Question for the musicians

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I fancy myself a lyricist (mainly) dipping toes into the realm of music. I can compose a melody, but haven't yet acquired the skills on instruments to express my vision without the help of other musicians. I have soooo much to learn about music. Frequently I post my songs a cappella, figuring it would give at least an idea for the melody thinking a musician might snag it and say, "I can put music to that", but through the years that I've done that, I've had absolutely no takers on those a cappella songs. A few I have put to guitar as I learn more, and have discovered it usually changes the melody a bit or the timing or even the key, but generally recognizable with the first melody attempt. So my question is....Is that even something that is doable--I mean, working around a vocal melody? Do musicians do that? Is it assumed that a posted a cappella piece is completed and that's why musician's don't bite? Is it just too difficult? Perhaps if I had more experience with composing with instruments, I might understand better, but at this point I need to turn to the musicians themselves and ask..

Putting music to a pre-existing melody is definitely doable. Some musicians probably prefer it. The thing is though, if you've already written the lyrics and the melody, then it's already a song. As a musician putting a track behind it, I'm not actually co-writing, I'm just producing. If I were a producer, that would likely be something I did a lot more of.

What Val said, more or less. Have you tried band in a box or similar programs?

yeah I think Val nailed it. a FAWM-style collaboration usually means one person writes lyrics and another writes music. if you have written both it is already a song and anyone adding music is either producing or covering your song as opposed to co-writing.

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ooOoohhhh...that's very helpful. Thanks for sharing that with me--totally makes sense now.

Yes, what Val said...

Also, (to consider if have the time):
-- pending how you wrote it... (your song, as hypothetical), --- for example, if you wrote a song as you like to sing it acapella, but HAD to have a flat picker like me "do" the music... well, for me, likely not, -- style. If with "me", it's so integrated to the guitar... well, that's kinda it. If you write a show tune ("slurring from one note to the next, words, etc.), --well, it's kinda hard to engage a call and response Blues guy who plays between the questions.

So, if you see, e.g. a great Pianist, Keys person -- they'll help best, imo, ... well, it's a lot easier to Sing your vocal, syntax, melodic rhythm over a Chord, hit once, or down/back beat only, Left-hand, and maybe a bit of Right-hand "singing" of the notes... "like church music". Or, all just Right-hand, chording for key, backing, harmonics.

-- And, when I comment guitar, I mean as primary instrument. Guitars do play in orchestras ... but, like a Cello, just filling in the Timbre of the harmonics, not "driving" any part of the Melody. If you pulled the, e.g. Cello tracks out... you'd hear 1-Note for whatever Accent/Emphasis duration --long bowed, staccato, etc.

So, when you say "musician", or "music"... yes (but not "specifically" --generally speaking only), what they all said.

If you stipulate a specific instrument, -- beyond Production... you'll be adjusting to the "mechanics" of the instrument, style.

Remember, you have a Song-lyric melody as per the spoken word syntax, then your have ahead/behind (FH/BH) of the Beat, you have a rhythmic-melody that may syncopate to the rest and change it's "color"... -- one has potentially 3, music(sonic)-melody, lyric(syntax/idiomatics)-melody, rhythmic-melody. The more complex your primary melody-rhythm is --- per your Lyric..., or how you syntactically sing it, and are FH/BH... well, --- it could get "messy" if didn't simplify the "music" BACKING "it". (How important is the "music" to the Lyric-melody?)

For me, if someone has an acappella song posted, I consider it "complete". It already has lyric, melody and rhythm finished.

From a technical standpoint, I **CAN** write music/ harmonies to fit someone else's melody. If you sing to a click, so you don't speed up or slow down [much], it's easier than if you speed up and slow down. I can use virtual instruments, loops, and automation. Otherwise I have to play everything by hand to match your tempo.

That's why most new songs have the beats done first. Then the melody and hooks are done over that.

I haven't even had time to demo my own stuff. The probability of me writing beats to someone else's acappella song approaches 0%. ***BUT*** I might consider writing something basic that would work for it, as a morph.

It is not that hard to put music behind a pre-recorded vocals. Many modern day musicians and DJs do nothing but. However, if the vocals are sung rubato it gets much harder.

