Evolution of a Songwriter

the repetitive 4-chords phase

in the past, i used to compose songs just for kicks. it feels great being able to sing something that you know originated 100% from you. i did not care or worry about the lyrics, quality or meaning of the music; as long as there's a verse and chorus i'm pretty much satisfied with the song.

songs-as-an-expression-tool phase
but then, after composing a few songs with exactly the same chord progressions, i began to feel bored and come up with more complicated songs. i also started to look for a greater meaning behind my songs. they became a form of self-expression for me. for those who don't know me, i'm quite a shy and private person (haha!) and thus my songs became an outlet for me to express certain things, like how i feel about other people, what my take on life is, etc etc.

songs-as-an-art phase
but as time goes by, i realised that i don't really have that much to say after all, and it only becomes a matter of time before the content of the songs become repetitive and similar. whenever i sit down to compose and a song comes up, i would think "hmm, have i done this type of song before? has the message been expressed in an earlier song? would it be a waste of time to do it?". and i realised that it is difficult to keep writing about new stuffs all the time (hey 99.999% of songs are about love anyway..). how songs usually distinguish themselves are by the way in which they are conceptualised and presented.

thus, songs then become a form of art to me, as i would try discover means and ways to convey the messages in a song in a more 'arty' way. for example, if it's a sad song, i would most likely use minor chords, and if its a rock song, my strumming pattern would be stronger and different. i would also try to insert 'riffs' or catchy bits if possible to further enhance the song. sometimes there would even be solos to help make the songs sound nicer. thus, a song is now more than just a tune, but more of a whole entity, where arrangements of instruments play a part and there must be a conception of what the overall SOUND of the song should sound like.

i guess i am in this phase right now. to me now, a song cannot exist simply by strumming a guitar or a piano and singing. i would always ask myself and think.. "whats the riff/hook for this song? whats a suitable tempo? are there any suitable instruments that can accompany this song? whats the overall feel of the song and what can i do to improve it? what type of percussion beats/effects should i put in? does it need harmonies? is the chorus strong/distinct enough? should the song end in a proper way or fade away? what format should the song be in for maximum desired effect (ABAB/AABB/ABBA/ABCABC/etc etc)? what type of solos should there be and where should they be located? are there any established similar songs that i can get references from?"

this whole process makes the whole songwriting process much more tiring and difficult, but its something i feel i have to go through and get used to if i want to improve as a songwriter and an arranger. an arrangement is extremely important in getting the song across in the way the songwriter intended it to be, so i'm keen to learn more about it in order to give my songs the best possible treatment possible. i remember listening to a particular song on loop mode and trying to figure out what makes the song so enjoyable. and for some songs which i did that too, i discovered that their arrangements are not so good, even for established musical acts (eg. huh this type of arrangement even my grandmother can do lah why do you need to hire a big shot producer to do it? LOL).

i'm glad in a way, because i'm learning and discovering things for myself. it's what the famous nobel laureate physicist richard feynman calls the joy of learning, cos you are interested in finding something out for knowledge's sake.

the future
i'm not sure what would happen in the future. would i further explore the realms of sound and create super complicated music and sounds (eg. sgt peppers) or be sick of it all and just return back to basics with simply a guitar in my hand? heh.. time will tell, but for now i'm happy with how its going =).


Ivan Chew said...

I guess there's always a cycle to things. We'll find ourselves going back to basics, and then trying more complex things etc.

Firdaus said...

yeah, you're right.. now, if only there's time to write!! too much sch work!! haha..