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You're ready to turn your lyrics or music into a song, congratulations! Now what? You may even have married lyrics and melody, but your song needs marriage counseling. Here you can learn how to craft a melody, by itself or to lyrics; tweak your lyrics to fit the music; write lyrics to an existing melody; how to add chords to your song. You can also find discussions and lessons on the finer points of music and lyrics that will help you develop your skills.
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What do musicians look for? Advice from possible collaborators

#51 User is offline   fabkebab Icon

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 07:08 AM

View PostDoctor Wu, on Dec 5 2008, 11:33 PM, said:

Most of the time (and I stress "most"), you've got amateur lyricists collaborating with amateur composers and what you get is an amateur result. Hopefully somebody learns from the experience which makes it worthwhile for all concerned. Every once in a while it works, but no one should ever look it at as anything more than a 'classroom' experience. Do it because it's fun and take what you can from it to improve your skills.


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#52 User is offline   jarrydee Icon

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 07:25 AM

All I need are good lyrics with some idea of a melody, I could go from there with the music!!

A good story lyric with emotion or a "HAy, That sounds like ME" lyric
Manic depression is touching my soul

#53 User is offline   ddreuter Icon

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 05:35 AM

Thatís a GREAT Question.

Iím a musician and I also write my own lyrics. When I look for Co-Writerís itís because I want to write something that I couldnít have written by myself.

So, I look for:

- Creativity
- Technique
- Craft
- Conversational Lyrics


Creativity Ö something Original, something said in a New way, something said in a way I havenít heard it, something said in a Fresh way, something said in a way that I wish I would have said it or something said in a way that I couldnít have said it.

Technique Ö Someone who fully understands the Contemporary Rhyme Schemes that are being used in Songwriting today.

Craft Ö Someone who has MEMORIZED a lot of Song Lyrics in the genera that Iím looking for a Lyricist in.

I start by asking for a list of 10 Ė 20 of their Favorite Songs in that genera. They BETTER be GREAT Songs and They Better be Current Songs and there Better be a few songs on that List that I donít already know.

Someone who can Write quickly and re-write quickly and re-write AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN Ö did I mention they need to know how to re-write


Conversational Lyrics Ö Artists donít SING Poems, they sing Conversational Lyrics. If you wanna write Poetry write Poetry if you wanna write Song Lyrics you better have a Clear Understanding of how to tell a story in a Concise Conversational Way.

The NUMBER 1 Thing that I look for is ALWAYS Conversational Lyrics.

Hope that helps someone,

DDR


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Posted 21 June 2009 - 03:55 PM

I think for me lyrics which talk to me. I read the lyric and I feel I could compose music to it because it's so interesting, sincere and inspiring.
Nadia

#55 User is offline   R-N-R Jim Icon

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Posted 28 February 2010 - 10:51 AM

Hi

ddreuter and Mark Kaufman made alot of excellent points. From what Ive seen here, I think alot of beginner lyric writers here have a problem with transitioining from poetry to lyric writing because they have eliminated music as part of the equasion for what their writing for. Because whether they know it or not, alot of what they've written is poetry. And poetry for the most part doesnt sing very well for obvious reasons. Many get too lost in the over use of metaphors and rhyme schemes that would make even Dr Seuss blush, thus making what they've written rather unsingable or sometimes not understandable.


Though they may be cousins, (poetry and lyric writing) songwriting for the most part is a totally different animal to work with in a literal sense as far as phonetics and phrasing. ddreuter made a great point of how lyric writing is more conversational in some respects than poetry. And "MUSIC" lends alot to making words come alive. It still comes down to what is being sung subject wise to enhance the music.

Mark's example of early Beatles songs is right on target. Alot of those lyrics were rather sparse in some respects, but easy to understand and told a story or projected an emotion. And yes, you have to have an artistic flare musically to make words come alive as well. And the Beatles are the perfect example of that. A song that kinda springs to mind is "ANY TIME AT ALL" by the Beatles. Talk about some plain Jane lyrics! But man, the music, chord progressions just painted the sentiment so dead on.

As ddreuter was saying, they said something that they probably heard in alot of the 40s-50s crooner songs of their day and now were saying it in a different way and in their case for the most part it was musically. Just the simple phrase,"I Love You" that has been used in a gazillion songs takes on a new meaning when surrounded by multiple plots and music genres.

