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  • Writer's picturePeter Markes

My Songwriting Approach

I am often asked, "What is your song-writing process?" Short answer: It varies. A good song must be music-driven. Without the lyrics, the song is still 1) engaging to hear, 2) has a memorable and readily-singable melody, and 3) could become good elevator music (yes - I think a pop tune converted to elevator music is high praise).

My most frequent process begins with creating a chord structure or finger-style guitar progressions and riffs. I usually have about five of these I'm doodling with at any time. Think of "Life in the Fast Lane" by the Eagles. It begins with a wicked riff that was in fact just a practice routine for guitarist, Joe Walsh, but goes on to define the song. Next, I begin fitting a melody over that, though this often becomes a dramatically different product in the end. The form of the song (verse, chorus, bridge or no bridge, pre-chorus, length) are often worked out later as I discover how many lyrics I will really have.

Next are the lyrics which begin with a theme - sometimes just a hook at the end of a chorus, sometimes an idea based upon my meditative readings, and commonly a theme of love. This theme is often the song title, and I write that song title in the center of a page in my journal, then circle it. For four minutes (yes, I set a timer), I write as many thoughts as I can about that theme, happy or sad, up or down, silly or serious. On the adjacent page, I add quotes found in my readings and elsewhere. Finally, I use a phone app called "Rhymers Block" to help round out phrases. Often the single rhyming word is what drives the idea of a line. I write verse and chorus in my journal and then type and print the first draft to make edits from there.

This is just rough idea - each song is a little different, just like people! Thanks for listening, Friends.

My actual journal process for "I Have a Dream"

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