‘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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