Where do I start?
a) I have some lyrics but no melody,
b) melody and no lyrics.
c) A rhythm but no lyrics or melody.
d) maybe a chord progression but no particular melody.
For singers with no musical background, how do you transfer the melody you hear in your head to a musical piece with proper structure?
1. Sing the melody you have onto an iPhone or similar so you have a record of it - do it straight away and without distractions.
2. Write the lyrics in a book and make a digital copy so you have a safe record.
3. Get help from a musician to add a chord structure to your melody. The chord progression used will to some extent be determined by the genre of the song. For instance, you wouldn’t used extended jazz chords in a country or pop song.
4. Before you record your song, make sure it is in a key suitable to the singer's range.
5. Notate your song if you know how to and if you don’t, find someone to do it for you so you have a written record of it. Good notation programs include Finale, Forte, Dorico and Sibelius.
6. Get an idea of the structure of your song. A regular pop song will be ABABCB. In other words, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge then chorus. This is a similar pattern for Praise and Worship songs. Of course, not all songs have to be in this structure.
7. Copyright your song by joining a publishing rights organisation such as ASCAP, BMI or APRA.
I know there are some artists that seem to make it without a good singing voice, however, the general public won’t be interested in listening to your song if the vocals are second rate. Perhaps your singing voice is fine but just needs some voice training or you have some musical training and need further lessons to improve. Recognise your weak areas and don’t be afraid to ask for help. At this point, don’t be too proud to learn new things. There is always something we can learn if we are open to it.
1. When you are writing your song, don’t decide on the first idea you have. Meditate on it, play around with the chords, melody and lyrics until you are totally satisfied with the end result.
2. Relax and let your creativity happen organically. When you force an idea or write out of urgency you will be disappointed later. It is better to take your time so the song is exactly how you want it.
3. Collaborate with another writer. You may need help with lyrics or with the music. Look for a singer that will do your song justice. Be open to constructive criticism. Realise that your song will not be perfect the moment you right it. There will probably be areas that you can improve on as you both work together.
4. Choose singers or musicians that will suit your song. For instance, it is no good inviting a musician to play who has only played country and western when you are after a heavy rock sound. Or inviting a singer who has only sung opera to sing a song with a contemporary feel or a rock belting sound.
When it comes to collaborating with another artist, you don’t need to be restricted by where your new partner lives. You can easily send ideas via a file sharing app such as Dropbox, email, We Transfer, or Hightail.
a) Who is going to be your audience? Are you hoping to go viral with your song or is it just for family and friends to enjoy?
b) What genre are you writing- hip hop, blues, Praise and worship, rock, easy listening, jazz etc?
c) What type of backing - fully orchestrated, solo acoustic instrument, 4 piece band etc? This will to some extent be determined by the genre of the song. Hiphop, house or dance will be bass and drums driven with electronic instruments and samples to suit. Jazz will either be bigband, trio or four piece either guitar or piano driven or a solo instrument. Classical or opera will often be orchestrated.
d) What is the tempo to be?
e) What emotion I am I trying to portray? Happy, sad, love song, tense, dramatic
f) What is my budget for the whole project? Make sure you calculate correctly.
g) How will I market the song? You might have the best sounding song of all time but what is the point if no one gets to hear it. How will I promote the song apart from regular distribution? What social media avenues will I use?
h) Is it to be a live recording or studio?
i) What vocals will I use? Will it be solo vocals, group, choir or solo with BVs?
j) Will you involve a professional arranger to arrange the song for you?
k) How will you start the song?
l) How will you end the song? A sudden ending, a definite tag, repeat and fade etc
m) For a song with lyrics, what will be my hook phrase?
n) Who will do the mix-down and production? This is important.
o) Who will you distribute the song through? This is important. Some distributors do practically nothing to help promote the artist, some charge a recurring annual fee per single or album, while other charge a one off fee. Some have an option for them to act as your publisher, others don’t.