Songwriting - Music or lyrics first?

Discussion in 'Art & Culture' started by nbachris2788, Mar 8, 2005.

  1. nbachris2788 Registered Senior Member

    I think it's better and easier to write lyrics first before composing the music to accompany it. Music's a lot more flexible than words, as trying to fit phrases and expressions in a predetermined beats can perhaps lead to contrived lyrics and such. But then again, without a musical structure, your lyrics can ramble on, creating unfocused and rambling music in turn. So for all you songwriters out there, do lyrics or music come first when writing a new song?
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  3. duendy Registered Senior Member

    i really love improvisation. i am not an accomplished musician, who can read music, or even a natrual who can do all kinds of note making. but i love to get interesting riffs and allow lyrics to come spontaneously As i'm playing
    sometimes the words might not even make know, mock-other language (have done several you'd swear were French) or weird sounds
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  5. Xerxes asdfghjkl Valued Senior Member

    Words are how we associate sounds with meanings. So it would make sense to write the lyrics first (if you're going to have any,) followed by the music.

    But then again .. the Pixies wrote the music first..

    Whatever works
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  7. Perfect Masturbation without hands Registered Senior Member

    When i took music theory 3/3, they did not ask me if i remember fucking lyrics from the beatles.

    THIS is the decay of music. Riff's are not music, lyrics are not music. Playing covers of metallica does not make you an musician.

    Also, tampering with dodecaphony does not make you talented.

    Imagening singers from bands sitting in 10k/per night hotel rooms doodling lyrics makes me gag.
    Now, if the singer also contributes to the artistic endeavour of creating music, and/or plays an instrument creating unique sound (because god knows that every Mike and Tommy can bar few chords and impress their bitches with "smoke on the water"), then i can give them some credit (Hendrix, for example, had no training nor composition, but he had the ear).

    Shit.. we dont hire untrained (untalented perhaps- for the field of music) people to work in construction, why should be allow people who can't recognise even a few intervals pollute the airwaves.
  8. Closet Philosopher Off to Laurentian University Registered Senior Member

    When my friends and I write music, we compose both at the same time. We usually start with a good phrase or melody and stitch both together st the same time and add more intricate things later. I am only a bassist though... so I am not the one writing the guitar solos (well, the bass solos which are few).
  9. Yamayama Registered Senior Member

    I somewhat disagree. It's not something I've thought alot about to be honest, and a song's gestation is not something I methodically record (it's usually a haze - i.e. the stages of writing a song), but I'd say that the melody of a song almost always comes to me first. Sometimes part of a melody and lyrics might come to mind at the same time - like part of the song has already been preconceived

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    . But again, I think the melody arrives first. And the fact that I have a few songs which differ only in their lyrical content (i.e. they have the same music but different words) reflects this.
    Then again, I write poetry as well (even though alot of what I've written is naive twaddle); often not the sort that would lend itself to a song melody very well. I rarely, if ever, try to shape melodies around this poetry, due to it's syllabic nature.

    But that's just how I work. I guess you stick with whatever works for you.
  10. whitewolf asleep under the juniper bush Registered Senior Member

    I once heard an actually popular and good singer tell how she writes her songs. She said it's sometimes lyrics first plus some tune she likes, or music first and words to come with it, lyrics from one song stitched with few lines from another.... Made it seem like a more spontaneous process. Her songs have a spontaneous originality to them, and no two songs are alike.
    I guess it's not that much of a principle as much as it is simply having fun.
  11. Tyler N. Registered Senior Member

    Yes, It is definatly something that you do both at the same time. If you do one first, you end up sounding forced in the other regard. It's like writing a song without lyrics, you don't come up everything after you create one part, such as a cool bass line. You start to write another part, and you think of a really good rythem for a guitar riff, for example, and you change your bass line to accomodate it. Thats how you should do it, in my opinion. Do that, and you sound tighter and more focused.
  12. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    TITLE first.
  13. chunkylover58 Make it a ... CHEEEESEburger Registered Senior Member

