Music & Lyrics

edited August 10 in Off-topic

Do you write lyrics and put music to them, write music and add lyrics, both or neither?

Lyrics
  1. Lyrics or music first?23 votes
    1. Lyrics!
        4.35%
    2. Music!
      43.48%
    3. Both, it varies.
      30.43%
    4. Neither, who needs lyrics?
      21.74%

Comments

  • There's lots to unpack here, and obviously every writer will (and should) have their own point of view. I think the first rule of writing lyrics is to write in images, the more descriptive the better. In George Orwell's essay politics and the English Language he uses this example from the King James Bible:

    I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

    And lampoons it thus:

    Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

    The point being that imagery is more evocative and interesting than description. Another quote in a similar vein from Robert Doisneau: To suggest is to create, to describe is to destroy

    A great example would be the song After The Goldrush by Neil Young, it's just a series of dreamlike images, but married to the haunting melody it seems to be imbued with meaning.

    As to what you should write about, there's no limits. Life is rich and complicated and we don't really understand it, each other or even ourselves - the seam is deep, you just have to mine it.

    In my case I would say the melody always comes before the words, although in some rare cases the two come together spontaneously in my head.

  • You edited the first post, which kinda changed the spirit of the question. I'll leave my answer there anyway :)

  • edited August 10

    Thanks! Did I mention I have trouble expressing myself with words? :wink: Also, I clearly don't know how to edit a post effectively... :# (Well, now I do!)

  • edited August 10

    That was a great point. I am competent at writing formal communication and technical documentation, and I have a pretty rich emotional core from whence the music flows, but flowery words do not come easily. Maybe I should study more poetry and read fewer IT manuals...

  • I’ve always done lyrics first.

    This year is the first time I’ve done the music first (only knowing the topic or premise of the song before starting the whole thing), then applied lyrics to the music.

    I now think I do it better that way – have a premise, defiantly write some irrelevant music anyway, then bring it back to the premise by writing lyrics. I think it eases the fitting to the music very well (rather than fitting music to a cumbersome pre-written stanza).

  • I might have answered lyrics first.

    But more precisely, lyrics come into my head with a clear rhythmic pattern, that usually I keep.

    But the problem with notes that come into my head is they are often in strange keys or quite chromatic. There have been some occasions I think that it is really good and I'll just go with it. But most of the time, I think my brain is just wired off and by moving initial notes a little into a more regular key, it is more approachable.

  • @u0421793 said:
    This year is the first time I’ve done the music first (only knowing the topic or premise of the song before starting the whole thing), then applied lyrics to the music.

    Starting a song with a topic in mind is probably a good tactic. Too often I'll just sit down and play some random notes until I can roll with "yeah, I like how that sounds," but figuring out what it's supposed to be about later can be pretty challenging and sometimes even feels disingenuous, like a facade. Thanks!

  • @oddSTAR said:
    but flowery words do not come easily.

    The words don't need to be flowery, they should be evocative. Look at Like Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan - nothing flowery about it, full of bitterness and spite, but powerful imagery nonetheless.

  • Quite often I’ll have a line that comes to me as words and music combined, but to make a complete song from it, the music comes easier than the words. I often struggle with lyrics when the music (at least sometimes)seems to just flow. I’d quite like to work with a separate lyricist (and if they are a singer, so much the better!).

  • I feel like my best "songs" (y'know, the 3 1/2 minute, radio ready, accessible stuff) have come when the lyric dictates the melody and therefore the chordal structure.

    The problem I have with writing lyrics is just that - WRITING lyrics. I just don't get the same joy from lyric writing as I do music writing. I can be really good at it, but I find it tedious. This is why I haven't put out anything vocals based in awhile.

  • Depends on my creative muscles, which vary from one year to the next. I never try to have a process on purpose, I always try to just let it call to me. Sometimes it calls with words, ideas, concepts, subjects, and sometimes I hear it before I pick up my guitar/piano/ tuba, etc.. The consistent thing for me is I do it when it calls me. That’s all that has ever mattered.

  • Songwriting can have a “process” but I feel it sometimes takes all the soul out of it if you set out to create following some format...at least for me.

    Usually my songwriting happens when I’m not trying to write a song. I can be playing guitar or keyboard, putzing around, and then usually I’ll stumble upon a riff or chord progression that sounds interesting and starts to take shape. After that moment of creative ignition its weird, almost as if someone else was playing if that makes any sense.

    Once the chords, groove, etc take shape then I’ll usually busk around nonsense words, just syllables blocking out notes OR a melody will be suggested by the riff/chord progression that just pops into mind. I just try not to be critical or overthink anything while writing. “Nah, that sucks” self critiques can limit what you try.

    I always like to be alone when songwriting. If someone is in the same room or in ear shot that self consciousness of “oh, they can hear me” kills creativity because I’m afraid to sound bad or have an experiment fail.

