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A Question For Non-Musician Lyricists


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Hi,

Musicians are of course welcome to join in as well.

How many of you non musicians work with a drum pattern in the background while developing your content?

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Not usually. I do try to keep some regular pattern between verses and sometimes when lucky I can feel the rhythm in the words. But I don't have enough musical ability to know what the drum pattern should be.

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If your method is working for you then, why fight it. I did have a few songwriting books that advised lyricists keep a few basic patterns on hand. A straight 8, a shuffle and an occassional waltz. Nothing two busy or exotic.

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If your method is working for you then, why fight it. I did have a few songwriting books that advised lyricists keep a few basic patterns on hand. A straight 8, a shuffle and an occassional waltz. Nothing two busy or exotic.

I wonder if most of us don't have those in our heads without even realizing it? Patterns of familiar songs as opposed to drum beats along? Comes from listening to a lot of music without understanding the theory behind it.

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Hey

I'm a musician and lyricist. Much depend on the type of song. Where the rhythm is an important factor (in say dance genres as an example) then I do sometimes write with the drum riff going in the background. Certainly I tap out a simple beat on a regular basis when writing lyrics. I normally write the melody first these days, so when I come to write the lyrics there is already a metre established.

Yet again when it comes to writing the melody I write with at least tapping the beat or a drum pattern going.

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Well, I can't speak for my inner lyricist as I have none to begin with. I will say I used to carry rhythms in my head as that was the only place to put them or get them. My first drum machine was both blessing and curse. Even though I can keep a solid rhythm in my head while working on a song idea I always run to a drum pattern as soon as I get an idea.

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That sounds interesting. Does the drum pattern naturally change between verse, chorus, bridge? Or is it centered around the hook?

Since I usually start a lyric with the hook, and write towards that end, that's where my melody usually starts. It's weird, although I'm not a musician, the lyric always comes with a melody. Tapping my foot helps me maintain the meter, while the melody guides word choices, or rhyming sounds. I do have a slight tendency to stray but subsequent edits help guide it back.

Good question tho.

MP

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It really depends on the pattern you have to work with I like simple patterns with simple variations in them.

Usually the basic pattern remains the same. If' it's a shuffle it won't shift to a straight eight. If it's 4/4 It's not going to change to 5/4.

There are endless exceptions to this rule. Pink Floyd's Money was written in 7/4 but the solo section is in 4/4

That being said there is an endless amount of rhythms that can be applied to a time signature. And simple things like purposefully missing a beat, changing accents can have a major effect on the feel of the beat.

Usually the Hook calls for a dramatic pause this is caused by retarding the beat and/or reducing the instrumentation.

Most times there is a huge variation in the chorus and the verse. But for the purpose of writing (not recording) I like to keep these within limits. Most times when writing or trying to arrange you'll let the chips fall were they may. A fill that surprises you when trying to follow a beat may do more to throw you off.

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Hi guys!

I am not a musician but I do tend to have an idea of a 'melody' (in the simplest of terms) in my head if I am writing lyrics from scratch with no music.

Any melody I have in my head, however, stays right where it is! Having my own melody just helps with the writing for my own purposes but the musician I write for then composes his own music.

Once he has composed the music he might ask me to lose a word from one line or add a word to another etc. I have no idea of the acutal melody until the demo recordings :)

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Hi Jan,

Thanks for that.

Here's an interesting story.

One of the oddest gigs I've ever had was backing a beat poet. This was no hip hop gig or standard bongo drum thing. It was the most challenging spur of the moment thing I've ever pulled off and even then I wonder if I did.

Anyway this poet would do readings and he'd want rock and roll accompaniment. He paired me with a bass player that I'd never met before and refused to give me any advanced information like the type of stuff he would cover. He'd wave us in and expect us just to go. His wave / count in wouldn't even slightly resemble the tempo that he would speak at. I'd start up a cover and tell the bassist who would have no clue. and I'd try to call the changes out to him. Nerve racking to say the least. Then the bassist would call out song titles to me (trying not to be to loud over the poet) And we tried to work them out. The bassist did not make it through the second set. The poet was totally digging what we were doing. He felt it hieghtend the drama of his reading. Fout gigs of that guy was all I could take. I could no longer ignore his speech rhythms (which is what he wanted) and I could neither give rhythmic direction nor recieve it from him. Apparently I was the longest running musician he ever had backing him up. Most never survived the first night. And so ended my career as a backup guitarist in avant-garde performance poetry reading.

