Ryan Buckner is a professional musician, guitarist and songwriter. He has written many instructional articles on guitar, songwriting and music theory.
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Do you want to write better songs on guitar? Chances are, if you are currently unsatisfied with the music you are writing for guitar, you are probably overlooking one or more musical ideas that could help you become a much more creative songwriter. In fact, most guitar players have a tendency to use a single (often limiting) approach to songwriting that holds them back from achieving the results they want.|
In order to write guitar music that sounds really good, you will need to combine together several creative songwriting methods. As you add more depth into your songwriting overall approach, you will gain more options and it will become less difficult to come up with great ideas on a continual basis. To help you begin developing your overall guitar songwriting approach, I have written this article to point out three of the most frequent limitations that musicians put on themselves when writing guitar music (and how you can avoid/overcome them). After reading through the rest of this article and studying each point, you will have the tools you need to start writing much more creative guitar music.
1. Writing Songs Exclusively On Guitar While Avoiding Other Instruments
Although you are writing music for guitar, it is actually very restricting to overlook using other instruments as effective tools in your songwriting process. The problem with using only guitar to write songs is that you will subconsciously restrict your songwriting options due to your own playing habits (example: You will use all the patterns, techniques, scales, etc that you are comfortable with). In most cases, even if you want guitar to be the main focus of the music you write, you will inevitably be using other instruments throughout your song in one role or another. For example you will probably need percussion from drums, bass lines from bass guitar or music from a variety of other instruments. If you can use different instruments to write songs, you will not only gain the skills needed to write better for those instruments; but the additional perspective needed to break away from your 'usual' guitar playing habits and ideas.
To practice using this concept in your music, focus on writing your next five songs (or musical ideas at least) using any instrument other than guitar as your main songwriting tool. Some different ways you could do this include using percussion instruments to come up with catchy rhythms, using the keyboard to put together a smooth series of chords or singing melodies too come up with interesting melodies. Later after you have used this approach to come up with some good ideas, integrate the other instruments (this includes guitar) into your music. This songwriting approach may be challenging at first, but in the long run it will help you to more easily come up with high quality, creative songs.
2. Never Taking The Time Think About 'What' You Want To About Before You Begin Writing
One of the most frequent approaches used by guitarists while writing songs is improvisation. In many cases, guitar players will write music by simply playing around on their instrument until they come across an idea that sounds interesting. Unfortunately, if this is your primary songwriting approach, you will probably end up frustrated due to lack of creative ideas. The reason behind this is that you are essentially attempting to write a song by avoiding one of the most important steps. For instance, think of writing a song like building a bridge. If you wanted to build a bridge, would you just go out and start building while using a "gut feeling" as your main guide? No, of course not. You would carefully map out all of the dimensions and measurements needed to effectively build a bridge that wouldn't fall apart. This is just like writing a song, if you want your music to express interesting and unique ideas, you need to first understand them before you can effectively write about them. In the end, music is all about self expression and the better you get at accurately expressing your ideas, the better your songs will be overall.
To improve your ability to accurately express yourself in the songs you write on guitar, resist picking up your guitar for about half an hour. Use this time to focus on clearly identifying what it is that you want to express in your music. Pull out a piece of paper (or use a text file on your computer) and write down as many interesting ideas, thoughts or feelings that you can think of. After you do this, select a few of the items you wrote down to use together in a song. Next, start brainstorming about how you can express these things using the various elements of music. For instance, think about how a progression of chords can express an idea, what kind of rhythm conveys certain emotions or how you can use loudness or softness to connect an idea to your music. You could even go as far as to map out the different parts of your song so that the way you write your music helps unify and connect your ideas into a complex story.
When you determined you want to express musically, use the ideas of this guitar songwriting guide to start writing great guitar riffs in your song.
3. Overlooking The Importance Of Each Individual Note In Your Music
If you pay close attention to the music of great songwriters, you will notice that every one of them takes a highly detailed approach to writing every note as creatively as possible. The fact is, many guitar players do 'not' take this approach for various reasons and end up with music that is not as good as it potentially could be. Take for instance, the way that a lot of guitar players approach using chords in their songs. Many guitarists think of chords merely as a single "entity" that you insert underneath melodies because it is common practice to do so.
However, the truth is that chords have a lot more to them than that. A chord is not merely a large chunk of notes; but a potential grouping of several individual melodies. If you want to make your guitar music sound much more high quality and smooth, it is important for you to treat the notes in each chord as separate 'melodies', each with its own purpose and direction. The better you can lead a note from one chord to the next, the more smooth your music will feel as a whole. Here are a few ways you can achieve this while writing songs on guitar:
* Whenever you used chords pay attention to the notes that they share in common with one another. By using these chords one after the other you create smooth transitions in your music.
* Give yourself more options for creating different "melodies" within your chords by using different chord positions on the fret board to play the same chord. Try to identify at least three different positions to play the same chord and take advantage of "slash" chords that rearrange the same chord with new notes in the bass.
* Work on writing a bass line on guitar to create the foundation for your chord progressions. After you have developed a bass line, start adding notes over it until you have put together an entire chord (containing at least three different pitches). Then continue this process while connecting each chord you create as smoothly as possible to the next one by moving from note to note in half or whole step increments.
In addition, here are some more aspects of guitar songwriting to consider as you create music:
* Don't use the same positions on the guitar all the time while playing a certain note. You can give yourself many more options in terms of creating great 'tone' by playing the same note in different positions. For instance, instead of always playing the 2nd fret of the high "E" string, try using the 11th fret of the "G" string.
* A lot of guitar players play exclusively with a pick. However, you can add a whole new dimension to your songs on guitar by playing finger style during certain musical situations. For example, if you are writing a guitar part that uses chord arpeggios with clean settings, you can get a much more delicate and soft sound by using your fingers to play the strings rather than a pick.
Becoming a great songwriter will take time; however, by avoiding the common limitations most guitarists place on themselves, you will be able to quickly improve your ability to write creative music. I encourage you now to get started writing music with the various songwriting ideas mentioned in this article. The more you practice, the faster you can progress and begin writing great music!
Get started right now making better guitar music by using the information in this article and reading through this songwriting guide to writing great guitar riffs.
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