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Richard Scotti
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Richard Scotti

5/28/2010 8:42:38 PM ---- Updated 5/29/2010 8:40:17 AM

What is your songwriting process?
What is your songwriting process from the moment an idea for a song comes into your head to the moment you feel it is ready for public consumption?

How do you know when a song is good enough to invest time, energy and money into it before it's actually finished? At what point in the "process" do you know that the song is turning you on emotionally and intellectually? Describe that "eureka" moment when you really feel you're on to something special. What is the most enjoyable part of the journey and which is the least?

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Kevin White

5/28/2010 8:47:34 PM

For me, it's too big a question to describe in this sort of medium. If I were to attempt to make some stab at "the process" description, then I'd be forced to sum it in a single word: Random.

If I were to be forced to elaborate on that, it would have to be: "I know what I like and I know what I'm doing."

... everything comes from my brain. It doesn't belong to me.

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Jo Ellen

5/29/2010 10:14:07 AM

Usually concepts are impressed on my mind - although I feel enveloped- as if my soul were singing. Usually the chorus and melody will occur to me at the same time. I find myself singing. I write verses around the chorus and then bang it out on the keyboard. Sometimes I write by playing the keyboard first, but concepts are always the key to my composition. It definitely feels intimate and as an art.

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5/29/2010 4:53:12 PM

For me, it's like a single line or phrase will will raise it's head. The phrase or what ever will give me an emotional context. I always give the song a chance to write itself. As far as a melody goes, the line or phrase picks that. However, I do try to stay with-in the chord circle of what ever key the song is in.

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5/30/2010 3:18:47 AM

Usually it's noodling around on an acoustic guitar and finding some progression of chords that strike me as good. Sometimes it's a riff discovered while noodling around. Once I've got the "flavor" of the song then I'll try to come up with a lryical idea. This has been areal chore lately as I've definitely got writers block on lyrics.
I have written a couple of songs where the lyric presented itself first and I wove a musically idea around it - that's the exception and not the rule for me though.

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Kevin White

5/30/2010 7:58:32 AM

Lyrics are my nemesis.

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J. Patrick Sharpe

5/30/2010 9:16:45 AM

Great topic. For me, everything is centered on the lyrics. I started out writing poetry before I ever even picked up a guitar. I have been playing catch up on the musical side ever since! So, the lyrics are the primary driver for me and I then search for how to express the lyrics via the music. I have tons of lyrics written down. Sometimes I pull together the music for a new set of lyrics fairly quickly and if it works it is done. Other times it will be awhile before I get the music/chord progression to a point that I feel the song is a keeper. In some cases, I'll work out a chord progression that I like and go back to my "lyric well" and see if I have anything that will work with the music- then polish it up from there. In all cases, I work hard on the lyrics to make sure every word counts. I never have throw away lines/words just to make something rhyme or to finish the song. A song is only a keeper when I am happy that it communicates what I want it to from beginning to end in an artistic sense. Somebody mentioned in an earlier post about the emotional and intellectual elements of a song. The balance of these elements is exactly what I am going for with every song. What I love about good songwriters (and there are some great ones here at IAC!) is the ability to paint vivid pictures but with words and music.


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Bryon Tosoff

5/30/2010 9:52:50 AM ---- Updated 5/30/2010 9:57:18 AM

Songcrafting vs Songwriting

In general terms Songcrafting is different from writing a song with lyrics. pretty self explanatory the song grows evolves and you good people chisel out something from that piece of coal that sits in your mind, on that piece of paper or manuscript that is rough or maybe not into something superb,meaningful and engaging.

You may think you have written a good song, but then when listening again, you revise and craft and shape the song you have made into something more effective, more meaningful more to the point of what your intentions were

it depends, we all are different, some are fantastic at throwing together music and lyrics others struggle with it, like me I just stay away from writing lyrics for the most part because it is not my thing, I just dont get into it , right now I stay with instrumentals and all......

