Author Topic: Songwriting Question  (Read 498 times)

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Offline arkdtmp

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Songwriting Question
« on: May 27, 2020, 01:02:24 PM »
How does DT actually write vocal melodies to sections?

I know that the music is written first, instrumentally, knowing that different sections will have vocals. Then, someone will write the lyrics and the 'melodies' for James to sing. I've heard them say that often the core of the melody will be in the keyboard/guitar parts already.

Are these 'melodies' actually tracks that JP (for example) will lay down (using guitars or his voice)? How does James know how, and where to sing syllables (phrasing and melody) for each line?

(To clarify: How are the melodies communicated to James? Does JP sing them to him, or show him a guitar track where he's playing the melody?)
« Last Edit: May 27, 2020, 01:22:10 PM by arkdtmp »

Offline Vmadera00

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Re: Songwriting Question
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2020, 01:08:38 PM »
I don't remember exactly what they said, but wasn't this same topic mentioned on the recent JM and JLB Q&A video?

https://www.facebook.com/TheDreamTheaterWorld/videos/560182551310425/

Offline arkdtmp

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Re: Songwriting Question
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2020, 01:15:40 PM »
Hmm, I thought I saw all the questions on there and they didn't really talk about songwriting?

Offline Setlist Scotty

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Re: Songwriting Question
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2020, 02:20:39 PM »
Are these 'melodies' actually tracks that JP (for example) will lay down (using guitars or his voice)? How does James know how, and where to sing syllables (phrasing and melody) for each line?
Yes, JP or whoever wrote the lyrics will sing the melodies to give JL a reference. Of course, JL will discuss the finer details of what to convey when singing, but the basic idea is presented in recorded form. You can find an example of that on the Making of SFaM official bootleg where JP sings lyrics to TSCO. Another example that you can find is the "demo" of TBoT, which was the studio track and MP singing the lyrics, which he subsequently played for his father before he passed away.
As a basic rule, if you hate it, you must solely blame Portnoy. If it's good, then you must downplay MP's contribution to the band as not being important anyway, or claim he's just lying. It's the DTF way.

Offline pg1067

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Re: Songwriting Question
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2020, 03:07:28 PM »
Are these 'melodies' actually tracks that JP (for example) will lay down (using guitars or his voice)? How does James know how, and where to sing syllables (phrasing and melody) for each line?
Yes, JP or whoever wrote the lyrics will sing the melodies to give JL a reference. Of course, JL will discuss the finer details of what to convey when singing, but the basic idea is presented in recorded form. You can find an example of that on the Making of SFaM official bootleg where JP sings lyrics to TSCO. Another example that you can find is the "demo" of TBoT, which was the studio track and MP singing the lyrics, which he subsequently played for his father before he passed away.

One of the best things ever!

A slightly more serious example would be the Wither demo that, I believe, was a B-side to the single for the song (along with a piano and vocals-only version of the song).
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Offline Trav86

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Re: Songwriting Question
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2020, 03:18:19 PM »
Are these 'melodies' actually tracks that JP (for example) will lay down (using guitars or his voice)? How does James know how, and where to sing syllables (phrasing and melody) for each line?
Yes, JP or whoever wrote the lyrics will sing the melodies to give JL a reference. Of course, JL will discuss the finer details of what to convey when singing, but the basic idea is presented in recorded form. You can find an example of that on the Making of SFaM official bootleg where JP sings lyrics to TSCO. Another example that you can find is the "demo" of TBoT, which was the studio track and MP singing the lyrics, which he subsequently played for his father before he passed away.

One of the best things ever!

A slightly more serious example would be the Wither demo that, I believe, was a B-side to the single for the song (along with a piano and vocals-only version of the song).

TSCO with JP on lead vocals and Bongo on backing vocals!
Can't we find the minds
to lead us closer to the heart?