I guess for me, what I look for in lyrics is whether their is something interesting about the plot or picture. Is their enough clever singable lines to write music around? Structure and rhyme scheme are secondary compared to subject matter. That stuff can be ironed out as the music progresses in the equasion. The subject matter has to be there first in order to spur any type of musical vibe. For me, lyrics that were written for "in the moment" about a feeling or a reaction to an action seem to format better storywise for the shortness of songs as a medium.

An example of this was a song I co-wrote with Missy (inactive muse member) that was based on her lyric "ALL THAT I DONT GOT". It was for me at least a very workable lyric as far as feel was concerned. There was a certain sentiment about it that made it easy to write music to. Her opening lines for the 1rst verse just drew you right in: (Hello there, its been a long time/Or has it been longer for me? )Great thought and classic conversational lines she had starting out the song.

I normally dont write country or country crossover, but for some reason that lyric had enough "it" to spark something inside of me to write music to the lyrics as well as finish writing lyrics for the third verse for the song. And that for me is rather a rare occasion because I for the most part write and record my own stuff starting off with the music first.

And as ddreuter said,"it has to feel fresh" or create a spark for someone to want become interested in the lyric or you as a lyric writer. That's what Missy's lyric did for me. The song can be heard at http://soundclick.com/jimcanrock for those curious of the song.

So...in closing, what I look for may be different than what other writers look for, but if their is a basic theme running here with the other writers is,"too make things singable and understandable and above all BE CREATIVE". Know the genre your writing for. I think also if your writing commercial songs, ask yourself if you think an artist would be caught dead in public singing these lyrics you wrote without feeling embarrassed? Again, listen to the songs you like and look at the lyrics real close. Theres your answer.

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#56 User is offline   Kiat Icon

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Posted 19 October 2010 - 05:54 AM

I feel that lyrics need not follow a certain structure or be over-the-top or whatever. For me, i prefer lyrics that come from the heart and tells me a story that i can relate to. I like lyrics that are simple but are able to evoke emotions in me.

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 05:44 PM

I hope this isn't a stupid question, but is there any facility on this website for someone who writes lyrics and melodies to collaborate with musicians/singers who could help to develop and perform their songs? I am using a demo recording company at the moment, but if there were ever an opportunity to team up with someone who could bring my songs to life (assuming they like them of course)it would be great. What do other non-performing songwriters do?

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 11:01 PM

Hi DeeDee

There are certainly collaborations that go on around here. There is even a collaborators' contest. I have collaborated with a few lyricists here in the past as well (although not for a while).

I think the important thing is to get to know others around here. Listen to their songs and get a feel for their styles. If you feel that you have a work in progress that might suit someone else's musical style, just send them a private message about it. They might say "no thanks" for whatever reason, but there is no harm in asking.

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 05:45 AM

I will do. Thank you.

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 01:51 AM

I want to say that I am more of a un-traditional, un-commerical songwriter. I basically have a bad habit of using the same format that I did when I was ten years old which is Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, the end...lol

So I have been experimenting with different formats. I also like unusual rhyme schemes. Anything that won't make me mainstream basically. I think if you are mainstream then you have less of a window for creativity. If you are outside the box then you have a window wide open. Otherwise it's just cracked.

Just my thoughts...


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Posted 11 June 2011 - 01:51 PM

I guess there are two basic things that I consider.
First and foremost is that i believe in the message of the song.
If you can't identify with the story, how can one possibly help to complete the marriage of
music and lyric?
Secondly, the words have to flow so that it's almost an effortless task to create a melody line.

Not to try to hijack this topic Alistair, but if I may,
the last lyricist that I had the good fortune to collaborate on this website with, was MysteryMike aka, Mike Taub.
Here is a link to that collaboration.

Trying To Make Sense Of It All

I find life to be so ironic at times.
There is also a link from there to a web-page where I ask that if you haven't already made a contribution,
would you please consider doing so?
Michael and his family could use your help.
Thank you very much.
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#62 User is offline   the songcabinet Icon

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 03:50 PM

This is a great topic, with lots of great posts. I can only add with my own preferences, but I have been and still are involved in collaborations, so here it is.

I write both lyrics, music as well as produce, so I'm a DIY guy. I think many are these days, as the music industry crisis soars.

What I look for is both similarity and difference. As a DIY musician, I have lots to do. Writing lyrics, music, recording, mixing, marketing. All takes up loads of time.

