Most of the time, the decisions you make regarding the instruments you choose for your song come down to decisions made at the production stage. In other words, as you write a song you’ll think about the structure of your song, the melodies, lyrics and chords, without giving particular attention to the instruments.
And for most songwriters, the basic instrumentation is already set. For example, if you’re a member of a band, it’s most likely that the instrumentation is assumed to be whatever the members of your band are playing.
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But there is something to be said for thinking about instrumentation, including the use of unusual instruments, while you’re writing the song. Thinking of melodies, hooks and other note-based elements in terms of what instrument could be playing or backing those elements can lead to an interesting and hopefully captivating end-product.
This is especially true if you play an instrument that doesn’t usually make it to the genre that you normally write in. You may play and write in a heavier style of rock, and you might not think that flute or violin would be appropriate. But those kind of instrumental surprises are what can separate your songs from what others in your genre are doing (as I’m sure Led Zeppelin found when they included recorders in “Stairway to Heaven”, and the Beatles’ use of sitar in “Norwegian Wood”).
Even if creating an instrumental plan is something you do after your song is written, it’s still a great idea. And by plan, I mean to create a written chart of how you see certain instruments being used.
Whether you work digitally or with pencil and paper, sit down and sketch out how, from verse to chorus to bridge, you think instrumentation can change as your song progresses. By getting something written down, you aren’t leaving it to chance. You can see how instrumental choices change as the song moves from beginning to end, and you’re more likely to make intelligent, pattern-based choices which will make sense in the long run.
So if instrumental use is not something you typically give a lot of thought to, it may be the sort of thing that will give your music a unique sound, and help you build on your fan base.
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