As of Thursday, I have made it into the seventh week of my music project. I was quick to make a start on Song 4, since my attempts at Songs 2 and 3 in weeks 3-6 were rushed and awkward. I have only myself to blame. My laziness constantly amazes me!
I often find myself dreaming of having a wee studio to make music in. Somewhere with sound insulation, so the buses driving past my street don’t get into my recordings. Somewhere with a nice big desk and lots of light. Somewhere where I don’t need to pack up and unpack my music equipment every time I use it.
Yes, that’s an upside-down Minecraft Creeper head holding my stuff.
So. Song 4. I tend to feel like I need to create something artsy-pretentious, but I inevitably end up demoralised and lost. To steer clear of the panic and frustration of my previous song attempts, I chose to write Song 4 starting with a template often followed by contemporary music. I chose to think inside the box.
Have you ever heard the 4 Chord Song? It is a mash up of a bunch of songs that all follow the same chord progression: I-V-vi-IV. Chord progressions are traditionally denoted by Roman numerals, with uppercase and lowercase representing major and minor chords respectively. On a whim I chose to write in the key of F, so, inspired by that famous chord progression, I picked the chords F-C-Dm-Bb for my song’s chorus. I switched it up oh-so-slightly for the verse: Dm-Bb-F-C.
Next I thought about song structure. The three main sections in a pop song are the verse, chorus and “middle 8” (or bridge or solo or whatevs). There can also be things like an intro, an outro, and wee connecting pieces (for example a pre-chorus) to help one section move into another. Neglecting the extra bits at first, I settled on the following structure:
While it’s more common for a song to begin with a verse, the other three songs I’ve written for this project (in particular the 2nd and 3rd) have started pretty modestly and I wanted to jump straight into something big and catchy for this song.
Next I decided on the lengths of each subsection. I simply chose 16 bars each for the verses and choruses, and 8 for the middle 8 – since “middle 8” generally refers to 8 bars in the middle(ish) of the song. I haven’t decided on chords for the middle 8 yet. I’m going to wait and see how the other main parts sound before I write something that contrasts with it.
So at this stage my song was a series of empty boxes with a specific size and a very basic underlying chordal pattern. This is a very different approach to my previous songs where I had sloppily squished bits and pieces together, with very little sense of purpose, direction, dynamics or completeness. I should note that in Song 2 I originally intended to plan things in this way, but, y’know, it just never happened.
I’m beginning the actual songwriting process using my music software on the computer, instead of playing about with my guitar. That’s because I’m focusing on the main melodic lines at first: in a pop song the vocals are the main focal point, so I want to make sure to write a good, central, sing-a-long-able part. This will be either sung or played on some instrument. To be honest though, it probably won’t be sung.
I’m in an endless battle with myself over whether or not to write instrumental music. I like the idea of there being vocals in my songs, but I oscillate rapidly between thinking my lyrics are worthwhile and thinking they are dire. Also I think I’m pretty terrible at singing, and have a fear of anyone – for example people in the flats around mine – hearing me, ha! I’ve been on a bit of a negativity rampage these last few days (or forever). My boyfriend says I’m unreasonably harsh on myself but I always manage to find ways to refute that!