View Full Version : Creating complete songs...

02-19-2003, 03:04 PM
Hi Guyz,

I recently discovered this site and it's really helping me out, so thanks a lot and keep up the (already) good work!

My question isn't really about music theory per se. I am a guitar player (surprise!) and I'm trying to write songs. I want to make instrumental music a lā Satriani. I have the following problem : i can't finish any song. Once in a while I get a great guitar idea and play with that for a while, maybe even record it, but eventually I'll put it away because I can't 'expand' it to a full song....

I would really like to hear how you guys create songs. How do you start a song ? melody ? rhythm ?
When you've got a melody how do you expand it to a song. A good example of this is steve vai's for the love of god. He's constantly using the same melody but with different phrasings. Is that the way to go ?

Also since I'm a guitar player, how do I create drums tracks that fit the music ? i'm having a lot of difficulties with that. Any tips on how to create drums ?


02-20-2003, 03:02 PM
Try this thread for a start: http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=825


02-21-2003, 11:49 AM
This is really a huge issue, and very complicate to summarise in a few sentences. On the basis of all there is the musician freedom.
The compositor or songwriter writes a theme as he feels and in the way he wants, so he is free to decide the form, extension, and so on.

However, on the other hand there are some things that could help you. You can begin with a motive with the guitar and feel free to make variations on that motive (change the rhythm, the
accents, the harmony, etc) to bring it to a complete song.

Other way to work is to begin with the harmony, choosing some chords, and chord changes and after that look for a melody which fits the harmony. In this way, you can choose the theme form:
A B A for example where A could be the verse and B the chorus.
There are lot of books covering musical forms.

Indeed it is very difficult to explain here this subject which is really matter of several huge books.

If you have an idea of some riff or melody with the guitar, try to think about that, improvising on it for a while could sometimes help you to bring new ideas to join to your first idea. If you feel
bored in this way, try to think on your idea from the harmony point of view, try to expand the harmony, translate the idea to other modality, look for a bridge to change completely the harmony, or even expand your idea rhythmically. There are tons of ways.

On the matter of drums, there are drum machines hardware in the market that can help you. Anyway the more easy way could be use some software. I would recommend you to use Band in a Box. It is a software that creates the acompaniment in the style you choose on the basis of some chords you put on it. It generates bass, piano, drums, etc midi sounds for each chord you put.

I hope to have help you a bit with this few comments, but remember that you are asking for a really big issue.

Greetings. Jesus

02-21-2003, 12:37 PM
Hey there,

regarding writing instrumental tunes. I can tell you a bit about the ones I wrote, the ones whichīll be on "Talking Hands"...

"Cab To Queens". This one was written within like 5 minutes. I always need something like a "hook", something good to build on. This can either be a melody, a riff or a chord progression.
"Cab To Queens" is mainly based on the 4 riffs it consists of. And the first two ones came together when I was jamming with the EVB-drummer, Andy...
We were in the rehearsal room, and were jamming over a drumbeat for like 5 minutes, and all of a sudden, I came up with those first two riffs.
It was then kinda easy to make up a structure and add some leads. No biggie here, itīs mainly loose jamming over the groove, and the "core" is the riff..."

"Canyon Of Spirits". I started using those open-voice-chords ( check out a TAB of some of the basic chords at my website, use this LINK (http://www.ericvandenberg.com/tab/tab.html) )
Those sounded really on acoustic guitar, so I came up with a song structure. The verse i.e. is based on a simple C#min-E progression.
I recorded a backing track with sequencer drums and some clean guitars. And then I started jamming over it a lot. At first, it was all fast, busy stuff, then I started to limit myself more and more, kinda "chipping away" a lot, till those melodies remained.
I tried to d more with phrasing, bends and harmonics, instead of stuffing more and more licks in there.
Eventually, Andy came up with that cool drumbeat and the "shamen"-loop ( the tambourine loop ) and that was the icing of the cake

So I always try to start with a solid base, a good melody, chord progression or rhythm riff, and kinda build on that. That involves a lot of jamming to find out what really fits ( less theory, I prefer toa ctually try stuff out ), and it also involves arranging and listening to the other instruments.
I think a lot of songs would have suffered if I had stopped with the sequencer drums. Because I am not a drummer, period.
So when the other guys in the band started contributing parts, it helped a lot to improve the songs, to give me new ideas etc.

Regarding "FOr The Love Of God", I wrote about it in the "Be Creative" article... Steve said that he started out with this very simple melody, and started to build on it, adding more phrasing and wacky stuff every tim the melody is repeated.
This is something to try out when you are jamming, also.
Donīt stop immediately after you come up with a melody, try to work on it, jam on it and see what happens.

Most of my songs are based on simple things, nice chords I come upw ith on acousti guitar. And itīs never "forced". Itīs always "Hey, this soudns cool... hmmm... letīs add drums and jam over it"
Some of the songs I came up with, like "Rainy Night", "Breath Of Life" etc. are based on one or two cool chord progressions ( Breath Of Life is based on a simple Amin11-Dmin11 progression ), and I just wanted to jam over it, cuz I liked those progressions. Everything after that happened naturally.

I CAN write songs going "OK, I HAVE to write some song now, letīs see". But those songs are not as good or deep to me as the ones that just happen like described above.
Hope this helps, even though thereīs no real "try this and itīll work for sure" kinda advice in this post


02-24-2003, 04:00 AM
the best way to learn about this is to listen to your favorite instrumental music, and try to break it down and figure out it is put together, and this can help you figure out how to put your own stuff together.

03-17-2004, 05:08 PM
Big subject.

One trick for riffs: they are many ways to play the same chords. In 3rds, 5ths, barre chords, open chords, various intervals, and other shapes. Trying finding any melodic snippet in your original riff and see if you can "plug it in" to another chord voicing. I write most of my stuff from this.

Let's say the original idea was this in A major


That's just a few notes, played in thirds. I wrote an entire song from that. Here's another version in b minor:


Another in D major (to A major):


I know you can't tell the rhythm, but....The second 2 examples are basically played in 5ths, though it's ended up being 2 part counterpoint. Still, you can see the 5th shape.

This is from a song called "Weekend Warrior" that'll be on my album next month.