10 Ideas to Inject Into Your Song Tonight

Ideas you can use to further the development of your song right away.

Ultimate Guitar
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:

1. Modulate.

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 Lydian C 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. Get tons of ideas for your songs or chord progressions with this free ebook. Instantly write songs and maximize your songwriting potential by having several options at your disposal, in every single key. Mix and match, or use 2 or more progressions at once for a strong, powerful section. The possibilities are endless. Get it here. 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.

44 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Everything was well done, except for the modal part. Modes don't have progressions, as modes were never designed to be tonal. Progressions are purely something tonal. (No matter what Jazz players tell you, Modes don't work that way.) If one is truly modal, the only thing that matters is melody. Chord progressions involve harmony and are therefore not to be considered. (This is why people commonly use 2-chord vamps in modal songs.)
    I think you're right, but the article was very well written nonetheless.
    I agree.
    I dunno what the heck did you just say, but yeah, also 5) - parallel keys would be Em-G, Am-C, not E-Em or anything like that.
    Those are relative minors. Parallel keys have the same first note of the scale (G - Gm, A - Am etc.)
    I always thought that using parallel keys was when you switched to the next key in the circle of fifths (going from C to G or G to D)
    No, the author was correct on parallel keys.
    Yeah as said above, a parallel key is the major or minor form of that key based on the same tonic note. am and AM, DM and dm, and so on. I don't really know when I would want to use this kind of modulation, but then again I'm a poor songwriter. Nice article.
    I'd also like to point out that going to a chord a 4th down/5th up in the key is not the circle of fifths, it's a fifths/fourths sequence.
    You are correct, but I think the author was simply saying you could build a few chords based upon the circle of fifths/fourths and use them in a sequence. Keep in mind, he's not writing this for theory buffs.
    thanks dude.
    are you americans completely retarded so you need tut like this ...dear god
    The Relative Key should be mentioned with the Parallel Key ...I guess he tried to say something about that on nr. 7
    This article is obviously written for either players/not natural/inspired writers or for people new to writing. My approach 99.9% of the time is pure inspiration. That means I'm waiting to hear something from within and then figuring out what it is that I'm hearing and playing/writing it out. Now in a time restricted scenario this approach isn't always the most efficient but what happens when you adhere to a "Well try these things list" is that parts either don't fit well or come off as sounding generic/forced/pretentious. The best approach is to study the song and listen to what you have written over and over and playing/recording the additional parts that you start hearing as they come to you. This can take seconds, minutes, hours, days, months or even years. At times this takes some real discipline because a new part for a song you're working on or a new song might come tumbling into your mind at the most inopportune times (just as you're falling asleep/waking up, at work, etc..). Also I find that when I'm working on something for a song, I might hear a part, write it, and then think "wow this is actually a perfect bridge/chorus/verse for this other song. Sometimes it means walking away for an extended period of time from that song that needs a bridge and then coming back to it much later, but what you get is much more honest and organic then trying to force something into a song that inevitably won't work as well. Also think about what you want to accomplish with the song, what you want to say and how you want the music of the song to reflect the feeling/message you're trying to get across to yourself or the listener and then map that out. My advice is to listen to and study as much music as you possibly can, listen closely to what you like about the compositions and write notes on it and then experiment with what you've found and birth something new from those ideas and examples.
    This article is about using skills and techniques to spice up a song. To imply that "inspiration" fueled ideas have little to do with naturally writing music is crap. The ideas listed in this article are just more to add to an arsenal of songwriting tools. YOU may be able to write music from a purely inspirational standpoint and not focus on theory and whatnot, but a theory based writer could come along and tell you that you used 8/10 points on this list. If the techniques don't work well for certain parts, that's the fault of the songwriter. You can't blame the techniques available - It's up to the writer to use them properly. They are merely tools with which you have to work with.
    **To imply that "inspiration" fueled ideas have MORE to do with naturally writing music is crap.**
    Also, some people just work a little differently in their heads. Some people can just use their ears and start piecing together music, while others get stuck and use music theory to help them. No problem at all with either.
    Agreed. Different strokes for different folks. The key is to learn how to utilize both technique and inspiration without believing that one overrides the other; they work in tandem.
    I'm having a hard time imagining Hendrix or the boys from Skynyrd doing this stuff when they wrote all those classics.
    There's no reason to worry about using all the chords in a key. That's like making sure you have one dotted rhythm, one regular rhythm, and one triple rythm in each song. Putting stuff into a song where it doesn't fit never works well. You wouldn't try to use all the chord extensions of every chord in your song..
    Nice article, Many points to do research on cause I understood half of it, specially Circle of 5 and V7. Right now when I "write" a song or improvise I take a scale, mostly Pentatonic, Aeolian (Pentatonic + 2)and lately Phrygian (Whenever I may roam, Killing an Arab -No political or religious statement in there, just a cool song by the Cure. I know you UGs!) )and use the notes to make chords. This tips seem very helpfull .Thanxs
    You may need to learn to stop thinking in scales and start thinking in terms of keys. Pop over to the MT forum, if you wish.
    Very nice article, man! The only thing is the "modal progression" part. That might start a flame war among people, but it's good nonetheless.
    Can anyone explain to me why, in number 8, the author says to use Ab major instead of Am. Where are you borrowing that Ab major chord from?
    Because number 8 says "borrow a chord from another key" and Ab major isn't in the original key, hence his suggestion of it.