The writing process for instrumental music...

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by DNestler, Aug 15, 2020.

  1. DNestler

    DNestler Tele-Meister

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    I have written both instrumental music (fiddle tunes basically) and songs. I started writing songs before I could play music and I have read thousands of articles and interviews with songwriters wherein they discuss or answer questions about their writing process.

    But I cannot remember ANYONE ever discussing the same process for instrumental music.

    Wondering if anyone here has noted whether someone asked Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, etc. how they write instrumentals. If you can recall it and point me in the direction of an article, interview, or video I'd be grateful.

    Thanks!
    Daniel
     
  2. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I don't know about articles and such, but I mean, you just start jamming, right? And hope something good comes out. It often helps if you have some kind of background groove rhythm going on, that can often be inspirin
     
  3. Flat6Driver

    Flat6Driver Friend of Leo's

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    Good idea for a thread. I found a cool band called The Trueloves out of Seattle. They might not be together any longer but they have videos on YouTube. I think the guitar player and drummer run things.

    What I think they do is get the groove and then figurn it out from there.

    What I'm unclear on, is how they discuss it....play the oommph oomph part twice then the bingly zing part. Then the horns sort something out. But how do you discuss all that? I play with people I have to remind of the keys from week to week and I'm not sharp on my theory like I could be.... Must require a ton of communicate to write this stuff.
     
  4. catdaddy

    catdaddy Tele-Afflicted

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    As a songwriter and occasional instrumental composer I've found insights from numerous interviews with Randy Newman to be particularly illuminating.
     
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  5. rockymtnguitar

    rockymtnguitar Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    I'm not experienced - I've written a few lyrical songs for my jam groups and am now doing a few instrumentals with a buddy (neither of us can sing) - but my process (and his) seems to start with something cool on rhythm guitar. Some sort of chord sequence that's a variation off of another songs (basically just saying "Hey, these chords go together well"), and then change up the sequence. After that, we try to find something interesting for a strum pattern or rhythm, then build from here. We've started adding some sort of basic drum track really early in the process - just enough to keep a beat. Bass then lead comes next. He plays lead, so sometimes he starts there.

    We also usually start with some sort of very general genre in mind. Do we want a blues-ish feel/structure? Classic rock kind of thing? We started our latest project with the idea that we would avoid blues (because that's a fallback for both of us and we wanted something different). We decided on something "spacey" - our group is doing Space Oddity and we both love Shine On You Crazy Diamond. We thought we'd go for that kind of thing. We morphed it into something more nature oriented, with wind/rain/thunder.

    Again - total amateur here, but that's how I do it...
     
  6. beagle

    beagle Friend of Leo's

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    I start with the lyrics/melody.

    Yes, even instrumentals benefit from nonsense lyrics.
     
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  7. tery

    tery Doctor of Teleocity

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    Noodling
     
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  8. naveed211

    naveed211 Tele-Afflicted

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    Unless you’re going ambient or avant-garde, there’s likely going to be a traditional structure and melody just like there would be in music with vocals.

    You mentioned Satriani. Most of those songs still have traditional song structures, he’s just soloing over them instead of vocals.

    The process for me is the same unless I’m writing ambient music where then it’s more about sounds and moods, but even that you could put vocals over if you wanted.
     
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  9. Peegoo

    Peegoo Friend of Leo's

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    Some people write out everything. I don't.

    I create instrumentals sort of like the plot for any novel or movie: it starts with an idea, and that becomes an outline. The outline is the basic structure of the tune (rhythm and chords). Once I have that recorded, everything else is like Grandma's cooking: sprinkle a little of this and a little of that and keep tasting it as it's cooking. The trick is knowing when to stop adding to the recipe because it's easy to go overboard. Simpler is usually always better than complex.

    Here's some insight.

    https://www.secretsofsongwriting.co...trumental-music-do-the-same-principles-apply/
     
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  10. GeneB

    GeneB TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    When I went to USF night school to improve my music making skills I asked a professor about this. His advice was: Find a melody only playing on a single string. That I find simplifies the process.

