Now to start the process of marrying that music up to lyrics and melody lines. In the same way that Dave played and recorded different guitar riffs, ALWAYS be coming up with new song subjects, lyric ideas, and melody lines. Have your phone near by and record your ideas, no matter where you are (just ask Rick how many recordings are on his phone with traffic noises in the background!). Go through that list of ideas and see if you have a match made in heaven, or at least something that remotely makes sense. When Dave brought the guitar part to us, we did just that. Fortunately, Rick had a recording of a song idea in his phone that went, “I lean against the hood looking over Hollywood.” That’s all it was, those lyrics and the melody that you hear in the song today. Now, the melody line that Rick had did not match perfectly with the music Dave had. But we were able to take his lick and tweak it just enough to make it work. With that said, another piece of advice, BE FLEXIBLE!!! Remember, we are trying to marry this music to lyrics. In order to do that, it cannot be married to you!
Go Fishing For Melody Lines
So, yeah, we got pretty lucky with Rick’s song idea and how well it matched with Dave’s part. But, that was literally one line of the song, AND it wasn’t even the chorus. Coming up with melodies for the rest of the song (Pre-chorus, Chorus, Bridge) seemed pretty daunting for us. The easy part was to expand on Dave’s beautiful guitar part and write the music to the whole song from front to back, adding drums, bass, and orchestration. After we had demoed all of that, we did something that, for us not so talented singers, was really intimidating. Each one of us went into the vocal booth, put one part of the song on repeat, and just sang nonsense into the Mic. A lot of it was, well... let’s just say it wasn’t going to earn us any Grammy’s. But after we had recorded what felt like hundreds of takes, we all sat down, suffered through the worst, and picked out parts that we actually liked. That was exactly how the Pre-chorus for “On Top Of The World” came to be.
These are just a few techniques that we used in the writing process for “On Top Of The World”. Though, like I said at the beginning of this post, there is no set formula for writing, I found that these steps got us pretty far. What is really fascinating about this process is that they are interchangeable. Whether the song idea starts with music, lyrics, melody, or just an idea, these steps can help any concept take shape.
- Michael Neeley