View Full Version : Question for those who have written songs..

01-22-2011, 11:33 AM
When you write songs, do you usually write the lyrics or the music first? @_@

Ukulele Jim
01-22-2011, 12:31 PM
Depends on the song. Sometimes I start with a melody running through my head. Sometimes I start by playing around with chord progressions to come up with something cool. Other times it's a word or a phrase that has a sing-song quality to it that I am compelled to put to music. And every so often I sit down and say "I'm going to write a song about _______" and crank it out that way. It's different every time.

01-22-2011, 04:38 PM
Though there are exceptions, I usually write the melody and chord progression first and sing "filler" lyrics which are replaced/refined later as I flesh out the arrangement. On occasion, part of the "filler" lyrics make it to the final version of the song.

- Steve

03-16-2011, 09:48 PM
At any given time I'll have some musical ideas and some lyrical ideas and I'll gradually figure out which ones fit together.

03-17-2011, 06:35 AM
This isn't really an answer to your question, but I've heard and enjoy the terms "top-down" and "bottom-up". Top-down is when you start with a melody, and add chords & such underneath. Bottom-up is starting with the chords/music and writing the melody on top of that.

03-17-2011, 05:25 PM
I don't think there are any hard and fast rules for writing songs. It's whatever works for you.

When I first started writing songs I always started with the lyrics. Then I'd sit down with the lyrics and my guitar or a piano, start randomly playing chords and singing the words until a melody and accompaniment formed. I say randomly, though I guess you could say I was guided by feel and emotion. I still do it that way sometimes.

Other times I may have a chord progression I like and I'll just sing nonsense and free associated lyrics along with it until the melody and some sort of lyrical structure takes hold.

The only times I start with the melody are when I'm without an instrument, just singing to myself. Then the melody and the words come more or less together and I add the chords and accompaniment later.

03-19-2011, 06:52 AM


03-20-2011, 04:07 PM
I've done every possible way. I've written music and then come up with lyrics. I've written lyrics, and later sat down and written music for them. I've come up with the two together. I've come up with music and a basic concept for the lyrics, and later painstakingly bashed out the rest of the lyrics (this is maybe my most common way). I've written music, never been able to think of lyrics that fit, and ended up with an instrumental. I've come up with a song title and written a whole song just to fit the title. Take inspiration any way it comes to you, but expect that it may take a little effort to get from that inspiration to a completed song.

04-03-2011, 07:18 AM
I start with a mood and build a melody around that with an idea for lyrics in mind. Once the mood is established, I start writing lyrics and the song is completed within about five or ten minutes on average. I typically don't change anything when I am done. My mother wrote songs the same way when she was a country songwriter with a Nashville contract. She usually wrote the lyrics in about five minutes.

Other writers might take months to write a complete song.

I am not a prolific writer, which is my biggest problem. I think it is just that I have to be in the mood to write and that means, I have to be playing before a live audience. When I get too busy, I don't write at all, so, I write in spurts.

04-27-2011, 06:28 PM
I can never start with the music because then I'll never manage to write lyrics that fit it. Instead I start with a general idea of the sound and bang out the lyrics to it right away. When that's done I'll try to come up with the chords and melody for it. My focus is more on the lyrics so I don't mind that the music is simple and plain by comparison.

04-27-2011, 07:19 PM
I've written songs every possible way, but the ones that ended up being good songs written on ukulele were songs that started with lyrics and melody---singing to myself during a daily San Francisco bicycle commute. Once all the lyrics and melody were done, I figured out which chords would work (no surprise here: I, IV, and V worked great every time).

Starting with singing's also nice for me because it helps me avoid keys that have easy chords to play, but are unfriendly to my singing range.

Of course, the main idea is to have fun. Play what you like. Try anything. Try everything. And don't forget to rip off good ideas wherever you hear them!

04-27-2011, 07:45 PM
A little of both. Usually a snatch of lyric or a melody... Just a bit. Then I'll tap it into a progression I've been working with... More adjusting and then bridge, etc... It absolutely depends othe song. Sometimes it all comes at once, sometimes one or the other comes first. One thing I've learned though - there is no "wrong way". Whatever method gets you there, whenever.