I've written here before about my process of creating new music... mostly coming to the conclusion that I don't actually have a process, and that it is, in actuality, some mystical magic shit that either happens or doesn't. But I have narrowed down a few points:
1. I tend to write music when I am in front of some kind of music-making thing (a guitar, a piano, a computer running music production software, etc.).
2. I tend to write music when I am not distracted by other life things -- much of which is also very important to me, like being a responsible adult, a parent, a love interest, and those other roles that musicians often (but shouldn't) call distractions.
But beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. I often pick up a guitar in a peaceful and quiet environment, and nothing new even comes close to happening. I've also "tried" to write a song... disaster. "Trying" to write is pretty much a guarantee for writing your absolute worst, most derivative, and completely unexciting music. That's where the filler on an album comes from, when a songwriter has a burst of two or three genuine tunes, and then realizes that he or she needs another ten to fill it up. My advice: don't do it. Wait until you have more actual songs, or just release singles or EPs.
Anyway, as my readers know, I recently moved, and it wasn't a simple or easy move. Granted, it was only a half block to the west, but the move ended up stretching out over weeks, and we still have boxes in our living room to sort through a month after starting the process. Anyway, per above, there was no way in hell I was going to write music during that time frame. I was mentally and physically exhausted for a good portion of it, and then my focus was on catching up with the more responsible aspects of my life that were pushed back via the move. It wasn't until last week when I started getting back into my routine of picking up an instrument and playing when I had a spare moment to do so.
Sometimes, at least for me, that's a good time to write. You're approaching it from a fresh angle, having not played in awhile, and perhaps consciously or otherwise, you have some ideas bottled up. But as I also said above, for the love of God, do not try and write a song. Instead, just be within playing proximity of an instrument, and see what happens when you make contact with it. No pressure. Play a few notes or a chord, and then maybe another. Nod your head a bit, perhaps settling on a tempo and feel. Mumble some sounds that might one day be a melody and some lyrics. If it happens, it happens. If not, go do something else.
Hey, that's the name of my new song
Inadvertent mention, or Freudian slip? I have no idea. But here's how I wrote my new song "Something Else".
One night last week, I picked up my Martin D-18V, which has been the conduit for many songs I've written. The chord progression came to me all at once. I didn't stop and wait to write a bridge, or a chorus. I just flowed through the whole thing as it came to me. A good sign, not stopping. I did a quick recording of that, just to make sure I wouldn't forget it the next day. That was all, for the time being.
I didn't know what I was going to do. I highly recommend not knowing what you're doing, by the way.
On Saturday, Kat was reading or napping or something. I decided to fire up Logic Pro, my current preferred music production software. I didn't know what I was going to do. I highly recommend not knowing what you're doing, by the way. But then I recalled that I'd done that little tune the other day, and gave it a listen. Yup, that would work. So I gave some thought -- but not too much thought -- to what the drums and bass might sound like, and then I recorded those. Then I re-recorded the guitar part I'd written previously, and added some little vibe ambience that came to me on the spot. Later that night, I played my in-progress tune over and over again, probably to Kat's dismay. But before I went to sleep, I had a pretty good idea of the melody.
When I'm in the middle of a tune like that, I want to keep the flow going. After coffee and breakfast on Sunday morning, I went straight back to the song. I had the tune and a sort-of melody, but I had no words to sing. This is a problem. Songs require singing. Side note: some of you use the term "instrumental song". This is, by definition, impossible. Songs are sung. Tunes can be played, orchestras can be performed, instrumentals can be realized, but only songs can be sung.
But I digress. I put on the music, and then started writing things that came to mind. I suppose the feel of the music does sway what lyrics I write. I hope so, anyway. I do try and knock out lyrics as quickly as I can after writing new music. It keeps the vibe that much more consistent. Also, as I learned from Neil Young, I don't edit myself very much. I try and write through the song, and then go back and make small tweaks to assist with the phrasing and such, or to make sure the emotional impact of the song is consistent throughout.
So, I suddenly had lyrics, and it was time to sing them, which I quickly did. Then I did a fast mix of the song, and plopped it up on Soundcloud to share with my friends. And that's where we are right now, my friends. What happens next? Well, I'll probably go through the same process again, to re-record my quick ideas and get them polished up some, and perhaps add to them if I feel it will suit the song.
That's it. That's how I write a song. This was of no help to anyone trying to write a song of their own (and remember, never try and write a song). But perhaps it was interesting in its complete vagueness. Enjoy the tune.