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So I've been playing guitar for a while now and am interested in getting into songwriting. I travel a lot, was wondering if anyone new of any great songwriting books that they could recommend that I could take with me. As I search along here I'll be sure to post up my findings as well! Thank you for your recommendations, help, and advice!
Google called up several. Amazon will show some of them with used book pricing. I've had good luck with used books from Amazon. A lot of them are specific, i.e. how to write good lyrics, or good chord progressions to use in songs. One listed 126 steps to song writing. Good luck with that one. LOL I've listed below a seven step format that gives you a big picture view of what is involved. Seeing the big picture should help with which book you need to start with.
- If you will have lyrics, in your song, start with a story worth telling, then put it into verse format. Four line verse. Three verses and one chorus. Rhyme or not up to you. First verse introduces the story. Second verse goes into more detail. The chorus is the hook what you want them singing tomorrow and the third verse brings the story to a close. That's an AABA format, about as simple as you can get. I start with the story, you can start with the melody or with a chord progression, does not really matter, however, when you finished the story line, melody line and chord line should fit together. Have fun, it's a journey.
- Pick a key. Yep, right from the get go have a key in mind. Which one? The one you sing in or the one the anticipated vocalist sings in would be a good idea. If an instrumental, the key the lead instrument likes best would be in order. Picking a key keeps you grounded and gives you a structure to work with. Remember your writing a first draft. Start simple and flesh out your song as needed. This may be the time to think about your time signature, ie. 4/4, 3/4, etc. Not a must at this point, but, it will come up sooner or later.
- Pick a cookie cutter chord progression and have a V-I cadence in the first two lines of the verse and repeat that in the next two lines. As you are writing a first draft, keep this for all the verses and the chorus. Plenty of time to get fancy as you flesh out your song. First draft chord placement; start with the tonic I chord, build tension by inserting the IV chord near the end of the first line. Continue into the second line with the IV chord and then insert the V7 chord near the end of the second line. Close the second line with a return to rest with the I tonic chord. Repeat this placement in the second two lines. This will give you the classic rest to tension to climax to resolution movement your story line should/could follow.
- First two lines (could) ask a question and the last two lines answers that question, like in classic blues, the first two lines "Call" and the last two lines answers the Call or respond. First two lines do something and the last two lines react to whatever was done. Move the chord changes around to match lyric words, i.e. have the V7 climax chord coming over a climax word, shoot for two V-I cadences per verse. If it helps the first line of your verse occupy four measures. First two lines occupy 8 measures, thus your four line verse will occupy 16 measures. No that is not cast in stone, it is just a guide line to work from, in fact nothing here is to be taken in any way other than a guide line.
- Time for melody. Draw your melody notes from the pentatonic notes of the chords you have already placed in your verses. Why? To harmonize the melody some of your melody notes need to be repeated in the chords used under that specific part of the melody. If you do you get harmonization. As your song is made of melody, harmony and rhythm, and you have already got the chords flowing with the lyrics first thing to look at would be notes of the chord for your melody. Kill two birds with one stone. A Google on how to harmonize a melody will bring into focus how the melody line and harmony line work together.
- The chord's pentatonic scale will give you three like notes for harmonization and two safe passing notes for interest. Which notes? The ones that sound good with the lyric words. Recite the verse, strum your chord progression and a melody will present itself. Of course write it down as you go. IMO the keyboard and standard notation work best for this.
- That writes a lead sheet, which may be all you need. As a lead sheet does not include the bass clef, give the lead sheet to your bassists and have him fill in the bass line. In case you will be including a bass clef for your song - that then begs the question; how many harmonizing notes per measure will you need; just the chord's root will get harmonization. Root, five is better, the 8 is always safe and then if you have room get the correct 3 and 7 into the measure. 4/4 time, 4 notes fit nicely, R-3-5-8 scale degrees of the chord active in the song at this time or perhaps just R on the first beat and the 5 on the 3rd beat, of course change the notes as the chord changes. Then 3/4 time three bass line notes per measure, etc. If you have a C major chord for this specific measure you bass line of root-five would/could be the C note on the 1st beat and the G note on the 3rd beat. Is there more than that? Sure.
That writes a first draft, flesh it out from there. On your travels that format, some blank paper, http://guitar.about.com/library/qstaffpaper10.htm and a number 2 pencil with a good eraser should get you going. If you want to start with the melody I would recommend the following book:
Print off the first 30 pages and take that with you. Pay attention to what is said about our ears liking four note phrases. Three close notes (half step/whole step) with a leap of at least a 3rd. What you do after the leap is the interesting part. Phrases and leaving room for the song to breath were items I found helpful.
Take this format and the sheet music to some simple songs on your trip. I found our church hymnal could be used as a good learning (teaching) tool as you have both treble and bass clef. If lucky some of the hymns will have the chords also listed. See if you can figure out why certain treble notes are repeated in the bass clef and then how the bass clef notes are a good indicator of what chord will be used. Little analyzing at 30,000 feet, or in your hotel room, can answer a lot of questions.
Last edited by Malcolm; 08-09-2012 at 03:15 PM.
Read this books in this order. Very simple language and explanation. Examples over famous songs (90's, 00's era including)
Rikky Rooksbye - How To Write Songs On Guitar
Rikky Rooksbye - The Songwriting Sourcebook
Rikky Rooksbye - Melody
Rikky Rooksbye - Riff
I'd recommend Dominic Pedler's Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles - except it's big and heavy, so not ideal for travelling - unless maybe you can find a kindle version...
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