Songwriting Experience

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Alec Taylor
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Songwriting Experience

Post by Alec Taylor » Fri Jan 27, 2017 7:08 pm

I thought this could be a fun thread, since we've got a lot of songwriters here. And you don't have to necessarily have a lot of music release, it can relate to stuff you just do in your spare time. So play along!


I was inspired because I thought about how I've grown a bit. I think back to a random instrumental collection I made in June 2015, SunShade II, and I can see in retrospect the problem with it. I spent five weeks working on it, and about three weeks was spent on the song "Lost" because I knew and wanted it to be the best song. The other two weeks were spent on seven songs. That's a disproportionate amount of effort per song. That's barely two days per song with twenty-one days going toward "Lost". I never even finished the song either, it's still unfinished to this day.

Looking back, I realized that I've learned to treat each song like it's going to be the best song. I was so guilty of filler and fluff, created just to satisfy a "concept" or whatever. Looking back, it's why I had no success with making new music for almost a year. I kept making concepts but I couldn't make the songs I needed to make. I prioritized the concept over the music, all I wanted was unique gimmicks and other tricks with very few actual songs. I'm glad I've grown past that and hope to finally start making some real good shit.

I guess the long-short of it is this: to all songwriters, whether this is a problem for you or not, always focus on the song, not the idea. The ideas are great, but the music has to be there to make the ideas work. Can You Feel It?, Spectral 2014, Discomposure are all tombstones to me because I worshiped the idea of a concept but neglected the music. I think I made Polyphonic Pulse work because I didn't invent the concept until the day before I released it.


Anyone else have songwriting experiences, tips, or stories to share?
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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Artisan » Fri Jan 27, 2017 9:15 pm

Well, as you're aware, my songwriting process basically revolves around "leave the song be until I get an idea for it"... by the way, I've been meaning to talk to you about changing the lyrics on track 7, I have some ideas but I'm not sure how to go about them (more specifically, I want to alter the rhyme scheme and I have words that will rhyme but not a manner in which to fit them).

I've had a song kicking around since before I joined PFO (I started writing it in the fall of 2013) but I have never recorded it and I only came up with the first verse and chorus for it within the last few months. Yes, it took me three and a half years to come up with any lyrics besides the title (which was tentative until the lyrics fell into place). Maybe that should be two and a half years, I suck at math. I'm struggling with the melody because parts of it are too low for my range and parts of it would put Gilmour's solo on Anisina to shame... well, at least it's melodically interesting! I'd see if I can find a female singer for it, but that would destroy the purpose of the song. Oh well.

If I put a deadline on anything, my creativity becomes stilted and I can't do anything. That's probably why, after a year of working on the mastering of Arno's album, I've barely made any progress - but I've learned so much working on it, and now I'm completely confident in my approach. The only thing I need to do is find out which songs aren't going to easily slot into my plan, find out how to work around them, and find a six-hour time frame that I can dedicate to doing the actual mastering and it will be done. I dragged my feet quite a bit, but believe me, if I submitted what I was working on back in September I would be haunted by it for the rest of my life. Better to be safe than sorry.

Going back to actually writing songs - well, lyrical songs anyway - I'm sure you know me well enough to know that I could never pull off any "I love you and you love me" shit. And I also have no interest in songs about my own emotions, because I don't want to sound like a whiny dick to anyone who hears them. So my approach is basically to think of a fairly unique concept - typically, my inspiration comes from asking myself "what would be an interesting short story?" - and then find a way to work that into the music. For instance, I wrote a song (which unfortunately is too fast for me to play!) about someone who is falsely accused of murder, and who knows who the murderer is - only to discover that the real murderer is in the jury at his trial. Fun stuff like that. I suppose I can probably set O. Henry to music once I run out of my own ideas.

But for me, ideas don't come quickly. I can't churn out love songs or simple stuff, because I don't really have much of a musical personality, so I try to at least be interesting. That project that nobody knows about is a good example because I came up with the concepts, or perhaps more accurately, the plots of the songs ahead of time and I write the lyrics to reflect those. The first song started as an intro riff and the whole song practically wrote itself, and I developed the concept for the album itself as I wrote that one. That's not the best song I ever wrote, but it's the one where my creative process was at its best.

Speaking of which, I finally figured out how to make the riff in the second song work. Awesome! Now I need to figure out how to structure it.

