Finding Alternatives to the Standard I-IV-V-I Progression

The typical 3-chord song has been the workhorse of early rock and roll. Go back to the 50s, and it’s the mainstay of most songs. By 3-chord songs, we’re talking usually about this progression: I  IV  V7  I  (C  F  G7  C) And then, of course, the writer might throw something else in, particularly in […]

Guitarist - Songwriter

How to Improvise Your Next Song

I wrote recently about the difference between theory and practice (“What’s Most Important: Theory or Practice?“) The best songwriters are the ones that know a bit of the theory behind what they do, and then spend a good amount of time “practicing” their art. The practical side of songwriting is the actual doing side. In pop […]

Transcribing Songs: The Best Ear Training a Songwriter Can Do

When I was a teenager, I had a somewhat limited knowledge of music theory and how it worked. I think that’s typical for most young people. I played trumpet and a bit of piano, so I could read notes in the treble and bass clef, but I had a very rudimentary understanding of what chords […]

Paul Simon

Giving Your Songs A Noticeable Point of Focus

When you look at paintings, you’ll notice that most of them have a noticeable point of focus — the area of the canvas that your eye gets drawn toward. Music is not much different; in most songs, you’ll notice that there’s a point of focus. The only difference is that in songs, you usually have […]

A Simple Way to Create Minor-Sounding Verses

It’s a common characteristic of many songs in the pop genres: a minor-sounding verse that moves to a major-sounding chorus. You might think that means you need to create two completely different progressions. But let’s say that you’ve worked out a good chorus hook, and now you’re trying to create a verse that partners well […]

Guitar and paper for songwriting

Songwriting Processes: the More the Merrier

When you start your songs the same way, you make it very likely that there will be an unpleasant sameness about them. Your aim as a songwriter should be to feel at ease with as many different processes as possible for starting songs. Comfort with many different processes makes it more likely that your songs […]