Songwriting techniques

I was talking to my friend Josh today about songwriting. He played me a demo he’d done in GarageBand which sounded almost like a final production. He was telling me that he’d just learned about a looping feature in GarageBand and it was a cool technique for him songwriting-wise. He could record the guitar part for a verse and loop it while he sang different words over top and GB recorded them all as different takes. It helped him hone in on the lyrics he wanted.

I’m always interested in how other people write but then I have a hard time imagining doing it any other way than my own.

I don’t ever want to put the guitar down while I’m writing.  That’s because I work out chords, lyrics, melody and rhythm all together.  If one of those things isn’t working, I’ll change it on the fly. Sure, sometimes I know what I want to sing about and I get the music together first and then work on the lyrics. But usually it all comes together.

Tonight I worked on two songs. Though one of them I’d had arranged already, on both I changed chords and melodies as I worked. And then tried out different rhythms and ended up transposing one into another key.

So the loop method wouldn’t work for me. And it involves too much technology.

You can see the old school methods I have for making notes. The pen and paper is actually optional. I bring them out when I have the music done and have to finish the words. I should probably always use them but usually I write on my feet while pacing around and I don’t want to stop to write things down. I just punch record on the tape and record snippets. I’ve gotten pretty good about not being precious with the recording. It’s literally an audio notepad on which I’ll scribble ideas, cross them out, and rework them. So yes, I have tons of tape of me just humming notes trying to find the right one or saying “I don’t like these chords” into the tape recorder right after I play them.


That’s just what works for me right now. Though I’ve always used a tape recorder, I didn’t always work on songs wholly like that. Plenty of times I came up with riffs and chords and later set words to them. And too many times, I came up with the “singing” and lyrics and just bolted them onto chords or riffs that didn’t suit them. I didn’t really learn how to sing with my voice until I started paying attention to the notes in the chords and shaping melodies with everything else. So it’s definitely been an evolution. And I wonder how other people do it.