Listening to a sweet melody can sooth the soul, a powerful chorus can be a tool of motivation, and a sad but sweet harmony can move a listener to tears.
To many, listening to music is a way of life; it is a quick emotional escape from a monotonous routine. Anybody can easily listen to and benefit from music, but creating it is a complex process.
After being transfixed by his friends creating their own music back in 2006, Andrew Koekkoek made a pact with himself to become a songwriter.
The process of creating a song, from concept through completion, differs from person to person, but the Portland state University business and planetary science student explains that once artists find their own creative niche, it usually becomes routine.
“Typically, every song I write starts on the guitar,” he said. “As I dink around on my acoustic [guitar], I will eventually come up with a riff or chord progression that sounds fresh to me. Kind of a ‘that sounds like song’ type of feeling.”
After initially creating and memorizing that fresh sound, he continues working it until he has enough to play a “rough song.” To the 22-year-old, a rough song is a song that lacks structure but follows a distinct theme. The theme determines what type of lyrics will be written to accompany it. This theme is not a time signature, key, or tempo, but the emotion and story that comes to his mind from his music.
“When starting to assemble lyrics, I do it in several different ways,” he said. “I have a bank of lyrics in my head that I can pull from. I use stories from my life that I put into lyrical form. And often times the song writes itself after I get one good stanza.”
Most often, he begins by writing the chorus. He explains that most of the time, the chorus contains the central meaning of the song. From there, he writes each verse and the bridge, a contrasting section of the song that prepares the listener for a return to the song’s original material, to best support what the chorus is trying to convey.
Eventually, with enough tinkering and fine-tuning, the formally “rough song” will have developed into a complete song.
This is Koekkoek’s process: identifying a fresh sound on guitar, develop lyrics to the chorus that match the mood of that sound, and build on the rough song with lyrics and guitar patterns until the song reaches completion.
“Some songs take only 20 minutes,” he said. “Other times, I’m working on a second verse for weeks, even months, but I’m still starting with a basic idea, just fiddling with the smaller details.”
Surprisingly, he finds that the songs that come to him straight away, without much thought or effort, tend to be better. It gives him a feeling of the song writing itself. Songwriting is engrained into his mind.
“In many ways, my identity is all wrapped up in being a songwriter,” he said. “It becomes your ‘thing’ and, in a deeper sense, it became my out where I vent my emotions and deal with things happening in my life. It is very much a stress reliever.”
Musicianship has inadvertently spilled into several aspects of Koekkoek’s life, as he has begun to notice connections between his academics and his music.
“I’ll be in class hearing a lecture on the lives of stars and then go on to write a song about how small and insignificant we are as people compared to the stars.”
Andrew Koekkoek’s songwriting never stops. His songs are dictated by his life and, in a way, his life is dictated by his music making.
“When you are obsessed with something, it doesn’t just turn off with different scenes,” he said. “It’s a running monologue in [your] head; it is the same mindset that dictates my every action.”