So, consequently I look for writers that share the same goals as I do, and who's versatile, in order to share the workload of all of the DIY stuff. I like to collaborate with writers who can do pretty much the same, but have main strengths diffeent from me.

I play mainly guitar, so I look for a keys player, or a drummer, who can also write and produce and share my goals of getting the music out on the markets.

A lyricist only can't really offer all of this, I understand, but remember the conveniance factor. Writing a contemporary sounding lyric/melody on top of a track is a great thing to be able to do, and I believe, is a core competence for a lyricist in todays environment.

To my knowledge, few lyricists are great at topline writing, though. And lyricists who's just starting out, and maybe coming from poetry, are not aware of how a lot of music is done today, where producers are writing up from grooves in the studio (because sounds and production is so important). I've collaborated with quite a few that said straight out, that they can't write to a track! So, if you want to increase your opps, I believe this is a good place to start, especially for hot ac/pop/rock/dance/r&b/urban stuff, which is what's mainly on the radio.

What makes a contemporary lyric/melody is an entirely different subject, but I think it is really neccesary for a lyricist to understand the business side of things. Must reads are books like Robin Frederick's "Shortcuts to songwriting for hit songs", Eric Beall's "The billboard guide to hit songs", Jay Frank's "Hitsong dna" (titles from memory, please excuse if the titles are not 100% correct, I'm sure of the author's, though).

I think Marc had a great point of minimalism. IMO lyricists only tend to saturate their lyrics with too much content, and forget rhythms and repetitions, which is a huge part of contemporary styles. This is part of the business know-how, I think.

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 06:46 AM

View Postklo, on 18 March 2011 - 01:51 AM, said:

I want to say that I am more of a un-traditional, un-commerical songwriter. I basically have a bad habit of using the same format that I did when I was ten years old which is Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, the end...lol

So I have been experimenting with different formats. I also like unusual rhyme schemes. Anything that won't make me mainstream basically. I think if you are mainstream then you have less of a window for creativity. If you are outside the box then you have a window wide open. Otherwise it's just cracked.

Just my thoughts...


I'm confused. What do you mean by 'mainstream?'
I believe that a good structure could be used in most any genre and any structure, no matter how creative, if over used becomes less effective. If every song we ever write was the same structure our listeners would quickly see the pattern. An obvious pattern tends to become boring at some point. Most music listeners are blissfully unaware of building blocks that make up the music they listen to.

If by mainstream, you mean boring, then I pretty much agree. But if by mainstream you mean something that a whole lot of people will like, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. IMO if the reason you write is to be mainstream you risk being a cliche or a copycat. You risk being unoriginal or stale because you are trying to copy what is already there. BUT, if you write something you believe is good and a whole lot of people like it, or it goes mainstream, is that a bad thing? And using popular or unique structures that has also been used in songs that are considered mainstream doesn't doom the song to be boring. In fact I would argue that some mainstream structures are innovative and most are good options.

All that being said, I agree with trying to be unique and I love that you are using interesting rhyme schemes. A new (to me) rhyme scheme to write to is a wonderful thing. And hearing a song that uses a unique structure or rhyme scheme is a wonderful experience, especially if I have to listen a few times before I catch it (ie, it works that well.)
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#64 User is offline   somefellow Icon

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 07:23 PM

This thread has been haunting me. I would like to comment but I don’t want to sound negative in anyway. As a musician I always feel bad that few lyrics get turned into songs. And I can imagine that lyricist may feel that composers are arrogant or unsympathetic (to use a kind word) for not collaborating more often.

There has been some excellent advice given on how to craft an attractive/usable lyric. But I wanted to just give my two cents on why I don’t collaborate with Lyricists more often.

The VAST majority of composers on this board take the challenge of creating a song very seriously. It’s like an “every waking minute” kind of commitment. Even when you are not with your instrument the puzzle of how to create a strong, unique melody and sound that will end up with “that magic” is always being constructed and deconstructed in your head. The bottom line is what may sound simple and obvious takes a long process to discover.

So the commitment by a composer to work together to create a song will usually involve at least a hundred hours to get to the point where a demo is created. I don’t think this is an overstatement (probably an understatement) for most of us. I am not trying to sound condescending or to in anyway marginalize the lyric writing aspect of the process. It is just a big and important commitment to take on a collaboration.

Tom

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 07:05 AM

You raise a valid issue, Tom.

