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I've been writing lyrics for a couple years now, but lately I've been wanting to try adding music to them. Does anyone have advice on how to add music to lyrics for someone who's never done so before? Should I write the lyrics first, or try to find a melody? I can play some guitar and a little piano.

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I've been writing lyrics for a couple years now, but lately I've been wanting to try adding music to them. Does anyone have advice on how to add music to lyrics for someone who's never done so before? Should I write the lyrics first, or try to find a melody? I can play some guitar and a little piano.

Lyrics first or melody first comes down to personal preference, and starting out you should try both and see what success you have. Since that's obviously not very helpful on it's own, I'll try to expand with some thoughts about each...

For me personally it's easier to write a melody and fit words to it after, but the downside is that I often have a hard time creating variety/ contrasting sections unless I have some song form in mind, which leads to lyrics... I'm making a conscious effort to address this... also, I know of people who struggle with the melody-first approach far less than I do, and very seldom write music to existing lyrics.

On the other hand, a friend of mine has little trouble putting music to existing lyrics, at least when the lyrics are somewhat inspiring to him, but he writes only a few lyrics of his own, and very seldom if at all writes instrumentals that he intends to add lyrics to later.

Since you say your writing lyrics already, it might seem that the latter approach is better. I think the primary pitfall you might is encounter is the syndrome of being too attached to your lyrics. This can cause a particular problem when the combination of lyric and melody becomes very difficult to sing... there has to be some give & take on each side...

The most concise advice I can offer is learn to sing. At the very least, sing the lyric as you compose the melody, identify spots that might give a singer trouble... alternately, you can sing the melody with nonsense syllables, and see if a lyrical line is suggested...

This is kind of rambling, I hope it's helpful...

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This was extremely helpful actually, so thank you! Is there any specific method for adding music to existing lyrics, or is it just kind of a guessing thing?

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Ok I'll try that! :)

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There is no right or wrong way to write a song.You can write out all the lyrics first or all the music first or a little of both.The one thing that is important I think though when you write lyrics first,you have to be ready willing and able to tweak and change a word or two here and there so as to fit into the melody.The last thing you want to do is "shoe-horn" words in real fast to make it all fit.As far as the how,if I could tell you step by step I would put that in a book and become a millionaire many times over.It is equal parts knowledge,theory,witchcraft,inspiration,dumb luck and anything else you could possibly think of. :sneaky2:

What I tend to do when the words come first is sing them the way I want to hear them.Then I'll hum it over and over incessantly and then try and sit down and fit chords and rythm patterns to match up what I'm humming.I don't worry too much about counting beats and bars until I get a basic rythm laid out.Then you can move beats and bars around later in the arranging process to find a way to sync all the other parts in time.But this is just one way,not necessarily the right way nor the wrong way,just my way,and as the old saying goes there is more than one way to skin a cat.Although I have yet to figure out why anyone needs a way to skin a cat but I digress.Hope this helps.

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Hmm I don't think I know much about witchcraft so that might be a problem... :001_tongue: I read something about the pattern you use when you stress the syllables for the words, should I bother with that yet or wait until later when I get better at this?

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I'm not familiar with the method that you mention above,but anything that may help you is good.If doing the hokey pokey helps you write a song then by all means get going on the hokey pokey. [smiley=rockin.gif]

The only rules are dictated by your ears,nothing else really.

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Hmm I don't think I know much about witchcraft so that might be a problem... :001_tongue: I read something about the pattern you use when you stress the syllables for the words, should I bother with that yet or wait until later when I get better at this?

Yes, I say you should bother with this. The thing is, it's probably not as hard as you think. The words just have sound like they would as if you were speaking them. Otherwise, when the accents are on the wrong syllables, IT tends TO sound UN-natur-AL. :) It's pretty easy to tell when they don't work.

