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Song Writing with Axe-Fx

Decimator

Regular
Hi all,

I've been more inspired to write since we got the Ares update for the axe fx 2. I am wondering if any of you have any tips or things you fall back on when you write music.

I have found I often come up with a riff that sounds great but later on notice or have some one point out to me that it sounds like some one else's song.

I deffinately have some big influences in my style and taste but sometimes it is too apparent. Sometimes I want to sound like another artist.

What I have been trying not to listen to any other music for a few weeks now and while I do miss it I think it is helping me to come up with more origonal ideas. Anyone have similar experience with this?

Paul


Mods please move if I put this in the wrong subforum.
 

unix-guy

Legend!
Probably makes more sense in The Lounge. I'm sure a mod will move it...

I think you will always hear your influences in what you write. The trick is to some like influence and not copy ;)

Try writing in different keys.

Try transposing what you already wrote into different keys.

Trying using different chord voicings/inversions or "extending" the chords (for example, play a min7 instead of a minor, etc).

If you're more of a "riffer" try playing root+third instead of root+fifth.

Try rhythmic displacement.

Try writing a bass part or drum part first and then add guitars.
 

plyall

Forum Addict
My approach is somewhat similar to what Unix-Guy offered: I'll usually start with a riff or chord progression that I like, then try to drag in some drums that sound decent (or write the part from scratch using Logic's MIDI editor). I may need to tweak the drums for emphasis, etc. Then I'll lay down a primitive bass line. Then I sit back and listen to it to see if it has any 'legs'. If so, I'll likely proceed with the tune. Sometimes, I only get this far (I have a lot of unfinished works).
 

HarrySound

Veteran
Something clicked recently with song writing.
I’ll piss around with chords and licks without anything plugged in and let my mind make up what I can’t hear. I’ll record it on my iPhone and maybe hum a melody line then i’ll Decide what plays that melody line.
For example I could use a Guzheng instrument on my Mac and turn it into some kinda Japanese sounding thing then just go wild with it adding in syths and bass and drums. Sometimes something clicks into place when I add the drums and it gives it a different feel sending it into a different direction, almost every layer can do that.
Pay no attention if your song sounds like something eles. There’s millions of tunes out there, someone will Sue you one day i’m Sure. Just keep going with it, it’s all good practice and sometimes you’ll come up with something like a strong melody and just a change of chord structure can turn it into your own thing.
 

don_joe

Veteran
There's nothing wrong with listening to some music and being inspired by it. It's very hard to come up with a completely new and original riff. The point is to be creative in the variation that will sound unique. Think of a hook that will make the riff different and interesting. This might be something rhytmical or a ghost tone or a slide in one place that will enrich it both melodically and rhytmically or a few hammer ons or replacing a part of the sequence with an octave tone or support it with a third. Such a nuance on the right place makes the whole difference from plane, generic and boring to actually catchy.

Another thing is to think about the arrangement and to play something else on the second guitar. Again, rhytmically and melodically slightly different. Those two combined - a totally new thing. The chances that you copy both guitars are rather small. Another tipp here: record yourself, sometimes you'll hear something you didn't record but you'll hear it in your head while listening. :) This happens to me all the time.

Take every riff you make and if you yourself don't find it catchy, work it over. When you play your own riff with joy and you don't have bad concious about it for maybe stealing just a bit from someone, that's it. :)
 

Toowoombaus

Regular
Write lyrics to the cadence of a song you like, while it's playing.

Learn two or three of your favorite songs from a decent chart online and play it over and over. Then start improvising chord changes from a few of the songs you've learned and mix it up.
Record it, set it aside for 3 weeks. It helps me to use drum tracks while recording, even a loop. I find it n more inspiring.
Come back and record yourself singing some melodies over those chords.
Then re-write over and over until it stands on its own.

I could never write the melody first and add everything later it just seemed too abstract. This works for me. "Study the greats then emulate"

I've done alright using this approach I've had quite a few songs recorded and released commercially by other people.
The thing is it never ends up sounding like the songs I used for inspiration by the time it's finished.

Since I got the Axe Fx when I come back and listen to what I recorded I'm blown away at how good the guitars sound!:)

Good luck!
 

