I mentioned in my blog post yesterday that I was just about finished a new short ebook about chords-first songwriting. It’s now finished, all except for a final thorough proofread. It’s part of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook Deluxe Bundle. Read more.
Here’s a short excerpt from the 35-page “Writing a Song From a Chord Progression” (Gary Ewer):
Songwriting: How to Get the Process Going
Try popping the words, “how to start a song” into a search engine, and the number of people looking for just this information will astound you. And the question is very specific; it’s not “how to write a song”, but more specifically – perhaps you might say, more simply – how to get the process going.
It’s not a silly issue. Wrapped up in that question is the implication that if you start well, you have a better chance of ending well, and there is some truth to that. If you want to, for example, take a good journey, it helps if you at least get started by going in the right direction – preferably to an airport.
Most of the time, starting a song means that you’ve got several musical fragments that you’re tossing about in your mind. Those fragments are usually:
- bits of lyric
- a phrase or two of melody;
- a chord progression.
If you’ve got a bit of all three bouncing around in your musical brain, you’ve got the makings of what could be a hook. From there, you begin the process of working out something longer. Ideas that are good are kept; ideas that are bad get thrown out. You simply hope that you keep more than you throw, and you eventually end up with a song.
The Three Main Ways to Start a Song
But if it’s a question of trying to start a song completely from scratch with no particular idea in mind at the outset – well, that’s when songwriting can get tough. You’re pulling ideas out of a vacuum, or at least it seems that way, and it’s not easy. When you’re in that situation, you get the impression that there are three main ways to start a song from a musical vacuum:
- Melody first.
- Lyrics first.
- Chords first.
But in reality, it’s rarely that cut and dried. Because this is closer to reality:
- You think of a bit of lyric, but you also likely consider the rhythm of those words.
- You think of a bit of melody, but you likely also consider the chords that are implied by those melodic notes.
- You think of a short chord progression, but you also likely consider a rhythmic groove that will give those chords life.
It’s that last point – the creating of a song starting with nothing more than a short chord progression – that is the focus of this short manual. Because of all the potential ways for starting a song, beginning with a chord progression is the one that can exist with almost nothing else to hold it up. Start strumming a chord progression, and all that will occur to you at first is some sort of syncopated rhythm. And you likely know this already, but you can keep strumming that chord progression for a long time before anything else happens.
And it’s worse than that: it’s possible, after a number of months of strumming the chords, to convince yourself that that’s the song! Yes, the chords become the song. I know this because of the number of songs that get sent to me for my perusal that are nothing more than a series of chords with a bass line and drums. The melody tends to be whatever the top notes of the chord voicings are, to which a weak lyric is added. That’s it and that’s all.
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To read more about this eBook, please visit the online store.