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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Musician »

Permalink How do you write a surf song?

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Yeah simple works Smile

I know song writing is hard, its easier to talk about then actually accomplish in my mind. It can take 5 minutes to 5 years to write a song. Ok I admit my dance theory is out there but I just ordered a good book about that and will update later what I find here. My idea about this is it may be easier to make backing tracks that groove with dance moves.

One idea is you could just make new Surf Instrumentals and just post them on YouTube and maybe make money through monetized commercials - The key to that is you have to update everyday and have new material all the time for that to work - some bands just put up a few songs or just a Cd worth - that's not enough for that to work etc... So that's a lot of work and talent to pull that off ….. Whatever

I might try this - I have lots of gear to pull this off - I am real lazy recording because I play covers and rather listen to the original artists or other bands and not me - but writing and recording them sounds like fun to me.

I have a Beat Buddy pedal and even has the feel of a real drummer and I can midi chain it to a drum module etc-

So I might try converting some old music or use as inspiration being my music theory memory is low right now. Take some classical score and make a surf tune out of it. Just to see if I can do that too, like many others did.

Today was a all time low point for playing. That bothers me too somedays I'm great and today not so good lol Laughing Oh well is that a good day to write songs on off days and record them on good days? Maybe that will work for my usual performance.

Last edited: Jan 28, 2019 21:53:44

Surfing_Sam_61 wrote:

Today was a all time low point for playing. That bothers me too somedays I'm great and today not so good lol Laughing Oh well is that a good day to right off days and record on good days.

It happens to all of us. At last week’s at band practice, I couldn’t make a mistake, but this week’s was a different story. By two hours in, I was fatigued and not playing well at all. Sometimes we just have off days.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

I played better yesterday - even made up a song Cool

Yeah I think its important to have a work station for creating new songs. I got the idea while playing yesterday. So I organized all my gear I already have and set up a mini studio of sorts on a counter top type desk. I have a ton of stuff I forgot I even had. I don't even have to buy anything to make recordings etc.

It will take me a couple of days to set up still - but I'm going to try the YouTube artist thing and see how bad that goes. I tried that before with other stuff and only had a few hundred views but I didn't work on it hardly at all or manage the account in anyway.

I have a lot of books on song writing over the years I forgot I had as well. So I have a lot of resources plus all the stuff on the net. The world probably doesn't need any new songs but it looks fun to do so will try this out. I did make up a few songs like 25 years ago but the band I was in wouldn't do them being it didn't fit the alternative rock crap they were into. (I couldn't stand the stuff to be honest). They did let me play Wipeout on the drums at a party once. One song I made up was comedy type rock song - but the backing track sounds like a Surf Instrumental anyway .....hum Whatever

It's funny when I did make up this song back thenI thought it was something new and different etc - but I now realize there are millions of songs with different variations of the same exact scale and chord progressions. - I have a lot of Classical and Big Band type music around this new desk work station already, so I can reverse engineer some ideas to start with. I do not even have to search for any on the net or my storage area - I got tons of records in there etc.

I have been listening to a lot of new Surf Instrumentals just to see what is being made out there. And right off many sound like old standard surf tunes or have almost the same type leads or at least can tell what song they were evolved from. Oh there's Pipeline - Surf Party - or Walk Don't Run 64 etc ctc. I found myself doing the same thing trying to come up with something - oh there's Bullwinkle again (stop that Surfing Sam) lol ...but I guess its just the habit of what we play the most that comes out naturally - So I'm trying to fight that - I guess you have to think outside the box to write new fresh material.

I do like the new Surf Tune I came up with yesterday in Dm - Ok it started sounding like Bullwinkle at times. Ok how do you stop playing other well know riffs you know well. It took some other ideas from various Surf instrumentals and varied the notes a little etc and it sounds amazingly different and new. I tried to come up with something I never remember hearing before. I think thats how its done. In like maybe a hour just fooling around I made a new song. I did add in a few on the fly rhythms etc . Dunno

Last edited: Jan 30, 2019 04:13:02

Just read two excellent books on Writing Songs:

Song Maps ( A new system to write your best lyrics) by Simon Hawkins

He is a British song writer that has co-written many songs in Nashville and has co-written 500 songs with over 80 other writers. (He says most hit songs are written by teams of writers) I thought this was pretty good.

