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Thread: Song writing elements

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb Song writing elements

    I originally wrote this message in response to the thread rock instrumentation, but then before I went to post it thought that everyone should read it. Hence starting a new thread.

    I have this book called Melody in Songwriting, which is written by the song writing chairperson of the berklee college of music in boston. It's a good academic book, and has a lot of good ideas in it. Aside from the book though, what I've learned through writing songs with my band is that no matter what kind of music you play there are certain key elements that remain. These are eight things that I constantly think of and think are very important.

    1 - continuity (did i spell that right?!?!??!!) make the song flow naturally. That doesn't mean you can't have abrupt key changes or tempo changes. It just means that everything should sound like it leads into whatever comes next.

    2 - variation - how many times did you play that? And how did you play that? Do you like metallica? Well I love them, BBUUUUUUUUUUT they repeat riffs and songs parts too frequently, and on quite a few songs I get bored not because they repeat too frequently but because they repeat EXACTLY on verse 2 with they did on verse 1. On the other hand Dream Theater sometimes doesn't repeat riffs or songs parts ENOUGH or changes them up TOO much which will eventually lead me to #3. The key with variation is to change it up. Change the notes keep the rhythm. Vice versa. Sequence it. Create a song part that is based on another part. Keep familarity within the part but spice it up so that the A.D.D. listeners will be happy.

    3 - balance - This goes for many things. Dynamics, speed, orchestral arrangement (ie. MAN there is always a guitar, maybe there could be a part without a guitar, or at least one where the guitar isn't the forefront of whats going on), repetition. Balance is a wonderful thing. I usually make reference to women at this point. You can have 2 girls one with a D cup and one with a B cup. You put a D on a tiny girl and it looks ridiculous!!! And vice versa. I like women that are in proportion. And a song (and everything else for that matter) should be the same way. Balance is critical!!!

    4 - melody/rhythm - Think melody. Play with rhythm. Even if your just doing power chord riffs, you should always try to play melodically. Now this doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice other musical elements such as rhythm. Many people think you can only play one or the other and not both. However with that said, I am going to contradict my self and say that sometimes its a good idea to play only rhythmiclly, or only melodiclly. Sometimes a lead part sounds good with nothing under it. And sometimes you have a rhythm heavy groove that doesn't need a melody over it because you have the whole crowd jumpin!!! Have several of these concepts in your song. This goes back to balance, and into my next element of writing, which is

    5 - mental awareness - Just as the cliche saying goes now adays. "We play for the song" Its sooooo true!!! Be aware of the song at all times. Most people who say this are people who don't know chords beyond diads and triads, and who don't know how to solo, so its kind of biased but even still its true. Don't put a guitar solo in the song just for the hell of it. If the song calls for it then do it. Listen to Satch, he has a solo in almost every song. Why? No. Not because he's a great guitar player, and he can show off, but because the sytle of music he plays neeeeeeeds a solo.

    6 - Inspirational acceptance - Inspiration strikes again!!!! Write it down, or record it. But just because you have a great riff, or progression, or melody doesn't mean you have a great song. If nothing else spawns out of that riff don't dwell on it. But don't throw it out. One day while your writing something else, you might be able to plug that riff in and something awesome might happen.

    7 - Be open - Don't be afraid to incorporate all your musical tastes into your songs. I like all types of music ranging from jazz, to metal, to prog, to hip - hop, country, blues, classical, techno... whatever. You name it, I love it. When I write my music contains elements of all of these, and therefore is pretty eclectic. Don't limit yourself to just writing metal, or rock, or jazz. Then you'll end up sounding like everyone else (or on MTV).

    8 - Form/arranging - or lack of. You don't have to write Pop song format songs like most people do. Like verse, chorus, verse, chorus. bridge. Who says that you have to. Be organized but be intuitive. A band that I admire for writing intuitive songs is soilwork. In their songs they do something like this

    intro
    verse a
    verse b - a,b,c are completely different musically
    verse c
    Hook
    verse a
    verse b
    verse c
    hook
    chorus
    bridge a
    bridge b
    intro
    chorus
    hook

    The same elements are there as any song, but its pretty far removed from a pop song. If you want REAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLY out there arranging listen to prog metal band dream theater. I won't even get into how they write, but its just simply awesome (unless you want to write a song thats less than 10 minutes in length!!!!)

