The Music Corner: How to Start Writing Music

Casey White, Staff Writer

Writing music is hard. I’ve learned that from tons of tons of hours of experience. Despite the amount of effort you can put into a song, it sometimes feels like it’s impossible to complete. Thinking back, there’s a whole slew of things I wish I knew before I started. 

First of all, deciding whether to start a song with instrumentals or lyrics is like the chicken or the egg situation… there’s no solution to it (or at least each person has their own opinion on the matter). Some people prefer writing the lyrics to their song before they can hear how it sounds. Some people need to hear how their music sounds before they can write lyrics to it. Getting to know yourself and your preferences is the first step to becoming a good songwriter.

Second, there are so many different DAWs (digital audio workstations) such as Logic, ProTools, Ableton, Garageband, etc out there, which makes it impossible to choose which one to use. I’ve got a soft spot for Logic, personally. It has quite a lot of features, alongside a ton of loops and customizable drums that I use for my music. For someone who can’t hold a beat, customizable beat making is a really great feature to have. It also has a ton of audio presets. One critique I do have for Logic, though, is the fact that you need a MIDI in order to add any sort of piano or bass using the software instruments. Obviously, you could just buy a piano that supports MIDI or a bass that has a plug, but it’s way more expensive. Logic is on the lower side of the price ranges in which some DAWs sell for at a whopping $199.99. Some sell for as much as 800 dollars. 

This brings me to my third point. Money. The pay you get from releasing your music is as little as .003 cents a stream on Spotify. Releasing your music, in general, has become less of a pain than it was in the past. Lucky for our generation now, we have websites such as Tunecore, DistroKid, and Amuse that allow us to release our music on all platforms with ease. Unlucky for us, though, we need to PAY to release the music while using those websites. Being an independent artist without a label to assist with the release and such of your music, it becomes a toll on your expenses. Compared to the amount of money you get from the song itself, being a musician is financially hard to keep going. Even just the technology needed to produce the song is gradually getting more expensive.

Fourth… what exactly is needed to start up a basic producing station? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for in the music you’re creating. If you’re looking for mics, there’s a variety of choices. There’s dynamic, condenser, and so many more each with their own purpose. Recording certain instruments requires a mic with the capability to reach a certain frequency and noise level. Each mic has its own unique capacity. If you’re looking for audio interfaces, there’s even more to choose from than there are mics. I highly recommend the Scarlett Solo Focusrite box. It has a mic plug, as well as an instrument plug, and a headphone jack. Unfortunately for producers, there’s a lot of wires you’ll need as well in order to plug in EVERYTHING, which is something I didn’t realize when I first started. There are even mics and such that need a ghost power source, which basically means that it needs to be plugged into a power source in order to actually operate. I have a mic like that (it’s really annoying, so I suggest to try to avoid them if possible). Lastly, you’ll need a computer that can run proper software. I am a huge advocate for the Macbook and (once again) Logic. Although Apple’s prices do run a little high, it’s worth it in the long run. Upgrading from Garageband on an IPhone to Logic on a Macbook is probably my greatest decision thus far in my music career. In all honesty, some hundred dollar computer you find at Walmart won’t be able to properly run your software, let alone record your songs.

Okay now you’ve got your system running and your setup ready… now what? How the heck do you work your DAW? Where do the plugs go? What do the buttons mean? What are these presets? There are so many questions to be answered. I’d suggest doing some research on how to use your DAW of choice before you actually start using it. It won’t hurt to click buttons and experiment, but it helps to have some sort of instruction. If you have the intention of producing and releasing a song using your new setup, I’d also suggest giving yourself time to adapt to the new program and the features of it before you’re releasing your music professionally. It took me several tries to get a song where every instrument was harmonious with one another. 

Last but not least, my final point. Social media. The power of social media is horrifying in some ways. In order to truly find a following of people and have dedicated fans, you have to be willing to share yourself out in the world using social media. You’ll see a significant difference in your streams when you’ve advertised the song properly versus just posting it for fun.