Friday, February 16, 2007

4 approaches to writing a song

I picked up the book, How to Write Songs on Guitar by Rikky Rooksby. The first section, even though very basic, helped me crystallize some thoughts.

His formula for a song is:

Song = lyrics + melody + harmony + rhythm

For myself, I've used the chord progression for the melody, harmony, and rhythm. Rikky defines the chord progression as harmony only. Ouch!

He then goes on give four different approaches to writing a song

1) Write the lyrics first then set to music. In this approach the lyrics set the mood for the music. They may suggest chords and a melody. You don't need to play an instrument to write lyrics. A frequent commenter on this blog, Mark, only writes lyrics and is looking for folks to add the music. Check out his site.

2) Start with the melody then add lyrics and chords. This is probably the least common approach. Julie is my melody person. Playing the a melody instrument (violin) it comes more naturally to her. We worte both College Years and Slow Down by starting with the melody. The lyrics came last. We're working on a new song that I started with some chords and Julie heard a melody. Unfortunately, the melody required me to change to some more difficult chords, but it sounds great. Next stop lyrics.

3) Start with the harmony (i.e. chord progression) - This is my most common approach and I assume for most other guitar players. It's really easy to string a few chords together and thing you have a song. The problem becomes that the chord progression can limit the melody, especially after you fall in love with a lick or two.

4) Start with a rhythm - Use a drum machine or keep a beat by clapping. To me the sense of rhythm, more than anything separates the quality of singer/songwriters. In general, this is the area that most need improvement on, myself included. (See my past postings on groove). One of my first really good songs was written on an airplane, by keeping time on my leg. Eventually I added the guitar. My daughter and I commonly use this approach in the car, we wrote Going to the River This Way.

In learning songwriting, I've spent the majority of my time on guitar progressions and lyrics, my weaker areas are melody and rhythm. Guess where I need to work???

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At 5:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your link " College Years " isn't working... Just an FYI


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