I initially started this thread with the idea that it could be a useful resource for would-be lyricists. It struck me that there are plenty of people posting lyrics, few of which are made into songs. My simple thinking was that, if they could get a clearer idea of what makes a useful lyric, they would be better able to produce something "fit for purpose". I could have just given my opinion, but isn't it more powerful if they hear the words of the people they are trying to reach? After all, I don't collaborate much. I prefer to do my own work.

However, I have done a few collaborations (as the musician).

In my experience, people who create the music for their songs are pretty serious about what they do. They have taken the time to learn their instrument (and still take the time to improve and learn more). They have learned about recording and mixing, built new skills around programming in other instruments and take a lot of time experimenting and trying new things. Many have gone through the barrier of playing live, on stage, to an audience and have come to learn what works and what doesn't work as a result.

In short, they have commitment. They can also write lyrics. Often, very well.

If one is to take a lyric and put in the time to develop it into a song, it can take a lot of time, as you say. I write a good many lyrics. Not all develop into songs - most don't. The ones that do are often written to music (rather than on paper, with music added later).

If I choose to collaborate on a song, using someone else's lyric, it is for one of three reasons. It may be as part of the collab contest (which is time-limited). It may be as a favour to the lyricist. It may be because the lyric has really blown me away, and I think the lyricist is someone I could work with.

To fit in with the latter category, I need to see evidence of work having been put into the lyric. I don't really want to do the rewrite for the lyricist (though I have done that on occasion). The lyric must make the rhythm clear, so I can immediately "hear" musical possibilities. When I see people writing "Oh, those things can be fixed with the music", I assume the lyricist isn't interested in doing what is essentially their job. Weak lines need to be rewritten.

I want to be able to see that the lyricist shares that commitment.

Often, I see lyrics posted that look to me as if they have been thrown together in about an hour and posted with no self-critique or any critical insight. Half-thought ideas with throwaway lines. 4 line verses, with an ABCB rhyme scheme (i.e. that only require one rhyme) where that one rhyme is forced and the lines don't meter perfectly simply tell me that the lyricist is too lazy to try harder. Why would I want to put more effort into their lyric than they did? Give me an hour and I could probably write better myself - and that is true of most musicians on here.

There are a few very talented lyricists on here (less than a handful) who can maintain a high frequency of output AND retain the quality needed. There are more who post a stream of new lyrics (sometimes, almost daily!) but who give the impression (to me) that they don't care about quality. Now, there is a place for focusing on quantity, as a learning exercise, but at some point there has to come a time when one sits down to write something one would be proud to have one's name on, surely?

I'd encourage any lyricist who really wants their words put to music (and who can't do it themselves) to spend time studying what works (by looking at great lyricists' work) and studying what different musicians are actually working with - and then put in the time to create something that is of high quality and is in line with what you know that musician can work with. This might require learning something about music, or at least the rhythms of music.

I'd also recommend, as someone above said, developing the ability to write to existing music.

Once the lyric is written, leave it for a few days. Look at it again. Sing it. Mark any lines that aren't fully satisfactory and rewrite them. If needed, scrap the entire verse and replace it with something better - or rewrite the whole song from scratch. Publish it when you are happy with it.. or post it for review to see if anyone has suggestions you can use if you are stuck.

Become your own, toughest critic. If the meter, including the word stresses, isn't falling exactly in the right place, rework it. (if you don't know what I mean, read this - http://www.patpattis...m/perfectmatch/ ). If you do this, when a musician takes up your lyric, they will thank you for it. Jonie is a good example of a lyricist who does this. I know of at least 3 musicians who have said that they couldn't believe how easy it was to put her lyrics to music.

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 09:43 AM

Quote

To fit in with the latter category, I need to see evidence of work having been put into the lyric. I don't really want to do the rewrite for the lyricist (though I have done that on occasion). The lyric must make the rhythm clear, so I can immediately "hear" musical possibilities. When I see people writing "Oh, those things can be fixed with the music", I assume the lyricist isn't interested in doing what is essentially their job. Weak lines need to be rewritten.


The truest words ever spoken. Especially that part abut "it can be fixed with the music". When I hear that from a lyricist, I am totally turned off. There are mainly two lyricists here on the muse that I love to work with and it's because their lyrics come "music ready". I don't feel the need to ever rewrite or revise their stuff because I know they've already done that over and over to get it right.