Another good book:

Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting 126 Techniques for Writing Songs that Sell by Robin Frederick

Basically the main feature of this book is if you have no co-writer or writers - the next best method is using ghost-songs or hit songs on the radio as a backing track to come up with new Lyrics and or melody. You can't use the melody or and Lyric phrases of these tunes in your final draft of your song being it is the only 2 components or features of a song that is copyrighted. But everything else is up for grabs as far as a song writer. One example many songs have the same Chord progressions so you can't copyright that and they can be used for new songs etc. .. which goes back to my original theory on here that all music is reverse engineered and goes back generations. This method is used by all song writers (just a well kept secret).

Song titles are a good place to start writing a song, but you can't copyright the title, its much like chord progressions you can't copyright that either. (Only Lyrics and Melody). A good example there are 439 copyrighted songs named "Angel." So don't worry about title's being similar or the same - just write the songs with new melody and Lyrics.

It's the Lyric and the melody that is original in all songs and this book gives you 126 shortcuts to do that.

Being Surf Instrumentals follow the Verse-Chorus form of songs this book might help in arranging a new instrumental maybe - but its more about creating new lyrics than anything else.

Last edited: Feb 06, 2019 12:10:27

I admit the thread is a year old but I'm not (as a poster, that is). Agree with the 2nd response that mentioned a rhythm chord progression and multitrack recording.

Actually, the 'multi' part in terms of different instruments isn't as crucial as the multi part in terms of being able to record one track after another and to compare them side-by-side. Depending on your preferences or approach, you can 'comp' them by tying them all together in a single track ie that's the song length you end up with...or it can help you decide on a final structure and play it start-to-finish as a full take.
eg IVCVCBCVCO (I=intro, V=verse, C=chorus, B=bridge, O=outro)
or
ABCBCDCBCE (where letters correspond to sections)

I usually decide on a key first because it can dictate where the progression goes and how and because my perception of keys is such that they have 'personalities.' For example, F# is a growly, menacing key while G is sunshine and happiness even though they are a half-step apart. This is also because F# often leads into an E or an A and therefore has a power-chord feel. Once the mood is established via a key it sets some 'rules' for the progression.

Lead parts are, for me, pure noodling but again by recording, deleting, appending, comparing various noodles I can latch onto and keep one or more good ideas (PS - much of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours parts were originally captured in this manner). I rarely write anything down and I generally can't be fussed about scales, modes or theory. I like to feel like the guitar is 'talking' with breaths, pauses, emphasis, punctuation, etc. I don't like melody lines that are just a flood of notes.

Bass is where the fun is...for me anyway. I'm capable and experienced enough to avoid root-note drudgery and almost always go for a walking or call-and-response part or throw thirds, fifths or octaves in.

My 'drumming' is limited to MIDI pads tied into plugins but I'm only recording demos and they sound good enough to get the job done. I use sticks and track kick, snare, toms, crashes and hi-hat separately.

It's amazing how much a song's personality can change when the bass and especially the drums are added....kick drum seems like such an afterthought at times but it is the heartbeat of the song and choosing or changing a pattern can make all the difference.

Yeah Robin Frederick has a lot of song formulations like your talking about in her book "Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting 126 Techniques for Writing Songs that Sell form" 2008

There are 5 basic types , but Surf Instrumentals usually follow the AABA type or Verse-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Chorus type or something similar to that.

Even within the Verse there will be lines or phrases that are different from one another. Some may vary in intervals or octaves etc whatever - the idea is to not be boring by adding interesting changes - yet repeat a melody as much as possible with all the variation required. Its more to do with tasteful choices writing music in the end. What I found is what I like to play may not be what I want to hear as a listener - so you have that element of it too. Its a fine line.

Yeah I have recording gear too - still spinning my wheels trying to set up my writer and recording station. I have had this stuff for years and never got around to it - making progress - someday Smile

PolloGuitar wrote:

DeathTide wrote:

Sure, if you’re talking about covers or adaptations. But what about original songs composed for a surf band?