    And also, don't follow one arrangement pattern. Just about every mainstream rock band does that, and its garbage. Just listen to Nickleback. Everynow and then Kroeger's got this slammin riff, but all the songs are written THE SAME WAY!!!!! Its the song writing equivalent of playing the same solo, everytime you have to solo. You'd be a one trick pony, and no one wants that. (A good example of a one trick pony is Yngwie Malmsteen. Check him out on the G3 video with Vai, and Satch, and you'll see what I mean).


    Okay thats it about for now. Good luck with everything.

    ~dnb
    Last edited by darknailblue; 10-03-2004 at 02:40 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered User Metal Dan's Avatar
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    Not bad. I agree with a lot of that. You tend to let too many personal opinions get in the way though. Not everyone thinks the same way about those bands you mentioned. I don't think of Yngwie as "one-trick"...

    I also enjoy large breasts... whether on a short or tall girl

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metal Dan
    Not bad. I agree with a lot of that. You tend to let too many personal opinions get in the way though. Not everyone thinks the same way about those bands you mentioned. I don't think of Yngwie as "one-trick"...

    I also enjoy large breasts... whether on a short or tall girl
    This is true more than you know; EVERYTHING that I wrote is based on my experiences and personal opinions. And hey, I wish everyone could share my enthusiam about the bands/artists that I love, but unfortunately thats unrealistic. Just "insert band name here." And Yngwie is DEFINATELY a one trick pony. Does he know how to tap? Probably... I haven't heard much of it... Vai knows how to do that. What about sweeps? Mostly 3 note DIATONIC maj/min. He's all about the speed, and lacks the musicianship and feeling that other shred guitar players like Vai, Satch, and Petrucci play with. Watch the new G3 video with him in it. He misses cues, tries to drown them out, is always flipping his guitar around like an idiot. And all he does is play fast PICKING solos. Its either one note thats hes vibrating or a million miles an hour theres no medium at all. And that goes against rule number 3!!!! BALANCE!!!

    I by the way like big butts and I just can't lie!!!!

    ~dnb

  4. #4
    Registered User Metal Dan's Avatar
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    We are all entitled to our own opinions...

    and you other brothers can't deny

    EDIT: I haven't seen the G3 video, and I don't doubt that he probably did horribly on it... that happens you know? Can't win them all. You can't judge him off this one bad performance.

  5. #5
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
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    This is a good thread,thanks for sharing your views.A little opinionated,but good.I for one find Yngwie alot more interesting than Petrucci but that's just me.Yngwie plays with alot more fire and grabs the listeners ear much better than John.Dream Theater to me is pretty boring and at times rehashing some of Yngwie's material.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

  6. #6
    Registered User Metal Dan's Avatar
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    I don't find that John so much rehashes anything Yngwie does. I just don't hear it. At times he seems a little too 'stiff' and 'planned out' to me while Yngwie just 'goes for it' a little more (all of YM's solos are improved and usually the first or second take). Don't get me wrong though. I love both Petrucci is the man. DT ranks as one of my top favorites, but at times the drawn out instrumentals get on my nerves.

    Even as a completely addicted to guitar as I am I find vocals to be the most important factor in a song. If the lyrics don't speak to me on some personal or emotional level I just won't feel it, no matter how good the guitarist is. And vice versa. If the vocals really click with me I can ignore subpar music (for a little while at least )

  7. #7
    Registered User ih8humbuckers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by darknailblue
    Just "insert band name here." And Yngwie is DEFINATELY a one trick pony. Does he know how to tap? Probably... I haven't heard much of it... Vai knows how to do that. What about sweeps? Mostly 3 note DIATONIC maj/min. He's all about the speed, and lacks the musicianship and feeling that other shred guitar players like Vai, Satch, and Petrucci play with. Watch the new G3 video with him in it. He misses cues, tries to drown them out, is always flipping his guitar around like an idiot.



    ~dnb
    O my god !? yngwie has no feeling ??? have you listened to any of his early material eg rising force, theres so much feeling in his playing it gives me a freaking migraine, so much emotion , but your entitled to ur opinion

  8. #8
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    hahaha i'd really like to see Beethoven's face if he saw your rules to songwriting.

    **

    Yngwie, he has his own style, you dont like it, shut up its very simple, i dont like a lot of people but i dont critisize them, i just picture them outside of the box i am in with the people i like.

    Yngwie is a phoenomenal (ahh spelling) player, he likes to play fast, he wouldnt be famous if people didnt like him and adore him, so, he must be doing something right?? dont you agree?? And if he is famous and a big success which he is, being invited on G3 an all, then why isnt he a good guitarist? if he delivers what people want, and dont say people dont want what he delivers cos they do, he wouldnt be a multi-millionaire if they didnt like his stuff.