If you're a lyricist and you don't understand meter, start researching. Learn everything about it that you can. If you can't figure it out, ask a musician friend. I can recommend some great books and I'm sure others here can do that same. If you don't have the time, interest, or ambition to do that work, than don't cry that no one will write music for your song.
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#67 User is offline   Nevergoback Icon

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Posted 02 September 2011 - 02:16 PM

Most of my collaborators have been other musicians who happen to write good lyrics. They get that lyrics aren't poetry. When they write, a basic song structure is going in their head. At least their thinking of a melodic contour when they write. Myself, I'm bouncing back and forth between paper and guitar when I write. Lots of my lyrics get simplified or changed just because they sounded fine in my head but were a mess to actually sing over a rhythm pattern.

But here's my two cents for lyricists...

If all you're bringing to the table is the lyrics, they need to be good. There need to be some really good lines in there. There need to be some phrases that make me say "Now that's a hook." Either the images need to be good, the emotions strong, the wordplay really sharp, the rhythm compelling, etc.

And I'll echo Tom, a song that's a keeper is alot of time committment even for a hobbyist like me. The most recent song I'm working on probably has 4-5 hours in already, and it hasn't even made it to record 1+1 stage yet. For me to do that for someone else's lyric, it'll need to be more than "Man oh Man I wish I had you back in my arms."

Here's a suggestion...if you want to collaborate, go to the music side here, listen to some songs, find someone who does a style you like, and ask about working together. It might actually be easier for them to write a song with scratch lyrics and then for you to then write a lyric over what they've done. Just an idea.
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Posted 02 September 2011 - 02:36 PM

There are some more nuances to this, as collaboration can take many forms. The most important thing for collaborators is the ability to listen to what the other person is getting at, being open to changes in your own work, and either some versatility or reverse compatibility on both sides (either you both have some ability in the others' camp, or you have weaknesses that complement the others' strengths and vice versa).

A lyric does not always need to be "music ready," though I know for that a NEW collaborative relationship, it is a door opener for a musician. But a lyric that looks/sounds/smells music-ready probably follows a very predictable and easy-to-ascertain rhythm. It will not have one-or-two syllable lines that will result in held notes, or any sort of unusual rhythm that will result in a suprising 'pop' in the music. Unless you speak out the rhythm you intended, the musician won't know; and if you do have that strict a rhythm in mind, it leaves less room for the musician to experiment and create.

I've worked all angles. I certainly (early on) wrote 'music ready' lyrics and had a lot of good collaborations start. When I was willing and able to do the work (the hard work) of writing lyrics to an already-recorded bit of music, it sent me in different directions.

Right now I'm working with a fantastic musician who has given me a few pieces that were largely improvised (and that alter a bit every time he plays them). There is no discernable melodic line -- I have to invent the melodic line as well as the lyrical line. It's outside my wheelhouse and is taking me a lot of work to do it; but it's not because he hasn't done his work. The music is brilliant -- we're just finding different ways to collaborate. Once I've written the lyric, and have roughed in a melody and rhythm, we'll have to get together and figure out the final shape, so that it will be the same each time and not shifting.

Another way to work is with a half-finished lyric. It has something of a shape, but it's not locked in. The musician can play with it and can "break" it -- s/he doesn't have to worry about dropping or adding syllables. When I work this way, and I can hear where the music is going, I can write the same lines (the same thoughts, the same rhymes, similar phrases) to fit the music, adding and subtracting and altering where necessary. It's a more organic process and leads to a more interesting result.

So it's a complicated topic. I appreciate that musicians want to work with someone who can do something they can't do (or who does it very differently), and who put a lot of work and thought into their craft. Yes, there are many lyrics posted that seem to be thrown together in a minor paroxysm of ecstasy and cliche, and there's no rule that musicians must help those folks out of their listlessness.
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Posted 02 September 2011 - 02:49 PM

Agreed, Z. Once a relationship - and trust - have been built, a lot of interesting things can happen. Getting to that point is the first hurdle.

As you seem to imply, I think that a lyricist can benefit a great deal by learning more about (and trying out) the music side of the partnership. Writing to music, for example, is a challenge well worth undertaking for those who have never done it.

On which subject, maybe we should have another "Match the Melody" contest soon?
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Posted 02 September 2011 - 03:10 PM

I'd go so far as to say it's an essential skill; based on what I've observed in the last few years poking around various music communities to see where -- or if -- I fit in.

