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What is your song writing process? Has it evolved?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
What is your song writing process? Has it evolved?

I've been doing a lot of writing and recording during the past year due to covid and I got to thinking about how my process has changed over the years. I realized that how I record has changed the way I write and also affect the final results. In my early years I used open reel recorders and outboard gear which was always a struggle for me. Because of that I had everything figured out ahead of time and was well practiced to minimize the number of takes and editing. I've been using a DAW for 10 plus years now and I realized that, especially this past year, that I develop most of my songs whilst sitting at the computer. I've recorded songs where I've only played certain parts a few times, recorded, and not played again (FYI, I use all organic instruments).

Anyone else have this experience? Even if not I'm still curious to know your process and the order of creation.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I used to stack parts and then figure out the structure afterwards.

Now I focus on the structure first with the first instrument I choose and it’s helped me to finish songs faster.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
Lives for gear
 
s wave's Avatar
I hear you. My processes have radically changed too. I used to try to dive right into recording. BUT now I just focus on the song idea itself - I often step back and keep it simmering... until a very worth while idea is finalized. (I stay away from the DAW as long as I can) I feel going on it early wastes a lot of time and I used to get diverted onto tangent ideas and sometimes confusing rabbit holes.

When the good initial idea is somewhat solidified; I ask my self if I can confidently record and produce the sounds of the song (that I have in my head) When I know... I keep an strong eye on the original inspiration and try not to waiver from that. When the rhythm or beat finally fits... I go ahead and make a scratch track - and keep on musing on it.

Today when I hit the DAW - I am very confident that I have a very good idea - a good song - I know I will not have many obstacles. (one worth putting a lot of future time and energy into it) Even when recording and producing on a DAW the SONG stays the most important thing. When a good song is fully polished in your head... all that is left is to just manifest it or magically capture it. This is where it all happens IMO.

I look at it as a 2 step process now. I WANT that great fully polished song in my head first! Because at some point - I feel I will get that magic in a can.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
Gear Maniac
 
On guitar, I usually write songs within a half an hour or so. Lyrics with a basic chord structure/arrangement and a vocal melody that I like.

On piano, the songs are a bit different just because of the way a piano is laid out. Love piano a lot.

Sometimes I try to switch it up with coming up with a title first...and then writing the entire song around that title. A tip from George Harrison.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
I never really gave the process much thought and always let the song develop as ideas came to me. I got to thinking more about it after the last two songs I wrote where I had all the music completed and recorded with no idea what the subject matter would be for the lyrics or title. I had to come up with lyrics to fit the music and verses that I had laid out and what surprised me is that in the end it all worked out very well. In my case I have more musical ideas than lyrical ideas so I may take this approach more.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
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telecode's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
I usually start with a hook, either a chorus or verse riff, then build the rhythm with drums and bass, then figure out chords, and then work my way upwards. Lyrics usually last.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
TC, what instrument(s) do you play? I always assumed most singer/songwriter type folks structured music around the lyrics and doing it the other way around seems somehow un-natural. I wasn't expecting others to say that they create the lyrics last.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #8
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telecode's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by markmann ➑️
TC, what instrument(s) do you play? I always assumed most singer/songwriter type folks structured music around the lyrics and doing it the other way around seems somehow un-natural. I wasn't expecting others to say that they create the lyrics last.
i play guitars, lapsteels, mandolins... e.t.c.. but i work mostly in a DAW. the biggest problem with cool chord progressions is they sometimes don't make rhythmic sense .. and you don't find that out until you throw it at a drummer or you try to make it work in a DAW. hence, the DAW made a huge difference in my productivity from the old days. (naturally, all depends what style of genre you are working in).
Old 3 weeks ago
  #9
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Wow, TC, sounds like we're working from the same play book.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #10
When I was younger, in the 4-track cassette days, I'd try to structure the whole song and take notes and try to have it all worked out. Then, I'd lay down the guitar and build from there. I wasn't very good at that, for a litany of reasons. I didn't try to write songs again for quite a while, but when DAW's became ubiquitous and cheaper, I dove in and now I guess I write almost entirely in the DAW. It's changed my creative process, for the better but I try to keep evolving.

