Alright... so here's the deal. I'm a percussionist by heart. I tear the drums in my band.. but all I ever think about is writing music.

I can play some guitar. I'm not guitarded. My fingers work to an extent. I can pluck some chords...

And I'm for sure not tone deaf. I can lay down in tune vocals off the top of my head in key to a background.

But I don't know enough about chords or music to write actual songs. Sure, major scales minors la la... how do I turn that into a song?! It's mindblowingly difficult to me.. my guitarist usually makes stuff up for us and then I just lay drums over it. But, I want to make songs on my own with my own vision. Sorry if I'm in the wrong place but I figured this had more to do with theory.
Well what theory do you know? Do you know construction and harmonization of major and minor scales? That's where you should start. Then you can start making some progressions and go wherever you want.
why, yes, it does have a lot to do with theory. i advise sticking to the study of the major scale at first.

study the chords diatonic to a major scale (I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii°.

then experiment.
Anfangen ist leicht, Beharren eine Kunst.
man i was gonna bust out some drummer jokes but felt kinda bad so fu*k it....lol. seriously though you dont need a whole hell of a lot of theory but you will need to know chord progressions, scales, modes things like that. just play with it the more you practice the more you'll begin to crave the knowladge and the better your song writing will become when you can add more things to your writing process
Im gonna pistol whip the next guy that says shenanigans !!!!
Welcome to UG!

So, the major scale we always start with when examining music theory is C Major, because it has no sharps or flats.


In order to keep things clear, we refer to the notes by numbers 1 through 7.


Now that we've got that out of the way, let's take a closer look at that C major scale. Notice that the step pattern (or tone/semitone pattern) isn't the same throughout the scale. We have a whole step between C and D, a whole step between D and E, a half-step between E and F, whole between F and G, whole between G and A, whole between A and B, and a half-step between B and C.

What's the significance of this? Well, it has to do with the intervals between the notes. An interval is simply the relationship between the pitches of two notes.

Since C major is a major scale, it's pretty obvious that the C (1st, root, or tonic note) makes up a major chord. To confirm this, we count in thirds throughout the scale.

C, E, G

From C to E is four semitones, which makes a major third. From C to G is seven semitones, which makes a perfect fifth.

Major third with perfect fifth=major chord, or 1 3 5

You can follow that same formula for D, E, F, G, A, and B, and you will get this pattern at the end of it all, for the key of C major.

C-1 3 5=major
D-1 b3 5=minor
E-1 b3 5=minor
F-1 3 5=major
G-1 3 5=major
A-1 b3 5=minor
B-1 b3 b5=diminished

So, in a major key, C, F, and G are your major chords. Ever heard of the term "1 4 5?" This is what it refers to, because the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes of the major scale make major chords.

But what if you want to play in a minor key? Well, this is quite simple really. The relative minor of C major is A minor, because it also has zero sharps or flats.


Now, if you look at it from the perspective that A is the sixth note of C major, then you just follow the same pattern you figured out for C major and you get the chords for A minor. You shift it so that A minor is the first chord, B diminished is the second chord, and so on.


Since A minor is relative to C major, the chords stay the same...they're just in a different order (which makes all the difference when playing in a key signature!)

Using the 1st chord (or root), which is called the tonic, the 4th chord which is called the sub-dominant, and the 5th chord which is called the dominant, you have the building blocks of a major key song. Play around with those three chords (in C major, these would be C, F, and G, I'll let you figure out the other keys) and you can come up with some very nice chord progressions. Add in a minor or the diminished seventh if you want to make things more varied.

The same applies to A minor and the rest of the minor keys. The second is a diminished chord, and 1, 4, and 5 are minor chords. The 3rd, 6, and 7th are major chords.

Hope any or all of that helps.
What you just said there.. pretty much made a lot of stuff click in my brain. That helped quite a bit..

What about other scales instead of majors and minors? I mean I'm sure there are tons of them.. like.. pentatonic. But if I wanted to use some others what would you suggest?

And thank you!
Pentatonic scales are major and minor, just notes are excluded so there's 5 instead of 7.

The major and minor scales are plenty enough to do a great song with.
I suggest learning music theory, and without further ado, here are some great starter links
Freepower's video lessons (check out his bitesize theory lessons first)
The Crusade
The Guide To All Techniques
Music Theory FAQ
Last edited by tenfold at Jan 9, 2010,
Quote by Leifer02
What you just said there.. pretty much made a lot of stuff click in my brain. That helped quite a bit..

What about other scales instead of majors and minors? I mean I'm sure there are tons of them.. like.. pentatonic. But if I wanted to use some others what would you suggest?

And thank you!

Glad that it helped!

Just as there are diatonic major and minor scales, there are major and minor pentatonic scales. The major pentatonic is the major scale with two notes taken out...the 4rd and the 7th. This gives us, in the key of C major, the notes C, D, E, G, and A.

The 2nd and 6th are removed from the minor scale to create the minor pentatonic.
In the key of A, this would be A C D E G. Just as the minor scale contains the same notes as the major scale, the minor pentatonic scale contains the same notes as the major pentatonic-the order is what's different!

Now that we've covered pentatonics a bit, let's go back to that minor scale (known as natural minor to distinguish it from the other minor scales). Yes, there are two more commonly used minor scales-the harmonic minor and the melodic minor.

The harmonic minor is created by raising the 7th degree of the natural minor scale by a half-step. In A, that would be

A B C D E F G# A

However, this created an inconvenience-that's three semitones from F to G#! To solve this, the sixth degree of the minor scale was raised in addition to the seventh.

A B C D E F# G A

This is called the melodic minor for its improved melodic potential.

Now, in classical music, from what I understand, to make the melodies flow smoothly the melodic minor step-pattern was only used when ascending (going up in pitch). The natural minor scale was used when descending. But jazz musicians often break that "rule" and use the melodic minor scale while descending as well as ascending.

Now, going back to the C major scale, we see that we used the same notes, but a different order or step-pattern to create the A minor scale. Why can't we do it for the five other notes of the C major scale? These are called modes.

C to C, no sharps or flats=Ionian mode (major scale)
D to D, no sharps or flats=Dorian mode (minor)
E to E, no sharps or flats=Phrygian mode (minor)
F to F, no sharps or flats=Lydian mode (major)
G to G, no sharps or flats=Mixolydian mode (major)
A to A, no sharps or flats=Aeolian mode (natural minor scale)
B to B, no sharps or flats=Locrian mode (diminished)

There's a modes sticky that explains things better than I do about modes, so if you want, read that!
I'd recommend that you pick up a copy of "How to Write Songs on Guitar" by Rikky Rooksby. I've got loads of books on songwriting and this is by far the best book for a beginner.
Just riff a little on your guitar find what sounds good, and when you have done a million songs you will start to get good

But ofc the best way is to learn the basics of theory first

Good luck with the songwriting!