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approaches III - topline writing

... or writing on top of a chord progression (which would be the same approach actually, only the term "topline writing" did not exist, say, ten years ago).

Topline writing came into fashion with rap and hip hop. Producers created a 'beat' on top of which the singers rapped or sang. In today's pop industry most titles are written in that manner. First a backing track is created which is then sent out to a number of topline writers who again create the vocal tune together with the lyrics. Since the backing track plays a huge role in this royalties for the composition are normally shared between topline writer and producer. Topline writers should typically be (the) singers as well so the resulting mix can either serve as a demo for professional singers or their label - or actually become the 'real thing'.

Traditional rock bands often began writing songs with either a chord progression or a riff on top of which then the song would be created. This would usually be done in close interaction, and the vocal line probably would often give cause to modify the song's structure, whereas in modern pop song creation the backing track is finished.

I tried topline writing for other guys three times. But as a singer I could only offer a rough guide instead of a 'real' demo, i.e. a fully produced recording that would be 'radio ready' except that it is only sung by someone unknown. The songs are "some go too soon", "dance into my life", and "addicted", you can find them on the bottom of my SoundClick list. In the case of "dance into my life" I could only publish the chorus because that is the only part I created the vocal tune for, the tune for the verses already existed.

I actually write my own rock songs in that very manner. I usually begin with a guitar part bacause that's the most fun. Step by step I add other guitar parts, the bass, and the drums until I get a complete backing track. Only then I begin to think about lyrics and a tune. But I don't offer topline writing for others any more. Neither do I write just the lyrics for backing tracks without a vocal line because that would actually mean creating the tune twice: once in my mind, then again by the singer who would just have the backing track and my words without a clue how I envisioned them sung. It would seem likely that the lyrics might not quite fit together with her or his idea for a tune, so I would have to rewrite the lyrics - and so on.

Bernd Harmsen/Paul Boyd - addicted
(topline written to a track by Paul Boyd)