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Topic: Cannot finish a song

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  1. #1

    Cannot finish a song

    Hello, I was wondering how most of you go through the process of writing a song in GPO. Do you sit down at a piano or midi keyboard and figure out chords you like and then go from there? And if so, once you have those chords, how do you progress further?

    I know this seems like a rather broad topic, one with countless books on song writting, but I just would like to know how you guys go about it.

    I have big problems writing songs. I get to a certain point and I just can't go any further. I have listened to a lot of songs on the board and the songs are all wonderful. I'm rather hesitant to post anything I have done, since nothing is ever finished.

    So what do you guys think? You ever get stuck? Any tips?

    Thank you for any help you can give.

    Nick

  2. #2

    Re: Cannot finish a song

    I compose to picture. When working with film/video you know exactly where the piece must go, and when it is done. (Aside from how many layers to add and how much refinement you need - and if you have a deadline, then the amount of finishing work is defined as well!)

    Anyway, I do much better with video on a deadline. With songs, it's just too open ended for me. Maybe for you too?

  3. #3

    Re: Cannot finish a song

    Nick,

    This is a very common problem - getting stuck in the middle of the song and not knowing where to go from there. First thing I do, is decide which genre I want to write to. I usually listen to a lot of CD's, movie soundtracks, and get an idea for orchestration, etc.

    I also begin a lot of songs at the piano starting with various chord progressions and then filling in melodic lines above the chord progressions. Also, sometimes its good to put a song on the shelf for a while and come back to it later for a fresh approach.

    There are really no simple solutions and everybody probably approaches this differently but that's a few points that I use.

    Tom

  4. #4
    Senior Member Leaf's Avatar
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    Re: Cannot finish a song

    Welcome to the forum, Nick!

    Are you related to Darrel Pancake. I was in elementary school with him. If so I should apologize for all the wise cracks, we were stupid kids for making fun of people's names. Fortunately he was wise beyond his years and didn't really care, didn't ever let it get him down.

    David

  5. #5

    Re: Cannot finish a song

    If you're stuck on a song, it often helps to take something you've already written, but try to do something different with it.

    For instance, if you have a chord progression you like under your melody, try taking that chord progression and try to make it go in a different direction. Like, if your chord progression ends strongly on a C major chord, see what happens if you decide instead to end just as strongly on an F major chord. A lot of the time you'll have to rewrite the chord structure completely to get that same sense of conclusion, and that can generate a lot of ideas.

    Or, maybe there's a distinctive rhythmic pattern you like. Try changing it slightly so it sounds new. Or see if you can take the bass line in a different direction. Almost anything can give you new ideas.

    Also, don't be afraid to write something that just doesn't work. I do it all the time! But it can be a positive thing. If you write something that doesn't sound good, try to figure out what is wrong with it, then start again and don't do that thing.

    Really, a lot of it is just trying stuff out, erasing, starting over, until something works.

    Here's another thought that might help. A lot of problems arise because we aren't striking a good balance between repetition and variation. If something isn't working, chances are it's because something is being repeated too much. Or not enough. It can be a note, a chord, a rhythmic pattern, a phrase length, anything. If you can zero in on exactly where the problem is, then just try changing something, just a little at a time, until it starts to click.

    Good luck! Don't give up!
    Dan Powers
    www.danielpowers.info

    "It's easier to be a composer than it is to compose."
    --Ray Luke (1928-2010)

  6. #6

    Re: Cannot finish a song

    Thanks for the replies guys. I do find that when I'm stuck I do listen to a lot of soundtracks and orchestral music to kinda push me along. I'd also like to compose to video and see how I get on with that.

    I think a major drawback is that I don't read music, or really know anything else about it. I just play by ear.
    Iv'e heard that some people recreate their favorite orchestral songs using thier GPO or other sample libraries. I think this would be a good way of figuring out chord progressions and key changes and see what works and what doesn't in a song. Has anyone tried this??

    Quote Originally Posted by Leaf
    Welcome to the forum, Nick!

    Are you related to Darrel Pancake. I was in elementary school with him. If so I should apologize for all the wise cracks, we were stupid kids for making fun of people's names. Fortunately he was wise beyond his years and didn't really care, didn't ever let it get him down.

    David
    And Leaf, hehe. . Nope, my last name is not even pancake. It's Pankau but a lot of people couldn't pronounce it so they just called me pancake! Kind of a nick name now.

  7. #7

    Re: Cannot finish a song

    Thanks Dan. Im gonna open up my projects and play around with some of the chord progressions and just kinda play with it. I do kinda just set things in stone once Im sorta happy with something. Hopefully some new rhythm or chord change will make it take off.

    Thanks again everyone.

  8. #8

    Re: Cannot finish a song

    Hi Nick,

    One more suggestion you might try to get finishes:
    Get a piece of printer paper.
    Draw a continuous line across the long side, not straight, but with waves and dips.
    Now get a ruler and mark vertical slashes through it every inch.
    Pick a number: 2, 3, or 4. Raise 2 to this power.