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by The Silver Lining » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:28 pm

Funny, I'm quite the opposite.

When I started writing my album (which is still not released, but hey!), I literally wrote down in a notebook:

1. Upbeat song (4:30)
2. Poppy song with harmonica (3:15)
3. Proggy song (7:00)
4-6. Poppy songs around 3:00 each
7. Re-introduction to proggy sound
8. Song with harmonics and a long guitar solo
9. Piano driven song
10. The loudest song of the bunch
etc.

This got changed around a lot, but it really helped me. Thing is, I had this sudden realization that if I wanted to get out of my "all songs sound the same" rut, I needed to decide how each song was going to sound before writing it. So, even before the album's concept had any shape or form, I had already drafted the dynamics that were needed for the album.

When you listen to the album now, the initial draft is barely recognizable, but the dynamics are still there. I'm absolutely convinced that if I hadn't written that draft first, at least half of the songs on the album would never have existed in their current form.
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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Artisan » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:35 pm

I dunno, that sounds like the album to me. The only real difference here seems to be that Ocean Child is second and Beautiful World is somewhere in the 4-6 range. Yes I did start the mastering. I have a busy week ahead of me but I promise I'll work on it whenever I get the chance.

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Alec Taylor » Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:07 pm

My process used to be more like this:

Step 1 - Come up with a weird idea (colors, elements, sleeping, etc.)

Step 2 - Think of a lot of various aspects of that idea

Step 3 - Struggle to create half-baked song ideas based on those aspects

Step 4 (Optional) - Cancel project in frustration and quit making music forever

Step 5 - Release a half-finished proof-of-concept as a "final product"

Step 6 - Swallow sadness


I wonder if I still have the notebook I wrote Spectral in...
"A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers, but awakes to a morning with no reason for waking."

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Artisan » Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:34 pm

Step 1: Come up with interesting idea for song/album.
Step 2: Struggle to come up with music for song/album.
Step 3: Curl into fetal position in corner and cry for four days straight.
Step 4: Eventually come up with an idea and begin work on song/album.
Step 5: Repeat steps 2 and 3.
Step 6: Repeat step 4.
Step 7: Repeat step 3.
Step 8: Post daily routine on Pink Floyd forum

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by The Silver Lining » Mon Feb 06, 2017 7:11 pm

Step 9: Master someone else's album.
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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Artisan » Mon Feb 06, 2017 8:38 pm

Step 10: Replace "create song/album" with "master someone else's song/album"

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by FrowningBanana » Tue Feb 07, 2017 5:55 am

I just kind of... make music. I don't think, I just create.
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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Alec Taylor » Tue Feb 07, 2017 5:59 am

FrowningBanana wrote:I just kind of... make music. I don't think, I just create.
I did that precisely once, because boy do I tend to overthink things. And that one time turned out pretty good I think.
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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Alec Taylor » Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:15 pm

It's always depressing when you have to take a song off of an album and put it into the vault again. It's a song I wrote the basic premise for like a year ago, and the sound and main riff I came up with are something I love. I even came up with the perfect title to fit that sound: "Luminaire". It was going to be a central track to Discomposure, and part of the reason that project fell apart was because I just couldn't get that song to work. I gave it a second chance, and I still can't get the track off the ground.

Anyone else have that problem song? Where it exists within your own head perfectly but you just can't create it musically?
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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Artisan » Thu Feb 16, 2017 7:01 pm

All the time. Seriously, the ratio of songs I start writing to the number I finish, or even get halfway through, is about 10 to 1. All of the songs I wrote for the ECs project have miraculously been easy to write - something about the tone of the project really works. And also when I'm stumped you're usually able to come up with something for it.

But no. In general, I come up with a nice, interesting riff or something and it goes nowhere. The album of my early recordings that I sent you have very few full songs on it; it's mainly a collection of four-minute jams over one riff. There are a couple of exceptions. The 9 minute one was supposed to have lyrics but I can't find the melody and also while I thought they were great years ago they sound whiny and annoying now. I am going to trim that song down to maybe five minutes and just add in some instrumental melodies.

But no. Don't feel bad about having writer's block on songs that you really think will be great. It happens all the time with me. I can't speak for anyone else but it seems that would be the case.

