Songwriting Tips For Guitar – Best Songwriting Methods
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I'm about to show you simple (but powerful) songwriting tips for guitar that will help you express yourself on your instrument.
(And do it the way few musicians can.)
Writing songs on guitar can seem overwhelming if you’re just getting started.
(It certainly was for me when I was new to guitar and to the world of songwriting.)
But with the right songwriting methods...
... writing songs on guitar can be the most fun you can have in music.
And the best part is...
... you don't have to be an advanced guitar player (or know a ton of music theory) to use the songwriting advice in this article and start writing songs on guitar fast.
Just follow the tips I lay out for you for 20-30 minutes per day a few times per week...
... and before long you'll be writing songwriting ideas you'll feel proud to call your own...
... and your guitar playign friends may well start asking 'you' for songwriting advice.
Watch this video about writing music that reveals the most important songwriting tips for guitar I wish I’d known when I was getting started:
Here are a few more simple songwriting tips for guitar that will help you with writing songs on guitar at a pro level in record time:
Tip #1 For Writing Music On Guitar: Write For The Trash Can
When you are ‘practicing’ songwriting, you can’t be judging the ideas you create. You simply need to go through the process of ‘creating’.
And one of the best pieces of songwriting advice I ever received when I was getting started with writing music was:
Write your first 100 “bad” songs as fast as possible. To do that, your focus (when writing songs on guitar), needs to be on quantity over quality (yes, you read correctly).
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In other words, you are writing music you never want anyone to hear, knowing that you’ll probably never end up using the ideas you create on an album.
This builds your experience (with writing music) fast and helps you understand what songwriting methods allow you to express exactly what you hear in your head.
By removing the pressure of writing music that’s album-ready, you learn to write songs and improve your songwriting skills a lot faster.
And here is the most surprising benefit of this songwriting advice...
By lowering the bar for the level of quality you expect from your songwriting ideas...
...you often end up writing musical parts you wouldn’t have created any other way. Make note of those ideas and save them for the future.
To be clear, this is NOT about having “low standards” for your songwriting.
It’s simply a way to separate the activity of ‘songwriting’ from ‘practicing’ writing songs on guitar.
And when you are writing music that you plan to put on a record?
Then you take the extra time to come up with the best songwriting ideas you can and refine each one until it expresses exactly what you want to express.
Pro tip: record your songwriting practice sessions. This way you can always go back and find an unexpectedly cool idea you played and then forgotten.
Tip #2 For Writing Music On Guitar: Focus On The 7 Elements Of Music
Think about the 7 elements of music: melody, harmony (chords), rhythm, dynamics, timbre, texture and form.
Most guitarists only focus on harmony when writing music on guitar.
The problem is: this songwriting method (like all songwriting methods) has limitations.
For example: if you are writing music only using chords, you end up thinking less about the rhythm, the melody, dynamics, timbre, texture and the bigger picture of form.
And your songwriting ideas end up being similar to each other.
So, a great piece of songwriting advice to solve this problem is: challenge yourself to create songs (and songwriting ideas) using the other 6 elements you don’t typically use.
Write Songs On Guitar By Beginning With Melody First
- Consider the melodic contour (shape and direction) of your melodies.
- Is there a clear climax (high point)? Where should it be in the melody?
Decide on the other elements after you work out the melody during your songwriting process.
See an example of this approach to writing music in this video:
Write Songs On Guitar By Beginning With Rhythm First
- Experiment with variations on your favorite rhythmic patterns.
- Take a common rhythm pattern and play it backwards.
- Create something totally new. Force yourself to disallow any of your favorite rhythmic patterns to creep into your new song idea.
You can craft an approach to writing music based on each of the 7 elements. And if you are unsure how – take songwriting lessons. (More on this below.)
Question: “Tom Hess, should I write 100 bad songs as quickly as possible using each of the 7 elements? So, 700 songs in total?”
Answer: Not necessarily. Simply write some songwriting ideas using all the 7 elements. That is the principle of the songwriting advice I'm giving you. Focus on the big picture (having a variety of songwriting methods and separating ‘practicing songwriting’ from ‘writing songs on guitar’). ‘100 songs’ is simply an example. Just how many songs you write for each musical element depends on many factors.
Tip #3 For Writing Music On Guitar: Write Music Away From Your Guitar
This is one of the simplest (but also one of the most ignored) songwriting methods you can use for writing music on guitar.
Admittedly, the better your musical ear is – the better you can use the ideas below. So, if your musical ear is your weakest link (and it is for most guitar players)...
... training your aural skills is the #1 thing you can do to get better at writing songs on guitar.
That said, as your musical ear improves, here is some songwriting advice on writing songs on guitar... away from your guitar.
