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Author Topic: Instrumental Songwriting Help!  (Read 9868 times)

Offline simonlock

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« on: February 06, 2008, 11:15:40 AM »
Guys, I am lined up to get a lesson with Martone on songwriting. I'm overwhelmed with expectations and flooded with too much information that I'm still trying to wrap my brain around. How the hell do you go about writing something meaningful? I like a lot of aspects of my playing and feel that what I do already should work for at least half of a song. The trouble is I'm not very good at writing those hooky riffs. When I hear an instrumental that is really good it usually contains a solid motif that is repeated and/or modified. Thing is these really shocking parts that get my attention aren't the type of thing that you just pick up the guitar and play. Sure once you get a riff down it's easier to modify slightly but the first time it's gotta be worked out. Whats a good way to start?

I thought about designing a song on paper first. Using a paint by numbers formula like ABCA or something and then developing a vision. I thought I'd get a reason for the song before i even start and then try to amplify that feeling and try to tell a story. For a melody line I was thinking of writing lyrics that I would only use to develop the melody and then work out some crazy passages to add fire to the statement.

I can listen to phenomenal playing that has beautiful phrasing but if it doesn't have something mindblowing in it I'm not very interested. I've bought 8 CDs lately from Guitar Nine and was pretty underwhelmed. It made me realize just how remarkable Martone is. I don't want to write tunes that are just shred. I want each one to have it's own signature and feel. I suppose having such high expectations is a limiting factor so hopefully with support from you guys and help from Dave I may just pull something off. I just dont want to improvise an entire tune leaving everything to chance.

Simon
Vancouver,BC
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Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline bno

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2008, 11:45:45 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by simonlock

 Whats a good way to start?

Start simple.  Seriously.  It sounds like a cliche but it is a good way to start.  Make little ideas and expand them.  Set an attainable goal that you can accomplish.  Some great music comes from small ideas.  Beethoven's 5th, Bach's fugues, Paul McCartney's "Yesterday".  You like shred so create a simple melody that you can then fill out with shred scales and lines.  Then play with it.  Backwards.  Forwards, upside down, modulate, half tempo, double tempo, change modes and scales, alter the rhythm, alter where the phrase starts in the measure, change the underlying harmony.  Word phrases are a good way to generate some rhythmic and melodic ideas.  Take a piece that you like and mimic without copying.  Or go anti - find a piece you just hate, listen to it closely and try to create something that's exact opposite.  Eventually you'll hit on something that grabs you and off you go.  Learning to create original music is a worthwhile struggle.  Even a giant sequoia redwood started as a sprout.  It just takes time.
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Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline mojotron

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2008, 12:45:51 PM »
IMO, it's kind of like constructing a speech, or a conversation, where right in the middle you want to make a big point and then find a way to leave.

For instance - you have the really cool set of arpeggios that work great over the Key of Am into Dm/F then back - lets say it goes:

Am -> G7 -> Bdim then transitions into F with -> C7/9 -> Dm7 ->Am (repeat)

Let’s say that that is what you want to build the song around...

So, now you want to lead up to it with a simple chorus/verse combo that transitions into the making the arpeggio work the break...

So, you could start the song with a simple chordal riff going between 3drs, 4ths or 5ths in the Am, G7, or Dm7 chords as a chorus

Then add a verse which is a longer section - using single notes - sustained with lots of space to develop the supporting parts - rhythm guitar, bass, and drums.

Then position the parts to do something like:

chorus-intro, verse, verse with a bit more intensity, verse, chorus, verse, break-arpeggio thing, chorus, re-break-arpeggio thing and play it out to the end.

I think the advise about looking a instrumentals that do not work is very good advice. On CD that just really pains me to listen to is constructed so that every phrase is repeated twice, exactly like it was played the first time.... throughout the whole CD: So, I know I hate that so I remember not to do that. Another thing that bugs me is the lack of intensity in recordings - so I use a fair amount of bends from 4ths-up-to-5th to root (on the next lower string) then hit the octave or 7/9/11th above the root really hard like a slap in the face... and I generally throw in some Bloomfield licks - not out of key, but the kind that make people wonder what key they were in until the next chord hits... during the slower parts... it's all about controlling tempo - going form slow to fast in an artful way as well as controlling dissonance going form maj/min triads to min/min/min in an artful way as well.

Guys like Satriani have perfected a format that lends itself to focusing on the cool part of the song. Guys like Eric Johnson have done things totally different, but still very cool IMO.

Hope it helps.

--
Mike
« Last Edit: February 06, 2008, 01:34:16 PM by mojotron »
 

Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline joeypazz

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2008, 02:12:30 PM »
By no means am I an expert.  But the key thing to do, in my opinion, is to get a nice hook.  Well, that doesn't exactly sound hard to type.  However, we all sit down and play our guitars and stumble onto a cool riff every now and again.  Base your song around that riff.  Let there be a 'theme', if you will.  You need to establish the theme/riff in the beginning.  Then, build out from that.  

