first, then rough guitar rhythms. Rough out vocals and harmonies. Play and record drums to scratch guitar and bass. Record any other elements, like keys etc. Re-record bass and guitars if necessary. Overdub any other guitar, keys or percussion parts.
    Vocals are last to be recorded. I usually run the lead vocal down about 4 times, then comp the best bits together. Harmony vocals come after that, in order to sit tight with the lead vox.

  3. Mixing/Mastering
    I start a new session for the mix, bringing in all my consolidated tracks. Usually, I keep to the sounds I have committed to during recording. Occasionally I use a DI to replace or augment an existing guitar sound.
    Then it’s just mix, mix, mix. I usually do the any 2 buss/faux mastering processing within the mix session… Then I post it on BTR for some perspective, rinse and repeat until I’m relatively happy with it.

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I usually only start recording in Cubase once I have a fair idea of at least the building blocks of a song, meaning the main melodies, the harmonic structure and the groove.
But once I’ve started a project in the DAW, I cannot imagine doing things by separating arrangement/recording/mixing/mastering. For me they are all part of one process…

Typically, I will start by drums/bass, finding the right kit and some base patterns that I will then mangle along the way… Keys, I lay out with Cubase Chord Track at first, then will play over it, and edit the midi until they sound tolerable.
Then I will record a scratch vocal (at this point I might not have final lyrics, doesn’t matter too much) and guitars.

And then I will work on the arrangement, first trying the find the best tempo, sometimes changing the key (if I do change one or the others, I will re-track guitars and vocals), using the arranger track I will try some variations of chorus/verse/pre-chorus/bridge/instrumental sections/interlude whatever, until I find a structure I’m fine with (more or less).

All that time, after each sessions, I will print a mix (that I always try to dial as close to a good mix as possible, meaning there are effects, delays, reverbs, etc. and 2-bus processing from the start for me, I find it helps me define the mood and sound of a tune) and each printed mix I listen to the day (or days) after, I listen intently trying to imagine in my head some new parts singing…
Quite often after a few listens I will start to hum some new parts and will try to integrate that one way or another. Or I will have some new ideas that I will try on the next session. Could be an idea for an effect, or a counterpoint melody, or some extra parts, like horns for example on that song I’m working on. Sometimes these ideas works, sometimes they don’t.

So it’s pretty much an iterative process for me from the moment I start working in Cubase.
Which means that I very often have between 70 and 100 “mixed” versions of the same song at various stages, until I’m happy with it and can’t hear anything I’d want to add (or retract). I could post some mixes of various stages of most of my songs. Some are pretty horrid/crazy, even if they end up fine.

Then I fine tune everything again (more mixes), then put on BTR and get my ass kicked (usually on vocals) and get back to it until I’m bored with it or no one has any more significant criticism…

That process can take me some time between one and two months… although I can only really work in the evenings and on week-ends when my daughter is not with me.
Still all in all I guess it takes me an awful lot of time to build a song, so much so that at one point, fatally, I WILL hate it.


Usually I get a single motivic riff that I think is catchy. Then my mind races around the block to find something that’ll match it lyrically. So its not hard because say you’re locking to a rhythmic pentameter for instance. Your dummy/placeholder lyrics can only deviate so much before they flat out won’t fit.

I think the last one I wrote like that I used Bette Middler/Amanda Mcbrooms song The Rose. And then another I used the lyrics to the Lord of the Rings theme song Into The West. Then the one before that I used Midnight (the theme song from frickin CATS by Andrew Lloyd Weber). Goofy. I know. The trick is I never show the original song to the lyricist until we’re done with the song. And they crack up laughing when I tell them where I developed the melody from.

I’m writing again for the first time in about 10 years.


You mean “'Memory” I think. Makes me thing of a post I want to create… will post a link later, watch this space! :wink:


Really interesting, Jono!.. This reminded me of the way Rivers Cuomo writes, only it’s quite a convoluted process, as this interview with him explains - it’s a GREAT listen for aspiring songwriters, and only quite short.-:

  • Compose song with guitar and vocal. No lyrics needed at this point though, maybe some frases
  • record reference track of the guitar and the vocal(s)
  • come up with a drum beat and record it (very basic beat most of the time using a keybard). I only work on a small part of the song first.
  • come up with bass line if there is to be one.
  • make a rough mix of a small part of the song
  • start thinking of vocal and instrument arrangements. Record them. This is very very important for me. Doesn’t matter how good I think the song is, I try very hard to make it interesting (does not mean I succeed)

When I am happy with the structure and arragements of the song then I start recording everything with good quality. I try to get everything to sound as I want it in the final mix. In this order:

  • Drums
  • Edit Drum track if needed and make the kick and the snare match the tempo of the project
  • Bass
    . edit bass to follow tempo fo drums. Here some error margin is nice to have sometimes. But only a bit
  • Rest of instruments. Here I can’t know what comes first as the “main” instrument varies
  • edit instruments to match tempo, or at least sound consistent with drums and bass
  • vocals with whole lyrics.
  • edit vocals to fit in the tempo, remove noises, tune if needed.

