Singer-Songwriter

Using Your Own Good Songs as Models For Your Next Good Ones

Writing a Song From a Chord ProgressionIf you like starting songs by working with a chord progression, you need to read “Writing a Song From a Chord Progression.” It will give you the pros and cons of this songwriting method, and help you create songs that really work!


Many years ago I was a band teacher for a junior high school. One of the techniques I used to help students improve the sound they were getting on their instruments was to have them play what they thought was their “best note.”

By that I meant that I wanted them to play the one note that seemed not just easy to play, but one that sounded really nice on their instrument. It seems like a vague instruction, but every time I’d ask a student to play their best note, they would do it usually without hesitation: they knew that one note that just seemed to sound great.

I’d then ask them to play the note above or below it, and “make it sound as good as that one.” So they’d play the first note — their “best one” — and then another note. I’d tell them to keep going back and forth between the two notes, and keep changing the way they played the new note until both notes sounded the same. Now they had two good notes.

Then I’d ask them to play those two notes, and add the next note up or down, and work to make all three notes sounding great.

In that way, they were using that one original best note as a model for what the other notes should sound like. Of course as a band instrument player, they needed to be listening to good recordings of music so that they knew what a good note on their instrument should sound like.

But for this particular exercise, they were using their own note as a model, and it always worked.

Your Own Songs as Examples

As a songwriter, you could be doing the same thing: using your own best song as a model for what your next good ones could be. I don’t mean copying it, but simply analyzing it to figure out why, from a songwriting principle point of view, it sounded so good.

Once you’ve been able to objectively assess that good song, you should be able to apply the same principles (not the same notes, chords, melodies) to your next songs.

You likely spend a lot of time listening through your own favourite list of good song models, songs composed by songwriters you admire. And you most certainly should be doing that. But don’t neglect the fact that you’ve probably written some excellent tunes of your own.

And those excellent tunes can be doing more than just entertaining your audiences. They could be showing you some of the most important principles of good songwriting in a way that guides you to writing your next good ones.


Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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