I recently heard a very successful entrepreneur talk about this concept so I thought it could apply to music as well. He was explaining how to come up with a minimum of 20 ideas you can implement in order to solve a problem. My thoughts were: What better problems to solve than the problems we encounter when writing our music. Usual questions that come up are: "What am I gonna do next?" or "What else can I do with what I've got?" or "How do I make my song kick some a-s?"
Below I came up with 10 different ideas you can use to put into your tracks. The next 10 Ideas are in the second version of this article, which I will also post as well. Keep in mind these are just simple little ideas to use they are not hard, complex ideas. My goal was to give you some ideas on what's helped me in the past to finish songs. Here they are:
This concept doesn't have to be hard at all. It can be as simple as using a pivot chord (a chord that is common to 2 keys). For example if you are playing in E Minor you can use Em Am B7 Cadd9 (pivot chord into C Major) Cadd9 F G G7 C. This is just one example, there are countless things you can do. It is used here to brighten up the song.
2. Write out the chords in the key and use the ones you haven't used.
I've seen many songs, hit songs as well, that have not utilized all of the chords in the key. I'm not saying you have to use all of them, I'm just saying that you don't have to limit yourself to 3 or 4 chords.
3. Use a V7 chord.
You might not have one in there. You can also use these V7 chords from another key which would now be considered Secondary Dominants. Let's say you have Am F D E7, you can do Am E7 F C7 D A7 E7 Am.
4. Use the parallel key.
This is another example of modulation. For example Em to E. You can simply start in Em and modulate into the parallel major key or start in E Major and use the parallel minor key. C to Cm or Cm to C. D to Dm or Dm to D. G to Gm or Gm to G etc.
5. Put an acoustic or Spanish guitar in there.
Or if you have an acoustic song, you can add a distorted part. You can add synthesizers (synths), violins, or whatever you like really. A distorted part to a song can really change things around.
6. Consider the dynamics.
Certain song sections can go up or down in volume and density. You can have a part with just the bass line, or just the bass line and drums or you can have just the guitar come in and then the bass and then the full band come in... etc. There are many options to choose from. The most important thing is that you choose and implement it. Don't wait until you feel like you are a better player. Do it now.
7. Use the circle of 5ths.
You can go up or down in 5ths. For example, if you come to a place in your song where you don't know what to do, try the next chord in the circle of fifths. If you have C F G G7 but are bored with it simply keep going to the fifth of G which is D (in this case Dm since you are in the key of C) then Am (the fifth of Dm), Em (the fifth of Am) and B Diminished (the fifth of E in the key of C). You now have C F G G7 Dm Am Em Bdim C. (A much longer progression with room for lots more ideas).
8. Borrow a chord from another key for one of your sections.
This could really make a difference in the sound of your song. For example instead of C, F and G, you can use C, Fm and G or C, Fm, F and G. Already this progression sounds much cooler than C, F and G. Try it in other keys. This is just one example of a plethora of things you can do. In the key of C, try and Ab Major instead of Am.
9. Use a modal progression.
You would be using the same chords but you'd have a different tonal center. For Example in C Lydian you'd have the same chords as in Em but you would resolve to the C Chord. In other words you can consider the C chord your home chord. Here are the chords in C LydianC D Em F#dim G Am Bm or B7. Out of these chords you could use C G Am F#dim G Major7 and C and you'd be in C Lydian. This is by no means the only the thing you can do, it's just an example. If you figure out the triads for each chord you will realize that they are in the key of Em.
10. Insert an arpeggiated chords section or sweep arpeggio section(s).
You can do this with a clean tone or a distorted tone. It really doesn't matter what you do as long as it flows and sounds good with the rest of your song. If your song is really heavy and full of power chord riffs, an arpeggio section can give it quite a bit of contrast and vice versa. I want to emphasize here that these are just ideas and not rules.
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About The Author:
Mike Socarras is a guitarist, songwriter, lyricist and guitar teacher. He teaches guitar in the Westchester area of Miami, Fl. If you would like to know more about playing guitar you can visit his website for more songwriting information.