There’s by no means any rock solid approach to teach songwriting on guitar and how to write a song. The best way is to write out a list of your favorite songs played by other people. Learn each song by analyzing them by ear and listen in to what’s being played. Use your guitar and play along with them to find the scales and chords. Make sure your guitar is in tune and if you still can’t match up anything, it could be that it’s tuned down a half step or more. A lot of guitar player are doing this for certain reasons like vocal ranges or to give the song more bottom end bass. They also do it to have different open string position for different scale keys.
Recognize what parts of the song are the same musically and isolate the parts to figure them out. Figure out what chords are being played. You can usually find the highest or the lowest notes of the chord and carefully listen in to find the notes between. To group the isolated song parts I put some song form grouping concepts below. First the song form variations use the letters ABC as variable like you uses in algebra math.The letters can be anything, all they do is help you group together what parts are the same. In lyric writing of song form, a number can be used with the letters to keep track of the rhyme sets of the lyric words (A1, A2, B1, A1).There are some grouping ideas of some traditional song forms below.
Next there is the song format that has four distinct parts used in modern songwriting on guitar. Each type is explained in a summarized simple way as best I could to help you recognize the parts in your song. The last part shows common variations of modern songs matching the song form groups to the song format. To help you memorize a song, group up the song parts in the format blocks as Verse 1, Chorus 1, Verse 2, Chorus 2 etc.
When you learn your favorite songs written by other people, you’ll start gathering inspiration to writing your own songs. The best songs are written from an emotional inspiration and can have a unique emotional effect on the listener. There are no real rules to songwriting and all rules can be broken. If it can be quantized or put it into some kind of order or logic it is no longer art. The creativity of taking something from an emotional abstract and putting it together in a very unique way is art. In the traditional music education system there are all kinds of music theory rules of what is right and what is wrong. I’m not against it because you have to learn it to build a foundation to work from. You have to free your mind and use your heart and ears. Who gives a damn about right and wrong as long as it sounds good. There is a Creative Songwriting Video Course that I do recommend.
- Write out the lyrics on paper or find them on the Internet.
- Determine what key it’s in and what scales are being played.
- Find all the chords and chord changes of the song
- Group the part to the song formats
- Match the lyrics to the chord changes
- Play along with the song recording until you get the parts smoothly
- Play the song by yourself without the aid of playing along
- Play and sing the song with an acoustic working on each isolated part until you get them down.
- Pull all the parts together and work on playing the whole song.
- Record yourself and evaluate how you can play it better.
- If you like playing lead learn the solo parts the same way.
- Rehearse the song with a band and work on playing live.
Song Forms Variations
2. Chorus (Hook)
3. Pre-Chorus (Pre-Hook)
Verse – Rhythm, Harmony and Melody have repetition, Lyrics have some variation to tell the song theme story line and weave into the subtle repetitive melodic variations. The intensity level is lowered to keep the lyrics on top.
Chorus – Rhythm, Harmony and Melody have repetition but are different from the Verse. Lyrics are usually the same and highlight the song title theme with a melodic repetition to hook the listener. Intensity level is highest and is always higher than the Verse.
Pre Chorus – Rhythm, Harmony and Melody have repetition, Different from the verse, slightly different from the chorus with a shortened offset variation to lead into it. The intensity level builds up from the verse to the chorus.
Bridge – Different musically from all the other parts and pull the listener in another direction, usually has no vocals and has room to fit a solo part. (solos can sometimes fit over a verse part when there’s no bridge)
Below is some examples of some song format and form variations 1# 2# #3 #4 #5.
A1 Verse, A2 Verse, A3 Verse, A1 Verse, B Chorus
C Chorus, A1 Verse, B Pre-Chorus, A2 Verse, A3 Verse
A1 Verse, A2 Verse, C1 Chorus, C2 Chorus, C1 Chorus
B1 Chorus, B2 Chorus, A1 Verse, A2 Verse, A3 Verse
A1 Verse, C Bridge, B Pre-Chorus, B1 Chorus, B2 Chorus