Hi all. I was picking up my guitar the other day, wondering what to play when I realized that all I have ever done with my guitar life is play other people's music. As fun as it is, I feel so unaccomplished with what I've done musically, but realized also that I have no idea at all on how to start writing my own guitar parts. I'm not terrible technically speaking, but have just never picked up any theory or even general guidelines.

So I am humbly requesting some help as to a good starting point when it comes to this process. With so many guides out there, I felt overwhelmed when trying to look on my own. If there is any sort of general path or guidelines most people follow, I'd be most appreciative of anyone who is willing to lend their time and patience to me. I'm not trying to be an overnight rock star, I just want to play my own music.
(For the record, I will listen to about any type of guitar music, from Django Reinhardt to Clapton to RHCP to Dethklok. And thanks again to all those willing to help!)
Music theory is one very traditional, yet helpful approach to this. Many people find it easiest. May take longer to get to writing music, but when you're there it should be much easier for you, because you know how to get certain sounds without even playing them. My approach was different. I began by writing music to my lyrics. I would write lyrics and have a melody in my head, and I could kind of also have a sense (in my head) of what the music was going to sound like. Then I basically reproduced those sounds I was thinking of. No theory involved. Also, just mess around and whenever you hit even just a few cool notes/chords together in rhythm, take note of it and try to work from there. Many of my music begins without thought. I'll play a cool riff or lick, and just keep repeating it, changing tiny details, and before I know it, I'm progressing into a song. Just jam around and note the cool sounds you come up with. Or do what I did, and think of a rhythm and melody in your head, and try to reproduce that music.
Many different approaches.

Sorry for the long post, but hope this helps you out man.
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Everyone has a different approach to writing their own music. Whether you start with the lyrics, the melody, the rhythm, etc.

For me, it goes about 50/50. At times I start with lyrics and work the music around them, where as other times I start out with the music and go from there.

It wouldn't hurt to learn a bit of theory as well. For years I had worked myself into a corner musically, and as I began to learn a bit of theory it started opening up a few doors. It lets you realize the obvious moves musically when things just are clicking and inspiration isn't exactly coming in spades.
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I should add to that when I do try and play around, I tend to just end up playing a pentatonic scale...fun for about 30 seconds. Coming from what you guys are saying and what I know about myself it seems that theory is a good place to at least start at...is there any book or UG guide that really trumps the others and is for lowest-of-the-low knowledge players like myself? Once again, big thanks to you guys!
I'd recommend theory to you any day of the week. It will do nothing but help you (given you understand what theory IS (a way of describing) rather than what many THINK it is (rules)).

Firstly, just do it. Pick up your guitar and play something you like. That's all there is to it. In the beginning everyone starts the same: just trying. We try, and try, and try, until we get frustrated when trying just doesn't cut it anymore. Once we hit that "wall" (so to speak) is when we start figuring out our individual method of writing.

For me I pick up my guitar and start writing. Usually it's something clean, like a chord progression. Once I have that down, I put it in GP and start coming up with other parts or different ways to play the same thing, or I change the instrumentation, or I figure out that entire section and go. Sometimes I'll create a melody and use that and variations of that throughout the entire song.

Just start. You'll find your groove.

EDIT: For guides, I'd recommend UG's "The Crusade" articles. Just make sure you REALLY understand EVERYTHING in the articles before you move on, or else you'll be confused.
Last edited by DiminishedFifth at Sep 21, 2010,
Excellent. I think I can take off the training wheels and go with it. Thanks to all who helped out!