A lyricist who has no musical knowledge -- who does not at least understand how to think in terms of measures/bars and notes, rather than lines of text -- is not going to be able to find many people to collaborate with. Even the best musical theater lyricists -- who still function in the "I write words, you write music" style -- understand about singers and how they process and breathe with the music. It's not really possible to "drop off" the words and wait for the song to come back -- not usually, anyway.
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Posted 02 September 2011 - 04:38 PM

Quote

When I was willing and able to do the work (the hard work) of writing lyrics to an already-recorded bit of music, it sent me in different directions.


I believe this is so important for a non musician lyricist. I recommended it many times to many lyricists. Trying to write meaningful lyrics to a tight structure is a challenging task but I think it's almost essential for non musician lyricists.

Z, I get what you mean about getting past "music ready" to a real collaborative process. The most personally satisfying collaboration I've done this year was a lot of intense give and take. But for a newbie lyricist who's trying to find musicians, I'd say try to write something "music ready".

Alistair, maybe it is time for another MTM comp.
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Posted 03 September 2011 - 02:35 AM

Got any melodies lying around? :)

I may have one, if not - or I might ask more widely.
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Posted 03 September 2011 - 11:40 PM

View Postsomefellow, on 01 September 2011 - 08:23 PM, said:

So the commitment by a composer to work together to create a song will usually involve at least a hundred hours to get to the point where a demo is created.


Wow. Do you really spend over 100 hours on each song? I would go absolutely insane if I couldn't finish a song in a few hours. I can tell really quickly if the song isn't flowing with me, if I have to honestly struggle to write a song I put it away. Every time I've really had to force a song out it's ended up no good at all.
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Posted 04 September 2011 - 01:50 AM

View PostFunkDaddy, on 04 September 2011 - 12:40 AM, said:

View Postsomefellow, on 01 September 2011 - 08:23 PM, said:

So the commitment by a composer to work together to create a song will usually involve at least a hundred hours to get to the point where a demo is created.


Wow. Do you really spend over 100 hours on each song? I would go absolutely insane if I couldn't finish a song in a few hours. I can tell really quickly if the song isn't flowing with me, if I have to honestly struggle to write a song I put it away. Every time I've really had to force a song out it's ended up no good at all.


Yeah Mark it is kind of embarrassing to admit that but I think I do. We all develop our own ways to write songs. I am not trying to say that I am a perfectionist by any means. I think a listen to any of my songs will demonstrate that is not the case.

But anymore I almost always end up with multiple melodies to each part of the song or the whole song. I also end up trying out different lyrical ideas (stories) as well. Probably because I have written so many songs that flowed out of me that I thought were really good and when I listened to them again six months or a year later they were not. I hate that.

So I guess I am just trying to force myself to rewrite it a bunch of times to explore as many possibilities as reasonable for me. I can always come up with a melody and words but really I am settling for something that I could make better.

That said I think it may just be my songwriting plight that most songs I write are average or below and every so often I may write one that is above my average.

I donít mean to sound like I am crying in my beer Iím not. I still absolutely love songwriting and am way too addicted to it.

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 05:23 AM

You're not alone, Tom. I've never counted up how many hours a song takes, and some are quicker than others.

However, if I count all the time from a musical idea, developing that, developing the lyric, rewrites of the lyric, playing it through and through and through and revising musical idea and details, etc.. it is a lot of time. I have had songs (usually where I already have a musical idea) that have only taken a few hours - but most take a lot longer. And then there is tracking, mixing, etc.! :)

By the way, I love what you do and I think the effort you put in shows.
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Posted 04 September 2011 - 07:04 AM

View PostAlistair S, on 04 September 2011 - 06:23 AM, said:

You're not alone, Tom. I've never counted up how many hours a song takes, and some are quicker than others.

However, if I count all the time from a musical idea, developing that, developing the lyric, rewrites of the lyric, playing it through and through and through and revising musical idea and details, etc.. it is a lot of time. I have had songs (usually where I already have a musical idea) that have only taken a few hours - but most take a lot longer. And then there is tracking, mixing, etc.! :)

By the way, I love what you do and I think the effort you put in shows.