And then I mix. Most of the times I start with the drums and then the bass, but this can be different.


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I’ve done it a couple of different ways.

I mostly come up with songs with an acoustic guitar and my voice, just noodling around at home. For me a lot of it is just about getting into a creative headspace and playing guitar to see what comes out - you hit on a chord that resonates with you, a riff idea happens… just keeping an open mind for that moment of inspiration.

Then the trick is to not be afraid to just start singing. Nonsense phrases, fragments of sentences, free association, words that pop into my head, just try to feel out melodies through the guitar part I’m playing round with. Then it becomes a symbiotic thing where the melody feels like it wants to go somewhere else so I find a chord that takes it there, I started out as a drummer so I try to get groovy and try to find stresses, grooves, synchopations, tensions and releases etc. The voice is a rhythm instrument as much as a melodic one, I find patterns of consonants and vowels that do something musically then gradually find words and phrases that fit those patterns. But the key thing is that the voice sounds and music arrive together. It might not go anywhere. It might result in a 10 second long voice clip on my phone of an idea. It might lead to me writing a page of lyrics right there and then if a theme emerges and takes me. If it’s an incomplete idea fragment I’ll return to it days, weeks, years later.

Fleshing out the basic song depends on who it’s for. If it’s a solo thing I’ll usually do a rough demo with midi drums, DI’d bass and guitar at home to play with the structure, dynamics and overall arrangement. Then if I record it properly I’ll play the drums along to that demo, often just because the DAW’s session file has tempo maps, time sig changes, the different sections marked up on the timeline etc, and build up the arrangement from there, quite often experimenting with different arrangement ideas, guitar parts, extra synths, right up 'til the mix is finished.

If it’s for the band, I’ll take the rough guitar/ vocal idea to band practice and show it to the other guys, tell them my ideas for drums and bass as a starting point then just see where it develops from there. I’m a bit of a control freak there so I’ll usually stay in charge of proceedings, but I love what other players can bring to the table in terms of ideas you’d never have thought of!


VERY similar to ptalbot.

Most of my songwriiting is done in my head so genre, chords, basslines, vocal melody & phrasing (inc partial lyrics) are there by the time I sit down. The main initial thing for me is nailing down tempo and working out ASAP which mental arrangement ideas are in fact, in practice, not at all practical and actually a bit mental in the other sense.

Then it’s all about fighting laziness…

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I have 3 starting points, that alternate based on the situation. I either start with guitar parts and write an entire song and then add lyrics later, write the guitar parts and lyrics as I go which can change how I play the guitar parts to fit what I’m doing, or write lyrics with a cadence or melody and then fit guitar parts to that. Once I have a basic structure of the song and assuming I’m not playing with a band and doing this all on my own, I will then go and program a simple drum beat at the tempo I desire. Then I lay down the rhythm guitar and bass, then I will go and put real drums over that. leads and vocals are last. once I have lead vocals I either add more guitars or other instruments and backing vocals.

The biggest thing for me is I never push a song, if it doesn’t come along naturally I might save the riff, melody, or whatever for later (I have a bunch of old stock). I also notice I generally write songs in 2s or 3s. like once I start on one sometimes right in the middle I get a totally different idea that spawns into another song or as figuring out structure something happens and it takes me into a different direction which leads to another song. unless I’m focused on one particular song I’m always writing multiple at once.

My biggest hurdle has always been lyrics. I usually get a verse and chorus and then I struggle with the rest, however these usually come out with any thought, they just flow out. One way I have noticed to start channeling more focus to a song is to come up with song titles first. sometimes its conceptual, sometimes just a random thought. Try to think of you naming a band or album with no reference and see what you come up with and you will get the idea where I’m at with song titles. At the very least when I get my brain thinking I get a bunch of key words to use in a song and ideas generate from there.

I rarely complete a song and scrap it, and this might go into my feel and how my melodies are coming along, but I maybe have only had a handful of songs over the years where I finished and said this sucks I’m never playing this again… so you can not be afraid to toss something. we are always going to be our worst critic, and you cant scrap every song but you also cant be afraid to get rid of an experiment that went awry.

Writing a song with a band is very different, and I love getting a guitar riff or when the drummer plays something that I can play off of. that’s my favorite thing, to take one riff that I really like and create a whole song around it. I generally get a melody in my head instantly and already know how it should go, then playing off the drummer and leading the rest of the band and getting the feedback, that’s what I love. Its a very different way of writing compared to doing it yourself. Sometimes that little idea form someone else can spark something creative that you didn’t have but you make it your own.

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