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.
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.