So What Makes You Start A Song?

This has been on my mind ever since I really started getting the hang of this Electricity powered type of music. How do you great artists here actually START a song. What I mean by that is this.

Writing a song for non-electronic music consists of writing it. Then playing actual instruments. You are already given the sounds. Already given the drums. The keyboards. Whatever instrument your playing. Its all there for you.

In electronic music however, I find it much more difficult. I recently made the first breakcore track I made in over a month simply because I couldn’t come up with a song to write. You could call it writers block or something. I had many many ideas in my head however. "Yeah it should start like this, then 4/4 snares followed by some generic voice sample. Then I want this kind of hihat…with pitch shifting snares…" I opened Renoise then 5 minutes later I just did not have it happening. I couldn’t write my song.

I find the hardest part of making Electronic music finding that sound you need for a specific part of a song. If you want to be original, thats pretty hard. I have a wide selection of amen breaks, snares, kicks, ect that I could be using for breakcore. But instead I find my self stumped. It totally boggles my mind how these amazing people out there come up with this great Electronic music pieces. Knowing how the song will go is 1 thing, but finding the sound to make it happen is another.

Im afraid I wont be able to make another track for a long time because of this. When I first started making this music, I had the brick wall of finding out how to make renoise work in front of me, preventing me from making any tracks. Once I started to get the flow going, I got the hang of it. Now, the thing preventing me from making any more tracks is me simply not being able to come up with them.

So how do you start writing a great track? What really gets it going? This isn’t about what inspires you. But knowing what sounds would fit great. It may sound stupid not knowing if a snare will sound good with this. This isn’t about mastering or making a song sound good. Its about actually starting to write a song.

Most of my tracks begin with my tying to create something I can hear in my head and then having it get totally derailed into something else that sounds good. The stuff I’m not planning out ahead of time that kind of falls into place is usually what sounds the best. Messing around with synths for fun without planning out a song has helped me a lot.

As far as ‘does this sound good with this’ if I can get the melody or beat right I’ll make a note to adjust as the song comes together more. It’s easy to just open up a new snare sample over your old one or to try to EQ it once you can hear what about it doesn’t quite fit.

can be small thing (imho) evry day is inspirationale

a feeling

your mood

drunk/clean(im both by the way)

if you have watched a shityy youtube


there’s play time and there’s do time. sometimes its a bit blurry, but most of all, find the hook. [/ramble]

My f’cked up life.

i like your direct approach

I am just glad I’m not the only one that has that exact problem ^_^

Exactly the response I was looking for. More like this. I guess I should do more of this. I’ve been too much like “Ok as soon as I open renoise I will make a god like breakcore track” I should stop doing that :P

I am too. Trust me.


I rarely see the entire song at first. I just find some interesting samples and go with the flow from there. You can get some very interesting music like that ;)

I don’t think I’ve ever started with more than a melody and a mood - or maybe some lyrics to use in a hook, if it’s vocal. I just sort of flesh it out from there…

the computer assists you in building your song so you do not have to do it all in your head (but that does not mean you can’t).
first, a concept:

“here is a riff i heard in my head at the market while picking out tomatoes”
“here is the melody the subway makes when the doors are closing”
“i will now manufacture a beat out of the sound of my ex breaking plates against the wall when we broke up last week”

store it digitally so it’s less easily forgotten, capture the moment! hum the melody to yourself on the subway, time it to the snares of the dr. dre track that the one dude is playing way too loud (goodness, that can’t be good for his ears). think about it. play the melody in the background while you’re making soup. when you find yourself humming accompaniment, quickly program/record it as well, but don’t burn your dinner in the process. multitasking is an advanced compositional technique, be careful!

wouldn’t that beat with the plates fit in well here? how about that other field recording from a few months ago, the one from the walk through helsinki? yes, that will do nicely for a texture…oh, my ex has a cameo, this will fit perfectly.

tl;dr: let go

Go back into the history of this forum and this issue has come up in many many threads. Do a search if you like and you might find some nuggets to inspire some ideas. There are hundreds of ways to get the ball rolling, from obvious points of inspiration, to oblique strategies. Search and try things with the spirit of fun. Find what works for you.

