The Stories Behind The Songs:
My Songwriting Process Revealed
Hi I am Ysander,
my greatest joy is to write songs, arrange, mix, master, engineer and then release them to you, so you can buy and enjoy them, too.
In this post I will try to make my songwriting process transparent to you as good as I can because there are parts in it I don't even understand.
Read further to be introduced to the mysteries of my songwriting magic with lots of examples and background knowledge.
If you enjoy this post, feel free to share it with your friends.
Now I leave you to it. Have fun!
Writing on the Guitar
Honestly, and I don't want to brag, because, hey, as you may have noticed my songs are not in the charts, at least not yet, but, I am gifted. Whenever I hear music (some chords or a simple arrangement) most of the time, I instantly feel a melody and a lyric in my body and when I sing it out loud, believe it or not, it is also the very first time for me to hear the song as it would be for you if you were present.
And then the song is gone.
So I started to establish a habit. You can also call it an agreement with myself. Whenever I feel something boiling inside of me, creatively, or in other words, when I feel a song knocking at my door, I take my guitar and a digital voice recorder or simply my phone and record whatever comes out of me. At the beginning or at the end of the recording I then mention the name and the order of the chords that inspired me to write this song.
Here is an example for one of these songs. This one came out of me in 2016 and I recorded it on my Sony Xperian.
At the beginning I was telling myself the chords and the chord sequence in German, I edited it out so you can enjoy this song right away.
And I named the song for the purpose of this post. And yes, it is a one take:
Every Heart Belongs Somewhere - Take1 - Songwriting Session May 2016
At the moment I have over 200 song ideas like this on my computer, varying in quality. A lot are one takes like this one but they are mainly over 6 minutes long. And only a few songs need a take2 or more.
By the way, you are the first person who has ever heard this song beside of me. That is so because my songwriting process is very private which means that normally no one else is around when I make such a recording.
But lets go a step further: What do I do with a song like this?
How The Song Becomes A Record
Okay, you heard an original song of mine that hasn't been released yet.
But how do I turn a guitar recording like that into a record that you can buy as a download on Bandcamp or that you can put on a playlist on Spotify?
Again magic is happening.
Which I also call: Intuition or Muse.
First, I look over the song and rewrite it. I rewrite the verses and take a closer look at the chorus and rewrite the chorus as well when needed.
Then I put the structure of the song into my DAW, my Digital Audio Workstation. I Add a couple of instruments and a beat. Then I record some working vocals. Around which I further develop the arrangement.
The development of the arrangement is completely intuitive. Even finding the right instruments is sometimes a miracle. I am often impressed by how it all works together.
And yes, I have a working knowledge in music theory and yes, I also have a working knowledge in the craft of songwriting. But believe me, I use it rarely. Because it is so much more interesting to bond with a song in this way.
The following two examples "A Better Me" and "On Fire" were arranged, mixed, mastered and engineered with the DAW Cubase 5 exactly as I just described.
These two songs only needed a little rewriting. But hear for yourself.
Both recordings are unedited, that is why you hear me speaking German in both original recordings.
Let's start with "A Better Me" from my "Survivors" Album:
Here is a recording of one of the first songwriting sessions for "A Better Me":
The following recording is the end result that you can buy now on Bandcamp and put on your playlists on Spotify:
And this is the songwriting session for "On Fire" from my "Potions" Album:
Again this is a recording from the early stages of this song. It's also unedited:
And here is the end result of the recording that you can shop on Bandcamp and play on Spotify:
Well, now you might think: "That this is it".
But, no, my songwriting process evolved from writing on the guitar to writing on my DAW.
Keep reading to find out more about that.
Writing Songs On My DAW
At the end of 2017 I made an unusual discovery. Because the process of taking a song from the guitar into my DAW was very difficult, I decided to start an experiment: What if I wrote a song completely in the DAW and developed everything further from there? I would skip the writing on the guitar part and go directly to the recording process. This approach could save me time and increase my output of finished releasable recordings. Not that that matters, but you know how artists can sometimes become very difficult with themselves.
This new approach to songwriting resulted in the song "I fight" from my "Survivors" Album:
But how does writing in a DAW work?
My approach is similar to writing on the guitar. Instead of playing a couple of chords that inspire me to feel a new song boiling inside of me, I create an arrangement, nothing fancy, that gets my creative blood cooking.
And again it is all magic. My intuition is somehow guiding me towards the right instruments and harmonies. Then I switch on my microphone, hit the record button on my keyboard and suddenly the melody and the words stream out of me as if they were waiting for this moment all their lives.
Wanna hear an example?
Of course you want, right?
I have even two examples for you.
