You are here

Compositional stamina.......

Arrangement, instrumentation, lyric writing, music theory, inspiration… it’s all here.

Compositional stamina.......

Postby IAA » Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:00 pm

Hi,

I spent yesterday deliberately in writing mode, no distractions. Me, piano and a hardware synth with logic set to record if need be. Now, I’ve wondered how others actually take an idea (riff,chord sequence,beat etc) to completion. I noticed that I take some ideas and after say 30 mins I’m actually a million miles from where I set out thinking “that’s nice, I wonder if I did that.....”

Which leaves me feeling a little crestfallen since my original idea seems to have become lost in my push to either make it more “musical” or deliberately complex. Net result was after 2 hours I had recorded nothing and my jotter was covered in chord sequences, and motifs but nothing I felt I could use at that time.

Now I know based on past experiences, that I’ll revisit some of these ideas and for whatever reason on another day I’ll go straight to logic and bash out a piano guide track and I’m away....

But I’m contemplating is this common or due to my lack of structure??

I often read in SOS about the compositional process, that being my fave bit at the mo, and they certainly seem to have a more structured and linear approach than my own...

Thoughts??

Ian
IAA
Regular
Posts: 231
Joined: Fri Dec 28, 2007 1:00 am

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby Alba » Wed Nov 29, 2017 1:04 pm

Everyone works in a different way, you need to find your own way.

For me, and it took me years to refine this way of working: I jam out a song, have nothing written down at all, no words, nothing, just go with it with the recorder running. All my writing time is spent refining that, perhaps changing the arrangement, changing the words a bit. I work with a drummer, we usually end up keeping the original drum track.

But everyone is different.
Alba
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1190
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2015 12:00 am
Location: Airstrip 1, Eurasia

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby blinddrew » Wed Nov 29, 2017 2:26 pm

And people are frequently different on different days and different times. Sometimes I can sit down and 'work' something up. Sometimes things appear out of nowhere. One method is not more reliable than the other.
But my stuff is all very simple so i don't tend to get caught up in too much tinkering.
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6999
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby ManFromGlass » Wed Nov 29, 2017 3:15 pm

I used to have a sticky note staring me in the face on my computer monitor that said "shut up and do it"
To me this means one simple thing - one has to put in the hours.
Results come from the discipline of doing 'it' whether you feel creative or not. Not feeling creative then do the technical part of 'it'. Either way the sticker has gotten me through many years of projects and many hours of music being written. And I am one of the least disciplined people I know.
btw - don't assume doing doing what the sticker says can't be fun. Life is short so make it fun if you can!
User avatar
ManFromGlass
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2015
Joined: Sun Jul 24, 2011 12:00 am
Location: In the woods in Canada
 

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby ore_terra » Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:28 pm

my "method" starts just jamming on my own (or practicing with the band) till I/we get to a riff or a chord sequence that I think "hey, there's a song here". since I record everything I would label it "good one" or "acoustic Em f*** sad" or stuff like that.

then some of these ideas stick to my mind for days till I finally grab a piece of paper (or open a blank word document as it often happens in my 'spare time' at the office - like right now :lol: ) and start scribbling some lyrics. this forces me to start thinking in a sort of structure, and eventually the song would be completed.

it can take me weeks the whole process... currently I have 3 song projects on going that will progress more o less depending on that stamina. I never force it
User avatar
ore_terra
Frequent Poster
Posts: 586
Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2016 1:56 pm
Location: Seville - Spain

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby IAA » Wed Nov 29, 2017 6:16 pm

In many ways this is reassuring!! I’ve been writing and playing for years, but recently on my own rather than in a band. I suppose I wondered whether others have hit on a more reliable method than my own. I appreciate the idea of just keeping at it and putting the hours in, but like yesterday I ended up more sort of fed up than uplifted.

I also find myself rehashing sequences or motifs I’ve written in other music and sometimes that ends up somewhere else, more often I feel frustrated. :headbang:

I’m hoping to release my first solo album in the spring - so it’s become more of an issue for me.

Thanks all.
IAA
Regular
Posts: 231
Joined: Fri Dec 28, 2007 1:00 am

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby Alba » Wed Nov 29, 2017 8:50 pm

Its exactly that same experience that took me back to basics and made me sit down and actually think about what i/we really like to do. And what i really like to do is play music and sing songs. I don't like writing poems that get set to music, or writing music and then trying to work out some clever words... It doesn't seem pure enough or spiritual enough or just, enough fun. All too contrived.