I consider the DAW just another instrument, in a way.

My "typical" method is to come up with a riff, or melody, depending on whether I hear "chorus" or "verse"...or sometimes an intro. I record that, then loop it and work on a vocal line, or accompaniment. If it has promise, I'll figure out other parts that compliment it, and build a structure for the song using the loops. That way I can move them around, like song legos.

Once I think it has promise, I'll record drums in a rough mix...sometimes bass or keys to flush it out enough that I can bounce it down. I'll take that and throw it in the car or phone to let me dwell on it, and it usually takes me a week or so of this to judge whether it's good, if I have arrangement or lyric ideas, or maybe if it should just be an instrumental. Then, using the mix as a scratch track, I go back and do it right. Having it in "block" form is super handy, from a writing standpoint....nothing is ever set in stone.

But, as I've done this for a hundred songs, I also have been trying to mix this formula up and push myself to write in other and more interesting ways. So, I might say "Ok, so write a song using only a bass line" and that has to be my starting off point. Or, "Write a song around an acapella vocal take". It's been fruitful for me, and it doesn't always work as I think it will, but it starts me thinking about melody and songs in a different way and that's led to some really good breakthroughs.

I was telling a fellow musician the other day that there seems to only be three ways to write, universally. One, you are a savant (Mozart style) and you hear it all materialize in your brain and then make it happen. That's gift of god ****.

Two, you flirt around until you find a good melody or riff, and then lightning hits and it starts effortlessly coming to life as you play or pick up other instruments.

Three, you just experiment and tinker as you go, and the end result is something that you're happy with....but you're not giving it any thought and it's a work in progress from start to finish.

I've done all three, and continue to, but usually I'm in the #2 camp out of necessity but occasionally I get touched by the gods and it's all done in my head. Sometimes I just mess around and build things from noodling. I don't know how other people are, but I'm grateful that all three methods are something I can get in touch with, tho not always on command.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #11
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Swingset, that's great insight. Regarding your three ways to write... there have been rare times when I hear a new song in my head with all of the instruments and changes which I find quite incredible how the mind can imagine in such detail. Unfortunately when it has happened it was not at a convenient time and trying to re-imagine it later is impossible.

I know that some folks record musical thoughts by humming a melody into their phone via the voice recorder. As many times as I've done this, every time I listen back at a later time the melody is never something I want to use.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #12
Deleted 7630dd4
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by s wave ➑️
BUT now I just focus on the song idea itself - I often step back and keep it simmering...
I LOVE that word "simmering"!
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #13
Lives for gear
 
s wave's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by markmann ➑️
Swingset, that's great insight. Regarding your three ways to write... there have been rare times when I hear a new song in my head with all of the instruments and changes which I find quite incredible how the mind can imagine in such detail. Unfortunately when it has happened it was not at a convenient time and trying to re-imagine it later is impossible.

I know that some folks record musical thoughts by humming a melody into their phone via the voice recorder. As many times as I've done this, every time I listen back at a later time the melody is never something I want to use.
At a young age I had half of a song slip away because I THOUGHT I could remember it all and IMO it was a very good one. Wrong... After that I never let a song slip by into the abyss. It is not always convenient at all to take the effort and time to make sure that you will remember the song. To instantly LOCK out the world around you takes dedication and understanding of those in the world around you. If need be; I just grab my phone as if I have a very important call - put it up to my ear and walk away. I find a quiet place and write it all out. I do not use a phone to record the idea/composition. I have my own shorthand for lyrics/beat/melody etc. I feel if it came into my head... and I run it over and over 'in my head' I do not forget it. Fleeting ideas are just that - it is well worth 'being prepared' for ALL opportunities. tc
Old 3 weeks ago
  #14
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
I've always been a sporadic yet stream of consciousness lyric writer but trying to change the former as I get older, anyone here good at writing prompts? My lane is a hated genre at GS: Hip Hop, thing is I don't do the cliche subjects many people here may know Hip Hop to be based on mass media perception.

