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Melody, Chords Or Lyrics First?

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For me it's always the melody - at least until now. It usually starts around an idea (a title/subject). I like it this way because I have the freedom to build the melody the way I feel. I'm not very comfortable starting with the chords, because I think they somehow restrict you to follow a certain pattern.

Please share your views as well. Thanks.

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I may be a little weird in this area, but I get the melody and the lyrics at the same time. It just comes to me in one neat little package. Of course, I usually have to tweak the lyrics, but the general theme is already there. Then I have to pick up the guitar and figure out the chords that go along with that melody. I say it's weird because, surprisingly, I've come up with some pretty good songs, but there's not any work to the initial creation.

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  • 2 weeks later...

For me it's ALWYS lyrics first. I am an English major and a writer through and through. I'm also very passionate about good songs, I mean all my life, at any time, I can get stuck on a new song or an oldie and listen to it 10-15 times a day and have emotional climaxes each time. So when I sit down to write a song, the seed is always a cool phrase or an original metaphor I want to share. I usually can "hear" it pretty quick like you Rippinlyricist. Then I have to force myself to pick up a guitar or some other instrument and work out a bare bones music idea. I think the "lyrics first" types are more rare. =)

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My songs come to my lyrically, first. Normally the chorus comes first and I write around it. Or a defining line in a song, and I write around it. I write them with a melody in my mind. I always write about my personal life experiences and the melody just comes to me in my mind. I just hear it. I can't describe it. It thrills me to be able to come home and start putting chords to my songs now. I just started playing 8 months ago.

I've yet to write a song by playing a chord progression first on the guitar and putting words to it. It's like a whole other process that my brain can't engage in.

I wrote songs long before playing an instrument. I wrote the melody and the lyrics, stored them in my head, wrote them down, sang them out loud, and had a friend or my boyfriend put the chords to the songs. He never understood how I did it.

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I do it all ways and it depends on the circumstances.

If I have to write something as a job of work to a deadline I will probably write lyrics first, then the melody line, then the chord structure.

I think because I can say well I'm half done or 3 quarters done or whatever.

Sometimes I will write melody and chord structure together usually on the guitar, but ths is rare.

The instant method is the easiest when it all comes out at once but that is hard to do too a deadline.

For me anyway. Although it happens sometimes.

When I've forgotten the writing process it's pretty hard for me to tell the results of one method or another.

So all methods are valid I guess.



Edited by snabbu
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I also tend to do it all-ways depending on the circumstances. Sometimes a melody line will come to me while writing a lyric. I may find a good chord progression on the keyboard and develop from there. I may think of a riff in my head and develop that once I get to an instrument. I have a very large library of lyrics without music and sometimes I search through them and use one of those (with some adaption) to a new piece of music I created.

Creatively I sometimes struggle to write a lyrics for a song trying to get the right fit. The creative process is not usually an issue for me the time synch comes on the production sides of things. The other time synch is learning and singing the song.

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I use all 4 ways too. Sometimes they start, then I put them aside, and forget them. Then sometime later something clicks and I pick it back up, and it all comes together.

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I usually start with a short melodic phrase and a short lyric (hook line or title).

I use a ukulele or a strumstick to get a first melody.

Then I work on a master melody and 2 or 3 sub melodies.

I choose a key and work with both melodies and chords.

I usually work with melodic phrases that have 8 measures.

I use a worksheet to write down chords and notes.

Then I choose a structure:

will it be VCVCBC (verses, chorus and bridge)?

will it be AABA (verse, verse and bridge)? <--- my preference

will it be ABC (verse, lift, chorus) + D (if i need a bridge)?

Then I try to write some basic (or dummy) lyrics that match the melody.

After that, the real work begins:

I use a notation software (Melody Assistant)

to write and rewrite melodies, chords and lyrics

until I think it's okay for me.

The last thing that I fix is the lyrics.

I have a lot of fun doing this.

Edited by guyetrep
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  • 1 month later...

Lyrics first almost always (there's always an occassional exception). Then I work with whatever instrument and work from there normally with my chords. Melody, is very beautiful to me in a lot of songs but I am the worst person with working with it, especially in trying to play maybe a melody on the piano. Sometimes I figure something on piano or guitar that sounds good, then I don't have anything to go with it, I forget about it, then when I get a song written and I go to work with the music I find what I've forgotten and then I'm stuck in a chicken or the egg situation.

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Melody, Chords Or Lyrics First?

The song decides for me. It comes from any direction and only when

it wants too. - In my case.


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It can go any way. Lyrics first, melody first, chords first, or perhaps a riff first. That being said lately I've been doing 'lyrics first' a lot. When that happens I usually start thinking "Where are these words going in the song? Does this seem to be a verse or a chorus?" I usually like to try to establish some kind of structure as soon as possible - even though it might change and evolve as new elements are added. I probably prefer having the melody first, because it's generally easier for me to write lyrics to a melody - but I take my songs anyway I can get them!

I tend to be rather wordy, so if I start with the lyric first then I have to watch out that I don't end up with a dull or difficult melody because the lyrics are too "crowded". I usually end up spending time with sections of song - trying out the melody without accompaniment to see whether it "works". Sometimes a clever lyric and pretty chords can blind me to a dud melody - so I will take the melody all by itself and see whether it's viable.

I don't generally have a problem starting with just chords - because I don't tend to overuse standard chord progressions. I like to discover a new possibility in every song.

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