Yes, definitely much harder to find examples of surf songs that made their way into other genres. But, a song is just melody and chords. A decent melody is all you need, the rest is just arrangement.

I posted this 17 years ago. the references are dated, but I stand by the rest of it: https://surfguitar101.com/news/story/31/

Ten years ago when I gathered my surf band I printed it and used as a guidline and it hepled a lot, thanks, Ferenc) Just forgot to tell you this in Livorno, great and useful thoughts and tips.

Waikiki Makaki surf-rock band from Ukraine

https://www.facebook.com/waikikimakaki/
https://soundcloud.com/waikiki-makaki

Last edited: Feb 09, 2019 04:05:32

How to write a surf song (or any song I guess?)
No recipe for me I guess, sometimes it is a riff, sometimes chord progression, sometimes melody.
It may be a morning coffee, long walk in a park or a late night vodka on punk concert that evolevs something in you. One tune came to me while scuba diving and I was lucky enough to hmmm in on a recoder back on the diving boat.
New gear or great sound from the amp also may push you as well into some creativity.
And then the hardest part - to make a tune that tells a story) it may take years)

Waikiki Makaki surf-rock band from Ukraine

https://www.facebook.com/waikikimakaki/
https://soundcloud.com/waikiki-makaki

Last edited: Feb 09, 2019 04:40:53

Yeah that's pretty much what the books I read said as well. A song can be written using all kinds of devices.

Yeah the one devise that helped me as well was using a small hand held digital recorder for ideas like your saying - you get the idea down on recordings right away before you forget it (Which will happen) What was the line again? Uh-Oh But it works even for just working on anything.

Another devise is to consider every idea just a rough draft and a idea to start working on not the finished song or part of a song. So many devises like that it is hard to remember them all for me.

And the equipment change up really does change the approach you take to performing a song. Even effects like delay really impacts your playing the most to me or going to acoustic guitar verse electric etc...

Surfing_Sam_61 wrote:

Yeah that's pretty much what the books I read said as well. A song can be written using all kinds of devices.

Yeah the one devise that helped me as well was using a small hand held digital recorder for ideas like your saying - you get the idea down on recordings right away before you forget it (Which will happen) What was the line again? Uh-Oh But it works even for just working on anything.

Another devise is to consider every idea just a rough draft and a idea to start working on not the finished song or part of a song. So many devises like that it is hard to remember them all for me.

And the equipment change up really does change the approach you take to performing a song. Even effects like delay really impacts your playing the most to me or going to acoustic guitar verse electric etc...

I use Music memos as a recoder on iPhone an love it. It gives you chord progression as you play and may add a drums and bass to see how it may sound with a band.

image

Waikiki Makaki surf-rock band from Ukraine

https://www.facebook.com/waikikimakaki/
https://soundcloud.com/waikiki-makaki

Using the method I outlined on the first page of this thread I came up with my second tune: https://surfguitar101.com/downloads/details/828/.

I used the same chords as in the first song I wrote, but I moved some measures around. I had Catalina by Jon and the Nightriders in mind when I came up with the lead. The drums I did in Hydrogen, and they follow pretty closely Dusty Watson’s drums. I just looped through measures of the lead, drums, and rhythm until the bass sounded right. I mixed it in Audacity with some compression.

For me, starting with a chord progression from a song I like and having a target sound or song worked. This got me actually writing a couple of songs after a few years of coming up empty with an approach that just relied on inspiration, which I don't seem to have much of.

If I'd stop buying old guitars to fix, I might actually learn to play.
I haven't met a guitar I didn't like.

Last edited: Feb 28, 2019 22:35:18

ldk wrote:

Using the method I outlined on the first page of this thread I came up with my second tune: https://surfguitar101.com/downloads/details/828/.

I used the same chords as in the first song I wrote, but I moved some measures around. I had Catalina by Jon and the Nightriders in mind when I came up with the lead. The drums I did in Hydrogen, and they follow pretty closely Dusty Watson’s drums. I just looped through measures of the lead, drums, and rhythm until the bass sounded right. I mixed it in Audacity with some compression.