If I can post an example of something that my group has done.  We do mostly instrumental stuff.  Mostly Christmas stuff.  The reason I wanted to post this, aside from shameless self promotion :-), is because I can tell you how we arrived at the riff.  This arrangement is a derivation of a Gary Hoey version.  So by no means am I (or my group) taking full credit.

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=DRNW3YLI

Anyway, we basically tried to start out with a riff that really catches you at the beginning.  Then, we use that riff all throughout the song.  This is a recognizable song, so you can hear where the riff/hook is injected throughout.  

As the poster above me states, guys like Dave Martone, Satriani, Vai and others have a great concept of this.  One of the best examples I can think of is Vai's "For the Love of God".  He constantly brings back that melody throughout his playing and it shows.

I hope this helps.  I'm really not trying to self promote as much as it probably seems.

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline simonlock

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2008, 05:18:20 PM »
Mike, thanks I get what you're saying. I kinda like the idea of building the framework and theme first I think. Although if you have a great hook like Joey's way I could always build around it. Working from such a small bit seems overwhelming to me because there are just too many directions you can take.

A great help so far. I guess for me it's about conceptualizing it first. Because I'm not used to playing songs or with a band I don't tend to think in intro,verse,chorus,bridge,solo,verse,ending terms.

Maybe thinking about it in a multitrack editing arrangement might help. I need some funky riffs too.

Simon
Vancouver,BC
2000 Fly Supreme
1998 Fly Supreme w/Jerome Little knobs
1999 Fly Artist w/Ken Parker sig and Jerome Little knobs
2006 Fly Nylon w/Jerome Little knobs
2002 Fly Classic Hardtail
2006 Fly Classic
2006 Fly Mojo
1999 Fly Deluxe w/Gen1s
2001 MidiFly
 

Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline Paul Marossy

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2008, 06:59:03 PM »
Here's something mojotron said recently that might help (from this post- http://forums.parkerguitars.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=2267):

"I started listening to Satriani when the Surfer album came out (as in real vinyl) - I thought that recording was as big of a revolutionary step for guitar/rock music as Ah Via Musicom, VH1/1984, IOU, {insert your favorite recording here}. He took some simple songs and drove the heck out of them musically, with technique and attitude - it was/is a very impressive statement. The next recording - the blue album - was great, but I started to see a sort of Satriani 'formula' forming:

It goes something like this:
- cool intro
- verse (repeat progression 3-4 times)
- chorus (featuring a small transition using a really cool harmonic change to a nice mode/scale change) repeating the chorus progression one or 2 times
- repeat verse progressions
- expanded chorus (featuring a more distinctive mode/scale change) but the length of the chorus is the same
- transition to something new - sometimes related to the intro
- repeat the verse progressions
- wrap-up"


Maybe this is where his "pop sensibility comes from? Anyhow, it has worked well for Satriani, might be worth a shot...


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« Last Edit: February 06, 2008, 07:00:12 PM by Paul Marossy »

Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline simonlock

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2008, 07:31:17 PM »
I've always loved what Satch does with his tunes. Again some very valuable information. That sort of song construction awareness is something I just haven't developed enough. I'm certainly going to try to come up with a good structure before I start writing. It sounds like the vision process would have a lot more meaning that way rather than trying to just start at the beginning and stop at the end.

Simon
Vancouver,BC
2000 Fly Supreme
1998 Fly Supreme w/Jerome Little knobs
1999 Fly Artist w/Ken Parker sig and Jerome Little knobs
2006 Fly Nylon w/Jerome Little knobs
2002 Fly Classic Hardtail
2006 Fly Classic
2006 Fly Mojo
1999 Fly Deluxe w/Gen1s
2001 MidiFly
 

Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline Paul Marossy

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2008, 07:44:13 PM »
quote:
That sort of song construction awareness is something I just haven't developed enough.


Yeah, I am in the same boat.