  9. #9
    I am sick of seeing people bash the Yng. Listen to Black Star, or Icarus Dream Suite...tell me there iis no feeling there!!!
    Or maybe you can do better??? hahaha
    Speed is a very prominent element in his style of music....a style that he pretty much single handedly developed...that style is called...say it with me....SPEEEEEEEED metal!!!!! Of course he is going to play fast a lot. IT IS CALLED SPPEEEEEEEEEEEED metal!!!!!!!!
    And as for the tapping thing, I've seen the Yng do some tapping work that I think would keep even Vai on hios toes.

    But aside from that, you can't compare guitarists by saying that this technique is better than that....take
    Holdsworth. I pray for the day that I have legato HALf that smooth but when it comes to picking speed he is easily outdone...it isn't his STYLE. That is one element you omitted from your pretentious little list there. It is Yng's STYLE that makes him play that way....and he is amazing at it. No feel? Listen to his bend-vibratos.....just because it is a different feel most of the time than say someone like satch or SRV would have doesn't mean it is not feel. His feel is more agressive usually. And by the way that G3 performance rocked. IMO he schooled those other two as far as performance and pick speed goes...even Vai has admitted that his picking is at the top of the top. All you people wwho bazh the Yng remind me of jealous females who say stupid **** like " that supermodel isn't pretty....look at her elbows!" or some other obtuse statement.
    When you create, develop, and popularize a whole new musical genre, remain at the top 20 years later, and have an incredibly, cult-like non-commercial fan-base like the Yng, come back and talk your smack....until then you are just some guy in your room with a little tascam who probably couldn't sweep an arpeggio if it was lying on the floor next to a broom closet.

  10. #10
    In the woodshed rmuscat's Avatar
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    Again!

    don't get pissed when people critize guitar players just ignore coz otherwise by the end of the month ALL threads/forums are going to be closed down! at this rate!

    a thread was closed yesterday.

    Be mature and ignore them! and don't try defend them either coz it turns out worse.
    Edwin Land: Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.

  11. #11
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    so then u dont believe in defending ur own ground?

    if someone dis's any axe god (which i havent seen....?) by all means, draw ur sword, in a nice way.


    ur tips are good, but have u have help for actualy getting started? i mena i sit down, ready to write, nothign comes out. getting things to flow isnt a problem, just the first few notes are hard. and i hate startign on scales, because its too simple. grrrrrrr, so frustrating.

  12. #12
    In the woodshed rmuscat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tiger Lily
    so then u dont believe in defending ur own ground?

    if someone dis's any axe god (which i havent seen....?) by all means, draw ur sword, in a nice way.
    i might argue seriously that e.g. vai is a much more technically proficient and complete player than eric clapton. But i will never argue about who does play the best music.

    p.s. if someone called me a one trick pony i'd get offended. But what i suggested was for people to avoid fighting over someone else. Malmsteem can prove his work on guitar, he don't need anyone talking for him

    but anyway for every newcomer i have to restart the arguments ... lol ... it's getting tiring!

    p.s. welcome to ibreathe i suggest you post in the newcomers thread and read the forum rules!

    meet ya on the boards
    Edwin Land: Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.

  13. #13
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    crap, i havent broken another rule have i?
    yeah, i dont like to read those things, time consuming, suppose i should....

    well, obviuosly diffrent artists have their own things they do, so who the best is opnion, because of the diffrent varbles/styles/genres, that doesnt mean u can debate who is better.

    wow, im getting into an argument, about arguements....um...


  14. #14
    In the woodshed rmuscat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tiger Lily
    crap, i havent broken another rule have i?
    yeah, i dont like to read those things, time consuming, suppose i should....

    well, obviuosly diffrent artists have their own things they do, so who the best is opnion, because of the diffrent varbles/styles/genres, that doesnt mean u can debate who is better.

    wow, im getting into an argument, about arguements....um...

    rules have nothing to do with user liscence agreements, i don't read those either! LOL

    un/fortunately ibreathe is not the place for those kind of discussions coz it wasn't meant to be so from conception (seems to me at least). I would discuss that stuff if i was in bar though coz there won't be anything else to do anyway except get drunk.
    Edwin Land: Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.

  15. #15
    Latin Wedding Band Los Boleros's Avatar
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    Although the Thread starter laid down some nice information, Most of the replies are a bit off topic. I welcome anybodies opinions and obsorb them as just that.
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