Welcome back to my Thursday blog series!
When I finally have my scheduled music production and development time, I have to make the most of it. Thankfully I’ve got my pot of inspiration ideas to draw from (which I talked about in the last video), so I don’t have to work too hard to get the ball rolling.
If I’m starting a new song that night, I’ll usually start off with perusing that folder and listening to each of my ideas one by one until something catches my attention. Then I’ll start actually putting it down – either the lyrics or the foundation of the instrumentation, whichever comes to me easiest. Personally, I find it’s harder to start something than to keep something going, so I’ve built these methods for myself to make it as effortless as possible for me to actually start. Once I’m going I turn into a charging bull… and you’d better get out of my way.
Let’s say I choose to go with lyrics one night, I’ll open up a word processor and write out whatever I’ve already recorded in my “pot-of-inspiration-pick-of-the-night”. If there are no words and only a melody, then I’ll write out the rhythm in which I intend the words to be written. Consequently, a lot of my work in progress pages look like this:
Doo do do daaa
Daa da dee
Lalala laaaaaah loo
Honestly it’s probably gibberish to everyone except me, as there are no particular rules that I’m following for this type of notation, but for whatever reason this works for me. I can maintain my original intended rhythm and still have some flexibility to evolve it into something better. I also do this when I get a little further into writing and need to progress the song into a new part. Words don’t come as naturally to me as rhythms and melodies do, so I’ll play around with that first and fill in the language when I have a clearer direction.
Which leads me into the concept of finding the story. What is the song about? Sometimes it’s not what the song was originally inspired by, and it needs to change. Is it personal? Is it political? Is it about someone or something? Just like a book or a movie, a song has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and those will need to be worked out both lyrically and musically. But once I’ve got my skeleton down, I’ll start building the muscles with a big picture concept or even a sentence, as that seems to help me narrow things down into a progression.
At that point I can go nuts, and these days there are so many tools available out there to help. If the song rhymes, I’ll use a rhyming dictionary to help me with lines. If there’s a word that doesn’t quite fit and I need something similar, I’ll use a Thesaurus. As long as everything is supporting the story, you’re gold.
Many times I’ll come up with the video for the song as I’m writing the lyrics – in fact I think it’s safe to say that I actually have a music video idea for every song I ever finish, but it’s not always practical for me to execute. In any case, video or not, the story is your backbone and will influence not only the words but the instrumentation and melody as well. Go with the flow and keep it moving!
How do you start your songs or stories? What types of tools do you use to help your lyrics take their final shape? Let me know in the comments!