Guitar and Piano - Creating a Melody and Bass Line

Songwriting: Working Out the Melody and Bass Line

The composer Mozart almost always composed by finding a catchy melody as a first step, and then finding a bass line that supported it. Filling in all the missing instruments was, for him, something closer to a final step in composition. We can infer two things from this kind of compositional process: He considered melody […]

Songwriter Listening

Listening: The Best Antidote When Writer’s Block Hits

If you ever spend time reading or listening to interviews with some of the world’s best songwriters, you’ll probably notice how much time they spend talking about other people’s music. McCartney often talks about how he was influenced by Dylan, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and many others from many genres. To McCartney, listening to others […]

Guitarist songwriter

Using a Minor i-Chord In Your Songs’ Progressions

Most of the time when you switch a major chord to a minor chord, you’re using what’s called a modal mixture, or “borrowed chord.” The most common switch is the change from a major IV-chord to a minor iv, like this: I  vi  IV  iv  I  (C  Am  F  Fm  C) It adds a nice moody […]

Pianist - Songwriter

Songwriting: Changing Key Within a Verse

Most of the time, a song will start and end in the same key without ever changing. But once in a while, it can be interesting for the audience if they hear the music move off to some new key, even if that key change is just temporary. In music theory terms, it’s called “modulation.” […]

Guitar and keyboard

How Chords Can Limit Your Melodic Ideas

Here’s a tip for you, especially if you’re a chords-first songwriter who works out songs on a guitar. And it may seem like a simple, no-brainer type of tip, but it’s an important one: revoice your chords. Each time you play through a chord progression, you’ll find that your ear gets drawn to the highest notes […]

Guitar and piano - chord progressions

5 Creative Ways to Use a Chord Progression Formula

Ever try playing a good chord progression backwards? It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth the time to experiment. When you do something in songwriting the same way each time, it’s called using a formula, and it’s not usually the kind of thing a songwriter should be aspiring to do. But there is one exception, […]