Muad'zin

Forum Addict
With songwriting the progression is usually:
This sounds great!
A little later, this sounds good.
A little later, this sounds okay.
A little later, this sounds meh.
A little later, this sounds terrible.
A little later, I'm a terrible writer.
A little later, throws away guitar in disgust.

All too often you are your own worst critic. As for thinking it sounds like what others have done, yeah, well, you probably heard a gazillion different songs in your life by now. Chances are some of them have entered your subconsciousness and re-emerged during your creative process. It happens. It's probably totally normal. You can either throw the riff/song away, or change it until it sounds different, or pull a Quentin Tarantino and say its an hommage, or pull a Greta van Fleet and blatantly copy. It worked for the latter two, and there are a lot of successful bands who I find terribly unoriginal sounding. I can only assume people like something that sounds familiar.

There are very few true 100% originals in songwriter country. Every artist has their influences, sometimes blindingly obvious in their playing, even the greats. Personally I think the final part of the songwriting progression is acceptance that you have influences in your music but also faith in your own songwriting that you can take those influences and melt them into something that is uniquely yours. Because I went through all those stages too. Mine is heavy Sabbathy/RATM riffs with Edge style delay driven cleans, Ritchie Blackmore early Rainbow era middle eastern scales and Pink Floyd/RATM/Radioheadesque noises. With as much avoidance of anything blues related as possible. That seems to be my style. I didn't strive to have that style, I just one day realized I had it. Sometimes I wish I could shred like Yngwie, or play the blues, but that doesn't seems to be my style. I've come to accept that and I now find it quite easy to write music.
 

Black Bitch

Fractal Fanatic
Yes certainly important to listen a lot to other music as it is part of learning. All the big stars listened to someone and "stole" something ou of it. That's normal I think. just try not to copy someone one to one. Play it your own way and give it something which is you. It might be your finger tremelo, bending, attack and so on. Then you will be more original and one can hear and recognize your playing, your lines and so on.

Don't worry about it - just do it from the soul and not from the head. ;)
 

2112

Fractal Fanatic
Try turning every riff idea you have into a full arrangement and recording it, even if it sounds generic. Thinking of the big picture rather than the minutae of individual parts is a great way to improve your songcraft.
 

Geezerjohn

Fractal Fanatic
I never write using an instrument. I hear a melody in my head. Once I have a good grip on the melody, then I teach myself how to play it. Sometimes I use a guitar, sometimes I use a keyboard. It really depends on how I hear the melody. Usually when the melody is forming in my mind, I’ll hear bits of lyrics as well.

I suppose my method is a bit unusual but it has been my approach for decades.
 

Muad'zin

Forum Addict
I never write using an instrument. I hear a melody in my head. Once I have a good grip on the melody, then I teach myself how to play it. Sometimes I use a guitar, sometimes I use a keyboard. It really depends on how I hear the melody. Usually when the melody is forming in my mind, I’ll hear bits of lyrics as well.

I suppose my method is a bit unusual but it has been my approach for decades.
I could never do that. If I have an idea I have to pick up a guitar and play it while recording it. Otherwise it will be lost to the ether. I think I only ever managed to remember one riff from idea to working it out later in my entire life. But then again with me ideas come when I have the instrument in my hands. Just noodling away absentmindedly, or watching a TV show. I once wrote two of my best songs watching the news. Like in 20 minutes I went from idea to working them out. The news reader, Dionne Stax, she's my muse or something. Whenever she's on and if I have a guitar at hand music happens.
 

Decimator

Regular
Wow guys thanks! So much great advice here. The only one that I have trouble with is the rhythmic displacement lol it drives my OCD wild.

I use superior drummer and jam along and come up with some good riffs that way but some of the best I discover either cones from my head at random times when I'm away from my guitar or when playing guitar on its own. I like changing key and tempo even for metalish stuff. I used to record everything and sift through it later but I end up with too many unfinished projects that way. It would help if I could sing. I always have an idea of how I want the voice to sound and it ends up not my voice lol. I'm working on my vocals a bit.

It was Devin Townsend who said you only need to be as good as you need to be to facilitate your own ideas. In other words learn you limits and work within them but strive to improve apon them.

We are our own worse critics for sure I have a lot more confidence than I did 5 years ago so maybe it ain't too late. At the end of the day if I'm happy with it then I got what I want out of it.

Thanks again I will probably read these over a few times and try them all out.

Paul
 
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