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How Do Your Physically Write Down Your Songs


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  • Noob

I've written about 9 songs. But only two of them are actually written as music. The rest are lyrics/poems, with music I have cryptically written down, or just sung into my mp3 player. I'm sure the rhythm is off on at least some of the ones that are written down, the parts are more free flowing. I used Anvil Studio to write them down. You have to put the note value in and press the fake piano keyboard. Not very easy when you're not a musician! How do you do it?

Ken

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I personally only write down lyrics and guitar chords. I record the vocal melody with guitar accompaniment on my dictaphone. The rest is not important in my view because the nuts and bolts are down.

I wouldn't ever bother writing them out properly unless you are planning for an orchestrated recording.

I personally only write down lyrics and guitar chords. I record the vocal melody with guitar accompaniment on my dictaphone. The rest is not important in my view because the nuts and bolts are down.

I wouldn't ever bother writing them out properly unless you are planning for an orchestrated recording.

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Not very easy when you're not a musician! How do you do it?

I write out lead sheets on regular manuscript paper.

I possess minimal instrumental facility or fluency but practical circumstances dictated that I learned quickly how to write regular conventional legible gigging charts so that people who are musicians can see exactly what is happening and make a constructive and supportive contribution.

As singer and bandleader, the practical circumstances are that I work with hired guns, professional jobbing musos who have way more experience and knowledge than I will ever achieve and yet I need to be confidently in charge at the front. Oftentimes, the first time we meet will be on the bandstand for the gig. Rehearsals are a rare luxury. So I need a solution that is simple clear and effective. Because singers are also notoriously poor at taking care of this end of the business, I also understand that the closer I get to their expected pro standard of music preparation the more my efforts are noticed and appreciated and the better job of work they will strive for on my behalf. So the hard work involved in learning how to do it, how to overcome mistakes and do it better, and then putting in the time patiently with pen and paper, for me it pays off big-time.

That's how musicians are able to deliver such a sweet job backing all those American Idol contestants, for instance.

(There are great software programmes which can simplify and rationalise the labour and reduce its level of intensiveness, but I personally still learn a great deal from the old-skool process and enjoy a kind of meditative fulfillment that comes from doing it all by hand.)

As a songwriter, the goal is to have work performed by others. To make a demo, efficiently, we hire appropriate guys capable of nailing first-takes so we get a top job and no wasted sheqels. A good lead sheet makes that possible. When an artist wants a song, they'll want a lead-sheet, too. Their musicians will also appreciate it. If they choose to record one of our tunes, they'll need it.

If a point is reached where orchestration is required, a lead-sheet provides the place to start.

It all ultimately depends on the level of professionalism you aim for - but lead-sheets are an enormously worthwhile endeavour for any songwriter seriously looking to be able to operate successfully anywhere beyond the bed-room, home-studio, singer-songwriter or regularly-rehearsing ambitious indie-band arena. (I am not knocking anyone whose work is in those areas, not at all, they are fun and rewarding areas of practical magic, just offering how everything is dictated by practical need and circumstances - mine demand lead-sheets.)

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  • Noob

Thanks, I've been doing more than I need. The computer programs are a lot of work, just to make it prettier! I can write it on blank staff paper easy enough. Just the lead, straight off the guitar. Maybe add some guitar chords or bass line. Maybe not. I usually sing it into my mp3 player so I have that part done. Is low G to the first G on a guitar a decent range for a male voice? I have no idea. Seems to work for me. Obviously rock stars go higher. The kid on Idol goes way lower.

Ken

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