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Styles and Strengths
Ask yourself why it is that some days you are overtaken by several ideas all at once, and other days none at all seems right? Is it because you can't find a theme to write about, or because you know only too well what you are supposed to write about?
One method I have noticed works really well for me is to spend a day in a studio listening to someone else's work being developed - particularly if I have no involvement in the process. After that day is over, I feel a magnetic pull to the piano, guitar, or whatever feels the favourite instrument of inspiration, and several ideas will come brimming out at once, all desperately trying to compensate for the day's privations. Masochistic, but effective!
As for lyrics, where does that all come in? Which comes first, lyrics or melody, or both at the same time? I agree with the "scrambled eggs" theory promoted by the Beatles to some extent, but always feel better if I have just a line or two to give me a feel of what the song's about. This may be a male/female divide, because I know several male writers (to name no names) who really and truly find lyrics secondary, and notice and record them far less than your average housewife with no musical background. This is great, because it enables them to get on with the production at an earlier stage, and bring in the human elements later on. Speaking personally, I usually have to get down at least the chorus or refrain before I can complete the music - that's what make the process spark, in my case.
So, once inspired, how do you write down your ideas? I am regularly amazed by the number of songwriters who come to us for arrangement and production of their songs, who have never written down a note or a word, and have often retained the songs intact in this way since their teenage years (which is - I am increasingly convinced - when most of our songwriting goes on!) Because of my classical background, I still retain the paranoia that everything must be written to be remembered, and find that actually this bears out for me practically. I can never remember any song specifically until my fingers touch the piano, and frequently at this point, my fingers automatically lock into a song from years back quite unconsciously. This, of course, is not an efficient way to remember your compositions, so I tend to write them in annotation of my own coding - manuscript being that bit too time-consuming! Rhythms are also retained by their own code. Even so, I would still try to set the finished song to midi-file as soon as possible, just for the record!