Guitarist - Songwriter

6 Easy Steps For Melody-First Songwriting

When I write music, I like starting with melody first. But melody-first writing means also thinking about chords. That’s because the musical part of our brain is always assembling melody notes and coming up with chords. If you want to see how this works, click to listen to this melody: A simple enough melody. Play it […]

Songwriting - Songwriter - Formulas

Is a Songwriting Formula Really So Bad?

If you’re a mathematician or physicist, formulas play a large role in your professional life. Formulas in that context are simply a kind of equation, and without them you don’t really have a profession. Songwriters know the word formula very well. In a songwriting context, “formula” is a word that describes a process, or perhaps set […]

Microphone - Song melody

Writing a Song Melody That Uses an Arch Shape

In 1937 Carl Orff wrote “Carmina Burana,” a 25-movement song cycle/scenic cantata that became an instant audience favourite. My choir, Dalhousie Collegium Cantorum, is working on this piece in preparation for an early-April performance, and it’s a ton of fun. Even if you aren’t familiar with the entire work, you likely do know the epic first song, “O […]

Guitar, paper & pencil, smartphone

Dealing With “I Can’t Finish a Song” Syndrome

We tend to think that the only people with any measure of musical ability are the ones that have a special gift for it. And while being a good musician requires a bit more than a passing understanding of how music works, musicianship is something that comes with being human. It’s in our DNA. The kind […]

The Animals - House of the Rising Sun

Creating a New Song Melody: 4 Tricks

There are lots of tricks that composers have used over the centuries to create new melodies based on already-existing ones. Some ideas: Slowing a known melody down so much that it becomes unrecognizable as the original. Example: The first phrase of Mozart Piano No. 16 in C major served as the main melody for “Hey […]

Songwriting - Piano and guitar

Make Improvisation a Smarter Part of Your Songwriting Process

Improvisation is an important part artistic creation. Who knows where those very first ideas come from — the ones that pop into your mind as you’re walking down the street or sitting on a bus. But almost everything that follows, at least for most songwriters, happens through improvisation. In that context, improvisation means using your […]