Thing is that its very easy with modern recording devices and gizmos and the time and space to work at home to get trapped into a; call it 'construction', method.
Alba
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1190
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2015 12:00 am
Location: Airstrip 1, Eurasia

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby Alba » Wed Nov 29, 2017 8:52 pm

IAA wrote:...after say 30 mins I’m actually a million miles from where I set out thinking “that’s nice, I wonder if I did that.....”

I love that... that's why i got into it in the first place and why i'm still doing it.
Alba
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1190
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2015 12:00 am
Location: Airstrip 1, Eurasia

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby IAA » Wed Nov 29, 2017 10:20 pm

I love that

Indeed I do too, many times, but not when I end up a musical cul-de-sac as if were.

When I was working in a band, I benefited from other musicians saying “hold that “ or “ no it was fine like it was”. :thumbup:

My tendency to overwork an idea so it resembles a piano exercise is legendary (round these parts anyway!).

Anyway I’ve a few days away so will come back to the studio with hopefully some perspective :bouncy:
IAA
Regular
Posts: 231
Joined: Fri Dec 28, 2007 1:00 am

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Nov 30, 2017 4:35 pm

My composition process is invariably a journey, and I never know what's going to emerge. I mostly record as I go along and then pick out motifs/ideas that still appeal after the event.

One thing that does often happen when I play to a beat (or just a metronome) is that I end up getting so involved in what I'm playing that I lose track of where the start/end of the bar is and end up playing across them - this is a great way to create some unusual rhythmic stuff! :headbang:


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 13701
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby CS70 » Thu Nov 30, 2017 9:52 pm

Haha, hate to break a chorus here, but my $.10 is that there's more or less effective ways to do... anything, including composing music. And that doesn't mean killing inspiration or work in a robotic way - on the contrary, the joy of getting something meaningful and with, how to say, its own identity is a big part for me, of what makes me write.

Not to say that you can't create music in very convoluted and inefficient ways.. sure you can, but you'll just compose (much) less and it'll likely be more frustrating and not so fun, I think..

Also, there's surely not just _one_ effective way to do it. Surely there's many. But if after 2 hours of jotting down ideas you don't have a scratchy part demo, yours ain't one of them. :-)

Some ideas: to me it's first of all to find something that kicks in inspiration.. often a drum beat, where I waggle the tempo (or waggle the drummer :) ), more rarely a chord progression (usually the result of an happy accident of intentional attempt to put my fingers where usually don't go and hear what happens). Sometimes can be another song - which suggest something that ends up having no relationship whatsoever with it but still in some way is born by the first. Sometimes a funky bass line is all you need.

Also don't discount these incredible ideas coming at the most inopportune moments! Record all you can! Find a quiet corner and hum in the phone if you have to (before humming, try a few times and try to do loudly and in pitch otherwise you won't recognize anything later on... been there done that). The snippets of ideas are precious when you just feel like creating a new song but all your current ideas sound stale and uninspired (to you).

So now you have your idea - riff, theme, progression, whatever. The only rule is that it must feel exciting (you had that, I understand) and that you really want to make something out of it. Then you find your beat. Everything has a beat, even if it's not there the rhythm is what makes the music... the holes as much as the hits. So you find a beat, fast, something that fits - absolutely no need to be perfect. If you did start with a groove, well, it's already there.. otherwise spend the minimum amount to put down a drum machine or record the drummer.

Depending on the idea, you then record a bunch of measures of it over the rhythm. If the idea's a progression or a riff, the hard and fun part comes now: it's finding a melody to associate to the idea, which is original and fits. Improvise, doodle, spend 10 minutes trying out stuff. The second there's something you find cool, push record and put it down - again, no need to be perfect! If after 10 minutes you dont come out with anything you find exciing, save the recording and restart. You'll continue some other time.

If it's a melody or a theme, it's more boring but easier: you have to find some harmony to carry it. It's time for sitting down with the instrument, paper and pencil (or in my case, Word) and getting down the chords that bring the theme out (and don't sound trite).. on the guitar here's there's also the way you play, the gazillion subtle different ways you can play the same chord... the theme will be the same but the song can be enormously different depending on them. This is easier because you can use a lot of rules together with your ears.

Now you have your verse/chorus/bridge. Here it comes the hard part - now you have to invent the other bits.. that can be _very_ hard... if something comes quickly, you're lucky. Again, if it doesn't, stop and restart from scratch.