For me I’ve got two methods that I keep using:

  1. An over-aching thematic concept that can be contained into an ‘album’, either as a direct linear narrative or a collection of more abstracted commonalities. This basically means I’ve worked out a ‘concept album’ plan in my head way before I ever pick up an instrument or sit at the computer. The idea serves as my road map, and I break all the parts into song projects. I can start from the specific (e.g. I want this section to peak here with this) or it can start out blurry (e.g. I like how this ‘mood’ fits this region of a theme) - but I’m constantly pushing toward something more specific and molded. Hopefully the end product has a lot of cohesion and sense of purpose to it. But sometimes I get bored of working on the same thing, so…

  2. Because I’m fickle, unsettled and I’ve got a million little ideas pouring through my head weekly - I try to just keep active with jotting down little musical / textual ideas in Renoise. So on any given day I could be in the mood for anything to metal to ambient, to wanting to do a cover of Hadaway, to wanting to make a cloud of close pitch drones made of millions of microtones. Who cares, just follow the whim and the mood. It’s good practice for when it comes time to do more serious work. And sometimes some of these little ideas evolve into bigger more sophisticated ideas that may end up on albums. If they don’t go anywhere, that’s fine, it wasn’t meant to be. No use in beating myself up over it.

i’ve been attempting to write a proper song for about 3 years now. when i started with digital music, after the initial phase of finding out how everything works (what the hell is ‘osc1’,‘adsr’, etc), i started creating song after song after song in rapid tempo. some of it was nice, mainly because it was new and experimental and i never heard something like it before. after a while, i knew my DAW of choice (Reason, back then) almost like the back of my hand, and knew exactly what i liked to hear and how i could achieve that. however, i got tired of doing the same thing over and over again. i felt like by mastering the DAW, my creativity and inspiration had dropped to a low point - the element of surprise was gone.
furthermore, i had about 300 files in the directory ‘songs’, of which about 30 were actually exported. and whenever i listened to the songs i created i kinda liked them but i never felt it was anything i could really release in any kind of way, shape or form. so i got a bummer for having spent so much time on my music without being able to produce 1 completely satisfying song.
then i found Jesus, and my life changed.
hahaha - no, i decided to buy a copy of renoise and check it out, to try something new to get the adventure back into my music. i’ve been working in renoise for maybe 6 months now, and have created another probably 50 files in the folder ‘songs’, a lot of which are sketchy things. used to start a song one day, come back the next day and wouldn’t feel like continueing that particular song, or any particular song, and started with a fresh idea. BUT! i am currently working on a song, and have worked on it for almost a month! i keep coming back to it because i really like how it feels.

tl;dr; - be patient!

about finding which sounds fit: i found that once you get a bit more experience with EQ’ing and filtering and stuff, you can have a song, search your samples/VSTs for a sound, and modify it so it works in the song. you need to develop an ear for this. often, i work for half an hour on a particular sample, DSP’ing the fuck out of it, and ending up throwing it out because it isn’t working. this happens, i have learned. grab another sample, start over. you’ll have good and bad days. basically:

tl;dr; - be patient!

hope this is of some use to you! keep up the (good or bad) work!

my considerations (one way i try, have not yet reached) …

with the basic idea of an motif you can begin to create from that point … first write the max highlight of the motiv down in renoise (use at this point a simple synth sound/piano to get an insight into how it can listen to later), then you have it, programm the synth to fit the motiv best AND stay awy from changing the motiv to fit a preset!
After having the main, you can create all the other elements around this part and in link to it.
It is good to programm/search the sounds little by little to take place in the spectrum without beating each other. So you must not heavy eq if you take advantage how you set from the first element in the whole spectrum.
Ask youself: What is the direkt way from your basic idea to the result? Fit it with more and more tracks … or can you reach it with less but, catchy living parts?
Decrease complexity to the needed minimum ^_^

Something I’ve been playing around with is the idea of mind-mapping tunes.

Mind-mapping is a brainstorming technique that was in vogue a while back, but it’s seeing a resurgence in software development circles due the availability of easy-to-use, free tools that facilitate their creation.

Mindmaps make it extremely easy to get started via free association. Just type as fast as you can, making dependencies however you want, connecting whatever you want, deleting whatever you want.

Here’s how it looks when you start…

… and here’s one that I’ll use to make a tune:

I made it while I was sitting on a couch at a car dealership, waiting for an oil change. It took maybe ten minutes and now whenever I get around to it I have a decent place to start from.

P.S. anybody who wants to steal this idea, please do, I think it sounds like it would be a kickass track. =)


Better than trying to store it all in your brain.


This is great and a linux version is also avaible … thx for the tip … ^_^