For me, starting with a chord progression from a song I like and having a target sound or song worked. This got me actually writing a couple of songs after a few years of coming up empty with an approach that just relied on inspiration, which I don't seem to have much of.

Yeah in song writing circles that's called ghosting a song. You use a hit song or one you like to create your own song by playing on top of it or have a backing track with similar chord progressions etc. That's a vary common technic in Nashville even though they eventually replace the original backing track with something new later. You be surprised how much ghosting is used in song writing in music throughout history.

Last edited: Mar 01, 2019 01:08:48

Ghosting is not quite what I did.

If I had taken a backing track to Catalina and come up with a new lead, that would have been ghosting. I took the chords from 'I want it that way,' massaged them some and made a lead in the style of Catalina.

Not that there's anything wrong with ghosting. Smile

If I'd stop buying old guitars to fix, I might actually learn to play.
I haven't met a guitar I didn't like.

klob wrote:

Lately I've been coming up with melodies in my head. So I sing them into my phone to get a recording and then pick the notes out on guitar, often with little changes along the way.

I do the same

the Undead Bureaucrats
http://www.facebook.com/TheUndeadBureaucrats

It's quite hard not subliminally copying other tunes, or similarities. The latest one I wrote our bass player said it reminded him of a Carpenters tune and the drummer said it reminded him of an Undertones tune...that's a world of music apart.

So I just took a couple of notes out and carried on regardless Big Grin

It's usually easier for me to have a rhythm part first, and try to come up with a melody for it, then the other way around.

Deal with reality, or reality will deal with you.

I fell off the band wagon when it comes to song writing Laughing

One thing I think might help in creating new melody lines for lead guitar in instrumental music is mimicking vocal phrasing. Most lyric based songs have 4 to six lines of variation in each Verse and much less usually in the Chorus sections. And could be why songs with singers are more popular. Maybe all instrumental bands need to do is mimic vocal styling as far as lead guitar goes ????? , Not sure

Each verse will usually start out with two lines that are the same then moves to some variation or different progression or note duration type thing for one line then either back to the original line or better to a octave higher than the original two lines or even better a octave higher and with a variation in progression that has a catchy hook to it. Most listeners only remember the last line of each Verse or Chorus and the most important ideas for the song should be located there.

Its much like a mini song in a song located in the Chorus, Verse, Bridge etc Most songs have their Titles in the vocal at the end of a chorus as a example because that is the best place for a listener to remember the song title.

For me, this ridiculously simple thing has made an incredible difference - turn the music off and listen to the riffs in my head.

I am kind of addicted to music, and I like a great sweeping range of sounds with almost all traditional music not included. Anyway, at home, in the car, on lunch break, these are places I used to fill with listening to music.

So my cat pal Ziggy got super sick a month or so ago, had to have radiation treatment and all + two weeks in the hospital. The first week was tests and horrifying unknowns, lots of emotions and fear. Thankfully the tests were pretty good, disease hadn’t spread etc. So week two was the treatment week.

It was during this second week that a killer riff appeared in my “upstairs radio.” (Whatever music is going through my head.) Simple but with pretty cool rhythms and soon this riff began playing up there full time. Then a natural but badass second part started playing, and by the end of that week I had the fundamentals of Ziggy’s song. (The other three cats [two deceased] all have surf songs, and it’s been YEARS that I’d been trying to compose a Ziggy song!

So, for the first time in what, decades? I turned off the music because I wanted ti hear Ziggy’s song play out. And it did! And it was CRAZY how I’d finally get the first parts looped mentally, then worked out on guitar - and then like magic the next part would start playing!

Last night I made huge progress on the 2nd “epic interlude” which I believe will nicely lead to the end. And it’s great! So now I’ve been driving without music (man my car makes some weird noises) and kinda just “tuning in” to the Upstairs Radio. And yes, more riffs are playing!

Obviously it’s very easy to fall into the “original composition that is actually someone else’s song” trap, but damn, this is veeeeery exciting!

Here’s the little guy. 8 years old and hopefully getting the feeding tube removed next week. One thing I’m hung ip on is the title! I want his name (either Ziggy or Zig) in the title too. He’s a fat, super crazy strong, rescue baby. I was thinking of “Warrior Zig” or something but if you heard the song, the title needs to be more epic...

