#1
I've been dabbling on and off with the guitar for at least a year and haven't really progressed very far. I've been learning scales, how chords relate to scales, and recently intervals. The problem I have is I can't for the life of me figure out how to use that theory to write songs. Just thought I'd ask you guys how you started writing songs.

I'd like to write acoustic indie type music similar to Elliott Smith or Owen.
#2
the way i write songs is just by messing around with different chord progressions and just general screwing around. or you could try and write lyrics first, and then make a guitar part to fit it.

Edit: and make sure that if you find something that you like, write it down IMMEDIATELY!!! the thing i hate the most is to have a really cool riff or song idea, then forget what it is when I try and play it again because I didn't write it down :grr:
#3
ya, i just mess around with what sounds good.
After the first little bit, i develop a feel for the music so i just go from there.
I started to write a song the day i got my guitar
ITS AWESOME
AND SIMPLE!!
#4
The way I write usually is I come up with a little riff or melody that I think sounds good and I figure out what key it's in. This is done usually by what the notes are and by what is the tonal center of the little riff or melody. Then if I need other parts I try to work in that key for connecting sections. OR I start out knowing what key I'm working in already and I use it to create parts based on a beat or a bass part. So I sometimes just create a drum and bass part and then decide what's going to go on top of it later. Simple bass parts make it easy to experiment with modes, and different modes can create different moods so I use them at times to change the flavor of something. But it really comes down to having some idea and then figuring it out or building on it. Knowing how chords relate to scales can help you when it comes to creating different sections in a piece. If you have a melody, you can then figure out what key it's in and that can help you figure out what chords might sound good as a backing to that melody.
#6
So I should come up with the riff/melody and then apply theory to it? I guess I assumed knowing theory would write the songs for themselves in a sense.
#7
Quote by dramamine813
So I should come up with the riff/melody and then apply theory to it? I guess I assumed knowing theory would write the songs for themselves in a sense.


Unfortunatley no. You still have to have talent to write a great song.
#8
Writing?
It's a process. I started writing 4 chord pop-punk songs but I've since progressed. Here's a general overview of my writing process:

First I need something emotionally intense to happen. Usually getting dumped works, but there are some deep songs, books, or movies that help. I then proceed to have insomnia from said emotional intensity where I fill notebooks with lyrics. I then hide the lyrics until I forget what they are, then pull them out again and add chords and a melody. While I'm in the process of forgetting lyrics, I usually give chord progressions and riffs to my band to jam on, and I take note of any interesting musical ideas. Then I just sit down with my guitar and finish the song.

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Electronic Audio Experiments
#9
Understand the way cadences work within a given key, modulate to like the dominant of that key for the interlude, returning to the tonic for the reprise. Thats the theory behind a rough structure, but i always come up with a chord sequence, add a few extra notes in...possibly change the bass note then play it in a few different picking/strumming patterns and work with a metre also.
#10
Quote by stradivari310
Writing?
It's a process. I started writing 4 chord pop-punk songs but I've since progressed. Here's a general overview of my writing process:

First I need something emotionally intense to happen. Usually getting dumped works, but there are some deep songs, books, or movies that help. I then proceed to have insomnia from said emotional intensity where I fill notebooks with lyrics. I then hide the lyrics until I forget what they are, then pull them out again and add chords and a melody. While I'm in the process of forgetting lyrics, I usually give chord progressions and riffs to my band to jam on, and I take note of any interesting musical ideas. Then I just sit down with my guitar and finish the song.


now, if only i wasnt too hard for movies/books to make me cry and had a girlfriend to dump me...

that has to be the most emo way of making music ever...but its so ****ing cool at the same time!

"The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n"

- John Milton, Paradise Lost
#11
my lyrics come to me from nowhere... or at least the first verse or so...

i write that crap down in a journal.. and later i find a chord prog that i like... i then hum a melody to the chord prog...

next i flip through the journal seeing if i can get any of the pomes to fit...


..... thats just one of the ways.. i also do the last few steps without having a poem written, and freestyle lyrics that i decide to keep or toss... or sometimes ill have a poem with melody in mind then i find the the chords.

go ask an artist how he paints...

or a novelists how he writes.
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#12
^I've tried that, no help with those

edit: oh yea, as for me:

one way is I'm always coming up with little riffs and ideas, which I then tab out and save in my "Licks & Riffs" folder. and then whenever I come up with that's really good that I could turn into the main idea I'll look through all my little riffs and ideas and hopefully find something that'll go good with what I've got, then throw in some key changes such and make up some sections on the spot (see Menace in my profile for an example of this)

another way is I'll come up with a chord progression and find a little melody to go with it, add some riffs, whatever until I have a song.

and my favorite and least favorite at the same time: I'll just be messing around and something awesome just flows from my fingers, I just keep going and going and going back and repeating stuff and changing it up and throwing in new riffs and it just sounds awesome. the bad part about this is I can never play it again, I might remember some riffs from it to add to my collection, and I might be able to play something similar, but it's never the same again.

I can do it that last way pretty easily, especially if I'm jamming with someone, but sometimes I just can't.
Last edited by The4thHorsemen at Mar 2, 2008,
#14
i usually chill with my friends in my band think of a good riff in my head and reproduce it or just play till something sounds cool and my friends tell me if it sounds good or not. i have no clue what scales and such are i just know a lot of cords and i throw them together till i find something cool.
My band The Land Bass Dragons
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#15
i fool around with my guitar, and i'll stumble on to something that i think sounds good, and i jot it down
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#16
Often I'll use my own knowledge of chord theory to experiment with different and obscure voicings over the neck of the guitar. Progressions become more interesting this way; embelished in a sense. The thing about guitar is that you can play around with inversions beyond 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

I'll write songs from my head directly most often. I'll sound an idea and make it happen. Through fooling around, this idea becomes more detailed and moves places etc.