At the moment I am writing and producing a new song with the working titles "Soft" and "Tragedy". Why two working titles? I started the song with the working title "Soft" and developed it further to a song with the more fitting title "Tragedy". You will understand why when you hear the two versions of the song in a second. Please note that the song isn't finished yet and that what you are about to hear is some sort of a pre-preview of an unfinished song:
This is one of the first recordings I made for the song with the working title "Soft", recorded March 3rd, 2019.
The next recording was made May 8th, 2019. You can hear how the song has developed and you probably understand now why it's current working title is "Tragedy":
If you want to be informed when the final song hits the digital music stores, just join my mailing list and I'll let you know.
Okay, this is a new song which is still in a developing process.
But how about a song that has already been released?
The answer is my song "Dark Love". I wrote "Dark Love" also with my DAW. Here is a funny story about "Dark Love": I wrote this song with my DAW and then forgot about it. Until one day. I was having a new recording session where I created an arrangement and sang. But there was something familiar about this "new" song. Then I realized that I had just written Dark Love again only with another arrangement which lead to my decision to finish "Dark Love" and release it.
Okay, now here as promised, one of the first versions of "Dark Love". Which is a little embarrassing because the vocals are a little bit very off. But I decided to share this version anyway with you:
And here is the end result from my "Potions" Album as released on Bandcamp and Spotify:
But what is this intuition this muse that I am talking about?
For this answer I'll need to take a closer look at inspiration in the next chapter.
A Few Words About Inspiration
I am not a scientist or a mystic who are probably better qualified than me to explain what inspiration is. But what I can do is tell you how I fuel my intuition with inspiration.
Whenever I come across a sentence or a word or a phrase that resonates with me, I write it down. I put it in my notebook or write it down in the writer app on my smartphone. I even created some sort of a MindMap that I called "Song-Starters" and put it on my wall.
The last three phrases I wrote down are "The Price", "Brinkmanship is a Dangerous Game" and "Evolve or Repeat". And the fascinating part is: I rarely use them for songs because my intuition comes up with new ideas in my songwriting sessions.
Plus, as I am not an English native speaker (my mother language is German) I read nearly everything in English. Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Text-Books, Books about Songwriting, Books about Music Theory, Spiritual Books, Novels, Self-Help Books, Books about Thinking (I love Edward De Bono), Books about Creativity and how to harness it, Internet Blogs, Lyrics, Poems you name it. Even all my Operating Systems (OS) on my smartphone, my tablets and my desktop computers are all set to English. Every program I use: English. My DAW: English. Netflix: English.
I watch all movies in English. Sometimes with English Captions. I Listen to Audio books in English. To music 99%: English.
These are all sources of Inspiration that fuels my Intuition.
And I write in English. I Sing English. I sometimes even speak to myself in English.
I make music in English. And I use "Oblique Strategies" by Brian Eno & Peter Schmidt in English.
And I do this everyday. Not once or twice a month: Everyday.
For me writing and making songs has a lot to do with making decisions. Decisions about from what notes, words, plug-ins, instruments, harmonies, sounds, effects to choose from and how to put them together to a song and a final song recording that is ready for release.
To get a song ready for release I probably have to make hundreds and hundreds if not thousands of decisions. Some are made consciously and some are made intuitively. Some are made within a heart beat or faster and others might take days or weeks. But each choice I make, fuels my intuition and my muse with inspiration.
With so many sources of Inspiration, I guess, I probably will never run dry on ideas.
Writing On The Piano - An Experiment
Let's start an experiment.
I told you so much about my songwriting process that in this last chapter of this post I invite you to witness my process live on video.
The video is about 9 minutes long. The vocals start at 4:20 if you want to scroll forward.
This video is a good example of how I write songs. In this case I needed 4 minutes to find the emotion and the words of this song before the first word left my body with a matching melody.
This video was taken in one shot. No editing. No Post-production. I recorded the piano and the vocals with a microphon on a laptop to receive a better sound quality. And I added the ysander Logo and the lyrics so you can follow more easily what I am singing about.
The only preparation I had before starting recording was this recurring riff or lick I play in the beginning. This one came out of me on the evening before this session. And it haunted me all night that I had no other choice but to put it on tape. That's all. The real magic happens live as you will witness in this video.
Now press play and enjoy, and remember to shop my Albums on Bandcamp and to leave an encouraging comment below.
Thanks for stopping by.
Surrender To Love – Ysander writes a song on the piano using his unique magical songwriting skills
"Every Heart Belongs Somewhere", "A Better Me", "On Fire", "Soft / Tragedy", "I Fight", "Dark Love", "Surrender To Love" written, performed, arranged, mixed, mastered, engineered and released by Ysander. All rights reserved.
"Dark Love" is Track No. 3 and "On Fire" is Track No. 7 on my 1st Album "Potions":
"I Fight" is Track No. 10 and "A Better Me" is Track No. 11 on my 4th Album "Survivors":