Learn basic music theory.
Here you´ll find articles about different music theory subjects that will enhance your songwriting skills. This is not the place to start advanced discussions about music theory, but if you are a beginner or at a intermediate level, I think you´ll find these articles helpful. (I know my students have:))
Making Sense of Songwriting
When writing songs, we’ve all experienced a “lost at sea” feeling every now and then. We know what we want the song to be about, we have the basic feeling of it inside of us, but all the same, we just can’t get it into the music.
This is a common feeling and has been happening for years. And, over those years, there have been many systems devised to hep guide that feeling into creative fruition. Music Theory is one of those devices, and in these articles you’ll learn how to take some tried and true methods and apply them to your own work.
Keep in mind, though, that music theory´s not hard and fast rules that must be obeyed for every song. There are sure to be a lot of great songs out there that have ignored one, two, or any number of the things you’re about to read.
Instead, these are examples of methods that have worked in the past (and will in the future), and have worked enough times that music scholars could define a pattern and then write it down (Remember, pattern does not equal bad. Listen to a bunch of Rolling Stones songs. You’ll definitely see some patterns in there, but the songs are still great).
Also, if you are a songwriter who is trying to be at the front of the avant-garde, its a lot easier to write songs that are at the cutting edge if you understand what leads up to that edge. After all, before Pablo Picasso became famous as a groundbreaking Cubist painter, he mastered more conventional forms of painting, and if it worked for him, you might as well give it a try.
Step One: The Key
First of all, we’re going to talk about choosing a key and finding a scale that will work best for both that key and for your style of music.
If you have been writing songs in a rock or blues style, you’re probably used to the same old A minor or E minor keys and their corresponding pentatonic scales. Not necessarily a bad thing, but there’s a lot more out there to explore. Also, there are some singer/songwriters that choose their key or scale based on their vocal range. Again, not a bad thing, but there are ways to get more out of what you’re already doing.
After reading this section, you may not run off and write a song in some little used key with some exotic scale. In fact, you may find yourself sticking with the keys that you’re used to. That’s just fine, but still read this section so that you can get everything you possibly can out of the key that you’re using.
Click here to learn more about different keys.
Step Two: The Chords
Okay, so we know the key we’re going to use and the notes that make up that key, now we need to combine those notes into chords and chord progressions that will provide the backbone of our song.
This is a very useful music theory concept because constructing chords is vital to the songwriting process and to understanding how music works. Also, another great thing about learning exactly how chords are made up is that this knowledge is of a great help in creating melodies and solos.
We won’t go into melody and solo here, but anytime you listen to a piece of music and you hear a melody/solo note played that fits perfectly against the chords, check out a transcription of that music and you’ll most likely find a definite relationship between the note played and the notes that make up that chord.
Click here to learn more about chords.
Step Three: The Modes
Lets look at an exiting music theory concept that may take your songs to a totally new direction, the modes. When first learning about modes, many people learn them as different variations of the major scale.
After all, the D Dorian mode contains the exact same notes as the C Major. You’ll see the difference when we look at a mode as though it were its own key. True, if you’re going to write out the song in notation, the key signature (symbols at the beginning of the work designating the key of the song) would be the same for both C Major and D Dorian.
But, if we recognize the differences between the two as we begin to compose, we can create vastly different, and original, interpretations of the same notes. This section is designed to take what you know and let you see just how many ways we can apply that knowledge.
Click here to learn more about different modes.
One Last Thing
At the end of each of these sections, there will be an exercise or two to help you firmly understand the concepts we talk about. DO THESE!
Its all well and good to read about something, but once you actually do it, it is a lot easier to apply that knowledge to your own work. You wouldn’t be here reading if you weren’t serious about songwriting, so take the extra few minutes and give these exercises a try.
More Songwriting Tips?For more tips and juicy articles about songwriting, subscribe to my monthly songwriting-guide.com newsletter.
This unique inbox offering is packed with information and 100% free.
just sign up!
If you would like to learn more about music theory, I recomend this site. It contains really good content about this topic.
At Music Learning Workshop.com you'll find detailed lessons and workbooks related to music learning topics and lessons starting with the basic fundamentals of music theory including how to accelerate your learning process and getting it down cold workbooks.
Click here to return from Music Theory to Songwriting Guide home page