Hello! In this post I’ll be breaking down my current workflow and providing some perspective into my process. I don’t expect it to be a comprehensive guide to music production, there are a lot of great resources out on the internet as it is, but it should provide some insight on songwriting and how to approach home production.
Every song is a bit different, but the key starting place is familiar throughout. Inspiration. This can be different to everyone since it manifests in so many ways. Sometimes it’s just a matter of capturing an emotion or energy. Other times it begins with a lyric or theme. Then there are the more musical options either beginning with a melody, riff, rhythm or chord structure. It doesn’t so much matter where you begin, they’re all valid options.
It’s important to work with a vision of what you’re trying to achieve with the music. Once you have that in mind, start with what you’ve got and slowly work outward. I tend to build the overall structure pretty early in my process. It’s important to understand the context of each section. Bad arrangement will hurt a song throughout the entire process.
Verses should be “smaller” than your choruses. This can be achieved in a number of ways. Just playing softer, maybe using a different texture, even removing instruments entirely, or just stripping them down. You do this so that the chorus has a pay off when it arrives. It sounds bigger, which gives more weight to the idea you’re trying to convey. You should also try to keep an even pulse alive throughout the song. You don’t want to jar the listener too much. Unless that’s what you’re going for of course. It doesn’t hurt to sit down with a structure guide for reference. It’s often referred to as the addiction formula and for good reason.
Intro (4) Verse 1 (16) Pre-Chorus (4) Chorus (8) Verse 2 (8) Chorus (8) Bridge (8) Chorus (8 (x2))
This is of course just a guide, not a hard rule that must be followed. Ultimately do what you feel is right for your song. It’s also important to differentiate your final chorus a bit as well. Maybe add another instrument, or change the vocal a bit. Just add that extra kick of life into it to really drive the idea home. And of course, repeat it. Songs often end on the chorus so it sticks with the listener. That’s the theory at least.
If you’re interested in learning more about this, there a number of different resources on the internet. I really enjoy Holistic Songwriting on YouTube. It’s ran by a guy named Friedemann Findeisen. He does lots of interesting breakdowns of different artists and things that influence their sound. I also really recommend just listening to music. Both your favorite artists and things outside of your comfort zone. Listen to what they do with their arrangements and mixing.
Ideally you want to have your arrangement together before you start tracking. I personally work straight from my DAW even when I’m just jamming or messing around. So it’s pretty easy for me to go right into recording scratch tracks when I come across something I like. That being said, try to keep some degree of flexibility in mind when you’re further along in the process. Sometimes an arrangement change is just what’s needed to breathe life into a song if you’re not happy with it. But having it all together going into it is definitely more efficient.
I will likely write another article about music theory and its role in writing music. Up next is my recording process.