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline prjacobs

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2008, 09:26:38 PM »
Hi Simon,
All of the suggestions above may be helpful.  They are certainly worth a try.  At a certain point, I think that we start out by imitating what we love.  Then later we take what we've learned and feel, and do more of our own thing.   All of the intellective planning is great, it can set the groundwork, but the spark of inspiration has nothing to do with your intellect.  I never know what I'm going to write until the moment I write it. Well, to be fair, I have been asked to write things " in the genre of," but even then there's the moment of something coming out of nowhere. Just let what you love about music inspire you.  Maybe sometimes it's a melody, sometimes a rhythm, sometimes a chord progression, sometimes an emotional experience. Maybe you just want to be cool and get the girl... For me, it's an initial inspiration developed with whatever musical skill I have,and more importantly, more inspiration.  The more you know, the more you can develop your inspirations.  Ask any composer and they'll tell you it just "comes to them."  It's sort of the other Trickle Down Theory.  The greatness of Bach or Beethoven may start with a simple theme, but their incredible musical skills turn those melodies in to fugues, quartets, symphonies. If you have any doubt about something that you've written, put it aside and work on something else.  I am privileged  to be constantly writing original music. The high volume of work takes the pressure off me and I feel I don't have to change the world with every note that I write.  Each piece that we create has a life of its own, and must be accepted on it's own terms. Don't waste your time comparing yourself to anyone.  No standards.  Since your doing something new, allow yourself time to develop.  You may think that you suck and then all of a sudden come up with something that you love.
  Sorry for this convoluted, perhaps touchy/feely answer.  Take the pressure off of yourself and let it come through you.  You are bringing something into the word that didn't exist before. With any luck it may have a long happy life.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2008, 09:29:20 PM by prjacobs »
 

Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline ckyvick

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2008, 10:23:48 PM »
try different things, just jam around untill something comes out, then take that and build on it, try doing it on paper first, try doing it this way that way try everything and find out what works for you as an individual writer. do things you wouldnt normally do, use a scale of a different key for the solo, so many possibilities...
 

Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline mountaindewaddict

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2008, 10:24:06 PM »
Hey Simon - I'm a real "little leager" when it comes to this, but occasionally I'll play something that I really like.  I've noticed that sometimes I'm just imitating sounds in my world.  Maybe if you just need inspiration for a hook or something, you could go to a place that has a "soundscape" that you like with your guitar, and just try to play what you hear going on around you?  BTW, congrats on the new teaching position and the lesson with Martone.

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline simonlock

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2008, 10:38:26 PM »
Thanks Casey.Thanks PR, I'm a touchy/feely kinda guy so your reply was right up my alley. Hey how does a guy get into writing for shows/commercials/movies etc anyway? I know you've had VERY pro experience and likely a few connections up your sleeve. How did you come into it?

Simon
Vancouver,BC
2000 Fly Supreme
1998 Fly Supreme w/Jerome Little knobs
1999 Fly Artist w/Ken Parker sig and Jerome Little knobs
2006 Fly Nylon w/Jerome Little knobs
2002 Fly Classic Hardtail
2006 Fly Classic
2006 Fly Mojo
1999 Fly Deluxe w/Gen1s
2001 MidiFly
 

Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline larrybgoode

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2008, 11:59:54 AM »
Might sound strange but what works for me is to sometimes come up with a song title first, or determine a mood or atmospheric scene that I'm trying to paint.  Then I begin to compose to achieve that mood or theme, almost like a movie soundtrack.  Also, my best stuff almost always starts out in my head rather than with a guitar in my hands.  This way, I'm not limited to what I know or what's easy to finger on the guitar.  It makes for some more innovative and sometimes unguitar like riffs.  And for variations on the main theme, do things to morph it.  Start on a different beat or throw in some unexpected spaces to get some start/stop stuttering or grooving syncopation to the original ideas.  And record your stuff.
 

Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline simonlock

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2008, 01:02:23 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by larrybgoode

Might sound strange but what works for me is to sometimes come up with a song title first, or determine a mood or atmospheric scene that I'm trying to paint.  Then I begin to compose to achieve that mood or theme, almost like a movie soundtrack.  Also, my best stuff almost always starts out in my head rather than with a guitar in my hands.  This way, I'm not limited to what I know or what's easy to finger on the guitar.  It makes for some more innovative and sometimes unguitar like riffs.  And for variations on the main theme, do things to morph it.  Start on a different beat or throw in some unexpected spaces to get some start/stop stuttering or grooving syncopation to the original ideas.  And record your stuff.



Cool stuff. Just what I was thinking....

Simon
Vancouver,BC
2000 Fly Supreme
1998 Fly Supreme w/Jerome Little knobs
1999 Fly Artist w/Ken Parker sig and Jerome Little knobs
2006 Fly Nylon w/Jerome Little knobs
2002 Fly Classic Hardtail
2006 Fly Classic
2006 Fly Mojo
1999 Fly Deluxe w/Gen1s
2001 MidiFly
 

Instrumental Songwriting Help!

Offline Paul Marossy

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Instrumental Songwriting Help!
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2008, 02:00:10 PM »
quote:
Might sound strange but what works for me is to sometimes come up with a song title first, or determine a mood or atmospheric scene that I'm trying to paint. Then I begin to compose to achieve that mood or theme, almost like a movie soundtrack. Also, my best stuff almost always starts out in my head rather than with a guitar in my hands. This way, I'm not limited to what I know or what's easy to finger on the guitar. It makes for some more innovative and sometimes unguitar like riffs.


I think this is what I have begun to do from time to time.

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