By the way just as a capper - once the song is complete, all parts composed, I then have to learn how to play it! This one is proving to be challenging in a good but also scary way. Scary because I need to hit every note to get the full effect!
image

https://www.facebook.com/bloodreefsurf/
https://bloodreefsurf.bandcamp.com/releases (nothing official yet, just some badly mixed snippets from practice)

DeathTide wrote:

For me, this ridiculously simple thing has made an incredible difference - turn the music off and listen to the riffs in my head.

I am kind of addicted to music, and I like a great sweeping range of sounds with almost all traditional music not included. Anyway, at home, in the car, on lunch break, these are places I used to fill with listening to music.

So my cat pal Ziggy got super sick a month or so ago, had to have radiation treatment and all + two weeks in the hospital. The first week was tests and horrifying unknowns, lots of emotions and fear. Thankfully the tests were pretty good, disease hadn’t spread etc. So week two was the treatment week.

It was during this second week that a killer riff appeared in my “upstairs radio.” (Whatever music is going through my head.) Simple but with pretty cool rhythms and soon this riff began playing up there full time. Then a natural but badass second part started playing, and by the end of that week I had the fundamentals of Ziggy’s song. (The other three cats [two deceased] all have surf songs, and it’s been YEARS that I’d been trying to compose a Ziggy song!

So, for the first time in what, decades? I turned off the music because I wanted ti hear Ziggy’s song play out. And it did! And it was CRAZY how I’d finally get the first parts looped mentally, then worked out on guitar - and then like magic the next part would start playing!

Last night I made huge progress on the 2nd “epic interlude” which I believe will nicely lead to the end. And it’s great! So now I’ve been driving without music (man my car makes some weird noises) and kinda just “tuning in” to the Upstairs Radio. And yes, more riffs are playing!

Obviously it’s very easy to fall into the “original composition that is actually someone else’s song” trap, but damn, this is veeeeery exciting!

Here’s the little guy. 8 years old and hopefully getting the feeding tube removed next week. One thing I’m hung ip on is the title! I want his name (either Ziggy or Zig) in the title too. He’s a fat, super crazy strong, rescue baby. I was thinking of “Warrior Zig” or something but if you heard the song, the title needs to be more epic...

By the way just as a capper - once the song is complete, all parts composed, I then have to learn how to play it! This one is proving to be challenging in a good but also scary way. Scary because I need to hit every note to get the full effect!

I lost a wonderful cat to cancer, a little over a year ago. The night after I learn that she had cancer, I heard a song in a dream, woke up and recorded it to the iPad, than finished it the next day. It's a beautiful song, not Surf, more on the order of Leroy Anderson, light classical. I can barely play it, but I did get to play it for my cat while she was still with me. It's the best song I've ever written, and may well be the best I'll ever write.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

Sorry about your cat Synchro

Awl Ziggy is sick....looks just like stray cat here in Ocean City MD ...people come in a feed him - he hangs out at the south end near the inlet ...he's a local celebrity here in O.C. .....

Yeah cats on surf boards work....Ziggy in Tube City Laughing

Kids and women love cats songs.... so there is like 60 percent of the audience out there. Smile

Been too busy to work on making up and songs yet - trying to get my live equipment together (literally) ....I'm building two big PA cabinets 8 foot high with all my speakers for Guitar - Bass - Drums - Vocals etc inside it _ might loop the bass or whatever - So it will be stereo and all the equipment inside so I just two big boxes to move and plug in some cables - making it out of super light material as well. I want something that can be up and running in 15 minutes. there is a lot of work here for solo guy's / Most small places need low end entertainment like this - There is a camp ground here on the beach I'm hoping to hit as well this summer....lots to do

I was going to animated charaters for drums so still working on that so it will feel like a band instead of solo and my drum pedal will drive all that (will have to have a cat in here somewhere now.) - I have a midi foot controller for the drums as well - So I can add crashes etc (this will take a long time)/

So more than likely will start making up songs after a while just playing live a lot (Most songs were made that way anyway just jamming or improvised etc.

I'm basically takeing every thing I got to build a decent stage set up.

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