Monthly Archives: October 2013

Words or Music First

‘What comes first, the words or the music?’ I’ve heard other songwriters ridicule the question, however, if you think about it, the interviewer is not a songwriter and has no idea about what the process is.

There are two schools of thought regarding what comes first words or music. On the one hand, some people feel that lyrics should come first, because the nature of melody makes it more flexible, and so from a practical point of view, one should always write lyrics first. The flip side of that argument is that melody is more important in song and the creation of melody, has to be a fluid process. And so melody should be written first. My take on it, is that songwriting itself is as fluid process and so both melody and words need to have a certain amount of flexibility.

The process is usually very fluid with the words and the music working together in a ‘give and take’ way to make it work. I’ve written many songs on my own and many with co-writers, and in every case there’s a certain adaptability necessary to make the words and music work together.

A lot of this kind of fine-tuning goes on the rewriting of the song. Rewriting cannot be over emphasized and separates the pros from the amateurs. There will be more on rewriting later in the course.

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Golden Era of Songwriting?

Are we in a golden era of songwriting? Will this time be looked back on as a historically great one for our art form?

Lord knows we’ve got numerous advantages our predecessors didn’t have…

How about our instruments? With the advent of quality Chinese instruments you can now get a guitar, mandolin, banjo, whatever that’s a pleasure to play and sounds great for a fraction you used to have to pay to get the equivalent quality.

How about our recording costs? Also way, way, way down. You can record albums using Pro Tools or many of its competitors for literally hundreds of dollars rather than the previous tens of thousands of dollars.

How about distribution? Thanks to the Internet we can now reach listeners all over the world. No longer do the Music Industry Gatekeepers control our access to our fans.

So, once again, are we in a golden era? I’m not so sure myself. In spite of all the advantages I’ve mentioned I can’t really say that I’ve seen the level of our art form go up. Yes, there are more songwriters but better songwriters? I’m not so sure.

Maybe it’s just a case of they’re out there but the clutter prevents us from hearing them or maybe not.

What do you think?