Now.... I can write a melody just fine without lyrics. However lyrics present certain challenges rhythmicly as well as opporitunities. Melody has it's own rhythm that isn't in exact lock-step with other instruments. If you can sing it even in a monotone voice It offers a rhythmic foundation to build melodic ideas from.

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And I think those rhythmic challenges are where the idea for this topic were sprung. It's important for lyric only writers to remember that they aren't just writing words, that music lies behind it all, with beats and timing and rhythm. For me, the easiest way to write is to an existing melody. Just a la, la, la with the melody and guitar adds to the creative process. I don't know if a musician can find help from reading or singing the words to write music from. I know I have collaborated like this in the past but Alister did say that was the first time he had written using the lyrics first. So, i got the feeling that isn't the preferred method. Which is also something an aspiring lyricist should consider when seeking a collaboration partner.

Ok, I guess I got a little off topic.

MP

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Oddy that is exactly why I started the topic.

Most of us for common practice don't read aloud, when we are typing words. And even on a second read people don't often speak or monitor thier speaking behavoir as they would for public speaking. Use of lymric or iambic pentameter is thrown out the window.

I'll often read lyrics with a basic beat and guitar or ztar in hand working out progressions, I'm less concerned with the note selection of the melody and more concerned about If I could sing it in time. Once I have a sense of the timing of the lyrics I'll go back and add the melodic direction. A good strong melodic line has both qualities of repetition and variation within that repetition. Ofen times I'll look at a verse try to sing it through see it as not working and wonder how much thought went into the actual sing ability of a particular phrase.

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And I think those rhythmic challenges are where the idea for this topic were sprung. It's important for lyric only writers to remember that they aren't just writing words, that music lies behind it all, with beats and timing and rhythm. For me, the easiest way to write is to an existing melody. Just a la, la, la with the melody and guitar adds to the creative process. I don't know if a musician can find help from reading or singing the words to write music from. I know I have collaborated like this in the past but Alister did say that was the first time he had written using the lyrics first. So, i got the feeling that isn't the preferred method. Which is also something an aspiring lyricist should consider when seeking a collaboration partner.

Ok, I guess I got a little off topic.

MP

Yes, I do actually prefer to write lyrics for existing music but we manage to work using both these methods. I suppose once the partnership and methods of working become established then things become easier. I have certainly found this to be the case.

Regards

Jan

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I too am a strummer who tries to belt out a few la la la's for the melody when I write. I had a girlfriend who was a great note taker and she'd assume I was mumbling a specific lyric and she'd right it down then we'd go back to that lyric idea and flesh it out to words.

edit

I'm actually trying to move away from that practice. With the z I can play harmonies with my left hand and accompany melodies on the right....well it has the potential for that as far as my potential v my ability it's something I enjoy struggling thru. Which is why I'm relying on drum patterns in the background for a little rhythmic support then "Pad" the chords with my left hand while working out melodic lines on the right.

Edited by TapperMike
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Interesting David. I don't find writing words on a blank page all that difficult, but I can't imagine "making up" a song. I've tried writing lyrics to existing music, but didn't enjoy it and found it difficult.

Edited by TomWard
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Interesting David. I don't find writing words on a blank page all that difficult, but I can't imagine "making up" a song. I've tried writing lyrics to existing music, but didn't enjoy it and found it difficult.

I'm with you there, Tom. I have little difficulty writing the lyrics, but if I try to write to music then the words come out disjointed and childish. So frustrating!

Edited by Sakura
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  • 2 weeks later...

MY FIRST LYRIC ALSO DECIDES THE REST OF THE SONG.I BREAK UP THE SYLLABLES AND CHOOSE MY EMPHASIS AND ADD CHANGES AS I GO. JUST SEEING WHAT SOUNDS THE COOLEST . I ALSO SING OUT LOUD WHEN I WRITE A SONG REPEATING IT OVER AND OVER. I RARLEY HAVE TO WRITE THEM AT ALL BY THE TIME IM DONE ITS CARVED IN MY BRAIN.

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BUT I DO FIND THAT THE MELODIES THAT I COME UP WITH WHEN HAVING SOMEONE PLAY SOMETHING ON GUITAR ARE ALWAYS MUCH BETTER THEN WHAT I COME UP WITH ON MY OWN

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