Also playing with peoples emotions can be fun. You can, for example, use chords like an E5 chord, which omits the 3rd of the scale. As the 3rd of the scale denotes the tonality in major/minor terms, using a simple power chord like this can transition you through many different keys and modes. Any chord that omits a 3rd will result in a major/minor sound according to the previous sharps and flats heard in the progression.

You can apply this rule to any scale degree. Say you're playing in C Major, you can simply play a chord that omits a 4th (in C major being an F...this is easier to do on a piano where triads w/o 4ths are easier to come by) and discreetly change the tonality from major to modal, sharpening the 4th to a Lydian mode and playing chords relating to this new scale.

From there it could be easy to subtely modulate to G Major for example, as F# is in the key signature of G also, corresponding to the C lydian.

I hope that made a lick of sense to you. Best of luck
"I feel sorry for James Blunt, he has to wake up every morning and think 'Ah man, I'm James Blunt'"
#17
I don't noodle around on the guitar much. If I do that, my fingers write the music and they can't write for ****.

I prefer to think of something in my head, grab my guitar and use theory to work out how to play it. Then I think of something that builds on the original idea, and repeat the process.
My name is Andy
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Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
#18
I just take basic chord progressions and dabble with them in my spare time, literally stealing licks from my favorite songs and putting them together into one song, a progressive kind of approach to songwriting, but I feel it lets me get my ideas down.
hue
#19
Well that is a tough magic to find in muisic-and many have found it in strange ways. Dave, from Molly Hatchet, was watching a hassle going on in the other room, with his band members, and he was sitting at the kitchen table with a yellow legal tablet in front of him.when a rather small member challenged a much larger member, a statement was made of-now,you're flirting with disaster!-and that song was written by dave at that instant.And this little story, of course, made a million copies of the song.Dave told me this story, in person,so sometimes what you see around you can be a creative influence-and see the song in your head-then learn how to play to it's meaning.I have written 80 plus songs, and all of them were so fast in idea,and concept, i had a hard time writing them fast enough.i then didn't write for over 3 years, so get it when you feel it, and take the bull by both horns untill you get it done. Always remember the well runs when it feels like it, not when you decide to turn on the faucet.good luck-t.r.
#20
You know, in my opinion, it´s basically about finding a melody or some cool riff in your head! you can do this all day long, just think of something and if u think of it as being awesome, u try to remember it until you can pick ur guitar and jam Just jam and don´t let urself be influenced by any actions around, just try to get that melody on ur guitar of course guitar theory is important to know about, but the main riff comes from ur head, it´s just an idea , after that u can build up the song by theory and some more ideas with match with ur first "Main Riff", good luck dude
#21
The way i do it is ill listen to a variety of bands ranging from Sabbath to Journey. Then I'll play in some of their styles, messing with the gain on my amp, seeing which one i like the best. Then, I'll usually go for the blues scale for any fiffs i wanna put between verses, and go from there.
#22
The way I've written songs so far has been by using what knowledge I have (which I've gotten from playing existing songs and observing how those songs are built and what kind of melodies exist in the riffs<I really start purely with riffs> and then I just 'jam' or more accurately I mess about in what I know will sound well. Mostly that's in power chords and these stringskipping riffs based on the open E(well in my band's case open D as we tune in D standard) that really are quite typical for metal. So far I think we've got some fairly cool songs this way, though in order to make things more interesting I've tried to use some different chords or harmonies here and there, otherwise things would get really old really fast.

What you really need to is just try stuff out, it's all about melodies if you ask me and you and make melodies more interesting through harmonies and the only way to really write anything is to try stuff out, learn how this chord sounds after you've played that chord (though of course rythm can affect things aswell and I try to come up with interesting rythms too, we've even got this sorta funky part<well I don't know for sure if it's funky, but whatever> in one of our songs and we're really quite a full-on ****ing metal band!) and once you've gotten some of that stuff stored in your memory, you can apply it as you come up with new melodies further down the road.

Hope this helps.
#23
Allrighty, basically
Find a guitar teacher that knows lots of theory/is in an active (original songwriting) band. Through lessons, get him to teach you more and more about theory and progressions. With progressions, you want to learn which chords are in which key, how capos affect key (takes the key you're playing, and just slides it right up, for example, playing a song usually in the key of C, but with a capo on the 2nd is now technically in the key of D. Learn scales/modes, and how to use them, and how they relate to chords (C major goes with chords in the key of C), etc etc. Know that vocal melody is VERY important but should not be too active and complex. Learn how to break rules within a key, playing chords that are usually not in a key, but still sound good and usually, interesting. Elliot Smith is a songwriting genius, lots and lots of theory put into his work, comparable to Paul McCartney in his writing style.

(Trying to help you a bit more than the rest of these guys that seem to write rock/metal) Rock and metal are great, and still valid songwriting styles. Rock (more often than metal) is built on simple powerchord progressions and really catchy riffs, acoustic/indie stuff is built on simple, catchy melodies and interesting progressions.
Last edited by manmanman133 at Mar 3, 2008,
#24
yah i'll usually think about riffs in my head, than i'll lay it out on guitar, but sometimes playing random things can lead to good things
#25
Generally take an idea to the band, and we'll eventually turn it into a song. Our singer and trumpet player tend to come up with full songs, but the songs in the playing and so the writing doesn't really matter very much.
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