writing songs (no, not drum parts)

dxdrummer

Member
Hey guys

The drumset is the only instrument I play (and the only one I've ever played seriously), and I've gotten interest in actually writing my own material. The issue is, I basically have no idea what I'm doing (I can write background and rhythm section parts, minus the piano, but I have a LOT of trouble with melodies and accompanying parts).
Also, I don't really have any time to learn a second instrument (besides, who would want to play a less awesome instrument? *fist pound*)

Anyway, my question is, are there any drummers out there who write their own music, and how did you start to gain the ability to write songs? Do you have any tips on how to develop this ability?
 

jonescrusher

Pioneer Member
You'll need to take up a conventional melodic instrument like piano or guitar to be able to write songs by yourself, otherwise it would be a case of describing whats in your head to a co-writer or band-mate - whistle the melodies, use words to describe harmonic colours. I'd recommend getting a keyboard or guitar and just start by fiddling around and searching the internet.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
You'll need to take up a conventional melodic instrument like piano or guitar to be able to write songs by yourself, otherwise it would be a case of describing whats in your head to a co-writer or band-mate - whistle the melodies, use words to describe harmonic colours. I'd recommend getting a keyboard or guitar and just start by fiddling around and searching the internet.
+1

Once you work out the chords, lyrics and melody you can take a skeletal version to the band. If they like it they will make it sound 10 times better than you could imagine.

Also, when you record jams you may find just one bar of music - or more - that can form the basis of a new song.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
You'll need to take up a conventional melodic instrument like piano or guitar to be able to write songs by yourself, otherwise it would be a case of describing whats in your head to a co-writer or band-mate - whistle the melodies, use words to describe harmonic colours. I'd recommend getting a keyboard or guitar and just start by fiddling around and searching the internet.
This brings back some memories. Sometimes it worked, other times it was disastrous. A melodic instrument really would have been easier to express ideas. It's by far the best option and one I wish I had have pursued at the time.


Also, when you record jams you may find just one bar of music - or more - that can form the basis of a new song.
It's an excellent idea and one that gave birth to quite a few songs in my experience. Many new tunes morphed out of an impromptu jam that was forgotten at the time but reworked into something useable after hearing the rehearsal tapes.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Yes, I'm working on this.

In college I had taken some theory classes, but I didn't own any melodic instruments to apply them to, and then I got so busy playing drums in bands, it all went out the window.

Then a few years ago, I had formed a new band, and we were working on an album, but we couldn't find a guitar player that gelled with what we were doing. I had a guitar that I had picked up cheap along the way, so I figured out just enough to record some songs. And then started on keyboard parts. I ended up writing a song for the band all on my own, and my band was impressed enough to actually record it.

Go to http://www.myspace.com/drumeatdrummusic, the 3rd song down "Ashes to Earth" I programmed all the keyboards, I played all the electric guitar parts (not the acoustic), and wrote the lyrics, and base line (which my bass played then expanded on).

My problem is I'm not exactly sure how I came up with all the parts. It started a 4 bar loop, and sat around forever. Then suddenly, one day I sat down and the whole song just poured out of me.

With keyboards, you really don't have to learn how to play, because you can use midi to program anything, which is what I do. So it's a long process, because I literally program all my keyboard parts one note at a time.

The 1st two songs on my myspace page I also wrote all myself. They're very prog.

"Searching" needs to be re-mixed to sound better, and I need to smoother out some transitions, but I'm on everything. A buddy helped me figure out some of the bass lines in the 1st two sections, but I programed or played everything else. It took me days to program out the piano solo at the end, because I did it one note at a time.
It started with the weird syncopated drum part over a piano part in my head, and somehow expanded from there.

The first song "Into the Mist" is also completely written by me. I played everything, but then a kid I know who's a wonderful guitar player re-recorded my guitar parts so they sounded more "guitar like" (and he came up with the actual solo) and another friend re-recorded the bass line so it sounded less stiff. This song took about a year from when I laid down the 1st note until I was done.

Hopefully, one day I can have someone add vocals to both songs.

It's long frustrating process, because I am a drummer 1st, and other instruments are near foreign languages to me. I'm doing it all based on some theory class I took over ten years ago that I can barely remember being in.

On the positive side, technology helps so much. Using midi makes so much of it easier. I can download midi versions of various songs and see how they formed the chords, and the relationship between chords they used to make a progression. And then using midi, I can program my own chords and changes one note at a time without having to play them on a proper keyboard. For guitar, there are 101 websites out there that will show you the fingering for common chords and various songs.

Youtube is full of basic lessons for different instruments and different styles.

And like any musician, I take songs I'm really into and break them down for inspiration.
FOr example, once the 1st riff is played, does he go up or down in pitch for the next part? Is it a big change or a subtle change? Are the other instruments playing the same part, or are they playing something differently that works with the 1st part?

And from there, it's a lot of trial and error until something works.

I wish I could go back and re-take a harmony and theory class, and maybe some day I will. But with two small kids at home, I don't really have the time right now.
 

dxdrummer

Member
I think that my biggest problem right now is that I'm essentially viewing each individual note as a different drum (i.e. terry bozzio) instead of a melodic instrument, which makes creating melodies difficult :-\
 

nicotine25

Senior Member
The example I can give is to write the lyrics and the chords. Then the band as a whole and its individual parts can come up with what they think fits best as melodies and riffs. You wouldn't want the guitar player or singer in your band writing out a song with all parts designated including dictating your drum part....they usually trust you...the drummer, to come up with the part you think fits best. So jot down the lyrics and chords if you can figure them out and present that to the band. They then can come up with the individual parts that fit your song.
 

jonescrusher

Pioneer Member
I think that my biggest problem right now is that I'm essentially viewing each individual note as a different drum (i.e. terry bozzio) instead of a melodic instrument, which makes creating melodies difficult :-\
You'll probably have a hard time literally trying to compose melodies on a drum kit, even if you had a set up like Bozzio's. Ultimately you're going to have to get your hands on a tuned instrument, A cheap acoustic guitar or usb keyboard will do to start.
 

DrewSchultz88

Junior Member
I think a USB keyboard is the way to go, especially if you have access to easy programs like garage band where you can sequence and program loops to for simple solutions to song forms. Midi may sound cheesy, but it's a great tool for composing without a band to test songs out with.
 

Drifter in the Dark

Silver Member
I think a USB keyboard is the way to go, especially if you have access to easy programs like garage band where you can sequence and program loops to for simple solutions to song forms. Midi may sound cheesy, but it's a great tool for composing without a band to test songs out with.
I think that a keyboard can be a better writing tool than a guitar for some people (including me) for various reasons: You don't have to worry about not being able to voice a chord properly because your left hand can't contort itself into the right position, and you don't have to worry about building up callouses on your fretting hand either. With the keyboard, all the notes are right there in front of you, and it's easier to play certain "jazzy" chords with extra partials (like G minor 7 flat 5 or C11). Best of luck, and remember: simplicity goes a long way. Some of the best songs use only a few chords.
 
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