Where to start a music or a song?

As a newbie to music making, it is often difficult to know where to start with a new music or song. We find ourselves hesitating or desperately trying to find a musical phrase that never comes.

Before deciding where to start let’s determine the elements that make up a song:

    • Chord progression
    • Melody (vocal or not)
    • Bass line
    • Drums
    • Hook
    • Ostinato
    • Lyrics

It may seem like a lot when it comes to choosing which one to start with. But in the end, it’s not that complicated.
Already, the instruments are used as much to build the sound identity of the piece as its groove.


The Groove, what is it?

Groove is a word that we often hear and that we try to explain by an idea of feeling or sensation in the song. This is not totally wrong. In fact, the Groove is the general rhythm that comes out when all the different instrument rhythms are played at the same time. So when you go to build your song by combining the instruments, you will be building its groove at the same time. There is always a groove that comes out of a song.
Typically, different instruments either play the same rhythm with different notes, or intersperse their rhythm to form the overall groove. This means that some instruments will play their notes during the rests of the other instruments.


Ok, but where to start then?

What you have to understand is that the element chosen to start your composition is going to be central in the general groove of the piece. For example, you find a nice bass line then you decide to add a rhythmic guitar on top then the drums to complete the whole thing.
Each time you add an element, you will use it to fill the rests of the other instruments, thus using all the space available in the bars. So that the last elements added will only play a few scattered notes or very diffuse layers in the background.

So you will understand that if you want to do a song with a singing voice and you start with the bass line, then a guitar, then a synth and the drums, there may not be much room left in the groove to stall the voice. So if the voice is the main instrument, you will need to get it into the groove as early as possible and build around it.

In addition, some musical styles use one or more instruments to drive the song. We must therefore start with these. Like, for example, bass for funk, chord progression for Future Bass or even drums and / or guitar in certain rock currents.

Either way, two things work great together and are central in a lot of styles: the melody and the bass. These two elements respond to each other in a song and can already form part of the general groove. They form the backbone of the title. This is why a section using only these two elements works very well like this, whereas there are only two melodic lines. Besides, there are a number of songs with bass + vocals sections.

Another element to compose early enough is the drums because it will complete the groove already created by the bass + voice duo.

So if I have any advice for you, it’s to create these three elements first by trying to compose the melody and the bass one after the other because, harmonically, they work together. If a melody comes to you then do a bassline straight away and if you find a nice bassline first, continue with a melody.
Ditto, if you find a good drum line, do the melody and the bass line directly to have the best possible basis to continue your song.


What about the lyrics?

The case of the lyrics is special because they are linked to the melody but above all to the meaning you want to give to your song.
The lyrics will necessarily influence the rhythm of the melody because at certain times, you will have to add or remove notes from it to match the words.

So, two scenarios are available to you:
– You already have a melody (which came to you spontaneously or not), you can either continue and finish your song without the lyrics and then write them or write them before adding any instrument to be sure of the rhythm of your melody.
– You have a precise idea of ​​what you want to say in your lyrics with snippets of phrases in mind, so start by writing your lyrics and then create your melody from it. By doing this, you will maximize the place of your lyrics in your title.

Also by creating your melody first, it will guide the other instruments and allow you to find new grooves. You can even let yourself be guided by the meaning of the sentences to play with the moods of your sections. For example, bringing in a powerful brass over a specific word or, on the contrary, leaving only a light instrument to underline some soft and light lyrics.

Basically, what you need to remember is to start with the element(s) that will drive the song and be central to the general groove of your creation.


I hope you will find this article useful in your creations. Leave me a comment if you have any questions or topics you’d like me to talk about.

Photo by Unsplash

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