Writing Music With Other People

A ‘jam’ if you will

My question is, how do you go about approaching songwriting with other people. On your own I couldnt give a shit because you probably don’t understand yourself particularly well. However when you involve other people, it becomes a social interaction which requires some thought about how you make it work.

All bands I’ve been in, the best songs have come about from everyone in a room making noise, something clicks between two of the people liking a particular idea, then play variations of that idea for like an hour, then talk about which bits worked and try and make something of it.

I had a ‘jam’ with someone a little while back and it wasn’t going particularly well, but one guy started suggesting things like restricting a particular instrument to two notes or a particular rhythm. Was interesting and surprisingly resulted in the most satisfying bit of the evening.

Anyway, I know we are all unique fragile artists whose amazingness might be cheapened if the nuts n bolts are talked about, but I’m interested to know what other people do to try and keep things interesting and not get stuck in a rut.

snowflake checking in. it’s absolute torture writing music with other people in a practice room and should be avoided at all costs.

Never been able to do it, don’t understand how people do, psychic powers or something. Much prefer it when people come up with semi complete things, they teach you it then you go away and come up with parts, but most people prefer the jamming apptoach that I just can’t do. I take solace in no one being able to jam along with my ideas, so snowflake like is my musical vision

Never done it but sort of wanted to. The amount of drunk conversations I’ve had with people where we say “we should definitely do something together!” and then I’m just never all that keen on the idea.

I typically plan and obsess over stuff, so I don’t really want to devote my “music time” on trying things that may or may not work with people that may or may not have too different an approach.

once saw this ad on the DiS classifieds that said something like ‘sick of the usual meeting up and trading licks and it not coming to anything, looking for people who are SERIOUS about rock n roll’

trading licks. ugh.

One thing I’ve noticed is some people will just launch into it, before people are tuned up, got volume levels right, and during any breaks start doing their own thing, everyone ends up following them, so the jamming format favours dominant more than passive types

I’ve tried meeting musicians via ads a couple of times, always feels like a mortifyingly embarrassing blind date, I can’t remember how to play anything and the spend several weeks in a state of cringe

the person i used to do music with was super hit hot at playing stuff, could read music - all that shit - i just bash away on whatever and hope something cool comes out - she could always latch on to what i was doing if it sounded alright, and if i didn’t like what she was doing i could just pretend that i wasn’t capable of playing anything that complemented what she was doing


Tbh I think (and this is/sounds pretentious) you need to have a genuine friendship or connection with someone before sitting around and coming up with bits isn’t weird. Even then you sort of want someone to take the lead showing whole prototypes or sections they’ve written and then other folks can come up with ideas on top of it. Maybe that’s just me.

always wanted to make music with others, but I can’t really play anything well and most of the stuff I’ve wrote feels embarrassing. o well

It’s a really delicate thing. My final band was great for songwriting as a team but it always started from one person’s idea and maybe we’d graft it with another person’s. Usually it had to be altered, mainly for me because I’m a terribly bad musician technically so if I was given a guitar phrase I usually had to mash it up.

I think ego can be a big issue unless only one person has it and the others don’t mind following their lead? You definitely need to be ready to ‘kill your babies’ or whatever that phrase is. If you have a great idea but it doesn’t work in the song you either have to take it to something else or let it be moulded into what the others want.

I’ve jammed with others and the results can be good. I think he most important thing is to record it all and then go over it soon after to make MP3s of all the good bits (for whatever reason) then give them to everyone else to judge, so that you can then jam again but this time you all know what the bits you like are, and work from them.

That’s usually the best sort of person to write with I find, you should get yerself out there

Yaah, I really should. Wouldn’t be too confident in my ability to play in time. Should learn how to use a DAW or something though.

it’s kill your darlings you weird child murderer!


Download a copy of Reaper man. It’s free and fully functional for a trial period of 60 days and then they encourage you to pay I think £60 for a full licence (although it’s on a trust basis and you don’t lose any functionality or access without - it’s just that it supports ongoing development of a great piece of software). It’s easily the equal of other, more expensive commercial DAW alternatives like Ableton and Protools etc.

I’m not much of a ‘sit in the room jamming’ out an idea type as I think ideas often take a little while longer for me to develop and it pressures that environment, but I’ve done quite a few dropbox collaborations which have worked out really well.

On each, one person coordinates the project (usually whoever wrote the main body of the song) and then you can just work out your own part at your own leisure at home and then send them that via dropbox to that person to drop into their DAW. I was involved in one a couple of years ago with the guitars and bass done in Australia, drums in Texas and then I wrote a melody, tailored the rough lyrics to it recorded vocals and a guitar solo at home and sent it back to be mixed in Oz with various versions of the mix bouncing around for a while for comment. Then it all got mastered at a studio down south somewhere. Really satisfying, gives you time to work out exactly what you want from your parts and overcomes the blind date/cringe aspect.

This is really cool. I know I sound daft saying this, but it’s fucking insane what we can do with technology these days.

I’d do it the way U2 do

I’ve just been using soundcloud, and then my mates been uploading bits I send to Logic. I’m guessing Reaper has better sound quality??

[quote=“OttoMaddox, post:16, topic:8420”]This is really cool. I know I sound daft saying this, but
it’s fucking insane what we can do with technology these days.[/quote]

Yeah, I think it’s awesome too. The affordability of home recording options, their ability to support good quality recording/mixing and the technology to send them round the world in an instant is incredible. I’ve got another slow burner of a project with a buddy in Kansas City ongoing where I added some piano, organ and synth parts and he just dropped the wav files into his DAW – and it’s all so straightforward because I stick the parts in dropbox, email him the link and within seconds they’re with him 5,000 miles away and can sound like part of a coherent mix. You’re not paying for studio time or anything, so you can tweak or retrack as many times as you like and just keep bouncing the track around until you’re both happy.

Personally, I just give my mate Brian Eno a call. He plonks himself down in a chair and points randomly at a chord chart on the wall behind him with a stick. Sometimes he gets us to swap our instruments too.

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