    I also have a Trio + - basically I use it as a drum machine and looper as I'm no longer playing out and none of my musician friends are drummers :)
     
  11. fendrguitplayr

    fendrguitplayr Doctor of Teleocity

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    I usually start with a little melody and then build from that.
     
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  12. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    I sit around playing the guitar or bass or mandolin. Most of the time I have no idea what I'm doing (i.e. chord progressions) until later. On guitar and mandolin, I sometimes try made-up chords, i.e. fingerings I don't normally use, or combinations of stopped and open strings. Just trying to find an interesting sound. Later I might actually figure out what the chords were, but sometimes I don't.

    When something pops up that seems new and possibly interesting, I capture it into the looper. Then maybe I put another part on it (in the looper). There is no formula - sometimes it's a melody, chord progression, or bass line. Then when I'm at a loss I flip through the loops until I find one I like, then another one. If they go together, great.

    Then I transfer those bits into Ableton Live and keep going.

    At least, that's how the last one I completed went.
     
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  13. Dave Hicks

    Dave Hicks Tele-Afflicted

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    I start with a chord progression that seems like it might have some interesting angles for melodies, record it and play something over it. Once I get some of the melody going, I often go back and tweak the chords, and so on back and forth.

    D.H.

    For instance, the following, which didn't have the minor part at first - it needed something new to fill it out, so it just growed:

     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
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  14. johnny k

    johnny k Poster Extraordinaire

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    I am thinking in styles before i start thinking in terms of music. It is more of a let's try to make a country instrumental, or a spooky ghost house theme or whatever. Then i will try to sort it out.
     
  15. DNestler

    DNestler Tele-Meister

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    So far I've written two waltzes and one tune in a pretty straight 4/4.
    Waltzes are a good place to start because the rhythm is easy to lock into your head while your writing.

    I started the other tune by taking the opening run of "Whiskey Before Breakfast" and playing it in Gm instead of D major.

    Fiddle tunes generally have an AABB (repeat) in 16 bars, so you only have to write 8 bars of music. Another way to start gently.

    I asked about other pop (as opposed to classical) composers because I am hoping someone out there in the world thought to ask these guys about it.

    I suppose people ask about lyrics because it's easier to discuss. You can relate to them in non-musical terms. Writing about and relating to instrumentals might take some musical knowledge.

    Thanks for mentioning Randy Newman! I'll look that up!

    Daniel
     
  16. kennl

    kennl Tele-Afflicted

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    Yes!
    Some "scratch" lyrics can help to develop phrasing ideas for the all-important melody.
    Then the harmonization.
     
  17. catdaddy

    catdaddy Tele-Afflicted

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    You're welcome! I feel compelled to mention that over the years I've gained tremendous insights about composing and become a better guitarist by transposing many of Mr Newman's piano arrangements for guitar.
     
  18. Mjark

    Mjark Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    It's the same as music with a singer, chords, melody and rhythm. Nothing mysterious about it at all.
     
  19. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Poster Extraordinaire

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    Almost every song I've recorded with my band started off as an instrumental I wrote. I basically sit at the PC, record a few chord progressions to the metronome. I keep the ones I like, delete the others, then arrange the ones I like into a song.
     
  20. Ed Driscoll

    Ed Driscoll Tele-Meister

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    I would think that purely instrumental music with a melody is written with the same process as music with lyrics, except that it's an instrument carrying the tune. So that means one, or a combination of three ways to get started, and then it's just hard work to finish the job:
    • Top down: start with a melody.
    • Middle out: start with some chords or a riff, and then write the melodies to fit the chords.
    • Bottom up: find an interesting rhythm track or sounds and build up from there.
    Once you get started, it probably will be a mix of all three to finish the job, but just that initial spark is often enough to get going.
     
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