    Make a rhythm. Put words to the rhythm. Make a melody from the rhythm. Make harmony from the melody.
  14. vslayer Registered Senior Member

    it depends on which one is currentyl dominate, if i have a really good poem or lyrics i think of then i build music around that, if im playing around with the drums, guitar or synthesiser and find a good tune ill build lyrics around that
  15. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    I'd think that whatever way is more comfortable for you or your group to make music would be the way to go. As was already discussed you can compose either way and still make a fine piece of music if you try. Just try and give it some thought and try not to sound like all the rest of the groups out there if you can.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2005
  16. Bebelina Valued Senior Member

    I usually make the music first, this have been my method so far. I find it much easier to add vocals to music than the other way around, but I'm experimenting with singing first and then applying music, although I still need a drumbeat as a ground.

    But it depends on the music style of course, if you want to make a catchy pop/rock-song, then the vocal melody is the most essential part, then the music added to that acts as an enhancer to the song.

    With jazz you can start's more organic.

    How one goes about creating music also depends on your personality, some like it strict other like it loose. Following strict rules can also have it's benefits, being restricted to a limited area can act as an inspiration too.

    Although my method is no rules, everything goes and experimentation to maximum.
  17. jacob Registered Member

    I would say just do what works for you at that time if it is writing lyrics or playing an instrument or even if it is just humming. I have been having some trouble myself with writing music. I find it so much easier to make up stuff on the spot rather than to sit down and think of music most likely because i'm a amateur. I was thinking of another method which was to imagine a story or a movie in my head and then to try to apply music to that.
  18. certified psycho Beware of the Shockie Monkey Registered Senior Member

    I think making the music before writing the song is much better. The music sets the tone on the lyrics.
  19. cole grey Hi Valued Senior Member

    You should be able to write both ways - music first, and lyric first. Both are valid. And both at the same time, too.

    Also, Spidergoat's title first is something that makes some sense (of course by the time the song is done you'll probably have changed the title), but having an idea to express can greatly aid the expression process.

    I usually write a song from a musical phrase that has a lyric, then use that as a springboard for the rest of the music and lyrics. Then there are inevitably holes in the lyrics, or bad placeholder lyrics that need to be replaced. That is when the pen and paper part happens, and it becomes necessary to be able to write lyrics second.

    Starting with a whole page of lyrics never works for me, but often will result in the one good lyric out of the whole page being turned into a song with none of the rest of the lyrics included).

    People that write a whole song worth of lyrics and then add the music to fit, generally have constrained their musical phrasing too much (in my experience).

    Also, people that do tracks of the music for a whole song, and then add the lyrics later, usually have pretty weak lyrics (in my experience). They might get a good lyric or two, but they are generally satisfied with lyrics i would consider to be placeholder lyrics, because they sound "decent" when you don't have to listen to the lyric and you can listen to that cool guitar part instead.

    Actually, most people's music is bad, and their lyrics are worse. They write five or ten songs, and think they are the best thing ever. My opinion is, if you expect every thing you write to be worth listening to, your standards are too low.
  20. SadDay Registered Member

    And that's the way it's done.
  21. chunkylover58 Make it a ... CHEEEESEburger Registered Senior Member

    It's easier to manipulate words to fit a rhythmic pattern than the other way around. If done the other way around, things can sound really awkward.Example: Starting with a line of iambic pentameter, try to say, "I went to Birmingham in November." It doesn't work. It won't fit the beat. You can, however, change the lyrics without changing the meaning too much and say, "I went to Alabama in the Fall." Same sentence, same meaning, fits the meter.

    A thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary are the songwriter's two best friends. Using these, one can learn to manipulate words to fit a rhythm (prosody), without affecting meaning. This makes the song sound much smoother.

    So, since a melody would have its own intrinsic rhythm, starting with a melody and writing lyrics to follow that rhythm seems to be the most fluid way to go, making it difficult for the listener to know which came first.
  22. Nuttyfish Guest

    Have any of you guys written a decent song, anyway?
  23. cole grey Hi Valued Senior Member

    I have written a lot of decent songs and a very few really good ones too. You can hear some at, but this is a very small representation. I have to redo this website, it is awful.

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