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Click here for a printer-friendly version of "Songwriting, Part 3".
In Part 2, I expanded ideas regarding starting the songwriting process by beginning with melody and chords first. Here I'll go into greater detail with other processes to start with that I began in part 1. By now, you have probably figured out that these three articles on songwriting are on a more advanced level than is typical of songwriting articles or most books. If the content you read below is deeper than you are ready to understand right now, don't give up on it, perhaps in the future you will be ready for these more advanced ideas. If you do understand this material, great! Implement the ideas as you see fit for your music.
Begin With Rhythm First
Combine two or more completely different rhythmic ideas into a single idea. Take two of your favorite rhythmic patterns and combine then into a single idea.
Augment Rhythmic Values
Create a short rhythmic pattern one measure in length. Write it down on paper. Now increase the value of each rhythmic event (note or rest). Here is an example. Lets say you have this pattern: One quarter note, two 8th notes, another quarter note, then four 16th notes. Now "augment" all of these rhythmic notes by doubling their length.
Change all quarter notes to a half notes,
The example above now gives you a rhythmic pattern that is slower and twice as long but using the same number of events and the exact same pattern (just slower now).
Change all 8th notes to quarter notes,
Change all 16th notes to eighth notes.
Diminish Rhythmic Values
This is the same concept as augmenting rhythmic values except now you do the opposite. Shorten each rhythmic event, the result is the same pattern but in shorter (faster) rhythmic values. Using the above example, you would now:
Change all quarter notes to 8th notes,
Yep, its cool. The examples above are pretty basic, because I told you to either double the length (in the augment section) or cut in half (in the diminish section) above. But there are cooler combinations such as adding a dot after each note or change to triplets, these also can be done with augmentation or diminution.
Change all 8th notes to 16th notes,
Change all 16th notes to 32nd notes.
Destructive Rhythmic Creation
I wrote an article called "Creativity and Expression" (in 2 parts). In part 1, I wrote about a concept called "Destructive Creation" Which I personally find to be a fascinating subject. I purposely did not give any examples of this process in that article so people would ponder the concept and may think of original ways in which to use the Destructive Creation. This concept has been extremely helpful to me when writing some of the very progressive rhythmic ideas on my "Opus 2" CD. I strongly recommend to read that article before reading any further. Here is the link.
Here is an example of Destructive Creation. Do this: Get a pencil, eraser and a sheet of paper. Write down thirty-two 16th notes. (in 4/4 time this will be 2 measures of steady 16th notes). Now randomly erase 7 (or 11 or 14 or any other number) 16th notes. Now play the resulting new rhythm on your instrument (you can also do this on a drum machine, computer, etc. If you don't like the results, try erasing more or less notes or change the order of the notes.
Once you have a new rhythmic idea that seems to have potential, apply the other ideas on rhythm already discussed to this rhythm. Augment the rhythmic values, diminish it, play it in retrograde (play it backwards) or do some combination of these ideas, the possibilities are endless. If none of these ideas seem to be helping you, it might be because you have not yet written an interesting melody for these rhythms. So begin composing new melodies, or chord progressions, or riffs, etc. for these new rhythmic ideas. Then they will begin to come to life.
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