Sometimes these tunes you may write, develop and craft might just happen right off without much thought. others take time, energy lots of effort. to get just right

Combining an interesting progression, adding in a melody that stands out with lyrics and weaving it into something special and memorable is a challenge.

Sometimes musicians, songwriters will write a thought an idea, capture a hookline of sorts, and put some chord ideas with it while fiddling about on their instrument of choice..a melody of sorts comes through or a cool hook, or.some kinda of interesting rhythmic groove and so on..

It is a lot of an artform and done with structure of thought ( or not) capturing a moment a snapshot of your experiences ,

my mainstay is instrumentals, some are spontaneous. some are developed over time and others are seeds, laying around gathering dust until the right moment occurs

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Hop On Pop

5/30/2010 10:55:43 AM

I do what all of you do.

Sometimes it's a phrase -- lyrical OR musical that bounces around my head until it finds its way out my mouth, guitar, or pen.

Sometimes, I have a chord progression or guitar riff/lick that requires something to b written around it, to give it life.

Sometimes I just sit down with my guitar, and the entire song just pours out of me in as much time as it takes me to play it.

Sometimes I have bits and pieces that I have to craft... to piece together and make them work. I have to shape and mold the pieces until they become coherent.

And then, there are times (like now) that I got nuttin'!

I've enjoyed reading your responses. But really, what I've learned from them is that we all use bits and pieces of every single way that there can be.

And that's good.

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Richard Scotti

5/30/2010 7:15:04 PM

When I think of a great title it feels like I hit the lottery. The song just seems to write itself. The words inspire the music and the music inspires the words. But sometimes it's not so easy. Most of the time a song springs from a jam with a drummer and I find the music just flows. I love to write to a beat, but unfortunately the words don't flow easily when the music comes first.

As I mentioned, the music can inspire the words but sometimes the music is in another dimension from where I am lyrically. The only hope is to listen to the music many, many times until words start to pop up in the mind, but very often, terrible words seem to demand to be heard before the good ones come. Why this happens, I'll never understand and it's VERY frustrating but I type them up out of desperation and the need to have lyrical "place holders" until the right ones come along, like when Paul McCartney turned "scrambled eggs" into "yesterday".

I try to take an intuitive approach to all aspects of my songwriting. The more it all comes out of a subconscious place, the better the song will be. If I try too hard, it will come out contrived or forced.

In every song I write I have to surprise myself by doing something in that song that I haven't done in any song I've ever written. It could be something like a chord or a chord progression that I've never used before or an unusual new instrument. I have to keep myself from getting bored and keep myself excited about what I'm doing. I feel if I can do that, I might keep the listener from getting bored. As soon as I find a formula that works, I look for a different one because I don't want to keep cranking out the same thing. I love all kinds of music and want to explore as many genres as I can.

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Duane Flock

5/31/2010 6:36:49 AM

"In every song I write I have to surprise myself by doing something in that song that I haven't done in any song I've ever written. It could be something like a chord or a chord progression that I've never used before or an unusual new instrument. I have to keep myself from getting bored and keep myself excited about what I'm doing. I feel if I can do that, I might keep the listener from getting bored. As soon as I find a formula that works, I look for a different one because I don't want to keep cranking out the same thing. I love all kinds of music and want to explore as many genres as I can."

In my case, Richard hit the nail on the head. I try tp keep a theme going for the entire CD, but the music/songs has to be entertaining each time it's heard. I have a lot of the same formulas as each one of you do. I tend to lean towards building the whole song with music and lyrics together. That way needed changes fall into place much easier (ie starts, stops, bridges, hooks, catch phrases, chorus, ect.)

I'm in my early fifties and I've been taking guitar lessons for the last couple of months. It's already opened some doors to new formulas and ideas, not to mention broadening my lead abilities.
If you get to a point of stagnation, FIX it. Do something to get the productive juices flowing again. Learning new things only opens more doors.