I've dived into producing and as I don't already play any instrument (but like piano) I start drums first and go from there.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by markmann ➑️
Swingset, that's great insight. Regarding your three ways to write... there have been rare times when I hear a new song in my head with all of the instruments and changes which I find quite incredible how the mind can imagine in such detail. Unfortunately when it has happened it was not at a convenient time and trying to re-imagine it later is impossible.

I know that some folks record musical thoughts by humming a melody into their phone via the voice recorder. As many times as I've done this, every time I listen back at a later time the melody is never something I want to use.
Oh, totally get that. I have realized and then lost hundreds of songs....that are "presented" to me somehow....usually when I'm in my car, or riding my bike, or somewhere that I'm unable to put it into any action. Trying to recall it is fruitless.

I'm not kidding when I say this, it was like a torture for me for a lot of my life. I really thought I was cursed with inspiration that I could not materialize or ever share, and it made me almost hate music.

Some of that was limited access to the instruments and methods to quickly capture, which I now have, but another huge part of this is experience and trust - trust that you can play, and it's ok if some of those things slip away. I realize now, far too late in my life unfortunately, that if you just live your life and let things go the beautiful stuff will come back to you. Maybe it's a little different, or not quite as grandiose as you'd hoped, but it comes back.

I love playing and writing now, so I wish I could go back and tell my. younger self to relax and keep learning the instruments and not worry about catching all that stuff god was tossing at you. You're not meant to catch it yet. Lol.

BTW, I do use my phone to catch ideas now....but mostly lyrics. I'm finally to the point in my playing that I can pretty comfortably transcribe progressions or sounds/ideas into writing in a way I can keep them around and use them later. It's not always completely reliable, but if I am ok with a song coming in pieces, it can work good. That's another thing that has evolved in me, where when I was younger it was either a 20 minute rush of inspiration or nothing at all. Now, I can let songs lay and come back and still be cool with what I started. Maybe some people can do this from the outset, but I had to learn it.

This is a very informative thread for me, in a way, I'm very curious about how others hear and write their music, and mostly have kept it to myself. It's neat to hear others have similar experiences.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #16
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by swingset ➑️
... Now, I can let songs lay and come back and still be cool with what I started. Maybe some people can do this from the outset, but I had to learn it.
I was the king of starting songs but never finishing them. I had (at least I thought) great ideas for melodies, chord changes, etc, but could never finish a complete song so I had many "song concepts" but no actual songs. It literally took me years to develop the skills to put all the parts together. Recording is a whole different subject and a continual learning process.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
Lives for gear
 
mbvoxx's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
I try to get to my DAW, open up one track, and record any idea that comes to me. Sometimes it's in the middle of the night...
I'll wake up with a song or an idea in my head, run up stairs and record the idea. It can be quick, with just humming the melody, singing a lyric hook, and strumming my acoustic. If I have a chord progression in mind I mention that on the recording. Sometimes it's just a hook, other times it's a verse or even an entire song idea.

Then I go back to bed. After I get up and get my day going I'll listen to what I recorded in the middle of the night and start fleshing it out into a song. I've also gotten up at 4am to write lyrics that are in my head. ... Get to my laptop and write them down as quickly as I can so I don't forget. Then later in the day, put them to music. The trick is to not let so many ideas escape into the cosmos.

When I revisit the idea and start working with it I usually begin with a scratch track of acoustic and vocal...work it thru...and record continuously until I get a solid idea and arrangement. Then, when I'm ready to record the final draft, I start with choosing the tempo and launching a click track.

From there I'll record an isolated acoustic guitar track, then an isolated scratch vocal track. Then I'll add a bass guitar. At that point I have a solid foundation to build the session from. The next step, for me, is to lay down a drum track so I go thru my library of grooves using Superior Drummer.

From there it's just a process of working with the song to find what best builds it to a final product. When I have all of my contributions completed, including a keeper vocal, I then send it to my musical partners for additional vocals, instruments and solos, and share my ideas and direction with them. They lay down their parts and send them to me and I drop them into the session and start mixing.

This song started out with just the hook while driving one day. I had the hook line in my head all day. Then when I got home I started the process of building it into a song.


