#1
I have been playing guitar for 2 years, and I think I have done good in this time. I want to write music now! When I try to write music, it just becomes a mess of random far spread notes and one note solos going over the top of chord progressions. I want to actually be able to write something.
Does anyone have any tips? Im sure Im not alone, I am not a believer of "if you cant write now, you never will" some people claim this, but I dont buy it.
Does a good ear help this? Would I benefit from putting down the tabs and listen to things and play by ear? Will just listening to more music and playing more often make writing come naturally?

Ok, now im done sounding like a noob
#2
Choose a scale, make a chord progression, choose a tempo and time signature and then go from there.
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#3
Quote by AlskiOverload
Would I benefit from putting down the tabs and listen to things and play by ear? Will just listening to more music and playing more often make writing come naturally?


Obviously the biggest thing that will help you learn to write is theory, but other than that...

I personally really recommend doing what you say. Just turn some songs on shuffle, grab the guitar and solo over the whole song. Play the notes that sound good and after a while you will come up with some techniques that you like. It might not help you write but it will help improvisation which can lead to good writing IMO
#5
Quote by dolphinfan2k5
Obviously the biggest thing that will help you learn to write is theory, but other than that...

If this were true, he'd already be writing. But he says that when he tries playing scales over progressions, it just sounds like a bunch of notes stretched out over chords.

Theory is a good tool to use, but don't let the tool distract you from the job. If a woodsman worries too much over the axe he's using, never being satisfied with its condition or capacity, he'll never cut a single tree.

When you learn theory, you learn the language of music, which is valuable, however simply knowing the words does not mean you're able to speak it. You're on the right track when you mentioned training your ear - it's the most valuable thing a musician can have. When you learn to hear what should follow, you can then decide what to alter.

My advice is drop tabs/chart for a bit, and focus on learning songs that you haven't already. This will train your ear to hear possibilities, as well as teaching your mind to predict what pattern can occur over what progression.
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#6
Quote by strat0blaster
If this were true, he'd already be writing. But he says that when he tries playing scales over progressions, it just sounds like a bunch of notes stretched out over chords.

Theory is a good tool to use, but don't let the tool distract you from the job. If a woodsman worries too much over the axe he's using, never being satisfied with its condition or capacity, he'll never cut a single tree.

When you learn theory, you learn the language of music, which is valuable, however simply knowing the words does not mean you're able to speak it. You're on the right track when you mentioned training your ear - it's the most valuable thing a musician can have. When you learn to hear what should follow, you can then decide what to alter.

My advice is drop tabs/chart for a bit, and focus on learning songs that you haven't already. This will train your ear to hear possibilities, as well as teaching your mind to predict what pattern can occur over what progression.


I agree, sounds like a good idea to me. I know alot of theory, but no way to apply it like i said. What about looking toward other instruments too? Like play a little bass, get some skill at that, use it as a writing tool?

And should I just listen to songs over and over again, trying to play along?

And then this brings me to something ive been thinking about for some time
With all of the technology today, tabs, videos, etc, which the greats of the past didnt have, does that hinder some ability to write for yourself?
#7
Quote by AlskiOverload
I agree, sounds like a good idea to me. I know alot of theory, but no way to apply it like i said. What about looking toward other instruments too? Like play a little bass, get some skill at that, use it as a writing tool?

And should I just listen to songs over and over again, trying to play along?

And then this brings me to something ive been thinking about for some time
With all of the technology today, tabs, videos, etc, which the greats of the past didnt have, does that hinder some ability to write for yourself?

I believe it hinders your ability to think musically, which can hinder your ability to write outside of what's pre-determined to be musically 'ok.'

As far as taking up other instruments, as someone who plays several, in my experience I've found it better to gain the knowledge and apply it to one, then work on translating it to others if you want to. Learning about guitar through other instruments for no other purpose than to learn the guitar can work, but it's just a round about way of doing the same thing.

