FS On: Beginning Songwriting


So, last week, we got this in the ask box:


and the best way to address it seemed to be in one of these staff posts. FS On is normally a series of short album reviews or reactions, but today, it’s more like a community post, a series of answers from Funeral Sounds-related musicians and bands to the question we all had at one point at a show or in a friend’s basement or alone spinning a favorite record: ‘How do I do that?’

Fairy by Randy’s Got a Playdough Face

“Whenever I feel stuck in the writing process, I always like learning how to play something that I consider a good song. Actually going through the motions of someone else’s song that you respect can give you new ideas or teach you a new chord or something like that. Worse comes to worse you know a new song. Another idea is to try the same riff or progression you have in a different tuning or with a capo and try noodling around for a bit. I personally like doing rough recording sketches when I write because some parts can’t stand-alone but sound fantastic with another part layered on top. So instead of just throwing out an idea too quickly, try working another layer into it.”

– Dan Marino, Randy’s Got a Playdough Face

“It usually starts with me singing some catchy bullshit ripping off another band in my car, and then when I get to a guitar, I find the chords that would match it. From there, just fucking around with some structure will lend itself to a “proper” song. Forcing it never helps, so when I’ve been bummed or pissed, I’ve hit record on my phone and just sang some pitiful nonsense to crystallize the feeling.”

– Kyle Kohl

Sunflowers Bitter As Ocean Water by Talk, Tired Thanatoid

“I started in 6th grade because I wanted to show up the kid who played Crazy Train each year at our elementary school’s talent show (that year he played Bush so I guess I lost). Then I stated playing jazz in high school and found I could make money doing gigs on Craigslist. So basically you need to find an arch-nemesis and get hip to Charles Mingus.”

– Zackary Kiebach, Talk, Tired Thanatoid


All of my Friends are Familiar and the Steps I Took to Realize This by Panucci’s Pizza

“What I tell a lot of people who asked me is, don’t listen to music you usually listen to, or don’t even listen to music at all. Try listening to podcasts for a while to get your mind out of a musical state. That way, when you sit down to write, the ideas that come to you will be way more organic.”

– Matt Diamond, Panucci’s Pizza / Little Tyrant

“I know it sounds cliche, but do what makes you happy. I’ve never written anything that’s really all that great, but I always notice that when I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself and write what I feel, the result is always better. Again, I’m not a good songwriter by any means, but that makes it all the more important that I enjoy what I’m doing first and foremost.”

– Eli Shively

Au Revoir, Reverend Green by Au Revoir, Reverend Green

“I just fuck around and play nonsense, and hope that a few notes sound nice together. Then I just build off of that. I am not a good songwriter.”

– John Mendoza, Au Revoir, Reverend Green


Theoretical Love Is Not Dead by Personality Disorders

“I feel like songwriting is really reactionary. Kind of sitting on something or saying “cool i’m gonna write a song about this” always feels kind of forced and thus no matter how far you take the product of that, something about it will be lacking.

Be angry. Be sad. Be happy. Take the moment as far as you can take that moment and write until you feel frustrated. Come back to it later and take that next moment to color the first. React. Be aware of the environment around you. Things are always happening, it’s up to the musician/writer/artist/photographer to capture that moment and take it farther than any moment ever could on its own. React.”

– Jorge Velez, Personality Disorders

Year of Glad by Naturally the foundation will bear your expenses

“The single piece of advice I have is to not be afraid of making something shitty. Songwriting, like anything else, is a learned skill, and learning something is basically progressing from being bad at it to being okay at it by, you know, doing it. And yeah, it’s particularly disheartening to make a piece of art, whether it be a photo, a song, a story, whatever, and to not be satisfied with how it turned out, but I think this comes from, like, viewing art as teleologically motivated when it really isn’t. There’s no end product. There’s just the process of constantly getting better. And, you will. You totally will. That sort of takes care of itself. The only thing you have to actively do is start practicing.”

– Ben Curttright, Naturally the foundation will bear your expenses

post compiled by Ben Curttright. art by Anna Serafini.

Funeral Sounds Staff

About Funeral Sounds Staff

More than one member of the Funeral Sounds staff, in one way or another, be it two or twenty or fifteen. Someone wrote the introduction. Attributed when we can.