Last edited by mbvoxx; 2 weeks ago at 01:21 PM..
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #18
Lives for gear
 
Herr Weiss's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by swingset ➑️
Trying to recall it is fruitless
To remember melodies that come 'out of the blue' at 'inopportune' times, I rely on simultaneously writing couplets.

in fact, I have a list of 30+ songs with just that; sometimes just a title will do the trick.

Still, I do remember once, coming up with a 'great' melody as I entered a subway car here in NYC.
Before I could put words to the tune, it all went away; due to the loud Mariachi band entertaining the sleepy riders.

It's safe to say, I did not tip them!!


~HW
Old 2 weeks ago
  #19
Here for the gear
 
sergeman's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I started out writing just what came to my head in the mid-90s without any thought on discipline whatsoever. Then I moved on to writing more and actually sat down to write even if I didn't have an idea prior. Then ideas started coming to my head while I was driving in the late 90s, so in 1998 I bought a little Sony digital recorder which I used for probably 8-9 years. You could only record on it for about 16 minutes. I wrote dozens of songs there just driving, getting home, finding out the chords on my guitar and then getting everything down on paper. Later on, I started getting killer song ideas while taking a shower, the only bad thing is that MANY times, since I wasn't singing them except in my head, I sat down, and had to spend half an hour find the right key for me because they are usually higher than I could comfortably sing.

Many, many years ago, I also started writing down song titles and I still do so today, just in case. What didn't really work for me, though, was writing lyrics before songs, which I tried doing maybe about 15-13 years ago. Did that for a while and it honestly just slowed me down.

I have also dreamt songs, two or maybe three times. It happened first, I believe, around 2007 or 8. I woke up and had the whole song ("All These Ticking Clocks") in my head, headed to my studio and recorded it.

By FAR the best advice I would give, would be to think about songs while driving and have your phone ready to record ideas there.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #20
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbvoxx ➑️
.....
When I revisit the idea and start working with it I usually begin with a scratch track of acoustic and vocal...work it thru...and record continuously until I get a solid idea and arrangement. Then, when I'm ready to record the final draft, I start with choosing the tempo and launching a click track.

From there I'll record an isolated acoustic guitar track, then an isolated scratch vocal track. Then I'll add a bass guitar. At that point I have a solid foundation to build the session from. The next step, for me, is to lay down a drum track so I go thru my library of grooves using Superior Drummer.

From there it's just a process of working with the song to find what best builds it to a final product. When I have all of my contributions completed, including a keeper vocal, I then send it to my musical partners for additional vocals, instruments and solos, and share my ideas and direction with them. They lay down their parts and send them to me and I drop them into the session and start mixing.

This song started out with just the hook while driving one day. I had the hook line in my head all day. Then when I got home I started the process of building it into a song.

My process is almost exactly the same as yours.

"Beer for Breakfast" is an excellent song! Sounds very professional and has that "Asleep Behind The Wheel" feel to it. Besides standard guitar I play lapsteel and I've played my share of Western Swing so I can definitely appreciate this tune.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #21
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by sergeman ➑️
....Later on, I started getting killer song ideas while taking a shower, the only bad thing is that MANY times, since I wasn't singing them except in my head, I sat down, and had to spend half an hour find the right key for me because they are usually higher than I could comfortably sing.

Many, many years ago, I also started writing down song titles and I still do so today, just in case. What didn't really work for me, though, was writing lyrics before songs, which I tried doing maybe about 15-13 years ago. Did that for a while and it honestly just slowed me down.

I have also dreamt songs, two or maybe three times. It happened first, I believe, around 2007 or 8. I woke up and had the whole song ("All These Ticking Clocks") in my head, headed to my studio and recorded it.
I don't think I've ever dreamt a song but I have had dreams where I'm on stage with Hendrix at a huge concert :-)

What's up with coming up with songs in the shower? I do the same thing, in fact some of my best ideas happen while showering. Why can I think so clearly, is it the sound of the water? Hot water warming my brain? Gotta be something to it.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #22
Here for the gear
 
sergeman's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by markmann ➑️
I don't think I've ever dreamt a song but I have had dreams where I'm on stage with Hendrix at a huge concert :-)

