Information and Advice

Songwriting – A guide to stealing

January 18 2023

All music is love and theft

This blog is not about song form, song structure, common progressions or devices. is about finding inspiration, about getting the process started. For many people, this is the hardest part.

Here I’ll give you 4 options for getting started, all based on theft

Option 1: Steal

Recipe for song:
Begin by playing a song you already know.
Swap one or two chords.
Change the rhythm.
Add lyrics.

I first tried this when I watched an interview with Bob Dylan, perhaps the most prolific songwriter
of all time (over 500 songs published) where he broke down this very process. What you are ultimately working towards is a point where your adaptations bring about a new sound, that is detached and removed form the original. They will become separate, like the caterpillar and butterfly, or a shuttle detaching from the space station.
At this point you have an original piece of music. It is yours. You did it.
All that is needed now are lyrics.

Option 2: Steal-the divine in the mundane

Every room contains a story

This is a great technique for finding lyrics in the everyday, the microscopic, the mundane.
Step 1) Write down five things you are noticing in the room in which you are sat. These shouldn’t be obvious things. Look for the spiders web in the corner, the mark on the window, the crease in the cushion.
Step 2) Take your individual short observations, and turn them into prose. This is just about forming sentences. The result, you have some lyrics.

Option 3: Steal again

Scales as building blocks.

Once we have chords and lyrics, we need melody. Here’s how you do it, delivered like the instructions you might find on the back of a packet of instant noodles.
Assuming you have a few chords and some words ready to go, those chords are likely to fall into a Key. The key can usually be determined by the first chord in the progression. So, if your progression is C, Am, F, G we can have a guess (an accurate one in this case) that this progression is in the key of C.
I have used the word usually an unusual amount of times because there are chord progressions that do not start on the ‘key’ chord. These chord progressions are to music what the fly was to Alanis Morrissette’s Chardonnay…that’s right, inconvenient. For example, in a three chord Jazz progression the third chord is often the key chord, but, Jazz aside, onwards we shall go.
Once you have found your Key you can refer to that Keys scale and create a melody. So, if you are in C, familiarise yourself with the C major scale, pick some notes from it, arrange them in an order that you like, and that… is your new vocal melody. Your next step is to wrap your lyrics around that melody and sing them on top of your chord progression. Alternatively, if you don’t have lyrics yet, hum the melody and change those hums into words.

Option 4: Steal-every picture tells a story

We run songwriting sessions very week which is part of the Guitar Social membership. Why not try some of these out then come show us what you’ve stolen and re-imagined.

Thomas

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Nicola Cortese
Nicola Cortese
03/02/2022
I started a course in Jan as a beginner with Thomas and I can already play 5 songs!.. with simple chords :) both Thomas and Fiona are really lovely and they really know how to teach whilst having fun! I'd highly recommend dropping at one of their Thursday's open mic! Tons of fun and talent for free!!!
Jonny Pollard
Jonny Pollard
02/02/2022
Very friendly learning environment, was a bit nervous to play with a group having not played socially for many years, but it was super relaxed, and I learnt a lot in the first session. Looking forward to the next session!
Adam J
Adam J
01/02/2022
Had a great time tonight! I joined on to the beginners course a couple weeks late, but Fiona was great at running me up to speed before the class. Tom was a great instructor, and managed to get us to cover lots of ground in a short space of time. The group was super freindly and relaxed, and im looking forward to going back next week!
Jakub Špaček
Jakub Špaček
01/02/2022
Having played guitar in my past within academic environment I have to say The Guitar Social club opened my eyes with their amazing and vibrant atmosphere with company of great people. Lessons are really fun and easy to follow. Feel really motivate just after few classes and my connection to the instrument greatly improved!
Paula Smith
Paula Smith
31/01/2022
Unbelievably great, not kidding.
Marcella Puppini
Marcella Puppini
31/01/2022
This exactly what I was hoping it would be. A fun and engaging way of learning a new instrument at a lovely venue, with great people and great teaching. Thoroughly recommended.
hashtagobi
hashtagobi
31/01/2022
Only been going 2 weeks but it's a great environment with good pacing throughout the lessons. The community is quite helpful + open to learn so it's really a great space for anyone wanting to hone their guitar chops!
Kevin S.
Kevin S.
27/01/2022
Is it a guitar school? A social events group? A music workshop for all ages and abilities? An open, non-judgemental route to performing? A holiday club that includes jamming on guitars around the campfire? Well–it's all these and more. The Guitar Social is built around founder & lead tutor Thomas (plus TGS Business Director, Fiona, originally one of its earliest students). Patient and passionate, Thomas and his relaxed, friendly temperament get the best from beginners to improvers and beyond. Personally for me, one core strength of The Guitar Social is that Thomas realises what most tutors and courses never do – we can all learn fast and well when we play whole songs together and discover as a group how to make them work. Thomas and TGS guest tutors will always tend to teach music theory for guitar, and focus too on scales, chord voicings, correct rhythm, licks, riffs, parts, soloing etc, but with a tendency to make it about the fun and learning gains when students jam together on great songs instead of staring at a white board and not playing much music. Jamming songs in similar or mixed ability groups helps TGS students become functioning musicians who have built useful real world skills and experience across many sessions similar to how working musicians rehearse and workshop songs. And you will have the opportunity to build live experience too if you wish – solo or with your term group or with others of your choice, in a safe, positive environment, with friendly fellow students as your audience. Never any pressure and just one example of where TGS delivers extra value. They are really worth trying. I haven't even done full justice here to all the different activities they do.
stu smith
stu smith
25/01/2022
The coolest club in London!
Colin Taylor
Colin Taylor
25/01/2022
I'm back for my second series of the Joy of the Jam. After not playing with others for over 30 years, these sessions are reminding me just how inspiring and enjoyable jamming can be. Thomas leads the sessions with huge enthusiasm and a great deal of humour. The support of his impressive musical knowledge is ever present - but this never gets in the way of our desire just have fun and be playing.
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