Writing A Song – Part 4

A lot of progress has been made on my song since I last wrote on the topic.  Actually, it’s pretty much done.  And I’m not exactly sure how or why it happened so quickly.  When I last wrote, I was struggling with the melody.  Well, I just kept playing around with notes and gradually the lines in my head started to resemble You and Your Heart by Jack Johnson.  The kind of melody that is paced, deliberate, and to the point in its delivery.  It just felt like the right style of vocals so I went with it.  In fact, the phrasing and melody in my chorus is extremely derivative of You and Your Heart.

At this point I had a verse, a chorus, and a pretty good idea of what the melody was going to sound like.  I decided to add a bridge to add a change of pace, especially considering my verse and chorus used the same four chords.  I had read somewhere that it was usually a good idea to keep your bridge extremely simple.  I have no idea if that’s true or not, but following that advice I came up with a simple G#m C#m bridge and it seemed to fit well enough so I kept it.

The only thing I was missing now was lyrics.  And really that was the part that I sort of expected to struggle with.  As it turns out, writing the words was not only easier than I thought it would be, it was also the most enjoyable part of the process.  I think most of my anxiety around writing lyrics was not knowing what I wanted to write about.  And it makes perfect sense… if you don’t know what you want to say, how can you come up with the words to say it?  Sounds obvious I know, but somehow I think I didn’t get it until after I finished the song.  I’m going to write more about the lyrical content, and I’m also going to post a much better recording of the finished song.  But first, here’s one last look at the list of deliberate (or maybe not so deliberate in the case of Bieber) influences…

  • Baby by Justin Bieber (verse chord progression)
  • You and Your Heart by Jack Johnson (phrasing and melody in the chorus)
  • Firework by Katy Perry (some lyrical bits in the first verse)

Writing A Song – Part 3

Slight change of plan.  I started thinking about beats and decided to change the rhythm a bit.  Instead of the straight eighth note pattern in the previous recording, I decided to go with a two eighth note quarter note feel.  I added some bass drum and claps in Garage Band to help convey the rhythm.

Also, I realized (after I had decided to use this chord progression) that my verse is essentially the same chord progression as Baby by Justin Bieber, only in a different key.  Now I can’t claim to be a big Bieber fan, but I would be lying if I said his music was not played often in my household and in our minivan.  My 4 year old son idolizes him.  So whether deliberate or not, I’m pretty sure that I had Baby in mind when I decided on these chords.  Maybe it was subconscious.  Bieber fever affects you and you don’t even know it.

I also was feeling a pre-chorus of A B, which honestly in my mind was reminiscent of Better Together by Jack Johnson (one of my favorite songs).  So an updated list of influences would be a follows…

  • Baby by Justin Bieber
  • Better Together by Jack Johnson

As far as a melody is concerned, I haven’t come up with anything at this point that I am really crazy about.  To mess around and hopefully stir some ideas I picked some notes out of the E major scale and recorded that as well.  But I think the next steps will be really tough.  Right now I don’t have much… a chord progression, a basic beat, some thoughts on how the chorus might begin.  I need to add a melody, perhaps an instrumental hook, and lyrical content.  I need to evolve it into something that is more mine, a true original song.  This is typically where my previous song writing attempts have started to fall apart.  I will do my best to follow through this time.

Here is the updated version.  Once again, please excuse the quality.  Not only was I recording this with the mic in my MacBook, but it was recorded during the day which means you may hear the Fresh Beat Band in the background or my kids playing with various toys.  The timing is off, the quality is bad, and normally I wouldn’t think it was worth sharing.  But like I wrote in part 1, I want to document the songwriting process, including all the rough cuts along the way.  So here it is.  I promise if I ever finish writing this song, I will record everything from scratch and it will sound a lot better.

Writing A Song - Part 3     

 

Writing A Song – Part 2

Ok.  I picked up the guitar and somehow settled on this as the basic chord progression for the verse…

E  C#m7  A  B

I really don’t know how I came up with those chords other than its a fairly common chord progression and I was trying to come up with a key that I can sing in.  As soon as I came up with the chords, the next thing that popped in my head was how I wanted to play this rhythmically.  Should it be acoustic strumming?  Or more of a clean, on the beat, pop sort of rhythm?  Which got me thinking, I’m really not thinking about rhythmic patterns as much as I am thinking of how I ultimately want to record the song.  Is it going to be more of live band type of arrangement, or more of a pop song?

All of this I found kind of crazy.  I have four chords, no melody, no lyrical content, and already my mind is jumping to what genre of music I am going to record it as.  Is this how the creative process is supposed to work?  I always thought the song came first, and the arrangement and recording were secondary.

To make matters worse, not only am I thinking about genre of music, but I find myself thinking about what existing songs I want my song to sound like.  I promise you I’m not straight up copying anything, but where do you draw the line between being influenced by another song, and plagiarizing it?  Certainly its ok to be influenced by other songs, right?  Isn’t everything derivative of something else to some degree?

Well, wrong or right, I’m not too worried about it.  Actually, I’m quite happy because my creative juices are flowing, and that is way better than being stuck.  However, I do think it might be interesting to keep track of the various influences that I am consciously bringing into my song.  So here is a list of deliberate decisions on my part – kind of like a game plan for writing (and recording) the song.  This list will surely change, but as of right now here it is…

  • Definitely want this to be upbeat and not dreary in any way.
  • For some reason I have Firework by Katy Perry and Dynamite by Taio Cruz in mind as songs I want to emulate.  Two pop songs that I think are superbly produced and kind of infectious.
  • Since I don’t have much in the way of professional gear, my recording is going to have to make use of less than ideal instruments, mics, effects, etc.  I’m going to try to embrace this and use it to make my recording sound unique (hopefully in a good way).

Lastly, I said that I would have some audio of what I came up with.  Its only 4 chords and just a guitar, so it’s not much, but here it is.  As the song develops, these should start to sound a lot better.  Also, please excuse the audio quality, this was recorded with the built in mic in my MacBook.  I’ll break out the gear when the song takes more form.

Writing A Song - Part 2