What's up with coming up with songs in the shower? I do the same thing, in fact some of my best ideas happen while showering. Why can I think so clearly, is it the sound of the water? Hot water warming my brain? Gotta be something to it.
Most likely it has to do with an already creative mind being surrounded by a LOUD yet soothing drone, the water falling. If we under normal circumstances get ideas, if we're in a kind of sonic bubble with almost no outside stimuli, I guess there's even more of a chance of stuff coming to our heads.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #23
Quote:
Originally Posted by sergeman ➑️
Most likely it has to do with an already creative mind being surrounded by a LOUD yet soothing drone, the water falling. If we under normal circumstances get ideas, if we're in a kind of sonic bubble with almost no outside stimuli, I guess there's even more of a chance of stuff coming to our heads.
I chalked it up to the creative gods being assholes. Some of my best stuff has come into my head while I'm riding my motorcycle...literally trapped in my helmet, miles from an instrument or even thing to make a note with.

Put me in my music room with all the stuff there, and my brain starts thinking about literally everything BUT a great song.

But, your theory is probably more accurate. Maybe all music rooms should have a shower.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #24
Lives for gear
 
telecode's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by swingset ➑️
I chalked it up to the creative gods being assholes. Some of my best stuff has come into my head while I'm riding my motorcycle...literally trapped in my helmet, miles from an instrument or even thing to make a note with.

Put me in my music room with all the stuff there, and my brain starts thinking about literally everything BUT a great song.

But, your theory is probably more accurate. Maybe all music rooms should have a shower.
perhaps you should get a digital voice recorder. or just use your phones sound record feature to capture ideas on the go. a lot of writers and poets carry little pens and notebooks around and jot down things as they go about their daily lives.
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #25
Lives for gear
 
s wave's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by markmann ➑️
I don't think I've ever dreamt a song but I have had dreams where I'm on stage with Hendrix at a huge concert :-)

What's up with coming up with songs in the shower? I do the same thing, in fact some of my best ideas happen while showering. Why can I think so clearly, is it the sound of the water? Hot water warming my brain? Gotta be something to it.
Crystals store energy as well as amplify... maybe so many people that have sung in the shower have imbued the crystal... and some people pick up on that?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #26
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
I think I'm going to put a mic in the shower and record a track of the droning water that I will add to every song. When the song is done I'll delete the shower track.

Swingset, you should record a track of rushing wind and do the same thing
Old 2 weeks ago
  #27
Gear Nut
 
🎧 15 years
Actually. first thing is to be self-confident in own writing abilities. If you think that your melodies are corny and sub-standard, they probably are. But if you start to take this writing thing seriously, you will discover that many hit song melodies sound bland, corny, and average played on a piano or a guitar without final production. The trick is to manage to put yourself in a position to evaluate your melodies as part of the Top chart songs, not as separate entities. Then you will stop wondering why 'that hit melody' has only a few tones and sounds great while yours that is similar doesn't sound good. It's all in the confidence. By saying that, it is not easy to obtain this, at least without having a proven hit writer who will help you to evaluate your own melodies and build your confidence.

Second thing. it's better to write small melody phrases and repeat them than to have a long melody phrase because every additional tone raises the chances that melody will sound corny. Chants are always simple, people will not singalong an 8-tonal melody but will often sing 3-5 tonal melodies. Of course, if you are a highly talented writer you may compose longer phrases, but that is much harder to do for the great majority of wannabe music composers.

Third, use symmetry. Ancient Greeks knew a lot about symmetry and proportion. People love symmetry. Try to have the same melody rhythm in lines 1 and 2, then 3 and 4. Sometimes you will repeat melody phrases in lines 1 and 2, sometimes one melody will be across 2 lines, sometimes you will change the end of line 2 a bit. Use your 'Lego' cubes construction experience from childhood. Hits are not composed, hits are mostly constructed.

Fourth, use chord tones as the base for the melody. It sounds good. From that base try to add some tones in order to 'connect' missing dots natural way.

Fifth, get inspired. This is not stealing, but getting inspired by other people's songs. Everyone does it, even famous hit writers (even if they don't admit it). Take a simple 2-3 note phrase and add your own touch to see where will it get you. You may help yourself with famous hits melody rhythms, it's free to use and it's already proven on the charts.