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5/31/2010 3:54:34 PM

Hi Richard and all of ewe

English literature has always been an interest

but the music usualy comes first eg D Bb CG
so i write the lyrics to capture the timing (for my memory)
Often these words are not what I like, or want, so then I have to change the words to my satisfaction
My default position seems to be Protest / cynical observations
Whereas I would be rapt if I could just write a simple "Love " song

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Richard Scotti

5/31/2010 7:58:58 PM

Write that simple love song, Rob. It will do you good.

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5/31/2010 10:30:10 PM

First, I steal some kinda lyric. Usually from an idiot.
Then, I either fire up Band In A Box and type in random chords that look good visually, or I print them on a sheet of paper, and run it through the shredder, then, pick up the pieces and glue them together randomly. I heard Bobby Vinton or somebody used to do it that way, so, good enough for me!

Then I choose a random voice to use while recording.

Guaranteed hit on the internet!

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6/1/2010 3:26:48 PM

"What is your songwriting process from the moment an idea for a song comes into your head to the moment you feel it is ready for public consumption? "

Songwriting is different from song arranging - to me.

Writing for me has to be done without filters, and quickly.
The honing of a lyric and the arrangement can come later.

i don't know if that translates into left/right brain work or not.
But writing is something that is mysterious, like being sick or cumming or something. Better to not think about or be aware of, and just let happen.

Arranging and honing is different, and requires more intent I guess.

"How do you know when a song is good enough to invest time, energy and money into it before it's actually finished?"

I try and finsih them all, quickly, as they come, and get them down.
The truly good, original works pop up, stand out right away.

But once in a while, while maybe working on wiring or woodwork or something, I might stick on an old "work tape" and something long forgotten might grab my attention and be a better song than I thought at the time.

"At what point in the "process" do you know that the song is turning you on emotionally and intellectually?"

Uh ......suddenly when a song is forming from gold dust or whatever, it just is.
It's more of a Homer Simpson thing "stupid brain, stop telling me what to do"

"Describe that "eureka" moment when you really feel you're on to something special. What is the most enjoyable part of the journey and which is the least?"

When I hit on the accidental melody or chord change

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6/1/2010 3:30:30 PM ---- Updated 6/1/2010 3:32:35 PM

i guess I like that feeling that is almost like being sick, that you are in a daze or a haze and not trying to force anything .... I guess I am in some deep trance or something.

then something kind of forms in the purple darkness, or I don't know, just suddenly is the tree instead of the forrest, a song is kind of suddenly a more focused stone under the clear water that was a wave

a wave you were sort of floating on with your guitar in hand but not really aware you were in the same room as the guitar or something

what really, really, pisses me off is when the phone ring or even if a loved one comes into the room and breaks the moment

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never never band

6/2/2010 8:26:29 PM ---- Updated 6/3/2010 10:53:29 PM

my method is lethargy, expanded to the point where it becomes critical....then I stay up for 12 hours in manic frantic creation.....then I lapse back into lethargy.

Music Sweet music I wish I could caress, Manic depression is a frustrating mess.....

(ye see, I'm even to lethargic to spell check...)

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The Black Orchids

6/4/2010 12:14:15 AM ---- Updated 6/4/2010 12:15:21 AM

I write most of my songs in minutes. I play guitar,
and if something seems like it's going somewhere, I'll keep playing until I have everything together.
I hear the vocal melodies as I'm creating the music. The lyrics just come out somehow.
Sometimes I'll sing random words to the chorus music until something sticks, and then I write my verses. For me the song has to come together quickly, or I'll move on right away.

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never never band

6/4/2010 12:27:18 AM

I have a bit of that too.

Once an idea really breaks loose, most stuff seems to come all at once, I get the whole idea and scramble to keep up with it.

For me the time consuming and sort of manic process is in playing the parts and trying to get the sounds clanking around in my head recorded and mixed.