    Lyrics for me usually always come after melody, harmony and rhythm...the gobbledygook place holder words can sometimes suggest some other word or direction. I really appreciate things like SoundCloud’s private Uploads for songwriting because if a rhythm track is near completion I can play it back in the car or wherever to use while coming up lyric ideas.

    Hope some of this makes sense...interested in hearing how everyone’s processes are different...

  • edited August 11

    One of the few times I’ve written the lyrics first , probably because it’s basically a blues w substitute chord changes. But 99% of the time the chords come first , which seems to suggest the melody , which seems to in turn suggest the lyrics. Brian Wilson does it that way too.. The great Lorenz Hart always wrote lyrics to Richard Rogers music . BTW this tune DOES have an intro .. I just kept flubbing it that day.

  • @JRSIV said:
    Songwriting can have a “process” but I feel it sometimes takes all the soul out of it if you set out to create following some format...at least for me.

    Usually my songwriting happens when I’m not trying to write a song. I can be playing guitar or keyboard, putzing around, and then usually I’ll stumble upon a riff or chord progression that sounds interesting and starts to take shape. After that moment of creative ignition its weird, almost as if someone else was playing if that makes any sense.

    Once the chords, groove, etc take shape then I’ll usually busk around nonsense words, just syllables blocking out notes OR a melody will be suggested by the riff/chord progression that just pops into mind. I just try not to be critical or overthink anything while writing. “Nah, that sucks” self critiques can limit what you try.

    I always like to be alone when songwriting. If someone is in the same room or in ear shot that self consciousness of “oh, they can hear me” kills creativity because I’m afraid to sound bad or have an experiment fail.

    Lyrics for me usually always come after melody, harmony and rhythm...the gobbledygook place holder words can sometimes suggest some other word or direction. I really appreciate things like SoundCloud’s private Uploads for songwriting because if a rhythm track is near completion I can play it back in the car or wherever to use while coming up lyric ideas.

    Hope some of this makes sense...interested in hearing how everyone’s processes are different...

    This is exactly how I write. It’s funny, I once thought it was unique, but it’s quite common. While I’m singing my gibberish to get the melody and rhythm of the vocals down, I’ll often stumble on a phrase or something that sounds like a phrase that will become the entry point to the lyrics.

    I’ll echo @richardyot’s comment about imagery. I’ve found that when I focus on active and interesting verbs, combined with vivid imagery, many listeners create some pretty profound meaning in my stuff. Usually, I’m ambiguous enough to fool them.

    One other thing I try to do is use alliteration. Good Song lyrics are often chock full of alliteration.

    Most of the time, the stuff I’ve mentioned above is more important to me than the actual lyric in the process. I’m not saying the lyric isn’t important, but it’s usually the last thing I do when I’m writing a song, and it’s probably the most malleable part of what I do.

  • @supanorton said:
    This is exactly how I write. It’s funny, I once thought it was unique, but it’s quite common. While I’m singing my gibberish to get the melody and rhythm of the vocals down, I’ll often stumble on a phrase or something that sounds like a phrase that will become the entry point to the lyrics.

    I’ll echo @richardyot’s comment about imagery. I’ve found that when I focus on active and interesting verbs, combined with vivid imagery, many listeners create some pretty profound meaning in my stuff. Usually, I’m ambiguous enough to fool them.

    One other thing I try to do is use alliteration. Good Song lyrics are often chock full of alliteration.

    Most of the time, the stuff I’ve mentioned above is more important to me than the actual lyric in the process. I’m not saying the lyric isn’t important, but it’s usually the last thing I do when I’m writing a song, and it’s probably the most malleable part of what I do.

    Positively brother... When it comes to writing lyrics for me don't come as easy as music does. That is why I usually have the melody down ironclad, with maybe a chorus or a few keeper lines, and I build the song up to where vocals are the final overdubs.

    That way I can use the actual songs rhythm track to aid in fine tuning the lyrics. I totally respect cats who can take a bunch of lines of lyrics and then put them to a melody "made" for that set of words. I have tried it but it comes off really strained.

    I love threads like this just to get a feel for what you guys are thinking, how other processes are being used. Again, I like examining songwriting a bit, but I don't want to dissect it too much...I love that magic of suprise, of coming up with something that's "technically" wrong but sounds cool...Over 20 years of writing songs and I still get that wave of goosebumps & excitement when in the middle of creating...

    Thanks everyone for your insight, be cool...

  • If you are a lyrics-first kind of writer, the basic shape of your melody is probably going to be more important to you than the chordal accompaniment. That’s because lyrics-first writers are usually careful about imagery, poetic devices, and generally how they say things. The melody you write has great potential for bringing those aspects of your words to life. Mobdro APK

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