Sixth, combine major and minor chords. People are more forgiving when a song is in the minor. Besides, it gives the song a tension, dark-light contrast. Minor chords add melancholy and people love that (take ABBA for example). Use a proven chord wheel for combining chords. Nothing new on Earth, you will not invent unheard chords, and people would probably not like them anyway, that's why it's called popular music.

Seventh, write a lot. This is like a 9-5 job, you do it as a profession not thinking much about it. Then forget about it. You may like your new melody at the time you composed it, only to find out it is silly after a few days. Time will give you a perspective on your own melody qualitiy.

For your melodies that stand the test of time, go and finish the whole demo. And pay for the real singer to sing it. It will make a whole lot of a difference. A melody will never sound like a hit played on a piano (except if you melody that is already a hit, that changes your perspective). There are good artist sites where you could send your demo for a singer to add singing for a modest sum (actually I have seen some ridicously low sums for doing this).

Finally don't get too attached to all this. It is a business, and pleasure is only a by-product of doing what you love to do.

Happy songwriting and give us some hits
Old 2 weeks ago | Show parent
  #28
Lives for gear
 
s wave's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dagg ➑️
Actually. first thing is to be self-confident in own writing abilities. If you think that your melodies are corny and sub-standard, they probably are. But if you start to take this writing thing seriously, you will discover that many hit song melodies sound bland, corny, and average played on a piano or a guitar without final production. The trick is to manage to put yourself in a position to evaluate your melodies as part of the Top chart songs, not as separate entities. Then you will stop wondering why 'that hit melody' has only a few tones and sounds great while yours that is similar doesn't sound good. It's all in the confidence. By saying that, it is not easy to obtain this, at least without having a proven hit writer who will help you to evaluate your own melodies and build your confidence.

Second thing. it's better to write small melody phrases and repeat them than to have a long melody phrase because every additional tone raises the chances that melody will sound corny. Chants are always simple, people will not singalong an 8-tonal melody but will often sing 3-5 tonal melodies. Of course, if you are a highly talented writer you may compose longer phrases, but that is much harder to do for the great majority of wannabe music composers.

Third, use symmetry. Ancient Greeks knew a lot about symmetry and proportion. People love symmetry. Try to have the same melody rhythm in lines 1 and 2, then 3 and 4. Sometimes you will repeat melody phrases in lines 1 and 2, sometimes one melody will be across 2 lines, sometimes you will change the end of line 2 a bit. Use your 'Lego' cubes construction experience from childhood. Hits are not composed, hits are mostly constructed.

Fourth, use chord tones as the base for the melody. It sounds good. From that base try to add some tones in order to 'connect' missing dots natural way.

Fifth, get inspired. This is not stealing, but getting inspired by other people's songs. Everyone does it, even famous hit writers (even if they don't admit it). Take a simple 2-3 note phrase and add your own touch to see where will it get you. You may help yourself with famous hits melody rhythms, it's free to use and it's already proven on the charts.

Sixth, combine major and minor chords. People are more forgiving when a song is in the minor. Besides, it gives the song a tension, dark-light contrast. Minor chords add melancholy and people love that (take ABBA for example). Use a proven chord wheel for combining chords. Nothing new on Earth, you will not invent unheard chords, and people would probably not like them anyway, that's why it's called popular music.

Seventh, write a lot. This is like a 9-5 job, you do it as a profession not thinking much about it. Then forget about it. You may like your new melody at the time you composed it, only to find out it is silly after a few days. Time will give you a perspective on your own melody qualitiy.

For your melodies that stand the test of time, go and finish the whole demo. And pay for the real singer to sing it. It will make a whole lot of a difference. A melody will never sound like a hit played on a piano (except if you melody that is already a hit, that changes your perspective). There are good artist sites where you could send your demo for a singer to add singing for a modest sum (actually I have seen some ridicously low sums for doing this).

Finally don't get too attached to all this. It is a business, and pleasure is only a by-product of doing what you love to do.

Happy songwriting and give us some hits
Thanks - just a great post. May I add one more thing... try NOT to prejudge your own material. You may hate it... but that does not mean a million others will not like it! : ) write -on brother....
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