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How I Write And Record Songs When I Play No Instruments

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

I pretty much write songs the same way I did back in the 80's. Only difference now is that we have music software, the ability to license instrumental beats that are sold online and we also have more advanced internet to make things easier. I've recorded and copyrighted a ton of songs but due to things going on outside of music, I was unable to pursue my dreams any further. Now today my daughter wants to remake all my old songs which is awesome. Especially because my son is a music producer! How convenient, right?

So I'm a lyricist, vocal arranger and voice coach. I know how to make beats and play a few tunes on the keyboard but I don't play well enough to compose instrumental music. That's not my lane. Additionally for health related reasons I no-longer travel out to meet with producers and most of my work is done from my home office/studio or via online video meetings and sessions with clients. My songwriting specialty is Pop and R&b music and the voice lessons I teach are built around that theme as well. Based off my own personal experience, here's how I suggest you transform your lyrics into a professionally recorded song.

While I'm aware that I can purchase and download music from online beat-makers, I don't prefer to use them as a contribution to my original lyrics and melody. The reason why is I'd want all exclusive rights for my commercial music projects so I don't wanna pay for that especially when I know that with a collaborative music project I can create my song from start to finish and retain the power to publish my own work any way I wish. If anything they should be paying ME lol. I'd rather collaborate with a musician/producer directly, split everything up, and get paid all my royalties like a BOSS! I just don’t like the idea that somewhere another artist is using MY BEAT especially if they’re doing it better than ME! Yeah. You know that’s how they get paid right? The more people that purchase their most popular beats the merrier. I don’t like to share so I use beat-makers for things like background music on my podcast or to teach a songwriting class to clients...stuff like that mostly. I don’t mind sharing at that level.

Step One: Have the ability to write and professionally record vocals from your personal home studio. That means you'll need to learn to use music software and a good studio mic to produce a clean vocal and you'll need a quiet place to do it. Keep in mind I have a voice-over set up in my home office. It’s where I teach lessons to clients. It’s nothing fancy but I gets the job done tho. I'm not a producer but I do know how to produce lol.

Step Two: Find a producer that is GREAT and reliable. Put your goals in writing and have both parties agree. It doesn't need to be a formal contract just yet, but it does need to be in writing with proof that both parties agreed to the terms of the songwriting process, the copyrights and the royalty split. It's the VERY least you can do to protect yourself. This is business and by requiring an official yet informal agreement by those you plan to enter into a professional collaboration with, you are protecting both parties. Let them know that.

Step Three: As this pertains to my songwriting process and what I expect from a long distance collaboration, this is how it goes...

If the lyricist (aka ME) makes the first move, then I would first record an example of my vocal melody (either a cappella or to a beat I make with my mouth or with a beat using music software like Garage Band or Logic) I'd do just enough so that the producer can come up with instrumental music around my vocal melody. It's the unofficial vocal; meaning it won't be used in the final mix because usually it's still being written at this point, so don't expect the singing to be perfect just yet lol. For example you may only have the hook so far and maybe a few vowel sounds in place of lyrics as a guide for the producer. So I'd send him my recorded idea along with a few links to published hits performed by National recording artists. Sending additional songs to the co-writer/producer from already established artists isn't for the purpose of copying from somebody else (cause that's illegal!) I do this for inspirational purposes. It gives the producer ideas about the vibe and music style I’d like to create. A talented producer should be able to come up with a great and original idea based solely from my lyric and melody submission. It may take a little more time going back in fourth to get the music arrangements, key, etc in order and that’s cool. Can’t rush perfection. Further discussion about the song can be done via phone or Facetime if the producer is out of State. (btw, make sure you've actually seen the producer face to face and confirmed who he/she is before pursuing a professional songwriting collaboration with him/her so you don't get catfished lol).

Once you both agree to the song structure, you can record the official lead and vocal onto the almost final mix he/she most recently sent you. Don't add a bunch of sound effects to the vocal because that's the producer's job. Just record the parts (leads, harmonies, etc), make sure it's squeaky clean, make sure that when you turn the producer's music down in the headphones, you don't hear any music bleeding into your vocal tracks and also don't let the recorded volume go to red or it may sound distorted. Be sure and type up your lyrics and add copyright notices on them and save them on your computer so that the date is recorded. That will serve as copyright until you're ready to take the song to the NEXT level once it's complete. (more on that in a future blog). Send the entire music file to the producer (don't save it into an MP3 or Wave file before sending. Just send it "as is" right out of your music software because the producer will need the stems (he'll need each recorded track) to properly edit and master your voice on his end. (make sure ya'll discuss about the software you'll use before starting any project so that you can ensure it's compatible and can work with whatever music software you use.)

Now if it's the producer that kicks everything off by first sending you the music to write to, you should first make sure it's music you want to commit to and also make sure the instrumental song structure is going to work well with your vocal arrangements. After that you can write and record your official vocal and send it back to him for editing. This process actually goes much faster when the producer already has the perfect beat to send you and when you're able to write to it because it cuts out some of the time associated with the producer having to figure out how to get the song the way you want it. You should try to be available for the final mix even if you gotta meet on Facetime or another video conferencing platform because you'll want to approve any final edits, effects, etc that the producer has added as the icing on the cake before mastering and finalizing the song. Now guess what? If you’ve done this successfully then you too are a producer because whether you use your voice or have another singer sing it, bottom line is you produced and arranged the vocals that will be used in the mastered copy of your song. You are the Vocal Producer now.

Thanks for reading!

One last thing. Back in the day I was pursuing a career as a recording artists but not anymore. These days I'm interested in writing for either already established artists or an artist on the rise. We can't be selfish as songwriters and put out songs that only WE like especially if you'd like people to sing or buy your music. Therefore, if you are writing for a specific artist or a genre or style that several nationally known music artists may take interest in, then be sure the final product is something they can imagine themselves recording. If your voice isn't able to swing it then get a singer that can and you just pay them a lil something for their time. Also....and this is my last piece of advice today....If you're dead serious about becoming an established songwriter, make sure you are up to date with what's making hit status on the BillBoard Charts and set your standards right up there with the BEST. Figure out how to be a trend setter without going too far left of today's industry standards. It's tricky but if it's in your heart then never give up.

Once it's done, you can move forward with the administrative part of songwriting which may involve registering for copyright, affiliating with a music performing rights organization, setting up music publishing (licensing and song placement), streaming, radio play and EPK submission to music biz executives, etc. Also never be close-minded about opportunities for getting your song placed. Don't forget about opportunities to have your music be in movies or TV specials or even advertisements. That's more royalties for you. Think BEYOND writing solely for airplay. If you're a songwriter and you don't know about royalties then you better start right there before writing your first song. More on that later but yup that's how I write songs in 2019 - 2020 lol. If you're a songwriter I'd love for you to share YOUR process below in comments. There's really no right or wrong process for songwriting so long as you include the business side of music business so you can protect your work and hopefully earn some royalties too. Well that's all I got today....

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