- hum a melody using your voice and transcribe it. You can do this without your instrument (simply write down the notes on paper). Then, when you pick up your guitar, you can play the melody and refine it using phrasing variations, like this:
Pro tip: create 10 slightly different variations of your melody (where you vary 1-3 notes) and then choose the one(s) you like better during the refinement phase.
- created chord progressions by singing arpeggios and writing down the chords you are singing. This way you can create guitar riffs that can become the backbone for your song(s).
- clap out a rhythm with your hands and write it out. Then create 10 (slight) variations of it. You can then combine your rhythm ideas with your chord progression (or melody) ideas when you are writing music with your guitar. When you have 10 melodies (and 10 chord progressions) and 10 potentially different rhythms – the ideas stack up on themselves very quickly.
Question: “But Tom Hess, why not play the above ideas on your instrument and potentially begin writing music on guitar faster?”
Answer: There are 2 reasons for this songwriting advice:
1. Because this enables you to spend more time writing music (even when you don’t have a guitar in your hands).
2. When you spend time writing music away from your instrument, you almost always come up with new songwriting ideas you wouldn’t have created any other way.
- write a steady stream of 8th notes (for 4 measures). Then, go through and randomly delete some of them. This helps you create even more unique guitar riffs (and rhythms) compared to the rhythms you clap with your hands.
Tip #4 For Writing Music On Guitar: Analyze Your Favorite Songs Vs. Learning Them
I think one of the worst pieces of songwriting advice you can hear is to learn other people songs“ – expecting to become a better songwriter and master writing songs on guitar.
Simply ‘memorizing’ songs (i.e. learning to play them) is not going to help you improve your songwriting methods.
Why? Because all you “learn” (when you memorize a song) is the result of someone else’s efforts in writing music on guitar.
A better strategy is to ‘analyze’ the songs you love (without going through the trouble of learning to ‘play’ them).
What does it mean to “analyze” songs?
It means thinking through the song section by section and asking yourself questions like:
- What do I like about this part (if anything)?
- What do I ‘dislike’ about this part (if anything)?
- Which of the 7 elements of music are creating the most musical interest in this part of the song?
- Which of the 7 elements of music are not used as (I think) they should be?
- How might *I* make this song better if this were my song?
And after you answer those questions, the next step is to ‘actually’ create 10 variations of the parts of the song you like. The cool thing is, you don’t need to stick to the original song at all – you can change it as much (or as little) as you want.
Question: “But Tom Hess, won’t I be stealing other people’s ideas if I take this songwriting advice?”
Answer: No. For 2 reasons:
Songwriting methods like the idea above are examples of ‘practicing’ songwriting. The ideas you create don’t have to be used as finished songs or end up on your album.
That said, if you make your songwriting variations different enough from the original, you can freely use them as your own. This may well happen if the process of creating variations of someone else’s song sparked new ideas in your mind.
Tip #5 For Writing Music On Guitar: Learn From A Great Songwriting Teacher
Of course, this is one of those pieces of songwriting advice you’d probably expect me to say, given that I teach guitar online.
But taking songwriting lessons will improve your songwriting lessons whether you choose to take guitar lessons with me or anyone else.
Here is why:
- You develop all the key guitar playing skills that make you a better (and more creative) songwriter. I'm talking about: music theory knowledge, aural skills (another name for ear training), rhythm knowledge, fretboard visualization, lead guitar phrasing and more. These skills make you better at executing the songwriting advice I’ve given you in this article.
- You can get frequent feedback on your songwriting ideas (and songwriting methods) from your guitar teacher. This is one of the simplest and most failsafe ways to level-up your songwriting methods fast.
- You will be around other ambitious musicians who are looking to get better at writing songs on guitar. This enables you to get even more feedback (from those musicians) and practice giving feedback to other people on their songwriting methods. The result? You’ll get songwriting tips for guitar that you likely wouldn’t have come up with on your own. (Since many heads working together are better than one.)
That said, not all guitar teachers are equal. So, be careful of choosing guitar teachers on the most obvious criteria (such as price). Pay attention instead to the number of guitar players that teacher has taught to become good songwriters.
Now that you know how to begin writing songs on guitar...
... the next step to writing music is to level up your guitar playing knowledge and skills (your guitar technique, music knowledge, creativity, lead guitar soloing and more), so you can truly express yourself in music.
I can help you with that in my personalized Breakthrough Guitar Lessons.
Here is how it works:
You tell me everything about your guitar playing strengths, weaknesses, musical background, and musical goals. I then create your personalized guitar lesson strategy. As you practice your lessons, I give you a ton of feedback to help you master your guitar lessons and reach your musical goals.
To begin, click the green “Start Now” button below.
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