This is a short collection of comments and observations on writing my own music...
|I have been writing my own music, complete with lyrics and tablature, for the guitar for about the last week. I have played my guitar so much that the fingertips of my left hand are numb. I no longer have fingerprints on those fingers...just callouses. I am very pleased about that. The guitar is exciting to me, but writing my own songs is just as exciting as getting my first guitar. I have figured out a kind of formula to use in writing my songs and have discovered the value of chords and progressions.
The first song I wrote did not have any chords or progressions. In fact, I have no idea what the chords or progressions would be for that particular song. It is a single-note melody throughout, with no repeated portions and "all verse". What can I say? It was my first attempt. And I can say that I learned a lot from that first attempt. My second attempt at writing a song went much more smoothly, although it still had the "all verse" problem. It did have chords, however. It was written in 4/4, but should really be converted into 12/8. I will do that someday when I am feeling brave or extremely bored. So, between my first and second attempts, here were the differences:
First piece 1. write poem Second piece 1. write poem
2. write music 2. convert poem to lyrics
3. fit poetic lyrics (conversion process) to music 3. write music for lyrics using chords and progressions
4. adjust music to fit lyrics 4. fill in chord diagrams
5. change lyrics appropriately
My third attempt used the steps outlined above for the second piece and worked out relatively well. I wrote it for my spouse, who did not appreciate it, and led to my erasing the words to the song and keeping the music and tablature because I worked on it for an entire day. That was a few days ago. I have since gotten over my anger and rewritten the words as they were, "lame" as my spouse put it or not. My fourth attempt revealed something very important that was overlooked in my first three attempts, even though I had noticed an issue with it prior to my third attempt. Time signature. You must choose a time signature that fits your song to give it the right feel. For my fourth attempt, I used what might be considered an unconventional time signature. I used 5/4 and alternated it with 4/4. The song is great! It had the rhythms and sound that I want with the feel it was supposed to have without a bunch of strange notations and awkward rushes and holds to make those things happen. So, to the list of steps, add "choose time signature". It is VERY important and will make all the difference in your music.
Some of the advantages of using the steps that I have been utilizing, outlined here:
Steps to songwriting 1. write poem
2. convert poem to lyrics
3. write music for lyrics
4. choose time signature
5. use chords and progressions
6. fill in chord diagrams and tablature
7. play through your new composition
8. change elements appropriately to get the feel you intended
Are that you can finger the chords and use them to more easily compose a song after you get the progressions assigned the way you want them. Arpeggios dress up the composition a lot, too, and these are all tied together. That is what I mean when I say that I learned the value of chords and progressions. I do not have to wonder where my fingers are supposed to be going next if I know the chords and progressions that I have chosen. It makes playing and composing much, much easier, and more fun, especially for a beginner like me. The transitions are a lot smoother that way and the song is actually recognizable as music instead of random noise!
A few pointers when writing the poems that will eventually become the lyrics of your songs. Make room for verses and choruses both. You can even make room for interludes or spoken parts. Not everything has to be sung, it does not have to be complicated (as a matter of fact, the more detailed, the more tedious, and the more tedious, the more boring your song), and it does not have to involve professional master riffs or expert style. It can just be a short, simple song to start out with. The use of repeat signs is helpful when you are first composing, especially if you come up with something really cool for a part of the song that you really want to bring out. You do not have to stick with a single key or time signature, either. Just make sure that you are able to play in the keys and time signatures that you choose. Some of the initial stuff might turn out kind of weird. Do not erase it or throw it away!!! It is part of your learning process. You cannot see how far you have come as a composer unless you can see where you have been. You cannot see what needs to be corrected or changed unless you have the stuff you started with, either. It would be a shame to keep making the same mistakes over and over again just because you keep throwing away your work! Sure, you might look at your initial work with disdain or disgust, but try to look at it as what it is. Learning. Nobody writes the perfect song the first time they put their pencil to the manuscript paper. That includes you. Enjoy the process. It is fun. Look at it that way. Lessons are always an option, too, if you need help with music basics. It is okay to ask for help. That is the way that most things are learned - by asking those who already know or who have already gone through the process. There is no shame in asking.