Offline Setlist Scotty

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Re: Songwriting Question
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2020, 03:44:06 PM »
Are these 'melodies' actually tracks that JP (for example) will lay down (using guitars or his voice)? How does James know how, and where to sing syllables (phrasing and melody) for each line?
Yes, JP or whoever wrote the lyrics will sing the melodies to give JL a reference. Of course, JL will discuss the finer details of what to convey when singing, but the basic idea is presented in recorded form. You can find an example of that on the Making of SFaM official bootleg where JP sings lyrics to TSCO. Another example that you can find is the "demo" of TBoT, which was the studio track and MP singing the lyrics, which he subsequently played for his father before he passed away.

One of the best things ever!

A slightly more serious example would be the Wither demo that, I believe, was a B-side to the single for the song (along with a piano and vocals-only version of the song).
Exactly - it's the same situation that MP's "demo" of TBoT was, and in fact, both appeared on the same single.

https://www.discogs.com/Dream-Theater-Wither/release/2394659
As a basic rule, if you hate it, you must solely blame Portnoy. If it's good, then you must downplay MP's contribution to the band as not being important anyway, or claim he's just lying. It's the DTF way.

Offline arkdtmp

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Re: Songwriting Question
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2020, 04:49:41 PM »
Thank you so much- I love you all! The reason I was asking is because my band and I just wrote and released an instrumental demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUVUNTkcb40
for which we're auditioning singers who are asking me the same question. That makes complete sense.

Offline bosk1

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Re: Songwriting Question
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2020, 04:57:01 PM »
In that case, it really depends how much freedom you want to give them to add their own interpretation.  If you want them to follow something down to the letter, including every little phrasing and flourish, you will likely have to given them a pretty polished vocal demo.  If you want them to completely do their own thing, you can give them nothing at all and tell them to just go for it.  And there is lots of room in between those two ends of the spectrum, such as a rough vocal demo, you playing the basic vocal melody on an instrument, etc. 

I once auditioned for a band years ago where they gave me an instrumental track and proposed name of the song, and told me to write lyrics and my own vocal melody, and be prepared to sing it at an audition a week later.  And it was complex prog like DT, with intended instrumental sections, etc.  So it was really a challenge to figure out all on my own what to sing, how to sing it, and even WHERE to sing (and not sing).  As the auditionee, I did not feel like that was the most productive approach.  But that is what they wanted--someone who could come in and write melodies and lyrics from scratch to their satisfaction over their music.
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Offline arkdtmp

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Re: Songwriting Question
« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2020, 05:34:35 PM »
That makes sense- thank you again! I'd already given them lyrics with melodies laid down by the keyboards in the song, but after hearing that JP/MP usually do vocal demos I am going to subject them to my awful singing so they have a better idea of what I'm thinking.

I will use the JP/Bongo vocal demo as my inspiration corner ;)

Offline KevShmev

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Re: Songwriting Question
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2020, 08:03:21 AM »
Regarding vocal melodies, I remember Mike Portnoy said several times over the years that whoever wrote the lyrics to a Dream Theater song also wrote the vocal melodies, but something Jordan Rudess said in the DT listening party on Twitter yesterday for Scenes sort of contradicts that.

During Finally Free, a song for which Portnoy is credited as the lyric writer, Rudess tweeted:

I remember I was playing the chorus chords for ‘Finally Free’ repeatedly upstairs in the studio and then when I walked downstairs, James had been listening and started to sing this nice melody...That was it! Perfect - JR #DreamTheaterListeningParty

I thought that was interesting.  My guess is it was not always a 100% thing, meaning the lyric writer didn't always write 100% of the vocal melodies.


Offline sfam2112

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Re: Songwriting Question
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2020, 10:08:40 PM »
 
During Finally Free, a song for which Portnoy is credited as the lyric writer, Rudess tweeted:

I remember I was playing the chorus chords for ‘Finally Free’ repeatedly upstairs in the studio and then when I walked downstairs, James had been listening and started to sing this nice melody...That was it! Perfect - JR #DreamTheaterListeningParty


The melody James was singing is the melody that JP plays under the 2nd chorus of the song. ☺
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Offline TheLordOfTheStrings

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Re: Songwriting Question
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2020, 02:04:23 AM »
Whoever wrote the vocal melodies will more than likely sing it to James, or record a demo vocal for James to listen to and reference.