Yep - just put the song on, figure out what tuning it's in, and then just try to play along until the notes sound right. If you've got a knowledge of theory, it shouldn't be too difficult to find pitch and tuning. After that, it's just tinkering around until your ear is accustomed to the shapes that can be made and what could naturally come next.
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#8
thank you. Also, I have done this before, but when I did, I got nowhere. I ended up just screwing around. Do you have any suggestion for songs to start with? I listen to people like the Mars Volta and RHCP, and I know most of the RHCP stuff, and Mars Volta I would imagine would be very difficult to play by ear.
#9
I'd say start with some Incubus - it's similar to that genre.
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#10
I'm a little surprised that no one else has mentioned this- I think its the best way to write- play with someone. (God that sounds dirty...) I've always felt it was best to have someone to jam with, to bounce ideas off of. It's also a great learning tool. Play with people. Lots of people. Regardless of how good they are relative to you. You will learn new ways of doing things and get yourself some great new ideas for songs.
#11
i find that too smcash. I was actually playing with a friend today, which lead me to thinking about all of this. He was playing a chord progression, and i ended up playing these one note solos over the top of it. I felt like i was doing so little in contributing, I want to be able to write things.
#12
to write music you need theory, to play it you do need to practice and to learn scales and chord progressions, which you learn in theory, so basically all you need is theory and practice.
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#13
Wait for inspiration. The problem most people have with writing music is they expect to be able it do it anytime, on a whim, whenever, wherever. I find it really hard to work without inspiration. Pay attention to your mind, when you wake up one day, or as you're having lunch and a great melody pops into your head, drop everything and compose!
#14
I just play around with stuff until I get something I really like then I keep it.
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#15
If you want to learn how to write lyrics, studying poetry is a good place to start. Sting, a great songwriter, was once before an English teacher. It helps to be proficient in a language if you're writing in it.

That being said, you have to know a bit about music theory too. You can't write a song if you're tone deaf either.

Start with a subject, a key and a speed. For me, it usually helps to write anything that comes to mind down. If it doesn't click now, it might sound better later.

Here's a few other tips.
-Keep a songwriting book- jot your ideas down
-Be patient- songwriting takes a while
-Have a tape recorder handy if you want to record a quick riff or two.
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#16
I like what one guys said you know the words but cant speak it.. very philosophical in a musical sense..

My two cents will be to just listen to your core... Everyone knows how to hum and I'm sure there are times when you hear something that gives you an idea.. Well take that 5 second phrase and melodize it in your head until you get 10 seconds and so on.. Then take that and translate it to the guitar. Which may be very painfully as you probably dont know the fretboard and notes well enough to translate it quickly but with trial and error you can figure it out.. Thats how you start writing
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#17
Today I tried playing something by ear. What I did was get parts of Blitzkrieg Bop down, and then little parts of dirty little secret by all american rejects. I just found random songs and tried. I also got a little bit of Waiting Room by Fugazi, i dont know if its tremolo picked or what. Thats something else im bad at, when it comes to punk and power chords, I dont know the rhythm! I was practicing with my band, and the bassist says "no..., the rhythm is this." I consider myself a decent guitar player for the amount of time ive been playing I can play Samba Pa Ti, Black Magic Woman, etc.
It feels like Im starting over again, playing blitzkrieg bop and have trouble! I play it, then I cant hear the next part over the other instruments.
Another thing I was wondering about tone deaf people. I dont think im tone deaf, but does the ability just improve over time to say, ok this is lower than this note? Because sometimes when I am tuning it, I cant figure out if Im sharp or flat.

Ok, now im done being noob
#18
It takes time, man. It's not going to happen in a couple of days - training your ear takes time and patience. Just keep at it.

Anything worth having is worth working hard for. Would you really appreciate it if it just miraculously happened and you didn't have to earn it?
Do you feel warm within your cage?

And have you figured out yet -


Life goes by?
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#19
i dont know.

i make my stuff up on whim?

i dont even know if thats right.

but works just fine for me.
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#20
Start simple. Look at some of the most famous songwriters around in the rock genre over the past 20 years. Billie Joe Armstrong? None of his songs have more than 4 or 5 power chords and maybe a quick little riff thrown in the bridge. Start with some basic power chord progressions. Get them down and play them with some friends. Then get more complicated.
#21
Spend lots of time fiddling around. When you find a chord progression or riff that you like, write it down in tab or whatever, then fiddle around with notes around it, octaves, chords, etc. and create a song out of it. That's what I do. It works mostly well.
#22
Quote by AlskiOverload
Another thing I was wondering about tone deaf people. I dont think im tone deaf, but does the ability just improve over time to say, ok this is lower than this note? Because sometimes when I am tuning it, I cant figure out if Im sharp or flat.
It gets easier with practice.

I cheat when I'm tuning - if a string is almost in tune I detune it before I try and tune it - that way at least I know for definite which direction it needs to go in. Its an old trick my violin teacher taught me when I was little, and it makes life sooo much easier.

Writing I tend to break into chunks - say I'll write an 8 bar chord progression, then a power chord/dyad section follow it, then a more interesting chord progression I can put a solo over. Then if I have a guitar at hand I record them, and start noodling over the top. If I don't have a guitar at hand, I just write lead lines or harmonies based on whatever is going on in my head and the theory I know - using arpeggios or scale fragments if I run out of inspiration, and focussing on chord tones. Then put all the sections together and voila you've got a song. It may not be the world's greatest song, but its yours and you've probably learnt loads doing it, so the next one will be better.

