Learn and map out a bunch of basic song structures. Drag your favorite song into your DAW and mark the sections.
Then, when writing, pick a structure and write to this. You can always get fancy later.
If the above feels too restrictive consider the alternative is the hard way. (Maybe you do not know your structures enough. I didn’t but thought I did.)
100% of the time it’s easier to break the rules when you know them in the first place.
Even if you just have 4-bars, stretch out the song idea over a whole structure immediately, no mater how pitifully thin some parts seem. If the spark is real and you actually have something, your seed/ idea will more than survive. In fact, there will more than likely be more to it than you initially thought.
Remember, it’s easier to take away then to add after your initial burst of inspiration.
The dark magic may be in your initial writing, but the money is in the re-writing. Anyone can come up with an idea, but hardly anyone produces finished work.
Set a time of day to re-write. An appointment.
When at a this writing appointment give yourself 2 options: write or do nothing; not internet nothing. Absolutely nothing; just sit there. (This is advice is from Neil Gaiman, and he knows.)
Always better to have too many words and verses.
Then, the more medieval you are about chopping words the better.
Keep it simple. Play to about 50% of your top-end ability.
Hopefully you did not come here for advice, but I bet you may be looking for new ideas.
Spend a week with a synth. (A month in my case.)
Which synth does not matter and is the wrong kind of detail! If you have an iPad you have acres to a world of them under $10.00, and you also have all YouTube to get you going in the right direction.
What did I find out, learn, or reinforce in a week/ in week one?
1. Make new sounds from existing ones. You do not have to start from a basic patch. (This is how you make a basic patch.) Think of presets as a springboard.
2. I am not the player I could be, but I’m not as bad as I thought. In fact, I may play a song live this weekend (typically only perform w/ guitar).
3. All synths sound the same to the general public.
4. In the context of a mix, effects may be more important than the synth patch/ tone.
5. I really do love my first true synth love, this Alpha Juno. (Yes my site and record label are named after the AJ series.)
6. I am a writer first player and player next, but I still need to be able to get my ideas across as fast, efficiently, and as accurately as I possibly can. A/K/A I need a practice routine. [Austin Kleon has already said how succinctly.]
Patches matter less I thought they did, but they still matter a lot. Better general keyboarding will speed up the demo process for me. Committing to the journey and work of #programertoplayer will pay-up huge. I have a much better ear than I used to.
Knowing this synth well will also save me real money. I think we all know that going out and buying a synth or spending time researching/ SHOPPING for new models—for the “sound in your head”—is wasting energy as compared to practical application, never minding that “sound in your head” is probably just lazy journalist writing that we’ve all come to accept as true.
Imagine not shopping as much. Or imagine the habit of going to your synth when you have something in mind.
For me, my key here and to my writing is this: the process is my reward.
The end-of-the-line song is fine, but if you do not love the journey and keep faith that it will end somewhat victoriously, you may need to rethink things. Out of everything, reenforcement of these is the true one synth lesson for me.
If you’ve been following along at all, and for personal ego purposes I’ll pretend you have, I’ve been dealing with the problem of how to get a number of back-logged songs recorded and out efficiently and as cleverly as possible.
Had you ever told me there would be problem of too many songs, I would have maybe believed it but could not have envisioned it. Believed it? Yes. Couldn’t have envisioned the path.
Maybe you don’t know how to get-doing it either, in need a spark or a push. This series will be for you.
So, as much for me as it is for anyone else, we’re going to go back and map it all out. And, hopefully, continue to document the process in blog (not video) form.
We’re really going to go into into the why rather than review gear, which seems to be what everything turns in to these days. So this is basically a long, ongoing story. Incredibly boring to some, enlightening to others, and interesting and affirming to a small, specific crowd. Not for everybody, but really for somebody. Smallest possible audience theory at work here!
And speaking of, my why of doing all of this to identify my small, specific crowd. You are out there. I know you are! I want you to listen to the music I make.
The Beginning: The real spark came with a special purpose combined with some divine timing, which was a random camp reunion lunch of all things. Put simply: I met a former camper who was in a song writing group at the same time I was going deep into Ableton Live 9.
A lucky perfect storm, yes, but I was paying enough attention to life at the time to know it was kind of now or never. Some direction with perfect timing.
You may be thinking to yourself that mid 40’s is well past now-or-never, but I do not think it’s ever too late. If you’ve got it you’ll always have it. Doesn’t mean you can’t lose your way, but if it’s in there, menage to come out, it’ll be there waiting for you. I feel like I have science to back this up.
Series entry #2 is the Why of Ableton over the other DAW’s.
For anyone still thinking streaming is worthless, catalogs are semi-quietly being snapped up by all sorts of equity. No longer a one time purchase, if your song catches on, it keeps paying and paying, even if there are no ads associated with it.
In what seems to be an emerging fact, the long game is putting it out there to stream. Not playing live, but 9-to-5’ing it at your desk. Sat in front of the computer to get eyes and ears on it. Trade the glory of the stage for the glory of ‘likes’ and a lot of small but growing checks.
What if people, now off the road, put the effort into listens? This is happening, and I can tell you from my own experience, it works.