Writing A Song – Part 1

I would love to be able to write a great song.  I know I’m not alone in this desire either.  Its seems to be part of the natural progression in a human being’s interest in music.  You start by enjoying listening to music, then you want to play an instrument, then you want to be in a band, then you want to record, and then you want to write original songs.  It doesn’t always happen exactly in that order, but more or less this seems to be the progression.  Well, I am definitely in stage 5 of this series of interests, and have been for some time.  The problem is I haven’t quite been able to get it done.

Now I have written songs before… joke songs, jam songs, the kind that are almost inevitable when you play in a band.  And I have collaborated with others in writing songs that have turned out quite good.  But I have yet to write a song, on my own, that I have been really proud of.  And to be honest, I may never do it.  Not everyone is capable of writing a great song.  I might not have it in me, and I’m ok with that.

But I am going to keep trying.  And for my next attempt I’m going to document the creative process along the way.  My hope is that by doing so I might help someone else in stage 5 that is struggling with the songwriting process.  Here’s the thing though… I’m not a professional song writer and I don’t have a degree in music theory.  So I am going to struggle with a lot of things that a more experienced or knowledgeable songwriter would have no problem with.  I am hoping this will help, or at least be interesting to, others with backgrounds similar to mine.

Speaking of background, I mentioned that I don’t have a degree in music theory.  However, I do know a few things.  Let me quickly summarize what I know so that anyone who is following along closely has some sense of where I am starting from.  I know the major and minor scales.  I know what notes constitute a major and minor chord.  I know how to fret and play countless other chords on the guitar that I don’t necessarily know the name of, but have some sense of how they are used in a song.  I have learned to recognize basic chord progressions from learning to play covers over the years.  That’s about it.

Ok.  Now comes the hard part – where to start.  If you don’t have the benefit of having some idea or melody pop up in your mind to give you inspiration, then what is the best first step?  Do you start with a melody, a chord progression, lyrical content, a rhythmic pattern?  Or, do you start with figuring out what type of song you want to write, what tempo, or how you ultimately want to arrange it?  I suspect that if you were to ask an experienced songwriter these questions they might tell you that there is no right answer.  Since I don’t really know what will be the best approach for me, I’m just going to start with my guitar and try to come up with a basic chord progression and the beginnings of a melody.  I’ll just have to see where this goes.

The next time I write on this topic, I’ll try to have some audio of what I came up with.

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