Having lyrics to start with can help too - it gives you a structure to start with, you can base the rhythm on the lyrics, and if you go over them enough times in your head you may well come up with a melody like that too. Then just work out what chords will fit with it, and/or harmonise it, and you're away!

I can't for the life of me harmonise using a single interval though - if I try and harmonise something all in 3rds it sounds really flat to me, or some notes just sound off, even though they are diatonically correct. So I mix up the intervals, using whatever sounds right to me for that note.

I wouldn't wait for inspiration though - imo inspiration is a bit like luck...the harder you work the luckier you get, and the more effort you put into creating something, the more creative you get.

Have fun
#23
I wrote songs purely centred on sounding good as a whole, as in with a band rather than just guitar. Then I wrote lyrics. This made it easier. I just transcribed the melody from vocal to guitar for 'instrumental', but writing an instrumental is much harder than writing with vocals as a centerpiece.
#24
Start simple, I don't know your music style, but get a cheap recorder of some kind and record your self playing a simple chordy riff. Then improvise some stuff over it. Then build up from there. It sounds like you are trying to play some complicated stuff, start of simple.
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#25
I used to struggle when trying to write music, still do sometimes, but with practice and alot of playing anyone can do it.

My method is to just play my guitar unplugged while watching tv or something and just fool around. Eventually a riff or melody will come to me. i record it on audacity, which i use like a portable tape recorder to save riffs and musical ideas. i expand on the riff and play different versions of it. Then i go back to noodling around. Eventually ill get an intro, main melody, chorus etc. I record all of these on separate audacity files and play around with them and make variations. Once i have a pretty clear idea how the song is going to sound and fit together i add drums (i use drum software out of necessity) and arrange and record the guitars and bass on a more advanced recording program. After i listen to the whole thing i start on the solo, if there is one. Sometimes i write a whole song in 1 sitting, other times it takes months.

This is just my way of writing, im sure many people have completely different methods. It takes time , but just relax and have fun with it, and when you get inspired things will just flow.
Last edited by -jeff- at Oct 9, 2009,
#26
What we should know, unless it's already been mentioned as I just kinda glanced through the posts, is what type of music he wants to make. As in, is he making something with lyrics or is he making an instrumental? I typically find instrumentals harder than something with lyrics. Generally all music is composed in the same format, it has a verse(s) and a chorus. You will find some music will have intros and outros and interludes and fills and all of that, to set it out from other pieces of music. Typically with the guitar you'll also have the solo section.

Also if you plan on doing instrumentals, we need to know if you plan on using a rhythm guitar to repeat the chord progression while you play the melodies and everything of the sort over it (Joe Satriani) or if you'll be using one guitar but making instrumentals with just a guitar (Paul Gilbert, Eric Johnson. This is excluding the drums and bass, as I assume you guys know that it would be included).

Start learning songs by ear, I started with people I like to listen too and some of the old blues artists. Robert Johnson, Hendrix, Clapton.

Just improvise. If you start playing in a key, play in that key. Follow your muse. As in, think of a subject you want to convey with your music. Are you angry? Hurt? Sad? Happy? In love? Having fun? I have found that whatever emotion you're feeling when you play, usually comes out into your playing. So use that emotion to direct your improv. Once you think of a cool melody or riff that you want to use, play it a few times again, and write it down. Slowly add onto it till you find something you're satisfied with if you weren't satisfied to begin with. Once you have that piece of the song written down, add onto it. Is it a verse? Is it the chorus? Do you want a solo after it? Just keep building onto it.

Also, I'm going to say forget your theory, but not in the sense you think. Use it, but only use it if you're trying to analyze something you made and how you can add to it with the use of theory, or if you're trying to make a more interesting sounding chord progression. I can almost guarantee you that all the big virtuosos and music makers who know theory, don't use theory when playing all that much. I'm sure they just improvise and mess around till they find something they like.
#27
Learn some basic theory, chord formations, arpeggios, and then you'll be pretty well set to write. Listening and playing widely also helps you bring in influences and guides you creatively.
#28
I don't even use theory to write my music. In some genres, you do need theory. But in my genre I play (thrash metal) most of it's done by ear.

I just screw around until I make a catchy and cool main riff, and expand on it to form the intro, bridge, etc.

For solo's, I just play by ear and follow the chords. I sometimes use scales in solo's though.

And like suggested, listen and learning the songs from the people who inspire you will help.

And honestly, song writing is like anything else. It takes practice. Your first song will sound like ass compared to the other songs you write when you get good. Just look at your favourite bands first record and compare it to their second or third record. You'll hear a difference, or otherwise known as "maturity".
Last edited by DIMEBAGLIVEDON at Oct 9, 2009,