The Making of VX1: Songwriting
This is part 1 of the process in The Making of VX1
My ideation process generally starts with recording voice memos. I walk a few hours every day, and I come up with a lot of my ideas during these walks. I typically record these ideas as voice memos in a pretty unorganized way, ranging from lyrics, to basslines, to hooks, to percussion. I combine many of these ideas to create a cohesive song.
I have thousands of voice memos at this point, so if I really want to sit down and “write a song”, that’s where I’ll always start. But usually, one of these voice memos gets stuck in my head, and inspires me to the point where I HAVE to make that specific one into a song. I’ll then scroll through some voice memos to find other ideas that will mesh well, and try and combine them all in a sit-down session.
For each of the session walk-throughs, I have included all the voice memos I can find for all of those songs. Maybe it will give you insight into how each of these songs progressed.
The Sit-down Session
Once I find voice memos that I feel I can expand into a song, I’ll sit down at a piano or a computer to work out the ideas. Usually, my voice memos will include the hook, or a verse, or a bassline, etc, but won’t be an entire song. So I take this time to record the core ideas, stitch them together, and then work on “filling in the gaps”. This usually means improving over a loop of the song, or fiddling on a piano. This process generally takes multiple days (if not weeks or months), and I continue to record other voice memos and ideas throughout.
Piano Sessions vs Loop Sessions #
I tend to figure out all my more complex chord progressions on piano, because it’s a comfort instrument for me. “Getaway” finally found its vibe when I stole a chord progression from one of my meandering practice sessions on piano. “Sweet Honey” was a song I completely wrote on piano before transitioning it to voice.
Setting up a simple session or building from a loop is how songs like “The Problem”, “S.U.S.”, and “Pay Attention” came about; usually songs that are more progressive and take time to build up. I also often export loops for use on walks – I’ll simply play the loop over and over as I come up with lyrics.
I still consider lyrics to be my weak point in songwriting. I have, however, improved greatly. A lot of this is because I took a year where I was consistently writing poetry WITHOUT music as a goal. I had even made a (now defunct) website, fridaypoetry.org… But writing poetry without additional challenge of music really helped me understand the flow of words a lot more.
I think I started finding my groove with lyrics when I started to focus less on meaning and rhyming, and focus more on the rhythmic flow of the song. I tend to use a lot more “dirty” rhymes where it makes more sense in these. They add a lot more variation and interest than perfect rhymes.
Completing the Songwriting Process
I generally consider this phase of my process complete when I have the song in a “performable” state. I want a rough chord progression or loop, lyrics, and my main melodies. I’m not overly focused on details at this point.