There’s a few things in common with the greatest selling albums from some of the greatest musicians of all time.
Let’s start with Nirvana
The bass player, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana has said that Kurt would usually start with a riff, which he would write in his own time. Kurt claims he wrote ‘Heart Shaped Box’ after watching documentaries about children with cancer, which he said “makes me sadder than anything I can think of.” The song’s original title was ‘Heart-Shaped Coffin’.
Once the base idea was established, from there during rehearsals the band would just throw ideas at each other, and because Kurt was “so good at vocal phrasing”, a jaw dropping song would usually emerge. But that’s not to say every song is a keeper. In fact there were originally 20 songs written for the album ‘In Utero’ of the 12 that were published.
If you look at most Queen songs, I’m sure it’s no surprise that a large majority of the bands songs were written or produced by Freddy Mercury. Infact ‘A crazy little thing called love’ was written by Freddy wrapped in a bath towel after getting the idea for the song in a bathtub! Freddy said “‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ took me five or ten minutes. I did that on the guitar, which I can’t play for nuts, and in one way it was quite a good thing because I was restricted, knowing only a few chords. It’s a good discipline because I simply had to write within a small framework. I couldn’t work through too many chords and because of that restriction I wrote a good song, I think.”
Here’s something to get you squabbling with your friends. If you’ve seen the documentary ‘Some Kind of Monster’ you’ll know that the foundations for the majority of Metallica songs up until ‘St anger’ were written by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, which for many Metallica fans was considered the “golden years”. In the history of Metallica nearly every one of their songs has started from a single guitar riff. In fact, the mega hit “Enter Sandman” evolved from a guitar riff that Kirk Hammett wrote. Originally, the riff was just two bars in length, but Lars suggested that the first bar should be played three times. James didn’t come up with lyrics for a long time .In fact, the song was among the album’s last to have lyrics. Typically Kirk Hammet and Jason Newsted would record their ideas on tape and submit them to James and Lars to use with their own material.
You may not know the beatles songwriting comprised mostly of material and collaboration between Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Ringo had his input occasionally (also known as “Ringo moments”), and George Harrison often had song writing in solo projects. And although Ringo and George had some influences in the Bands albums and direction, all the hits were written and produced by Paul and John. Paul still uses the same writing techniques these days saying “If I was to sit down and write a song now, I’d use my usual method. I’d either sit down with a guitar or at the piano and just look for melodies, chord shapes, musical phrases, some words, a thought just to get started with.”
Many people don’t know that Jackson couldn’t read or write music. He could play a bit of this and that but nothing proficiently. For a majority of his songs, his ideas would just come to him all at once, and he would record them by any means necessary before he could furnish them to his engineers and producers to create a finished product. He said “The lyrics, the strings, the chords, everything comes at the moment like a gift that is put right into your head and that’s how I hear it.” Sometimes he would go to a studio and sing the arrangements to the guitarists note for note, pitch perfect. And not just a few bars. Sometimes entire songs!
How do you write music? Where does your inspiration come from? Let us know in the comments box 🙂