There are several ways to "chordify" any melody, each completely different within certain limits. Putting music behind vocals not only accompanies it, but changes the way melody is perceived or heard, so it's not that far from actual co-writing, though strictly speaking there is a difference. Here in the 5090 it counts as collabing. And the modern DJ culture is going to that direction also a bit.

You could record your vocals with some karaoke backing or any kind of suitable instrumental music in your headphones. In this case you have to send your collaborator the backing track separately for reference and also somehow indicate the temporal relationship between your vocals and the backing track. For example you have to record a few bars of you counting out loud the beats before you start singing.

Other option, the more pro one, is to do a multitrack recording and send your musician one track with vocals only and other track that has some sort of rhythm mixed with your vocals - and info about the key. Any musician really needs to know two things: what is the tempo and what is the key. And also how your sung melody starts in reference to the meter or time signature. Meaning does a phrase start at one, two, three, four, or between or what?

Nothing to it! Smile

All this is based on the assumption that you are happy with any kind of backing the musician is producing for you. If you have certain chords in mind or you want the song sound "just like so" but you cannot say what you want then it gets harder still to find a collaborator. But you can always ask some of your local musician friends to help you a bit. Musician are usually very generous with their time, I think.

Lots of good suggestions here. For me, when a lyricist sings an acapella version it gives me an idea of the tempo and the melody the writer had in mind. Melody first generates far more interesting chords for me. Here when I volunteer to put a lyric to music, it is when I get a strong feeling from it, and/or when I am lucky, I hear music in my head as I read the lyric. Despite my zest for listening and reading, there are still so many song lyrics I don't see on 5090, and music I don't hear.

Hi, I fully agree with Val (and the others). Producing is not easy when working with a vocal track only. The reason why is the timing and pitch is likely to be off on both, and calls for some real audio experience, skills, and tools (a producer). If you were ok with redoing the vocals (multitrack) with a music that may be close enough you might be able to pull that off. One thing that I can tell you from my own experience...a produced version doesn't guarantee you will have a better version than the original version. Why? Because the feeling and grooves of your song tends to turn mechanical and loses the emotions you might have originally had. Also, if you wanted to use your original vocal track you would need two things. One, a downloadable file (best is lossless audio). Two, there are not very many people that can take a raw vocal track and create the backing track. Doable Val mentioned...but not easy, and not very many people can do the job for no pay. Further, this kind of collaboration could take more time then people in the challenge have to give. As far as the other collaboration groups....I don't know, maybe they don't have the time or skills. Good questions and great post!

Singing without the guitar or other instrument (I find) gives one a much more expansive, interesting melody. You're not chained to the chords. In fact, some years ago I sang a melody first to the lyrics I had and it was very jazzy and that forced me to expand my chordal knowledge.

@kc5 If you ever want me to try to add some music to one of your songs... you know where to find me! Just ask, my friend!

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Thanks so much, Metalfoot!

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Thanks everyone for this great feedback!

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I can always count on you for some great feedback, Ustaknow. I'll need to read this a few times to get the full benefit of it. Your final question I'm trying to figure out if you intend for me to pose that question for myself in regard to each individual song lyric or if you are actually flat-out asking me that question as a general question. (???)

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By click track, do you mean metronome, iveg? That's a great suggestion, which I think someone else gave long time ago that I sort of forgot about. I took that songwriting class a few years ago where they offered a loop selection to sing to. That was great fun! I loved that, but don't know if they were intended for use outside the class so they lay a dormant download on my desktop. So now that you've brought up morph, your comment suggest the closest guess for me as to what a morph is. I guess it to be a variation of some sort of something identified here as a morph on a beat (specifically) to lyrics? Could be fun!

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I could definitely stand to expand my chordal knowledge, corinne54.

I have a few thoughts about this. First, I completely agree with others who have already said that it *is* possible for a musician to write chords to an existing lyrics + melody.

There has been good advice about how you could make the recorded vocal easier to work with. I question whether it's always necessary for that recording to be usable as-is. I imagine that, at least sometimes, you might just use that recording to convey the melody to the arranger, who would then record their own vocals. My hunch is that this would work better in the majority of cases.

