How Do You Approach A Song?

How do you start composing a song?

  1. Do you sit down in front of Renoise and just fiddle around on the midi-keyboard till something pops up?

  2. Do you hear music in your head that you write down on the pattern?

  3. Do you find a VST that sounds nice and base the song on this?

  4. Do you make the drumbeat first and then start to add instruments?

  5. Do you picture a scenary and base the song on it?

I’ve done all of them except the 5. one, but I’m trying to start a song that way now.
It’s fun, works as some sort of guideline for how the song is supposed to sound like.
I’ve pictures a theme; The Big Bang, and the evolution of the planet.
Think it’ll be a long track.

all of 5. the 4th, though, I don’t use anymore since ages, because it does not fit my style anymore

Mostly 2. Nice thread, dufey. I wished this was a poll.

I try 2 first, but If I lose patience trying to get the sounds I want, then I normally resort to 1, 3 or 4.
I did a couple of tunes 6 years ago using 5 , and they’re probably my favourite ones, but beats normally fall out of the equation when working this way.

Look forwrd to hearing your big bang theory Dufey :)

a lot of times i have the music in my head first. the rest of the times i probably use method 3, find an instrument (usually bass) that i like and get my bassline down, because i always start with chord progression. usually have a couple of ideas for where the lead will go , but i put down some pads and a basic beat first, and then work on the melody and transitions… then i go back and do more variations on the drums, etc. mixing comes last

#1 usually. At the same time as I play around with an idea, I might already have a scenery, or it sometimes develops as I play with an instrument. Most of the time, they are just sonic sceneries though. Meaning I don’t see or picture anything, but I do have an idea of the sound. Either the whole sound of a track, or just how that part should sound, and vaguely how it should work in relation to other parts.

You left off 6:

  1. Write lyrics and construct a song backwards thematically from the shape and meaning of the lyrics.

Which requires a hell of a lot of work, but I end up doing the most satisfying stuff with that method. Other than that usually melody comes to me in dreaming and I capture that.

I try to avoid writting from drums first, but it creeps into the process still every now and then.

Usually a combination between 1, 2 and 3 for me.

There’s also another way I use sometimes, let’s call it nr 7, when I have no ideas at all or don’t feel like starting completely from scratch. I load up a few old songs of mine, preferably very old, and listen to them. Then snatch a melody or bass or some detail I like, copy that, modify and use as a start…

All of them. Exept 6, and when I do 4 it’s rarely any good. :P

I work mostly by 1, 3 & 5 in combination. Also no. 7; Fiddle with FX 'till I have the mood I want.

I listen to a lot of music, and when I hear something really good (a melody) I imagine the drum beat in my head given that melody, add imaginary bass and other sounds; and usually have the whole idea in my head in maybe 10 minutes.

Then comes the difficult part, which is to sit down, open renoise and get the stuff done.

I always start with beats, usually about 4 channels just for the rhythm section:

  • kicks and toms
  • snares and other percussive sounds
  • samples and glitchy percussion
  • hi freq stuff (squeaks, hihats, clicks)

Then add chord progressions, bassline and other twiddly bits around that rhythm.

#2 rev A

starting with an idea in my head, but the idea is only small, like a 2 bar melody line or something, and then following whatever tangent i stumble upon - randomly or otherwise - rather than trying to expand hugely on the one idea.
experimental breakcore for experimentations sake :)

always 4!

when i load it up i just load in lots of breakbeats and start making beats, chopping up breaks, adding lots of 808/909 over the top, adding reverbs, delays, i just love making beats slow or fast, i’ve got shit loads of rns files of just 1 pattern beats because i couldn’t be bothered to write a tune out of it lol

This thread shows pretty well that the methods we use are mostly based on the music sort we create. I usually come up with a melody and play with it, writing down the better sounding improvisations into patterns, many songs in the past 40 years were made that way. Only then it were mostly guitar/piano riffs and long hours of jamming

:guitar: :drummer: :yeah: :guitar:

This is how most of the best progressive rock tunes were made. The vast majority of the other superb songs are based on lyrics which came before music. But as you know, that is the most difficult way of composing.

However, I wouldn’t say that starting with a beat is a bad thing, though. Some of the most interesting compositions I’ve heard started with the drummer saying: “Hey, listen to this.” and then jamming a very unusual rhythm. Sometimes the beat isn’t even 4/4 or 3/4. That’s especially true with artists like Dave Weckl (who is an astonishing drummer).

Although, it’s true that most of the electronic tracks that are started with beats don’t have much music inside.

What’s most disturbing for me, though, is when you have that feel that you need to write down something, you run the tracker and…


It’s gone. In moments like these no method seems to help.

I’m mostly inspired late at night after midnight when I’m half asleep, or first thing in the morning when my brain is still in slow-mo. Or when I’m driving, or in the shower. I try and avoid the intellectual side as much as I can. How I’m inspired is completely arbitary. I try not to take it all too seriously.

I went through a period of time where I used to scribble everything down (the back of my maths book at school had more music scribble in than schoolwork!). The novelty has worn off nowadays, so I’ll accept I’ve just spontaneously written a tune, and accept I’ll lose it any second - I’ll let my subconscious brew over it some more and generally they’ll pop up again in my head when ready. It’s quite trippy when the same tune appears in your head months later. I probably have about 5 original tunes which come to visit every so often. I never drive with the radio on, I actually rarely listen to music. My 3rd ear is always playing to me.

From a tracking point of view, I tend to have one method that works. I spend probably more than half the time experimenting with instruments, combinations and partnerships. I transpose a LOT. I modify instruments a LOT. I EQ a LOT. I tend to close my eyes and press random buttons a LOT. Once I am happy with the sound, then I start thinking about the music. So in short, I plan the delivery before the content.

That about sums it up for me too. :D

i seem to start with a simple melody usually made up of pads, then drums usually come from the melody an then bass comes from the drums, so as to create a framework. i really need this framework for a path or map persey, cuz with all the editting i do, i will end up going off on a tangent. all the while experimenting.
my favorite thing is the changes, i always feel invigorated when i find a new change that works, type of thing when its like “fvck! i need a cigarette” in most ways i live to compose for those moments, 1 of my only real wishes is to portray those feelings that i have to others, however alot of times i get too dark with my music an it gets noticeably off balance.

i highly reccomend 04.squarepusher_-_planetarium on hello_everything
i honestly believe he connected to an ethereal collective consciousness in this tune. i feel my pineal gland open up in these moments.