For a comp with a time deadline, I'll move pretty fast. But I can noodle around with a song for months at a time. The last song I posted, Wrong Place, was several months in the making from inception to post. I'm sure it was at least 100 hours. I keep a notebook of lyrical ideas and use a handheld recorder to get musical ideas down, then I keep them in a file on my computer.
There is something to be said for working quickly and sometimes I do, but each song has it's own life and how long it takes is just how long it takes.
BTW, Tom, I love your stuff too.
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Posted 04 September 2011 - 08:21 AM

I agree Tom - easily 100 hours. The initial song may come together quickly, less than an hour, and you think you're "almost done" but then when you really investigate the melody, it's not quite right in certain spots, you revise the chord voicings, progression,etc. Then you reaize that the lyrics need changing because the way the words are voiced have to be forced to really fit the melody. Then in your head you have the arrangement/orchestration, but when you actually start recording it you realize that that's not right so you add/subtract, change instruments. Needs harmony parts? Is the tempo right? I know I can play/sing that better!

When the Beatles made their first album it only took them 10 hours or something like that - but they were playing songs they had put together and played at least hundreds of times. So they had put in their time beforehand. How long did it take to paint that? "All my life." If I spent all my time playing, singing, writing, arranging [and had more talent of course :D ]... AND in addition, had a team around me that were in that kind of "shape" I'm sure I'd finish faster - although maybe not, since some of these creative ideas have to sit around and "ripen" and that just requires time. If you read the stories behind the making of hit reacords, many opfthem have probably thousands of man-hours invested.
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Posted 05 September 2011 - 11:16 PM

View PostAlistair S, on 23 October 2008 - 08:03 AM, said:

Following on from this thread .. http://www.musesmuse...mp;#entry450019 ..

Many lyricists have trouble getting collaborations. Partially this may be due to the limited number of potential collaborators, but I think it may also be due to the need for lyrics to be written that lend themselves better to what musicians are looking for.

What do you look for in a lyric? (Anyone, but especially those who are happy to collaborate).

Lyricists, please don't chase anyone who answers :)

The first thing I look for is consistent meter. If someone's wanting me to squeeze in all kinds of stray syllables, it's not worth my while. Then there's structure--a lyric that has parts that relate in a sensible way and advance a story (without belaboring the details). The other thing is less tangible--just an emotional tone that grabs me, that tells me what the song should sound like. It's the poetry factor, and you either have it or you don't.

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 01:33 PM

For me, and I've only colab'd a few times, so my input here may be minimal.

I am, however a committed pop songwriter with the ultimate goal of 3 minutes. One issue I run into is where a lyricist has a great concept or idea of a story and great lyrics, but doesnt fit within a structure thats common or the song is just too wordy.

Its great to have an extensive vocabulary or paint a great picture, but if I can't fit within the 3-4 minute song, Im not sure how it can be worked in without sounding forced or 5+ minutes of music...again, this is comming for a pop 3 minute songwriter.

What this has conditioned me to do, and its a good thing, is to be "on target" before we start to colab. As for their expectations as a lyricist, how they envision the song sounding, etc. gets us both on the same page. I'll share my ideas, but ultimately, we have to come together at one point.

The perfect situation is where the lyrics alread Fit in a song structure I've already written, but thats asking alot I guess.

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 02:26 PM

View PostJim Colyer, on 13 February 2012 - 12:25 PM, said:

Musicians in Nashville look for sessions that are going to make them money. The best musicians in the world are here. They hear a song once, and they are playing it.


Most talk show bands are like that as well. They have incredible ears, not just for basics but for minute details in a song.

The musicians on the Letterman show or Jimmy Fallon or Leno are world beaters. It's their ears that sets them apart.

But then again people arent really interested in great musicianship, unless they are themselves musicians. it's all about the song, man!

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Posted 01 September 2012 - 06:10 PM

I'm relatively new here, but I've been doing some collabs with people on the lyric board lately (and have done the same on other lyric boards in the past), so I'll toss out a couple ideas:

First, when I do write my own songs, it's almost always "lyrics first," so that's where I start out in a collab - a lyric that somebody else has written that strikes me as "better than what I could come up with right now." It generally helps if the person received some critique on their lyric, revised the lyric based on the critique (as opposed to trying to explain their original lyric), and came up with something that's an improvement over the original.

That said, it is very important to me that the lyricist gives me pretty much carte blanche to make whatever changes I want to the lyric as I'm setting it to music. Cutting sections, revising lines, swapping the order of lines and sections, cutting a verse down to half length to make a bridge out of it... whatever I think is going to serve the song. If the lyricist is all "no, I expect you to use the lyric exactly as I wrote it," I generally shy away from that. However... as far as "credit" is concerned, I don't expect to add myself as a lyricist... if I thought the lyric was going to require that much tweaking, I'd probably pass on it anyway.

