- Have an idea about what you want to say. You don’t necessarily have to have an entire philosophy or point fully fleshed-out that you want to explain, but at least have an idea or subject. Then when it comes time to actually put words on paper, you’re not shooting in the dark. But then again, from a purely experimental point of view, not knowing what you’ll start writing about before you write might lead to some really creative ideas and phrasing. So just use your best judgement and decide what works best for you. Besides, this process could change with every song.
- Listen to the song and try to imagine what vocal patterns or phrases might sound good over the music. I find that just having even a basic idea of what should make the song sound right in terms of phrasing, vocal patterns and melody is really important before actually trying to force lyrics over music that may or may not even fit. At this point you may hear that perfect chorus melody and have the perfect rhythm and syllables even without the words yet. And sometimes you might find that those words just simply form out of thin air while listening to the song.
- This step is really a combination of a couple of steps, depending on how you choose to work. You can do either of two things. You can start putting words on paper, or you can improvise something over the song. Or you can do both, writing some stuff down and improvising the beats and making it fit. What helps me sometimes is to just improvise noises somewhat akin to scat, and then incorporate humming melodies before I write the lyrics, I then have a good idea of how I write the vocal rhythms and such. Usually, I’ll have something written out on paper, and then I’ll attempt to work out the beats.
- So, about writing those lyrics. No rules here. In fact, there aren’t any rules about any of this. You want your stuff to sound good, and if you prefer—your lyrics to make a point or at least make sense... or no sense. Whatever, man. There’s nothing from keeping you down here. You have free creative license to do what ever you please. I generally like to keep an idea in mind of what I’m thinking or feeling at the time, and I try and focus my lyrics on larger philosophies. Sometimes I write about the meaning of life, sometimes I write about nothing at all—like I just focus on the images and emotions the sounds of the words create, even if they don’t necessarily have the most obvious interpretation of what they mean. I’ve always enjoyed the lyrics of Chino Moreno of the Deftones and Team Sleep in this respect, because his lyrics sometimes can be entirely vague, yet offer lots of imagery and emotional context.
- Lastly, continue tweaking your words and rhythms, and really analyze the melodies you chose. Make sure they say what you want musically, so you may try a couple different passages for your chorus and/or verse sections and pick the best versions. Sometimes tweaking even one note in a passage may change the entire song. The main thing is to just listen to what the music is trying to convey, and make sure you drive that point home with the right vocal strategy. The voice as a very dynamic instrument. Tons of potential as far as singing and melody goes, but also I like to emphasize the voice as percussive instrument. There is tremendous power in consonants, and depending on the song, carefully choosing what to emphasize in the voice can make a huge difference. But I also think that most of this decision making is made on a subconscious level by the artist, often times on the fly. But it doesn’t hurt to take a second look at what is and see if it can be improved.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Lyric Writing and Vocals
I’m new to this actually. I’m a guitarist, not a vocalist. But that has been changing a lot lately. During the past year, with a lot more focus on lyrics and vocals, what follows is a process that seems to work well for me. And as I develop my own techniques and explain them to you, the more I actually learn.
So far, my process is this: