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Putting Music To Lyrics

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I've gotten myself into a bit of nasty predicament. Normally I write the music first, and then add lyrics in later. But the other day I was sitting at my computer and a song just flowed out. It has a great (in my opinion) melody and I really want to keep it, but it's been three days of sitting fiddling with my guitar/bass/drums and I can't think of anything.

It's horrible! Nothing seems to work! I imagine it with an orchestra, but even that has musical notes, right? It's really driving me mad. I've tried just drums, drums and bass, just bass, just guitar, guitar and bass, just vocals! Nothing works.

Any tips on overcoming something like this?

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Jules, probably not. I don't write music--I *hear* it, 24/7, like a gigantic 8-track player on continuous loop with no on/off switch. I think of it as The Soundtrack From God. It mostly does not have words, and that's where lyrics come in. I'm really just putting words to music I already hear.

I do on occasion write (using the term "write" loosely, y'understand) music to other people's lyrics, but it really works the same way. When I'm reading their lyrics, I will hear music--like it just matched up to something from The Soundtrack From God. My job then is to try to express it, if I can.

What I'll be hearing is a *melody*, and I'll grab the guitar and try to figure out what notes those are, and what chords they're in. (Always an interesting exercise, since I'm mostly tone-deaf. Makes me feel like Beethoven.) Since it's guaranteed to come out some species of country music, my job is fairly easy--I know there will be relatively few chords, and a predictable chord structure. (I could never do jazz.) It has to be the chords, because I will envision myself performing it (and I may well perform it down the road, to see what an audience thinks of it), and I can't pick a lead and sing at the same time. What I'm doing on the guitar has to be fairly simple.

And then I'll record it. Rhythm guitar first, just playing the chords, and then the vocal on top. That'll tell me whether I picked the chords right. Sometimes, it's necessary to make adjustments. If that sounds okay ('cause it's what you'll get in a solo performance), then I'll attempt a lead. The lead will endeavor (often unsuccessfully) to replicate the melody (again, you can do that in country music).

Don't know how much that helps.


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Thanks for the advice, guys.

In response to roxhythe, I am the same as you in terms of it all coming from that mysterious place. I can hear the music in my head, I just can't seem to duplicate it in real life, that's the trouble.

I got a bass line though, so that's a start.

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Jules, I start with the bass line, too, because I can *feel* those low-frequency notes--I don't have to hear them. And the bass in most songs isn't doing anything fancy--it's just providing the "bottom" everything else is built on.

So the next step is figuring out what *chords* the notes the bass is playing belong in. That's mostly (I think) a matter of knowing how music is put together. And what progressions are appropriate for the genre you're working in.


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