How to write a song? I wish I had the definitive answer. A song begins with nothing and becomes something. How? I am a professional Muscle Shoals songwriter with years of songwriting in Nashville as well and am often asked how I write songs. That is a slightly different question that where do songs come from. Let me go from the nothingnesss of my song One Moment All Time through the process to completion. Listen to the completed, as of now, song.
One Moment All Time – Stephanie C Brown (River and Stones Music) Mark Narmore (Nobel Vision)
This song began with a spark of memory and longing. I did not have any of the words. I did not have any of the melody. I am evading the question of where the song came from and moving on to the process of writing it. No matter the song my songwriting process with my cowriters is basically the same once we have distilled the emotion or idea into one phrase or melody line. Normally that phrase is the hook or title of the song.
Not all of my songs began with an emotion. The ones that do like this one are not necessarily better songs than the ones that began with ideas, lines, melody or a combination. I strongly suggested they were in another post, but once we dig in and begin, craft is everything. I have seen songs that began with great ideas and hooks get lost because the songwriters were not skilled enough in the craft of songwriting. A great melody is not so easily lost.
I am not skilled in the craft of songwriting, by my cowriters are. Once we are together the process begins. Mark Narmore and I cowrite One Moment All Time. Before we got to together, I wrote five phrases with a note above each syllable all around that memory, a moment that comes back to me time and time again with all the emotions. That is not normally my process. The only way I play the piano is one note at a time with one finger. I can sometimes group the notes into chords with out knowing the name of the chord or what key.
I began with this.
The true process began with Mark Narmore and my cowriting session. We crafted the song from my lines and bit of a melody. Mark is a keyboardist. Once he sat down at the piano with my lines and notes, he heard the melody. Again, where did that melody come from? I have no answer. Once we had the melody, our words had to flow perfectly with it. They had to meter and rhyme flawlessly. That is crafting. The arrangement – again crafting. In a future post, I will delve further into how to write a song, the process and craft.
I want to jump into what happened with One Moment All Time after that first session. We followed through with a studio demo. in a future post, I will delve into the demo process, too. As a trailer for that, here’s the Muscle Shoals chord chart written by Clayton Ivy. Amazing to me that a group of Muscle Shoals musicians can listen to a piano and vocal demo and write a chart to this detail, go out onto the floor and each follow the chart. I promise more about that later.
Of all the songs I have written A Moment All Time and Betty Jean are my two favorites.
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