    You now have a form, a general emotional direction, and an end. The 2^x is the number of bars between each slash. Tweak this form as needed, but it's always good to know where you'll end before you start. (Of course if you want to add more, just repeat the process!) Because you have a map, you can always note things to add on your map (flute run here, brass crescendo there) for which you've gotten your inspiration but aren't yet to in your writing.

    Reegs

  9. #9

    Re: Cannot finish a song

    Quote Originally Posted by nickpancake
    Hello, I was wondering how most of you go through the process of writing a song in GPO. Do you sit down at a piano or midi keyboard and figure out chords you like and then go from there? And if so, once you have those chords, how do you progress further?

    I know this seems like a rather broad topic, one with countless books on song writting, but I just would like to know how you guys go about it.

    I have big problems writing songs. I get to a certain point and I just can't go any further. I have listened to a lot of songs on the board and the songs are all wonderful. I'm rather hesitant to post anything I have done, since nothing is ever finished.

    So what do you guys think? You ever get stuck? Any tips?

    Thank you for any help you can give.

    Nick
    Hi Nick. Being "stuck" on a song is actually a good thing. It is what separates us from the machines.

    That said, there are methods and ways to get this done. Many people have many ways -I will share one of mine and you can take it or leave it! I don't wish to step on ANY toes (I do alot of that). First when you say "song," do you mean lyrics, melody or both? For the purpose of this communication I will guess that you mean a melody. We are at a disadvantage, a little, because of the level of your music education (this makes terminology and a "common language" difficult) but I bet we can get through it.

    One approach to melody is through poetry, or words in any form actually. Even if the piece will have no words, writing a short poem or phrase or paragraph about the subject gives one an excellent starting point.

    The elements of music (in order) are: rhythm, melody (basic sonic idea), countermelody, harmony. Writing a short poem gives you rhythm almost immediately. You can feel the pulse and accents in the words and can build serviceable rhythms from that. If the paragraph or poem is a complete idea then you should be able to finish a basic rhythm plot fairly soon. You now have the macro-rhythm (the piece as a whole) and little pieces of rhythms (micro-rhythms or motives) within the piece.

    Humming or playing these rhythms will help guide you into assigning pitches for a melody. Don't feel like you have to be a slave to the rhythm of the words, but use them as guides to get you thru to the end. Once you've worked through the entire phrase (paragraph, poem) you should have a pretty good idea where it's going, how it rises and falls, etc.

    Now you have rhythm and melody in place. Countermelody can be a bit technical, but it's a secondary melody that plays well against the primary melody. Some training might be a good idea here. Although I was classically trained, I have found "Jazz Harmony" to be an efficient tool for realizing musical ideas and it seems more accessible to me. There are tons of books and teachers out there. Go get them.

    As far as harmony goes - many people confuse music with harmony. Harmony is the vertical expression (how the chords stack) of the linearity of the melody (or basic sonic idea). If one listens to Holst you may hear simple harmonies but his lines are amazing! Of course there are all the counterpoint masters of the Baroque (Bach has no equal IMHO). Don't worry too much about harmony - it will come. Serviceable (not very artistic but useable) harmony can be done by monkeys. (I hope I didn't step on any toes with my last assertion, but 4way close can be basically "plug and play" writing).

    I am writing all of this off the top of my head so I'm probably leaving things out. Oh yeah one more thing - no one needs to know what words you used to produce that melody. The words can be anything that are significant to you. Toss them when you're done.

    Hope I helped and didn't confuse you!

    Best of luck,
    Reber Clark
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  10. #10
    Senior Member Leaf's Avatar
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    Location
    Dallas, TX
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    Re: Cannot finish a song

    Quote Originally Posted by nickpancake
    Thanks for the replies guys. I do find that when I'm stuck I do listen to a lot of soundtracks and orchestral music to kinda push me along. I'd also like to compose to video and see how I get on with that.

    I think a major drawback is that I don't read music, or really know anything else about it. I just play by ear.
    Iv'e heard that some people recreate their favorite orchestral songs using thier GPO or other sample libraries. I think this would be a good way of figuring out chord progressions and key changes and see what works and what doesn't in a song. Has anyone tried this??



    And Leaf, hehe. . Nope, my last name is not even pancake. It's Pankau but a lot of people couldn't pronounce it so they just called me pancake! Kind of a nick name now.
    Pankau, very cool name!

    Almost as cool as Pancake.

    Didn't realize it back then, but Darrel was teaching us jerks something about dignity and respect. He had class and so he ignored us.

    I didn't have any advice for you, because i was stuck too, but great thread, some good ideas and points.

    I took the course here, Rimsky-Korsakov Principles of Orchestration, which is really for people who can read music, and when i started knew very little about reaqding music. Now i still have much to learn, but have learned very much. Have gone through the course more than once, gaining more each time. I recomend it, and you can learn to read music along the way.

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