Metal, Cars and Songwriting


One of the things I have loved about music is that there is not just one way to write a song. There are so many ways that people have been successful. I once read that the late great Joe Strummer of the Clash used to strap on a recording device and record his musical ideas while he was jogging – this could explain the rhythm that the Clash had in a lot of their songs. Some people write by jamming, others will write with another person in the same room – others will write separately and try to take what they bring to the table and create something from their separate endeavours.

Recently, I was having a conversation about songwriting with one of my adult music students. I shared a new song I was writing and showing the process in a step-by-step manner. One of the advantages about teaching instruments in a recording studio is that there tends to be a silent coaxing to write music and eventually record it. I equate writing songs to driving a car and with metal it’s more like a muscle car. LOL! I usually start with the bass, it’s like the accelerator pedal – it keeps things moving along. The drums are the body of the car, they give the song the form it needs while the bass is pushing the song. The guitars are like the paint job, they make the song catch your eye (in this case ear) and give the song a different identity from any other song. And finally, the voice, the purr of the engine, the most important thing that most people listen to in a song or buying a car. If the motor sounds great – it’s awesome. If the motor has some strange sounds in it, or is running too hot or cold, it could indicate one heck of a repair bill.  If a singer is making strange sounds or is running too hot or cold, the bill gets large in the studio either making time consuming edits or repairs or scrapping it and replacing the vocals using even more studio time.

I hope this analogy isn’t too lame. This is the way I write music about 90% of the time. Again, I’m not trying to get people to write music this way but I thought I’d share it with you to get some feedback.  How do you write your songs? If you can, please share with us in the comments below. Hopefully, over the next couple of weeks, we’ll have some different views on this all important topic.

Photo Credit: Steve Arnold

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