By Reggie Michaud
Introduction: Everybody has their own opinion when it comes to what makes a good song. Music is a very personal thing. Different people like different types of music. So how do you find a way to write a “good” song? I believe there are certain principles to good songwriting that apply no matter what the genre may be. In this short course, I will try to pass some of what I’ve learned on to you. You can take it with a grain of salt, or you can set out to disprove my theories. Either way, I hope this will encourage you to dig deeper into the creative process and begin to find your own methods of producing new expressions of sound. Music is a very powerful medium of communication and who knows, you might just change the world with the right combination of catchy words, memorable melodies and hot licks.
Song Types: Metal, Rock, Blues, Country, Folk, Punk. Every generation has its own contribution to the seemingly endless number of song categories floating around these days. That’s a good thing. No, it’s a great thing! Because music is a reflection of the culture we find ourselves in. So as a songwriter in these diverse times, you have plenty of options when choosing a song type. Chances you’re going to write what you like, so make up your mind how diverse a songwriter you want to be.
Listening: If you want to write Country songs, then you’d better be listening to them at least part of the time. Here are some tips:
· Learn to be a critical listener. As a songwriter you will find yourself listening on a whole new level.
· What is the song structure?
· How are the dynamics going up and down?
· What instruments are coming in and out and when?
· You may not like everything you hear- how can you improve it?
· Learn other people’s stuff, but add your own style to it.
· Learn how other instruments sound and what you like so you can communicate that to band members or emulate it in the recording studio.
Melodies: The melody is one of the most basic and necessary building blocks of a song. Whether it is simple, complex, light, or dark will set the tone for all other aspects of the song.
· The dominant note in a melody will normally determine what key the song is in.
· The key will determine what other notes sound good and “work”. If a note doesn’t belong to the key it won’t “work”, or you could say it will sound dissonant. This is where knowing your scales really help you to find all the notes for a given key.
· A riff contains a melody but a melody does not always contain a riff.
Chords: Once you determine what key your song will be played in, there are certain chords that will “work” for that key.
· A chord progression is chords strung together in a particular order to form the structure of a song.
· Chord progressions normally start and end with the chord of the key the song is written in.
· Chord progressions may be different for different song parts, like verses and choruses. Or not.
Exercise 1: Okay, so you have this cool riff you came up with- what next? Try this:
· From the riff, determine what the melody is.
· From the melody determine what key the riff is in.
· From the key and melody combined, determine what chord(s) should accompany the riff.
· This may be the beginnings of your first song. Think about how you can develop it further.
For next lesson: Words & Lyrics: