Song Writing 101: Coffee and Lyrics

By Anton Laplume

Song writing.

Song writing for me is the equivalent of writing in your diary or journal. It’s a way to document a certain frame of mind of when a song is written. Expressing your feelings towards any given situation. Whether it’s love lost, love gained, being broke or having an excess amount of money, the separation of those you grew up with designated by life’s process, or the new bonds you form in your progression through this crazy world, there’s plenty of inspiration to grab from.

Sometimes it comes in the form of just music without lyrics because sometimes just the music is enough to get the point across. Other times the music is simply two or three chords but the lyrics have a much deeper meaning. That’s the great thing about music and art in general, there are options, and so many different ways to explore them; and beyond the art, there’s a discipline gained from working within certain creative boundaries to express concepts that are seemingly untethered by logic.

However, everyone has their process.

For me, it usually starts off with a large cup of coffee and some kind of turbulence in my life. When something happens, either good or bad, that kind of rearranges my thought process and has me questioning the way I’ve been doing things, I’ll hide out in the organized chaos of my work space and just start to play. As the playing continues, a vocal concept will kind of just come to fruition and before I know it, there’s a concept for a verse or chorus.

Now we come to the lyrics (entering large cup of coffee), which can be a frustrating process. As I would imagine it for most writers, I am very particular about the words I use. From the amount of syllables a word may have, to the way it flows with the surrounding words. What kind of rhyming scheme do I want (If any at all)?. What part of the beat am I placing a word on? And how do I want to finish a phrase? Both rhythmically and harmonically speaking. That’s where those creative boundaries come into play.

The following is usually the final part of the skeleton and the bane of my existence… the bridge. The bridge of any song generally comes in a little more than half way through and offers a bit of relief or change from the songs main idea (verses and choruses). When I write a bridge, I’ll try to change the key center of the song, maybe change up the rhythmic pattern a bit, which can be difficult at times. The reason being, is that sometimes you’re just not hearing a change or a new section to add. Maybe you’re having a hard time coming up with a smooth transition (once again, those creative boundaries). And it’s okay to not have a bridge sometimes, but it is important as a musician to challenge yourself to come up with an idea, even if you’re not particularly hearing one.

That’s where the discipline comes into play. Because to just abandoned the bridge because of the lack of ideas is not only preventing the possibility of a great concept, but also denying yourself a process of learning which can only benefit you. Either way, a lot of the time this ends up being the downfall to a lot of my material. Halting the process of writing to the point where the song is just another unfinished idea in the musical wasteland of my brain.

But in the event that I do successfully finish the songs structure, I will then introduce it to whoever I am playing with, and we add on the final touches to make the song complete. For me, once a song is finished, nothing gives me a greater sense of accomplishment or feeling of relief. At least for a short period of time, then I have to start the whole process over again.

The beauty of whole thing is that every time it’s a little different, and every time, the end result is just as satisfying.

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