I like to have some sort of sense of "craft" in what was originally written - a sense that the writer knows how to rhyme, keeps a consistent rhyming scheme... or intentionally doesn't rhyme and is consistent about that, too. That their grammar and spelling and word use are reasonably proficient. Consistent structure from verse to verse. That they're consistent about who their characters are - "me", "you" "him" "her" - a lot of Christian lyrics, especially, seem to go back and forth between referring to God as "He" and "You," and generally I'll only work on a song like that if I can see that it's going to be fairly easy to make it consistent. Similarly, past, present and future... the singer is singing this song at one particular moment in time, and the song needs to be clear about what's already happened, what is happening right now as I'm singing, and I hope is going to happen in the future.

I don't mind at all if the lyricist has written 20 verses, as long as they understand that I'm not going to use everything they wrote. I like to be able to pick and choose from what's there to create something that makes what I think is a good song. It helps me focus the lyric, that's important to me.

For me, if somebody includes a note at the end of their song, "I'd love to have somebody put this to music," that's a reasonable level of asking.

Guess I should also say that, for me, I am not really interested in pursuing publishing or making money from songs. I'm just not in it for that, and if I sense that the lyricist is expecting me to commit myself to a long process of revising, re-recording, and shopping the end result, I'll pass. I know others here feel very differently, and what I do usually tell collaborators is something like, "if YOU want to try to get this published, go right ahead, and if anything happens, you can decide if you want to give me any money or not."

Finally... one of the things I like is doing collabs with people who are new to lyric writing (despite my comments above about wanting "craft" on the part of the lyricist) - just to let them hear what one of their lyrics sounds like put to music, and to observe the kind of things I change in their lyric to make it work (in my opinion) as a song. They tend to be so much more appreciative, too :-) There have been a couple times in the past where I sorta hooked up with somebody and did several songs, but mostly I like to do just one song with a person and then move on to see what somebody else is doing, what else their words inspire.

So, yeah, lots of different opinions, but for me, that's what I look for in a collab. Hope that helps...

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 09:36 AM

It has all been said at this point. The two aspects that keep me interested are how the lyric stimulates my imagination (Can I "see" what is happening?, and the rhythm and meter. If I can't bend the words around the melody without too much change then I might move on to something easier to work with.

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 10:52 AM

Boy, this is a balancing act. I have seen artists try to grow in different directions and lose their way. Then I see Richard Rogers, who was witty and sophisticated when he worked with Hart, and sentimental and inspirational when he worked with Hammerstein. It is a crap shoot. Personally, I think I would like collaborating in almost any genre. My criteria is not to prefer a style, but to be contribute well to what ever style you try.

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 07:31 PM

Charles Wolff said:

it is very important to me that the lyricist gives me pretty much carte blanche to make whatever changes I want to the lyric as I'm setting it to music. Cutting sections, revising lines, swapping the order of lines and sections, cutting a verse down to half length to make a bridge out of it... whatever I think is going to serve the song...... don't mind at all if the lyricist has written 20 verses, as long as they understand that I'm not going to use everything they wrote. I like to be able to pick and choose from what's there to create something that makes what I think is a good song.

Oh dear.
That wouldn't work very comfortably with me, Charles.
Handing executive artistic direction and editorial control over carte-blanche sound more like subjugation than collaboration.
Never averse to changes - but those lyrical changes are things that I make, as lyricist, in conversation with the composer.
Give and take.

Always have to be prepared to re-develop and re-write and re-build mainly because the music will ideally contain an unfolding logic which will need to find resolution, but generally at least the first and second endings need flexibility to respond to how the different turnarounds sing. And the bridge - quite commonly the bridge is a mere sketch of elements and concepts because until those initial themes and motifs and architecture are developed it is unrealistic and counter-productive to constrain or predict or prejudice which way the melodic and harmonic contour is going to want to find its natural way home. In service of the song I have to be always open to making changes like that.
That's why it's called collaboration.

And I'm always ready for it.
It's part of the job.
But it's my job.
Not yours.
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Posted 28 February 2014 - 04:20 PM

just wanted to say thank you to all the people who posted on this

it is the MOST informative stuff i have read on what really my job is as a lyricist

imo this should be stickied under the lyrics side as well as the songcrafters

i found it as i was going thru other forums on the site

great information....and a lot to think about

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