Playing for 12+ years with no structure, How do I get started writing songs?
Hey everyone, didn't even think to look for a sub like this and I've gotta say this place is awesome.
I've gotta dump this story out in detail because honestly, I've bottled it up forever out of embarrassment and I'm so frustrated. I'll give an abridged version and the full-details beneath it Before I start, I know this is going to sound like some snowflake stuff, I promise you I don't think I'm unique--that's just how it is with a learning disability given the circumstances.
I've been playing guitar for 12 years, and music in some form my entire life. I'd say "mentally" I think of music from a guitar based standpoint, but I play or can dabble with a whole bunch of other instruments as well. I have dyscalculia, which, for me musically, makes reading the musical staff and maps wave around like I'm on acid; and in general makes abstract math or numeral concepts (even music theory wise) very difficult to understand. Despite some extensive tutoring for piano, violin, and guitar as a kid, I read music at like 15 bpm (it's bad enough that I was asked to quit my high school when they figured out I couldn't sight read). My parents eventually got me an electric guitar, which was promptly set up as a jank baritone after a miscommunication with a guitar tech at which I didn't have a clue about for a decade (I think I tried a baritone at the store without knowing and said "I want it set up like this" so I just thought it was a cool mod until I got in to modding and building guitars).
All of my friends were jock-type dudes growing up and in college I tried to go to a few 'guitar jam club' meetings where I was a nightmare to play with (couldn't play in same tuning, sold my acoustic, any basic theory I'd known was long gone). I really had never played with anyone and instead just fooled around recording improv. stuff with different instruments. A few months ago I moved into a house with two musicians by coincidence, and had my first real experiences playing and writing with someone. We built a scuffed home studio
with all of our combined gear (I've had normal set-up instruments for ~2 years now since I've graduated and have income). One of my roommates ended up asking me to help him record, flesh-out and play on some songs, and I gave it a go, but the process of watching him play, then trying to play it, then trying to learn it and play together at tempo, then switching instruments and repeating the process, wore him out. We stopped after he told me that the ideas I'd play on the fly for unwritten parts were great, but the process of me learning the songs and learning to play with him was exhausting.
I learned a lot from that experience and I'm very motivated to properly learn song structure and the songwriting process now so that I can stop *just* making nice melody ideas that either barely go anywhere or don't turn in to anything. Where I'm at:
I have a vague idea what the concept of a key is. I can tell the difference between majors and minors. I honestly don't know the names of most chords besides the fundamental ones everyone learns on piano and guitar, but I can typically figure out a general idea by ear (e.g. "oh it sounds like some sort of D minomajor chord"). I know the basic structure of a song (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc) but if there are any rules about how to do it, i'm totally ignorant. I used to understand the concept of modes and the circle of fifths, but that stuff is long gone mentally. To give you a general idea (I do not think this is special): I think of music in visual patterns on whatever instrument I'm playing relative to each note I play as a reference for all the possibilities for where I can go next that will sound nice.
Where do I start? Does anyone have any resources they'd recommend (especially video since that works best for my brain)? Any advice or experience to share? Thank you for whatever amount you read, this is pretty damn embarrassing for me to make and I've had this stuff bottled up for a long time. Long boi edition: >!I've been playing guitar for 12 years, and music in some form my entire life. I'd say "mentally" I think of music from a guitar based standpoint, but I also play piano, bass, clarinet, and some drums, banjo and cello. I have dyscalculia, which, for me musically, makes reading the musical staff and maps wave around like I'm on acid; and in general makes abstract mathematical concepts (even music theory wise) very difficult to understand. Despite some extensive tutoring for piano, violin, and guitar as a kid, I read music at like 15 bpm. Believe me, it's bad enough that 3 years in to picking up guitar, three guitar teachers for our high school guitar ensemble had a sit down with me and told me they needed me to quit after they figured out I couldn't sight read and hadn't been doing it. This pissed me off enough that I started practicing 3 hours a day on my own, and within a year my parents decided to buy me an electric guitar and have it set up at guitar center. I didn't know jack about guitars mechanically and I miscommunicated with the tech and he set up my guitar with baritone strings as a jank baritone without any mention of it. (All he told me was "if you try to tune to E-standard you'll snap the neck".) All of my friends were jock-type dudes, so I never played with anyone. Instead I just fooled around recording improv. stuff with an Audiobox 2 and Guitar Rig 5, plus some VST plugins & a crappy mic for the other instruments. I tried teaching myself theory and eventually in college tried to play with people, a few times at our guitar jam club, but obviously I was in completely different tuning's and it was obvious I was a nightmare to play with, so I got demoralized and kept doing my own