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Alec Taylor » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:12 pm

It's just going to be weird now, not having the track. One song before it and one song after it feature snippets of its main riff as a way to give the album some melodic continuity, and without it there, it's just going to be strange. I think I'll include that riff as like a "bonus track" or something, just the sixteen seconds of it or whatever. Hopefully "Luminaire" can come to be in the near future, just not for any of my 2017 projects.
"A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers, but awakes to a morning with no reason for waking."

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Alec Taylor » Sun Feb 19, 2017 5:47 am

I've been working on the demo for "Discomposure" (a track on my upcoming album), and meant to click a sawtooth setting for my lead instrument known as "Dr. Solo". My mouse decided to fuck up and set it to a viola instead. I cannot believe my ears; this is exactly what the track has been needing for almost a year now. By total accident I just improved the overall sound of Project Midori in ways I can't imagine.

This is the best demo mistake I've made since accidentally hitting the Cmaj7 during the initial recording of "SunShade's Theme" on piano.
"A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers, but awakes to a morning with no reason for waking."

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Artisan » Sun Feb 19, 2017 9:15 am

THAT is the best thing about writing songs - the complete accidents that both solve a problem that was weighing the process down and inspire you to keep working!

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Alec Taylor » Sat Mar 11, 2017 4:27 pm

I remember giving up with an old song of mine, "Lost", and released it as a work-in-progress some years ago. It had been in the works since June 2012, and I just couldn't get it the way I wanted it to, with all of its concepts completely falling apart. Thankfully, I got some pretty good feedback from people who were willing to listen to my over glorified demo. Silver in particular gave me the best piece of advice: "first half is boring, second half is good".

I took the first half and split it into its two chord sequences. The first one I adapted into an electronic mantra by the name of "SLEEPリターン" (no longer available, don't know where it went), and people thought it made for a great ambient piece. The second one I created about five different melodies for, all of which ended up in either "Cloudburst Admin Sunrise" or "Polyphonic Pulse" from Polyphonic Pulse. With the first half of "Lost" finally fleshed out the way I've been wanting it to be, it was finally ready to be finished.

It just goes to show the importance of criticism. It's easy to get locked into your own way of doing things, that sometimes an outside perspective can really change a project you're stuck on for the better. That's not the only criticism I've ever received, but I've taken a lot of it to heart, and it's been a great help. Really, thanks to the input of my family, friends, and the Floydians community, Project Midori really is a group effort in the sense that a lot of its ideas and improvements came from other people over the years.


"Lost" + "Sleep (A Return)" + "Cloudburst Admin Sunrise" + "Polyphonic Pulse" = "All In This Alone" (Track #16)
"A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers, but awakes to a morning with no reason for waking."

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Alec Taylor » Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:54 pm

I got a songwriting experience from someone else to share here today. One of my idols and sort-of mentors, Tee Lopes, held a poll on Twitter as to whether or not his work so far sounds like another piece of music. In our brief conversation afterwards, he said that SEGA made him wear a diaper while making the soundtrack to Sonic Mania.

I don't even know what is going on, but I hope I never require a diaper to get through a music project.
"A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers, but awakes to a morning with no reason for waking."

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Alec Taylor » Tue Apr 04, 2017 11:19 pm

Two years ago I subconsciously plagiarized a song!

My last tenure working overnights at the gas station I would write music during the dead portions of the shift. One of my proudest songs, "In the Sunshine" (which remains unreleased until I find a female singer) came from that time, as I had this bouncy melody idea in my head when I wrote it. Cue to the modern era, back at the gas station with the same radio and the same songs, and I hear a song that sounds suspiciously like "In the Sunshine". My research turns up the song "Let Your Love Flow" by the Bellamy Brothers, and my song is really close to it.

The first verse melody of that song and the main verse melody of mine are completely identical. The entire rest of the songs are 100% different with different styles, melodies, and a whole new structure, etc etc etc, but the verses are almost completely the same. Even the acoustic arrangement I wrote the song around is from "Let Your Love Flow". I'm so irked by it because "In the Sunshine" is one of my favorite songs I've written, and now if by chance it were to ever do well, people are going to connect it back to the Bellamy Brothers.