I also think it's worth noting the supply and demand of the site. Take a look how popular the various "needs-" tags are on the tag cloud at

needs-collab (2)
needs-music (27)
Needs-music-and-vocals (8)
needs-music-vocals (2)
needs-vocals (5)
needs-collab (5)
needs-music (37)
needs-music-and-vocals (28)
needs-music-vocals (22)
needs-vocals (2)
needsmusic (8)

Literally no songs are labeled "needs-lyrics". I think there are a lot of people out there who would like to write music to someone else's lyrics. There are some on here, but my impression is that this site attracts far more lyricists than the would-be "needs-lyrics" people. That's just my gut instinct, but if it's right, then I think figuring out how to find and attract more of those folks is the key to getting more needs-music collabs matched up.

Mel, @Adnama17 wrote a great melody and lyric to some music I drummed up *snicker* And hopefully we get to do it again. But I've found that is the exception.

Although it is more common to send a guitar track (or other instrumental track) and have a collab partner add to it. Sometimes vocal/lyric. Sometimes other instruments. But a full backing track is rarely requested. I've had great luck making one and identifying someone who may do a great job and then asking. Or just waiting a week or two and then doing it myself... I'm so busy I usually forget what the track is like so it's kind of like sending myself a backing track to work with.

Wow, MG brings up an amazing observation.

I think it may need its own forum, with reference link back to here for the great context.

I, anecdotally, think there is good reason for the observation. For me, someone with that capability will have a specific personality type. Define the core elements of that ilk if personality, and they will come.

Moreover, they don't need to be proficient yet, coming then, to become proficient. Therefore the Lyricist collaborators may have to have a specifically mentoring skew, and ability to compose as well, IMO.

I have lots more I could suppose, but, leave it there. It would be interesting to have a list of types to look at side by side. We all know e.g, ? A lyricist is a person of strong opinion, and drive to get it out constructively. If breaking out a composer, for me, it's like a boat seeking water to glide upon. (As a boater, I love variety, -- ocean, lake, river, even kayaked in 3+ foot high hurricane weather on the Bay.) -- musicians, are different kind of people, hard to type.

I'm actually in the process of producing songs from vocals only with a pastor off site, so I can tell you what works for me when producing that way.
1) Singing in key, staying on key, and being consistent with melodies so that the verses always match and the choruses always match. It's so much easier to find the chords if your singer isn't all over the place with their acapella.

2) It's so helpful to let the producer decide what the final sound of the project will be. That way they're not having to try to work in a genre they are unfamiliar with. It would scare me away from the project if I thought my sound would not be what he was looking for.

3) Using a metronome or click track. Ok not to use one if you're not using the rough vocal in the final mix. If I'm just creating backing tracks to sing to later, the click track isn't as necessary. If I were going to use the original vocals in the track, I'd definitely want a click.

I am currently adding music to two tracks of vocal only. I agree with what's been said - A metronome or click track or mechanical steady beat (i've used the sound from a washer, a clothes dryer, a dishwasher, a clock..anything that keeps time regularly) - especially for the rests or silences. Also, it is natural to go flat or sharp over the course of a song when singing acapella - and autotune can only do so much, so some sort of a reference tone or drone or another reference note played periodically just to keep on pitch. This can be a spoon against a coffee cup or the hum of a motor - just some constant pitch to make sure you don't go off pitch too far (even the best singers can slide pitchwise over the duration of a song - it's just natural) Quality isn't that big a deal, as once the voice track is in my DAW, there's all kinds of little tricks and toys to take out background noise, enhance the voice, correct slight pitch baubles, and stuff.

I do enjoy setting music to lyrics but to me it seems we have a lot more lyrics only posts than we have people to put music to them....not a bad thing, just an observation.

Hey VC, -- the "help" section here at 5090 has a great, extensive list, (under how to collaborate), and matches where you're going, and what I've dealt with.

The hardest job I had was following a "singing pastor" with guitar, and no sense of natural clock/rhythm at all, -- on a drum kit, --most "drummers won't engage that" since 180 from what they/we do.

The problem is, or always has been for me, -- how to get them to do it.

I've worked with folks on "songwriting" boards for years, whom, after "years", --still claim not to know of what I speak when say, Key, Tempo, Click-track to sync to, et al, etc.

So, the answer is not what to do, -- but, how to get them to do it? How'd you do that :~) !? I'd love a method, trickery, way-2-go, etc. Smile