thing. I eventually stuck with a few ideas long enough to record a few VERY vaguely structured songs (acoustic instrumentals and ambient post-rock crap + some trip hop stuff) but I never had the chance to play anything other than guitar with anyone outside of a one-off spur of the moment fill in show where I just ad-libbed at a party because the bass player passed out drunk). This July when I moved to a new city in a house where my two roommates happen to play as well, and I started to have some optimism and excitement about playing with people again. We built a scuffed little home studio in our basement, I got into guitar mods and luthier work about two years ago and now have electric guitars that can play in standard, and as a result things just started coming together. My roommate who's bass playesinger asked me if I wanted to play with him because and has a bunch of songs and I can play all the backing instruments and some leads he can't play. We started playing together and I picked up a lot of his stuff, but I could tell the process of me learning his songs was slowly killing it for him despite how patient and awesome about it he was. The whole thing consisted of watching him play it, then trying to play it, then trying to learn it and play together at tempo, then switching instruments and repeating the process. Plus, I'm still at the shit, "can't hold a beat steady for 3 whole minutes" stage with drums, and our other roommate (piano and drums) is so jaded about the drums from his last band that he wouldn't even touch them with a nine foot pole. We've slowly stopped playing much together, because the process was exhausting. About a week ago he gently told me that he thought I was really talented and that he thought I was amazing at making melodies and improvising, but couldn't handle it anymore. It's both the biggest compliment and one of the hardest rejections I've ever had--it's put me somewhere between more motivated and fucked up emotionally. It especially sucks because for the parts he hadn't written completely or at all, we meshed so well together and we were making some pretty neat stuff to the point that he asked if he could keep the parts I had written. (Not particularly relevant, but I let him because you could tell the whole thing upset him. and he truly wanted it to work.) Despite all of that, I learned a ton from the experience and it's helped me get a better grasp on structure and collaborating. I want to stop personifying the meme of having a hundred saved projects of just some vague melody ideas, and I'm in a place where it's become important enough to me to learn songwriting. I feel an addictive craving for it despite being a complete mess at it. Where I'm at: I have a vague idea what the concept of a key is. I can tell the difference between majors and minors. I honestly don't know the names of most chords besides the fundamental ones everyone learns on piano and guitar, but I can typically figure out a general idea by ear (e.g. "oh it sounds like some sort of D minomajor chord"). I know the basic structure of a song (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc) but if there are any rules about how to do it, i'm totally ignorant. I used to understand the concept of modes and the circle of fifths, but that stuff is long gone mentally. To give you a general idea (I do not think this is special): I think of music in visual patterns on whatever instrument I'm playing relative to each note I play as a reference for all the possibilities for where I can go next that will sound nice. Where do I start? Does anyone have any resources they'd recommend (especially video since that works best for my brain)? Any advice? Thank you for whatever amount you read, this is pretty damn embarrassing for me to make and I've had this stuff bottled up for a long time.
submitted by DIYThings
EDMSamplePackContest results for October, 2020 are in! Congrats to amaranth_todd on the well-deserved win!
--- W I N N I N G S O N G ---
amaranth_todd - Squabble Flex
Great job, amaranth_todd! Your song will be featured on the sidebar until the next contest conclusion. If you have anything else you'd like to share, your music page, anything, we'll feature it as well! Just PM it to a mod and we'll include it in the sidebar. Make sure you submit your sample pack to a mod by the last day of the month so we can upload it for the next contest.
For everyone else, we look forward to featuring your winning entries in the contests to come! --- C O N T E S T S C O R E S ---
--- C O N T E S T F E E D B A C K ---
- amaranth_todd | Squabble Flex | Production score: 22 | Mix score: 22 | Total score: 44
- Placebo_Jackson | Alchematria | Production score: 20 | Mix score: 20 | Total score: 40
- thexylophone | Therapeutic Index | Production score: 20 | Mix score: 19 | Total score: 39
- xastsax | October | Production score: 19 | Mix score: 18 | Total score: 37
- Fauxnite | Daggers | Production score: 17 | Mix score: 18 | Total score: 35
- kohTheRobot | Flesh Eating Autonomous Robot | Production score: 16 | Mix score: 15 | Total score: 31
Feedback for amaranth_todd: * thexylophone: "Great sound design here, looking forward to see where you're gonna take it." * Fauxnite: "Felt like something an AI would produce. In its dreams, as the human element - the special touch to the track that only you could give to it - is irreplicable. In other words - you have your own style of conjuring up glitchy songs. The outro sounded like an intro to a wholly new song - I see potential for a longer track there (a two track EP maybe?)" * amaranth_todd: "Next time don't unnecessarily cut so much high frequency content." * xastsax: "Super aggressive right from the start, felt similiar to xylophone's entry, but this hits harder, love the start-and-stop rhythm, short and sweet!"
