Happy New Year to you all! Having survived Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year restrictions, what resolutions have you made? I’ve resolved be more proactive with my songwriting, after a year of little output of new material resulting from a lack of events and performances.
My inspiration for new material has tended to be event- and experience-driven. But whenever I have been interviewed for the media, as a band or solo artist, the first question is often the same. When writing an original song, what comes first – the words or the music?
For musicians new to the writing process, this is always a dilemma. Should they sit and pen lyrics following a structured format based on a number of verses and choruses? Or should they lay down a number of chords and strum patterns and hope to be inspired by a subject or theme and a suitable melody line?
We’ve Never Had It So Good
I’ve been on the music scene for longer than I care to admit. And I’ve noticed that the aids for composition these days are significantly better than they were back in the 60s. If a tune popped up in your head while you were walking down a street then, the chance that you would be carrying your portable reel-to-reel recorder to hum into would be slim. Similarly, even having a notepad and working pen to jot lyrics down might have been stretching a point. But, these days, the humble mobile phone can have apps with the capability of replicating the Apple studios! They’re complete with digital recording, and wordsmith capabilities with a built-in spell checker, all in a convenient, wallet-sized, rechargeable device. Oh, what we would have given for that ability back then!
My first portable recording device was a small 3” reel-to-reel tape recorder with a 30-minute battery life. Actually, it wasn’t that portable, and the tape regularly either snapped, flipped over on the head or snagged. It definitely did not perform well when walking. These days, a tune or lyrics can be recorded on voice recorder for later conversion into a work of art. And home production programs, like Music Maker or Band-in-a-Box, or keyboard workstations can produce works from simple acoustic tracks up to full symphonies, with full digital mastering and vocal and instrument layering.
Don’t Miss A Thing
But the basic ‘What comes first?’ question still remains. So never ditch an idea out of hand. Always jot down a random lyric or record a tune that comes out of nowhere, as it could turn into that ‘I wrote this’ moment. Also, people you interact with can say something that can make or trigger an idea for a lyric. The possibilities are endless. So keep on writing – that gold disc is out there somewhere!
When its safe to resume, local event listings can be found at www.outa-stock.co.uk/OM.htm
Words Dave Bailey