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Songwriting with an Electric Guitar

How to Compose Music with Your Electric Guitar

At first, the prospect of writing your own songs may seem daunting. In fact, the process of writing your own songs, especially after you have become a proficient guitarist, is really not all that difficult. With a few simple tools and your imagination, you can begin composing songs almost immediately.

songwriting with the electric guitar

Songwriting with the electric guitar

Keep in mind that, as you start out, you will not be mistaken for Burt Bacharach or John Lennon. Don’t worry about it. They didn’t start out writing masterpieces, but in time they managed to compose wonderful works. You can do the same with hard work and patience.

Also keep in mind that you do not need to know music theory, at least in the beginning. Many successful songwriters have never learned “actual” songwriting and notation, coming up with a shorthand version of their own or simply recording the song. It is a good idea to eventually learn theory, but that is outside the scope here.

Which Comes First, The Music Or The Lyrics?

There is no hard, fast rule here. Most songwriters start with the melody first, and then compose lyrics to suit the song. That is the method being used in this article. Still, there are many who start off with a poem and then write a melody to evoke the mood or the message of what they’ve written. Try each way and see what works best. You may even find yourself “flip-flopping” your method from time to time.

The Nuts and Bolts

Assuming you already have your electric guitar and an amp, an important tool is a chord chart that lists all the different keys and the chords in each key. This can be purchased in poster or book form. It can also be found on countless websites, usually for free. This is an indispensable product, as it will guide you in making chord progressions that make sense. You should also get some kind of recording device, even if it is nothing more than a microphone hooked up to a laptop. For purpose of writing lyrics, a rhyming dictionary is recommended.

Choose a key and then two or three chords within the key that sound pleasurable to you. Go back and play them over and over in a pattern. You can then find notes within those chords to create a melody. If you know notation, or if you have your own method of writing it down, do so. Otherwise, you can simply record your song.

Once you have chosen a progression that feels and sounds good to you, it’s time to write lyrics (unless you choose to keep it instrumental; there’s nothing wrong with that). Keep it simple! A rhyming dictionary will help you put together words that make sense, although in the beginning, you may choose words that sound good, even if they don’t rhyme. They might even be nonsensical – Paul McCartney’s first rendition of “Yesterday” was actually sung to “Scrambled Eggs!”

The Electric Advantage

One major advantage of composing with an electric guitar is that you have the ability to create a wider variety of tones and sounds and can use that added facet to your songwriting. Most guitars and amps offer several tone options and effects pedals can help you customize even more. This can help you if you are a musician and composer who can “hear” a particular sound in their head, in addition to the melody.

A Gentle Reminder

Be patient and persistent. Songwriters always have to start somewhere, and almost every one of them started where you did. Talk to your music teacher or to your fellow musicians for support when you need it. Don’t give up - the world wants to hear your song.

Phone Glenn Sutton at: 619-306-3664.

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