For me it’s usually like a dream-state or something. An idea, an inspiration of emotional origin but mental content. Something I want to say. Something I want to shout from the bleachers. I really think it’s a combination of left brain stream of consciousness (words), and right brain ideas and concepts + emotions. They have to be in sync or it’s a mess. Making it work with a musical idea can be challenging if it doesn’t come along with a melody or rhythm. Sometimes imagining the performing of this new piece on a stage can help. “Theater of the Mind” and all that fun stuff.
It seems that your writing ability is not the issue, but your own assessment of it. Not sure how you get around that one without a complete change of mental attitude.
Why don’t you write and record something regardless of your misgivings and post it to BTR? You may be surprised by the reaction, and you never know, that reaction may be enough to start a change in your attitude.
BTW when we (Salem) write songs for an album there is no intention of sticking to one genre. Whatever we write, we record. It just so happens that nine times out of ten the song turns out to be rock/metal because that’s what we love but we don’t limit ourselves to the genre at the onset.
I have no problem writing songs. Chord sequences, melodies, arrangements - and especially lyrics - come very easily to me. Of course, that is no indication of the quality of those songs, but that discussion belongs on BTR.
The only reason I say this is because on this thread I see a lot of (what I interpret to be) low self esteem and crippling self-deprecation.
I think a lot of this stems from the self-inflicted pressure to be ‘original’, I see this so often in my studio with bands and artists.
“Our” music is Western Art Music. For all intents and purposes, there is no other type. Because of the way WAM is structured, there are no original chord sequences left, and probably no original melodies. So if you’re worried that someone else may have already ‘done’ what you have written, you’re right. But it’s time to get over that fact. It doesn’t stop people like McCartney, Jack Blades and countless others from writing, so it shouldn’t stop you.
With lyrics, you have a greater chance of being original, but again, I see many people crippling themselves through the belief that whatever they write should be show-stopping. Nothing could be further than the truth. Just write it down and stop worrying about it. Look at all the bog standard lyrics that accompany most commercial songs. “Da doo ron ron” I mean, even a six year old child could do that.
As for subjects to write about…
You can write about millions of things, literally anything. But this fact in itself can be daunting, I know. So try narrowing down your options. Try this: watch the news and pick the story that you can relate to the most through personal experience. Then write your lyrics. Honestly, it’s not difficult. Just try not to get too specific. The more ambiguous you are about the subject, the more people will be able to relate to it. And here is something you will discover - when people ask you what the song is about, and you explain the lyrics to them, they are invariably very impressed.
Here’s the kicker - you strive so hard to be original, but if you truly achieved that, the chances are that no-one would like your song. The reason people like songs is because they have a melody/sound/chord structure that is reminiscent of one they already like. They may not be able to name that song (if they can, the chances are you have got a little too close to the original) but the familiarity brings them a warm fuzzy feeling.
Originality, by and large, comes from performance. That’s why songs are covered so much. Same song - new performer. People never grow tired of that, so the desire to be original in your songwriting is demonstrably a misplaced one. (I’m referring to mainstream here - there are obvious exceptions such as Cage, Glass, Messiaen, even our own Emma to a degree).
So release those shackles - and get writing!
Amen Adrian - you nailed it. :beerbang:
My songs don’t suck. #justsaying
Well said Adrian! And I agree with Boz, I also have that misgiving that I expect more from my own compositions than I do from artists I admire. I guess I need to give myself permission to tread the same paths.
I just feel presumptuous, I suppose is the right word, in proffering material that seems so obviously derivative. But I’m definitely not giving up! My song “Love Songs Left” about all the love songs already having been written actually took that bull by the horns and tried to turn it to my advantage, and I think it worked. I believe that song, at least, does not suck.
Good on you Dave. You’ve done the hard yards, now write the next song while the iron is still hot.
Well, that’s an another aspect of the challenge… just don’t have the time I would like to be able to devote to the craft, my so-called normal life keeps getting in the way! I’m somewhat encouraged, though, by having managed to write three tunes over the last holiday break when I had a solid ten days off and could indulge myself. But sometimes I have no choice but to let that iron cool off…
Yeah regrettably, life does tend to get in the way.
As I read through your whole post I kept thinking to myself, “so true”.
I agree with everything you wrote.
I’m a hard rock/ metal guy but I write music in many different genres. When I’m writing a heavy rock/ metal song I’m often very conscious of the vocal melody. My tendency is to be melodic, but sometimes that can make a metal song sound too “poppy”…, some people might say “cheesy”. So I sometimes find myself trying to strike a balance between too much melody and not enough. Also, sometimes the phrasing can actually be as important or more important than the melody. If the vocal is too melodically restrained I can always experiment on unusual and/or interesting vocal phrasing.
My songs don’t suck at all. They’re fucking great.
Way to read the actual thread. Great input.
Thanks. Glad to help.
Wow. I struggle to pin this down. Depending on the hour of the day I seem to always have a different reason as to why my stuff sucks. Recently however I’ve come to realise that I dwell on themes/ideas for way too long. Think about your favourite “bits” in your favourite songs - even at the very top level, they can be actually quite fleeting when it comes down to it.
I’ve found when writing that when I feel I’ve hit on something (rightly or wrongly) I have a tendency to overdo it. As a result things can end up both flabby and stilted, even if some of the ideas are actually good.
I’m not saying it’s the answer but I think being a bit more lean in my approach and resisting the temptation to extend is definitely going to help in the future.
There can be of course a certain intensity or almost mesmeric quality with well considered repetition but I’m some way from even going there at the moment.
I find this phrase interesting as I have always found it a struggle to promote originals, especially when performing them live.at gigs. It’s almost like your audience switches off!
Great post there AJ.
You’ve just come up with epic band name: The Flabby Stilts! :beerbang:
I noticed in a video posted here recently from a URM podcast that the songwriter mentioned how important a song title is.
He said if you have 8 hours to write then spend 7 hours thinking of a name and 1 hour writing. Not the other way around.
I have heard this so many times by professional song writers that I am thinking I need to try it.
Maybe thats why my songs suck.