Where do you begin building your songs? Do you start with the rhythm and bass end, know as bottom up songwriting? Or do you start with the lyrics or melody, which is called top down songwriting? Maybe you begin somewhere in the middle with chords.There is no right or wrong place to begin. In the end, the song is likely to end up incorporating rhythm, bass, chords, melody, and lyrics (though not every one of elements needs to be present to constitute a complete song). Regardless of which elements eventually end up in the finished product, you can start out anywhere you choose.
Where you decide to begin will often have a very real impact on how the song ends up. A song that begins with a drum loop will inevitably end up differently than a song that begins as a whistled melody.
This presents a fantastic opportunity. Try mixing it up. Taking yourself out of your routine can speedily unblock a stagnant writing process. You can quickly find yourself with a lot more songs in your arsenal and greater variety to boot.
If, for instance, you usually start your songs with the melody, next time try starting with a drum beat. If you have as drum set, sit down and fool around until you find that groove that inspires you. Record it if you can. If you don’t have any drums here is some good news, drum machines are cheaper and better than ever! These days they come equipped with all kinds of styles and speeds. Many keyboards even have drum machines built into them. Today’s drum machines often also allow you to loop and sequence.
For more advanced editing capabilities there are many computer software sequencing programs available at the Pro Audio section of any large retail music store, and the representatives are usually quite knowledgeable on which ones might best suit your needs and budget. If you plan on doing this type of writing a lot, being able to edit your work on a big computer screen, rather than a tiny screen on a drum machine, is just one of the many advantages of computer sequencing.
Once you dial up a drum groove that gets your inspiration flowing, start layering the next component of music on top of it. This could be the lyrics, a melody, bassline, chord progression from a guitar or keyboard, or even interesting sound effects. Layer by layer begin filling out your new song. If you amass too many layers to play and sing along with the drums you might want to begin recording each component of your song one at a time (recording will be covered in another songwriting tip at Songwriting Planet).
The drums-first approach is often used in Hip-Hop songwriting, but it is commonly used in rock and other styles as well. If this is not your approach, experiment with it. You could end up opening whole new worlds of possibilities.