October 23, 2023
Not every guitarist wants to be a songwriter, but if you’ve even considered writing songs you’re certainly not alone and you should do it. Even if your goal is just to become a better player, the creative process around songwriting can help you there too. So, here are some tips for staring off on your songwriting journey – whether you’re destined for a hit or never want your songs uttered in public.
First things first: there aren’t actually any rules in songwriting, only guidelines, formulas you can follow, and tried-and-true techniques that often work. It’s great to learn all that and obviously some of it you’ll already know, but the first thing you’ll have to cultivate is a sense of experimentation and discovery. Your songs may be terrible at first (or not!). But if you’re afraid of that part of it, you’ll likely never write enough to get good at it! So let it flow and carry on! The rest of these tips or just that: tips that you can try or not.
In copyright law, a song is actually defined as lyric and melody – that’s it. And a song doesn’t have to have lyrics. So, it can lead to better, more creative songs if you start there rather than with a chord progression or even the style, genre and so on. You may or may not write lyrics along with the melody.
Speaking of writing lyrics along with melody or not, switching this up is a great way to discover new sounds when you’re in a rut. If you usually write melodies by singing words, try writing lyrics on paper without singing or connecting to any melody. Then go and write a melody on the guitar (or a piano) separately. Or if that’s your usual M.O., try it the other way.
If you’re not already a singer/player, go ahead and learn this skill. You don’t have to get all that good at it if you don’t want to perform as a singer. It’s just another way to conjure up new ideas. Don’t be afraid to sing when you’re writing songs, even if you’re not great and never intend to be the actual singer. You don’t have to sing well to write well.
Many players will already know about various song structures. ABAB, ABCA, AAB – and so on. And we’re all mostly familiar with verses and choruses. Most of us probably know that the most common structure for pop songs is verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus.
We could talk all day about song structure – intros, pre-choruses, post choruses, solo sections versus bridges, how long verses and choruses “should” be and how long it “should” take you to get to the first chorus (under a minute). The real thing to know here when you’re first starting out though, is to use structure to free you up.
Believe it or not, if you pick a structure ahead of time, it can actually help with letting things flow, because you’re twisting in the wind wondering where you even want to go.
As we mentioned, chord progressions and harmony are not actually what’s defined as a song – at least according to copyright law. So, in theory they’re secondary to melody and lyrics. However, after you’ve done a few songs melody first, you’ll obviously find yourself looking for the right progression to play underneath. Starting the other way is also perfectly legitimate – pick a popular chord progression and play it or record it and write the melody against that. The point is to experiment with both, so you start to understand what different methods cause.
Pro Tip: If you’re hitting a wall with the same style over and over, or especially if you’re having trouble writing catchy choruses, a good trick is to stop being creative with chord progressions, and lay down one of the few “overused” pop progressions like I-V-vi-IV or I-IV-V. These progressions are common for a reason – they’re a shortcut to catchiness.
Lyrics are super personal and they’re the hardest part to get right. Many people are phenomenal musicians and composers but write awful lyrics. This may or may not be you, but don’t be discouraged if it is at first. Just keep at it. Here are some starter tips to get you going:
The biggest tip on lyrics though: be you.
There’s a lot to writing great songs, too much to cover here. Plus, the right song can break every rule and be a complete smash. The main thing about songwriting is you’ve got to do it to do it. So, get down to it and start writing!
November 06, 2023
One of the most misunderstood things in mixing is bass – whether it’s getting the low end right in general, letting the bass guitar cut through without overpowering everything else, or just making the bass interesting and cool. It can be tricky to get it right, but there are plenty of tried-and-true tricks for getting there quickly. Let’s go over a few of those.
October 30, 2023
Some of the great guitar-playing artists were self-taught – which means a great many of them use weird tunings. That’s probably no coincidence – using alternate tunings is a great way to come up with a unique sound. So, let’s look at a few of the most common uncommon tunings you could try with your guitar – or your bass.
October 06, 2023
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