Feedback for Placebo_Jackson: * thexylophone: "Wow, love this. Very dark and heavy. I kinda wanted the drop to smack me in the face a bit more but that was very enjoyable." * Fauxnite: "Mayhaps a tad too long - people do have short attention spans y'know" * amaranth_todd: "Really really great atmosphere! If anything, my ears kinda want the squelchiness to be more pronounced." * xastsax: "Nice spacey intro, interesting buildup, I love the low-key glitch with that stretched out growl, nice pickup sounds like a movie soundtrack, gets a bit cluttered before the final drop, the last drop is great, very tastefully done overall!"
Feedback for thexylophone: * Fauxnite: "Can't fault this - it's a sick glitchy piece - on point mixdown/mastering. The track doesn't seen to have a whole lot of things going on at any one time, yet it feels very rich and textured still. Well crafted sir." * amaranth_todd: "Yassss finally get to hear the finished version of this :D I reckon the melody at the end could have been hinted at earlier in the track, then lasted a fair bit longer at the end. Imo there is enough content in this track that it could easily go for longer and evolve further." * xastsax: "nice use of the foley stuff for all the glitch, drags on a bit in the middle, I love how there's no steady beat till it comes on in the end, great stuff as usual!"
Feedback for xastsax: * thexylophone: "This is pretty sick, definitely not a shitty entry. Sound design is really nice, so is the bleak atmosphere. I really like that bass/vocal sample popping in. You've built this really incredible mood." * Fauxnite: "Dark. This song could perfectly soundtrack a scene in a Halloween horror movie. Excellent production, filled with many a sick one-shot - especially enjoyed the 2:02-2:04 part where the sample that played in the background basically, was brought forth into the focus just for a few seconds before disappearing again. Bonus points for the description as well - very witty." * amaranth_todd: "Lots of creative sound design, and great atmosphere. For some reason I thought the mix sounded a bit weird, like the sides were louder than the middle?"
Feedback for Fauxnite: * thexylophone: "I love the dark vibe, great use of the sample pack. Good fluctuation of the energy in the track too. Might be personal preference but I would like to see things change up a little more often. Overall really nice!" * Fauxnite: "Imposing - like a boss. A street sort of flavour to the track. Favourite part of the track would be the drop at the 0:55+- mark. Not much else to say except that I would mind seeing where the track went next, as you mentioned that you felt that it perfectly with another project of yours?" * amaranth_todd: "Nice little techno track that progresses well. Drums could have a bit more weight to them, sometimes they feel like they're being drowned out with each additional synth layer." * xastsax: "Ooh some techno for a change, all the rest of us here do glitchy shit it gets boring, already loving the mix, the kick hits nice, nice dark bass from 1:00 with the lead, could have used some more random percussion hits in the back, build up with the cello thing feels a bit empty/repetitive, that boxy snare's not really my thing, great track overall!"
Feedback for kohTheRobot: * thexylophone: "Dig the bass work/sound design in this. Two minor thoughts on this one, one is that I think there could be some more contrast between the drops and the non-drops (it goes hard almost the whole way through which I actually kinda like but maybe slightly changing the texture or filtering some parts could make the drop more memorable, just an idea). The other thought I had was that I wanted a little more sub in the drop part. Overall pretty killer though." * Fauxnite: "Turned down the volume by 33% (actual percentage lol) - this time I'm not expressing criticism about the volume of the track as it's dubstep - it's supposed to be loud and in your face, it's just that I'm trying not to lose any more hearing than I've already have. Creative production, funky and hard hitting - nice to see you being active with entries in this community too, keep 'em coming! ."
* amaranth_todd: "Creative bass work as usual, loving all the bitcrucher usage. Sub lacks presence and the kick/snare could afford to punch through more. The overall mix is pretty fatiguing, which could be a good thing depending on what you're aiming for." * xastsax: "Super intro, sounds very industrial, that vocal could be more upfront, then bam it goes right into the mayhem, the growls drown out the drums a bit, nice changeup in the second drop, pretty sweet overall!"
submitted by DoNotSexToThis