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Richard Scotti

6/4/2010 5:24:24 AM

When I reach an impasse on a song I walk away from it and work on something else.
It's amazing how different your mind works on a different day and time. When I return to the song I usually see it in a whole new way and the puzzle gets solved. That always amazes me that what seemed like an impossible task a week ago suddenly comes into focus and the solution seems obvious in the present. Oh, the wonder of the human brain!!

There are times when I just keep plowing through the problem and sometimes I'm able to solve it but that doesn't happen often. Sometimes you do need to forge ahead
and other times you need to know when to stop. It's a very intuitive thing.

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Jeff Allen Myers

6/4/2010 1:02:35 PM

To me, Songwriting is always a "Mystical" experience. Sounds trite and cheap, but its how the process feels to me. The majority of my songs "appear" quickly, as if guided by an invisible hand. I know this is most likely my subconcious full of past experience and influence taking over.

After the initial inspiration, comes a bit of tweaking and the bane of writing lyrics to fit my melody and specific phrasing. Lyrics are the least enjoyable part of writing for me. The marriage to the melody is more important then real content...at least for me. Just being honest :)~

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6/4/2010 5:15:39 PM

Everywhere I go I have my little voice activated recorder. My ideas come from the radio in my head. Sometimes it is music first (usually Bass) and other times it is lyrics that drive the songwriting train. Whatever the case, I always record my idea and then come back to it later when I am ready to write and produce the song. There are also songs that come to me in dreams. Those seem to be the best songs for some strange reason. I wake up and immediately grab my recorder and hum what I heard into it. My wife says that I often bob my head and snap my fingers while I am sleeping. I know its a bit strange but that's how it is for me. Even when I am awake I am constantly hearing music in head.

I wrote my first song when I was about 8 years old. My foster parent was always beating me and I was constantly searching for things I could do to avoid being bloodied up. So, one day my brother and I wrote a song and when she (foster mom) came home we sang it for her and did a little dance to go with it. She was so impressed that she did not beat us that day. The next day I decided to try to write another song but I couldn't get any ideas. But that night in my sleep I dreamed a song. Got up the next morning and the music was still playing in my head so I wrote it out and sang it for her. From then on I had a song for her every day. Of course I still got beat down some days but it became a major part of my process.

So, I guess you could say that my process often begins with listening to the music in my head. The difference in now verses back then is that I know how to play several instruments and can better interpret what I hear. Maybe a better title for me would be "Song Interpreter".

Anyway, the radio in my head has been playing for over 5 decades. The genres are Jazz, Reggae, Funk, Rock, Metal, Pop, Gospel, Ska, Hip-Hop, R&B, Soul and even a few country songs. I have copyrights on over 800 songs but there are hundreds more I wrote, uh, interpreted that never made it that far. I write everything but classical. I hear that music also but I am not technically gifted enough as a player to play it.

Maybe some day I will interpret a symphony. The radio in my head is the gift that just keeps giving.


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Chandra Moon

9/14/2010 5:38:23 AM

For me - it's usually a rhythm, a beat, a sequence of words, a rush of words, sit down, try and capture it, dream the damn thing, breathe it for a few days then work out a tune.

Occasionally I get a tune first and have to try and fit words into it - I find that the most difficult - I find it much easier to write a tune around the words. I've just written a song this week which may make no sense to anyone but it fits a tune I wrote two years ago which has alluded all attempts to find lyrics so I'm very happy. I'll post up an unplugged version soon.

The Healing Tree

Warm winds across the purple plains
The candles melt away the pain
Soothing hands upon your face
Golden light fills inner space

Ancient oaks and peacock calls
Through layers of time and stone-built walls
In starry dress a goddess stands
Reaching out with loving hands

Thoughts return back to Kartong
Searching for words to fit the song
How very strange that two years on
At The Healing Tree, at last it’s done

(Instrumental break)

Ancient oaks and peacock calls
Through layers of time and stone-built walls
In starry dress a goddess stands
Reaching out with loving hands

Reaching out with loving hands

Reaching out with loving hands………….

© Chandra Moon - Sep 2010

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