So one thing I like to do that can be a lot of fun, is before I put them to music, I'll "rap" the lyrics to myself--not in a rap/hip-hop style (which is usually too complex and not something a singer can easily sing), but just speaking them in rhythm. I'll try it several different ways, and choose which rhythm I like the best. Even just clapping your hands, and saying the lyrics to the beat can really work well. From there, you can tell pretty quickly if it is too wordy, or if you may have to cut out or add a few words or syllables to make it fit. If the words can be spoken easily in rhythm, then they should work when being sung.

By the time I go to work on the music, I already have the framework in place, so it's easier to write the melody.

Edited by gradual
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I've done both first. I generally will do them simultaneously and tweak both later. As I'm writing music I am constantly singing (usually random stuff that pops into my head) just searching for a good melody. Most often a line or two (both lyrics and melody) will begin to resurface forming the emotional basis of the song and the fiddling around with melodies and harmonies in the vocal lines will often pull the songs structure or chording in a direction of its own. I think the BEST point made so far in this thread was at the beginning. The trick (if there is one) is to NOT GET TOO ATTACHED to either the lyrics or music so much that either constricts the growth of the other in the songwriting process. As a painter I liken it to painting-- You KEEP on modifying and letting it lead you until you realize you are doing more harm then good. THEN you stop.

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Yes, I say you should bother with this. The thing is, it's probably not as hard as you think. The words just have sound like they would as if you were speaking them. Otherwise, when the accents are on the wrong syllables, IT tends TO sound UN-natur-AL. :) It's pretty easy to tell when they don't work.

So one thing I like to do that can be a lot of fun, is before I put them to music, I'll "rap" the lyrics to myself--not in a rap/hip-hop style (which is usually too complex and not something a singer can easily sing), but just speaking them in rhythm. I'll try it several different ways, and choose which rhythm I like the best. Even just clapping your hands, and saying the lyrics to the beat can really work well. From there, you can tell pretty quickly if it is too wordy, or if you may have to cut out or add a few words or syllables to make it fit. If the words can be spoken easily in rhythm, then they should work when being sung.

By the time I go to work on the music, I already have the framework in place, so it's easier to write the melody.

So I should stress the syllables as if I were saying them naturally, right? And the rhythm should somewhat relate to the stress pattern?

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I've done both first. I generally will do them simultaneously and tweak both later. As I'm writing music I am constantly singing (usually random stuff that pops into my head) just searching for a good melody. Most often a line or two (both lyrics and melody) will begin to resurface forming the emotional basis of the song and the fiddling around with melodies and harmonies in the vocal lines will often pull the songs structure or chording in a direction of its own. I think the BEST point made so far in this thread was at the beginning. The trick (if there is one) is to NOT GET TOO ATTACHED to either the lyrics or music so much that either constricts the growth of the other in the songwriting process. As a painter I liken it to painting-- You KEEP on modifying and letting it lead you until you realize you are doing more harm then good. THEN you stop.

When you're writing the music, do you start with a basic rhythm and go from there, like a simple beat? And about the not getting attached to the song part, I totally agree because I have one set of lyrics that I wrote a while ago and I became so attached to it that I can't write music to it at all because I don't want to change the wording.

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I've been writing lyrics for a couple years now, but lately I've been wanting to try adding music to them. Does anyone have advice on how to add music to lyrics for someone who's never done so before? Should I write the lyrics first, or try to find a melody? I can play some guitar and a little piano.

Hi Sakura,

Glad to hear your branching out with your writing! Like others have said, it depends on the person, but since you're a beginner on guitar and piano here's what I'd recommend you do:

1. Start off by coming up with a VERY simple, 3-4 chord progression on whichever instrument you're more comfortable with. Use C, F, G, Am in any order that sounds good to you. Something like this:

C / / / | F / / / | Am / / / | G / / / |

or

F / / / | C / / / | G / / / | Am / / / |

(Each / means 1 beat, and the chord counts as a beat too. So | F / / / | is 4 beats of F)

You can also throw in Dm or Em for color if you want, but C, F, G, and Am (and their equivalents in other keys) are the most important chords in music, (and have been for hundreds of years). Start the progression on Am if you want it to sound dark or sad.

It doesn't have to be complicated to sound good. Most songs that become hits are painfully simple. You can just look up some chord progressions for songs that you like to get ideas too. You'll notice the same chord progressions, over and over, so just pick one you like best.

