1. GETTING STARTED
How to write songs on guitar is no easy task. And perhaps the hardest part about writing songs is just getting started; waiting for that spark of inspiration.
Songs are generally written in one of two ways: Either the music comes first and then the lyrics, and vice versa. Often this comes from when we’re feeling more emotional than usual and feel a need to express ourselves. This is the ideal time to pick up your guitar and strum random chords in a way that mirrors your emotions, be it sad, lonely, happy or in love etc. Songwriting is a wonderful way to channel and better manage our feelings.
2. KEEP IT SIMPLE
The second hardest part is remembering to keep things simple. In fact, some of the greatest songs ever written basically require just 3 or 4 chords. For example:
Sweet Home Alabama D C G
Stand By Me A F#m D E
Brown Eyed Girl G C D Em
Folsom Prison Blues E E7 A B
Wagon Wheel G D Em C
And so many more!
3. COMPLETING A SONG
The third hardest part about writing a song is completing a song. Fact is, most songs are never completed. And that’s ok. For many people, the mere process of writing songs is what’s important. In other words, it’s more about the journey and not the destination.
4. STRUM RANDOM CHORD PROGRESSIONS
Songwriting often begins by simply strumming random chords on the guitar that sound good together and playing them over and over again because it simply sounds and feels good..
For example, you may be strumming random chords and singing mindless words when suddenly you stumble upon something that sounds really good and you want to play it over and over and over again. That’s when you realize you may have something special to build on.
A very common chord progression, for example, is G Em C D. Notice how different melodies can be sung along with these same chords. For instance the songs: Stay, Blue Moon and Last Kiss etc.
Other common chord progressions include: G C G D [Brown Eyed Girl], G Em C D, C Am F G, D A G A, C F G… just to name a few of the many possible chord combinations.
Keep It Simple
So choose 2, 3 or 4 chords you think will sound good together and keep the strumming pattern really simple like dd or dudu. Let’s use the chord progression G Em C D as an example.
As you strum these chords repeatedly, start singing or uttering mindless non-sensical words subconsciously until you hear something that sounds good and fits well with the feel of those chords and rhythm being played on guitar.
Or instead of words you can always use everybody’s favorite la la la. Of course, doing this can be emabarrassing and the reason why songwriting is often practiced alone.
Some folks collaborate at songwritng in which case mutual trust with each other’s creative process and sensitivities are key.
Songwriters don’t need to be good singers. But using your singing voice (a God-given musical instrument) can help you to create a melody. It’s all about trial and error and being honest with yourself. If something doesn’t sound like it fits, change it or you’ll cringe every time you play that part of the song. When in doubt, throw it out.
5. COMMON SONG STRUCTURES
Notice how songs tend to comprise similar parts such as an Introduction, a Verse, perhaps a Pre-Chorus, a Chorus (or Refrain), a Bridge, a Solo or Instrumental, and an Outro.
Some songs include some or all these elements, and in all sorts of combinations. But remember, when it comes to creativity, there are no rules.