Genesis of a Song

I recently wrote a new song, though “wrote” doesn’t feel like the best way to describe it. Often, songs seem to more “appear” in my head, generally a bit at a time. This one was no exception.

It was a Tuesday night, probably around 11ish. I had been at an open mic (whether that has anything to do w/ it or not, we’ll likely never know) and was sitting around winding down, and I heard a drumbeat in my head (a lot of my songs start w/ drum beats or rhythmic ideas, which is funny considering I don’t play drums at all). So I sketched it out on whatever paper was handy, figuring maybe I’d do something w/ it someday.

(Here’s an important point: I’m constantly coming up w/ ideas and writing them down. I have a file called “composition ideas” that has close to fifty things in it, none of which has become anything yet, and maybe never will. I figure this consistent creation just keeps me in shape for the things that are worth completing).

But as I was drifting of to sleep hours later) I started hearing a guitar riff to go w/ it (The drum pattern and basic guitar riff I put on SoundCloud). A very punky, Nirvanaish thing. I figured I’d put the two together the next day, but the riff kept playing over and over in my head, and I even heard it go to two other chords (starting in E, it proceeded to A and Ab). Having experienced this before, I knew I wouldn’t get to sleep w/out addressing this song in some way, so I got up and turned on Pro-Tools (I no longer use the Amateur Tools). I programmed in the drum beat, turned on my guitar amp and started playing along w/ it. A curious thing happened here: once I hit the Ab chord, I instinctively knew that there had to be a C chord before returning to the E riff. Where do these things come from? The subconscious? Some divinity?

So I jammed the riff and changes against the drum pattern for a while, and then went to sleep. But at this point I started hearing lyrics. Just a line or two at first (and for some reason, i was hearing them sung w/ Greg Lake’s voice). So I would periodically turn on a light and write what words I was hearing in a notebook I keep handy. This went on for a while, and when I woke the next day, i had two-and-a-half verses complete. (I put one verse up on SoundCloud)

So that day I recorded the guitar against the drum pattern, but I was also hearing a tag by now (when that happened I’m not sure). So I finished the verse lyrics and recorded them, but I needed lyrics for the tag. This was the only part that felt like “work”. I would try and think of what would make sense (lyrically) to conclude w/, and ever recorded two of those ideas. But I knew that neither of them was right (and there have been times when I wanted to finish a song so badly that I went w/ whatever I could come up w/, and regretted it every time, so I’ve learned not to rush these things). But as I was playing around w/ these (dreadful) ideas, they formed into a melody (w/ a harmony part). Words slowly appeared to this melody, and I finally had the tag and the song was complete! (The final version is also on SoundCloud)

This tends to be the way songs appear for me. If it occurred slower I would’ve put up more samples detailing the process, but maybe the next one will happen over a more extended time period.



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