2. Play the progression until you get comfortable with it.

Find a tempo and stumming pattern you like and can work with well. If you have trouble with this just take a tempo/strumming pattern from a song you like--the song will sound completely different when you're done, so don't worry about plagiarism here.

3. Start trying to fit some of your lyrics to the progression.

You can do this by singing your lyrics while you play the chords, or by humming different ideas until you come up with something you like...then writing lyrics for it later. This is the hardest part for a lot of people, because it takes a lot of practice to get good at coming up with solid melodies, and then maybe words fit on those melodies complicates things even more.

The best advice I can give you for this part is to just keep practicing and have fun with it. Writing the melody and lyrics is where you really put yourself into the song, so for me it's the most personal, fulfilling part of the song writing process. It can also be the most frustrating.

4. Decide whether what you just wrote will work well as a verse or chorus.

If it's more low-key or scattered sounding it could work as a verse, whereas if it's high energy, catchy or powerful it will probably work better as a chorus. Just think of songs you know and how their verses and choruses sound.

5. Repeat steps 1-3 to write a complimenting part (verse or chorus).

So if you decided the first thing you wrote sounded more like a chorus, then try to write something that sounds more low-key and can be used as a verse. Again, just use your ear and think of songs you know and what they do. Keep the chord progressions and rhythm simple. Simple is always better.

6. Repeat steps 1-3 again, this time trying to create a part that will work well as a bridge (if you want your song to have a bridge, most songs do).

Your bridge should be a little different from the rest of your song...it gives listeners a chance to catch their breath before repeating the chorus again. AND it gives you a chance to be creative and write something different.

You can write a high energy bridge that tries to intensify the song, or a low energy one that tries to slow it down a bit. Whether it's high or low energy will depend on the chords you pick, the melody you write, and the rhythm you play.

That might sound complicated, but the key here is to experiment. Just write SOMETHING at first and see if it works when you play the whole song. If not, just write something different and try that!

7. Put all the pieces together.

I recommend this layout to start with:

Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus

It's time tested and has been working for forever. And, again, it's SIMPLE. If you want to change it up though, feel free to experiment! Just keep in mind that if you're trying to write a hit song you should use a layout that people are used to.

It's good to be different, but if you're too different most people will just think you're bad (Even if you're really good). People like hearing what they're used to. I know Jazz guitarists that could shred me to pieces, but no one buys their CDs because their music is weird and over people's heads.

And you're done!

Hope that was helpful, sorry I got a bit long-winded but I wanted to make sure you got a good view of the whole process. I know how confusing songwriting can be when you're just getting into it :)

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No that was perfect, thank you! Having something that in depth is exactly what I need, since I've never done something like this before and it gives me something to work with. I've heard some songs that have one part where they are just singing with no instrument or melody in the background, is that the bridge?

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No that was perfect, thank you! Having something that in depth is exactly what I need, since I've never done something like this before and it gives me something to work with. I've heard some songs that have one part where they are just singing with no instrument or melody in the background, is that the bridge?

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In 'Back to December' by Taylor Swift, towards the end (like a minute before the end) there's a verse with singing and barely any music that you can hear. Sorry I'm not very good at explaining it...

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In 'Back to December' by Taylor Swift, towards the end (like a minute before the end) there's a verse with singing and barely any music that you can hear. Sorry I'm not very good at explaining it...

So we're on the same page...

This starts off with two verse/chorus cycles, just like the form JM suggested. At 3:04 there's a quick guitar solo that seems to recapitulate the verse melody, and at about 3:16 it goes into another vocal section which, musically, is quite different in feel from either the verse or the chorus, this is the bridge... At about 3:45 it goes to the part you mention, where the music is very understated and the vocal is almost whispered, but this is just an arrangement decision, not a distinct new section, as it is recognizable as the familiar lyric and melody from the chorus.

Edited by Retrosaurus Rex
Clarification
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Ah I see. So can you give me an example of a song that has a bridge? Just for reference.

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