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Thread: I need help writing songs!

  1. #1
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    I need help writing songs!

    Hey guys, This is going to be a very broad subject!!

    I'm in desperate need of help when it comes to writing songs!!!

    I just find it so so so hard!!

    Here's my problem, I can make something but then I don't know where to take it, I don't know which notes/chords/etc work together

    The other thing is I don't know where to get started!

    I don't know which chord to start on, I don't know which note to start on, I may have a little melody in my head but I can't play it!

    Thanks!!

  2. #2
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    If you have a melody in your head, work it out note by note.
    You know the shape of it in your head, right? You know when it goes up and down. So start with any note on the guitar, then go up or down from there - just find a note that sounds the right distance away (some will be too far, some not far enough), don't worry about what the notes are or what they key is. Just get it sounding right.
    It might end up different from what you imagined, but that may be no bad thing.
    Make sure you can sing it - make sure its lowest note is not too low and its highest not too high.
    You can use a starting chord to help find other notes if you want, but that can put you off too, because a chord can suggest notes you don't want, take you in the wrong direction. So make sure you have at least an opening phrase fixed melodically first - then look for a chord that contains most of those notes, or sounds good with those notes (sometimes 2 or 3 chords may be needed to cover it, but try not to use too many).

    Chords that go together? Here's the easy way to find basic diatonic sets:

    This is the circle of KEYS (note the key signatures inside), but you can also treat it as CHORDS.
    Whatever chord or chords you start with, you can add others next to it in the circle - on either side, or inside or outside it.
    So if your starting chord is D, try G, A, Em, Bm or F#m - they are the other main chords in the key of D. They will all work well together, in any order.
    But (if they don't quite sound right, or enough) also try C, Am, E or C#m.

    Chords that belong together are always close to each other in the circle. But you can always jump across the circle if you want a surprising sound, or a key change.

    But don't try jumping across (or introducing chromatic half-step moves, as in your previous post) until you start to feel that the basic chord set in a key isn't quite doing it for you. It sounds jazzier to put in a lot of chromatic passing chords (esp things like secondary dominants or tritone subs), but you don't have to sound jazzy! Best not to, until you're confident about handling the basic stuff.

    A good tip is to limit yourself to begin with to the I, IV and V of a key. (That's D, G and A if you are in D.) Every note of the scale can be harmonised with one or two of those 3, so you don't really need any other chords (1000s of great songs have been written with only 3 chords, or less). Only introduce other chords at points where none of the 3 seems to sound quite right.
    Eg, maybe you want a more reflective or moody sound - so try the minors in the same key (Bm, Em, F#m).
    Still not quite right? Maybe you want something darker or heavier? (Try adding majors from further round the anticlockwise side (C, F, Bb).

    Don't ask whether you "can" use this or that chord! Of course you "can", any time. Just decide what it sounds like. If it sounds wrong (even if it "ought" to be right), don't use it. If it sounds right (even if you think it "ought" to be wrong), use it.

  3. #3
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    Connecting with professional writers

    Nobody is a complete songwriting aficionado. Even people who work "professionally" in the music industry network with other people who can take care of the side of music that they aren't particularly so strong at. Whether its getting session players for instrumentation or getting a seasoned producer to put the "magic touch" on a project. There are some great networks that can help you connect anonymously with professionals songwriters that can fill in the blanks for you. Most of the time they are connected through word of mouth. There are also some great professional networks that can help you do the same. Most of them are for Hip-Hop and R&B but there are some like Phantomsong.com that do the same with more songwriter based genres like folk, rock, etc. Hope that helps!

  4. #4
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    I just noticed how old this thread is - but what the heck it may help someone else.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeman9412@gma View Post
    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Here's my problem, I can make something but then I don't know where to take it, I don't know which notes/chords/etc work together.
    If the notes of the melody and the notes of the chord used under the melody share some notes you get harmonization, i.e. the melody line and the chord line will sound good together. So....... let's start by......

    The other thing is I don't know where to get started! I don't know which chord to start on, I don't know which note to start on, I may have a little melody in my head but I can't play it!
    Thanks!!
    Get a pad of paper and a number 2 pencil with a good eraser. Start by picking a key, any key, take C for example. If you keep all the notes in the C scale and the chords from the key of C those will sound good together. So......
    C scale notes are: C, D, E, F, G, A, B and the chords made from those scale notes are; C, Dm, Em F, G, Am, Bdim. Seven notes and seven chords is all you need. Not a step for a stepper. In fact seven notes and three chords will write a really good song.

    There have been a zillion songs written using only the I-IV-V chord progression. In C that will be C, F and G or G7 chords. Those three chords will have every note in the C scale, thus, those three chords will harmonize any melody made from the C scale. Drum roll.

    You'll need 3 four line verses and a four line chorus. First draft --- Start the verse with the C chord then near the end of the first line in the verse bring in the F chord. Continue with the F into the second line and near the end of the second line of the verse bring in the G7 chord then quickly end the second line with the C chord. For example:

    (C) ljloll’ dksli kllll ikikpo;l huott oiikki (F)

    (F) kdlikl kklpepo kkkl’poop (G7) kpo kel (C)

    As this is your first song go ahead and use that for the 3rd and 4th line of your verse. Nothing saying you can not use that same chord progression for the other verses and the chorus. Rule of thumb working here is have two V-I cadences per four line verse. Remember it's a first draft.

    Next comes the lyrics or the melody, I'd go with lyrics next. Do you have enough to say to fill up three verses and one chorus? Each verse brings up a thought in the first two lines, discusses it and reaches a conclusion in the last two lines. OK that is verse number one. Verse number two brings up another thought, etc. etc. The chorus is the hook, what you want them remembering about the song. No need to get fancy at this point, use the same format as before. OK you have your lyrics and your chord progression. Time to move the chord changes to where they match up with a specific word, i.e. move the lyrics and chords so they flow with each other. Remember you put the F chord "near the end" of the first line. Match up the chord change with a lyric word.

    OK Melody. The melody and the chords used should share like notes. You have already established what chords are to be used. Drum roll...... get your melody notes from the chord's notes. What? Yep, each chord will have specific notes in it. C has the C, E & G notes. F has the F, A & C and G7 has the G, B, D & F. Which ones? The ones that sound good with the lyrics you have decided upon. Hint} while the C chord is active notes from the C major pentatonic would be a good place to start. That will give you three chord tones for harmonization and two safe passing notes for flavor. Yes and when the F chord is active notes from the F major pentatonic would also work. Hint} one melody note per lyric word. Two syllable words get two notes.

    Does not matter which you do first, but, when you finish they all, melody, harmony and rhythm need to work together. If you do what is outlined above you end up with a lead sheet. Lead sheets do not have a bass clef. That's OK just give it to the bassist and he will know what to do with it. You already have everything harmonizing so he is going to furnish the beat by playing the chord tones one note at a time. Starting with root on 1. If more is needed the 5th note on 3 normally works well. If more is needed for the 2 and 4 beat an 8, 3 or b3 along with a 7 or b7 will normally get the job done. Let the bassist worry with this, you've just written your first song and it's time for a refreshment.

    You start by starting. The following may help. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrDh0OFDCAk

    That's the steps needed. If you start with the melody I would think chords next and lyrics last. Does not matter which comes first, it's when you finish, they all harmonize each other.
    Have fun, it is hard, but worth it.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 11-10-2011 at 04:59 AM.

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