In another session you'll will simply continue what you have done: there's no guarantee of success but every session you never end empty ended - you always have bits and pieces of actual, concrete songs

Once you've gotten the bits you need (either all in a session or continuing to add bits to previous songs parts), all you need now is craftmanship: complete the missing bits (bass line if it's not there, get some hmmms-hmmms out which suggest the shape of the words if you want to have lyrics). Record the lot, quickly and dirty.

Once you have the lyrics (that takes time!) you record a scratch vocal. To me off two hours is usually 10mins for the music and 110 for the lyrics, if not more.

Add two measures worth of snare hits at start, and go to bed. The day after, listen: does it still excite you? Is it something that get your goosebumps, or makes you want to jump up and down and jam over it? If yes, bring it to the band or otherwise develop it - that may mean re-record all the parts, learn to sing it and playing it properly, go over and solve all the technical difficulties - musicianship, but not composition. And of course in the end, mixing, mastering, the works. If not, store it away. It may never re-emerge but you never now, someday you may relisten to it and it might bring a fresh idea.

I'm sure others have just as effective methods, but with something like this you'll produce a ton of (good) material - much more, alas, than you can record and develop properly..

And it's a ton of fun. :)
User avatar
CS70
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3605
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video  and the FB page

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby blinddrew » Thu Nov 30, 2017 11:37 pm

I wouldn't really describe myself as a musician per se, I'm just trying to write songs - which is a bit easier i think. It doesn't have to be clever, or complex, or even original - it just has to trigger an emotional response.
So whilst i recognise a lot of what CS70 says, my process for structured writing is a bit different.
Fundamentally it comes down to three things: idea, space, permission.
For me a song is the embodiment of an idea, you can have some great sets of phrases but if they're not serving a higher theme then they're just a creative writing exercise. By contrast, if the idea has been done a thousand times before, even the best lyrics may not save it. This is why I don't write love songs. ;)
Space is about the physical space you put yourself in to create something. This might be your bedroom, a cafe, a train, a shack in the mountains... Whatever it is, it's a place that helps you get into the right headspace (and allows you to capitalise on it).
Permission is perhaps the hardest one for some people. I'm not talking permission from the neighbours or the family etc. I'm talking about giving yourself permission to focus on this one thing at the exclusion of everything else. To say, "Today, I am working on this. And everything else can go hang." For those of us who do this as a hobby there is always the feeling that we should be doing those other jobs, or spending time with the family, or contributing something, in some way... It can be quite uncomfortable to deliberately put all that to one side.
I fear I may be rambling now, but that's my take on it. :)
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6999
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby resistorman » Fri Dec 01, 2017 8:30 am

"Write drunk, edit sober."
User avatar
resistorman
Frequent Poster
Posts: 616
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2015 1:00 am
Location: Asheville NC
future26.com

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby CS70 » Fri Dec 01, 2017 8:49 am

blinddrew wrote:Permission is perhaps the hardest one for some people. I'm not talking permission from the neighbours or the family etc. I'm talking about giving yourself permission to focus on this one thing at the exclusion of everything else.

Wow well said! Take yourself seriously, otherwise who else will?
User avatar
CS70
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3605
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video  and the FB page

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby ore_terra » Fri Dec 01, 2017 9:49 am

I've never tried to "force" myself to write... (never had the time really :lol: )

might try to do it next year.
User avatar
ore_terra
Frequent Poster
Posts: 586
Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2016 1:56 pm
Location: Seville - Spain

Re: Compositional stamina.......

Postby blinddrew » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:18 am

CS70 wrote:
blinddrew wrote:Permission is perhaps the hardest one for some people. I'm not talking permission from the neighbours or the family etc. I'm talking about giving yourself permission to focus on this one thing at the exclusion of everything else.

Wow well said! Take yourself seriously, otherwise who else will?

Exactly. It doesn't matter if you're doing it as a hobby or as a professional, to do your best work you have to put yourself in the position to be your best - mentally and physically - so that you can get the most out of your time, equipment and experience.

resistorman wrote:"Write drunk, edit sober."
:D

ore_terra wrote:I've never tried to "force" myself to write... (never had the time really :lol: )

might try to do it next year.
It's an interesting exercise, there's all manner of tools and techniques you can use to help, but for it to be effective you need the fundamentals in place first.

All of this is, of course, just my opinion and should be treated with the appropriate amount of disdain... :)
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6999
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am
Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users