Even the lyrics ended up close to each other:
Bellamy Brothers wrote:There's a reason for the sunshine sky
And there's a reason why I'm feelin' so high
Must be the season when that love light shines
All around us

So let that feelin' grab you deep inside
And send you reelin' where your love can't hide
And then go stealin' through the moonlit nights
With your lover
Alec W. Taylor wrote:Bask in the sunlight, feel the warmth on your skin
It gives you new sight as you let it all in
Enjoy it with someone
And you will carry on
In the sunshine

It's a feeling with it's own golden vibe
It's like a dealing with nature's divine
Enjoy it with your love
And you will get enough
Of the sunshine
Son of a bitch. :(
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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by The Silver Lining » Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:21 am

Holy damn. :|

I really feel like I have plagiarized a song. When I first whistled the melody for my friend back in 2013, he said "lol wtf Arno, you didn't write this, you idiot". I felt the same way. So I went on a quest to show people this melody, and ask them what song it is. We're four years down the road, and although everyone says it sounds familiar, nobody can tell me what it is.

I'll make a recording of it so you guys can take a look as well. This is really haunting me, because this melody is way too good to pass up on. If it really does not exist, I should absolutely use it on my next album.
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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Artisan » Wed Apr 05, 2017 2:12 pm

I'd be curious to hear comparisons of both of these. Or in Arno's case find out what the other one is.

I wrote a song that I thought was a great lead-in to an album, only to discover a year later that it has the same chords and roughly the same rhythm as Lou Reed's song The Gun. Everyone here knows I love Lou Reed, but I had never heard anything from his solo career besides Walk On The Wild Side when I wrote and recorded that song. Coincidences happen, but there's no way I'd be able to say "One of my influences is Lou Reed" without someone saying "I'll say". The rest of the song is different enough, but I am nowhere near as good a composer as Lou, so it strikes me as very strange that I unknowingly tapped into the same creative well as me (the creative well of alternating D and G chords over a mildly atmospheric intro).

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Artisan » Wed Apr 05, 2017 3:30 pm

Let me know if there's any problems you see or if anything needs to be revised. If we can improve it, let's improve it - but I would be very satisfied if I bought it as it is right now.

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Alec Taylor » Wed Apr 05, 2017 5:40 pm

Okay, here we go.


In the SunShine (Shitty Piano Demo)

Bellamy Brothers - "Let Your Love Flow"


I recorded that demo in a hurry, and all of my shit is packed up right now, so it's not very good quality. But listen to my demo first, then listen to about the first twenty seconds of "Let Your Love Flow". Then re-read the lyrics I wrote and the lyrics of this song. I think it's obvious that I subconsciously plagiarized this song.
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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Artisan » Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:04 pm

Rhyming reason and season more than once in the same song should be a capital offense.

If I could make a recommendation, change your approach to the song. Switch the timing and the feel to something more jazzy and change the chords to sevenths, and try to build some harmonies based on those sevenths - not exactly "Because" levels, but enough to give the melody new texture. Slow it down and make it swing a little bit more. Since the other is more of a countryish number, switching it to a jazz arrangement should give it a more unique identity. And again I think moodier harmonies would really work for this. I know it's "In The Sunshine", but I think you could add a bit to it if you gave it a jazzier take. And you've really got nothing to lose to try it. PM me the chords and if there's any difference in the right hand melody and the vocal melody and I'll try to knock something out as a reference for you.

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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Alec Taylor » Wed Apr 05, 2017 10:10 pm

That's the strange thing, is that this song was written for a small collection of pop songs, so the country pop sound was completely intentional. I know it's hard to convey from my demo, and I can't actually record a full demo for further comparison, but "In the Sunshine" really is a country-ish song. It also has some stylistic elements of "Summer '68" in it, and that was the actual song I was trying to channel when I wrote it. I like the jazz recommendation, because I always like being jazzy, but maybe that could be a "bonus version"? Like how my song "An Evening Alone" is just a non-Christmas "Christmas Shuffle", or "Silver Rain" is just updated with parts of "Project Rain (Part One)" added back in?

I'm definitely going to be doing a lot of rewrites on this. I plan on someday recording instrumental demos for all of my lyrical songs so that maybe people can listen and decide if they want to sing them. I won't be a vocalist any time soon, if ever.
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Re: Songwriting Experience

Post by Artisan » Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:13 pm

It's also worth noting that Arno unintentionally quoted the melody of a sax solo from a Springsteen song he hadn't heard in the instrumental section of Mother. These things happen, and a good song is a good song regardless. Obviously you don't want to risk lawsuits, but never abandon a song just because it sounds similar to something else.

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