Guitar - altered chords

Creating Quick Mood Swings Using Chord Surprises

One of the reasons many songwriters like the chords-first songwriting process is that chords do a great job of setting up a mood. Once you’ve got the mood, you’ll find that lyrics happen a bit easier, and then many things fall into place: melody, rhythmic feel, tempo, and so on. One way to get even […]

Rob Thomas

Increasing Musical Energy In a Song

It’s a basic principle of good songwriting that musical energy should either stay the same or increase — rarely decrease — as a song progresses. If you listen to the start of Verse 1 end of most songs, and then skip ahead to the final moments, you’ll notice that an energy build has taken place. […]

Imogen Heap

Finding Opposites Within Your Songs

There’s an analogy to be found that applies well to songwriting when you look at someone walking: as the right leg moves forward, the left leg moves back. If you haven’t noticed that before, you haven’t been paying attention. 😉 In music, a similar thing happens, though you may have to look a little harder […]

Songwriter improvisation

Can You Have Bad Songwriting Instincts?

When we talk about an instinct, we’re usually referring to something that’s born within us, something for which we have an obvious talent or aptitude. In common usage, we usually take the term even further and say that an instinct is something that we do without thinking. (“A bird flew toward my car as I […]

Shawn Mendes

The Same Melody From Different Angles

This is something that doesn’t necessarily occur to casual listeners to pop music: the number of times we hear a melody that’s really just the same short 4- or 5-note cell that gets repeated over and over with different chords underneath. Like starting the songwriting process by working out the chords first? There are benefits […]

Guitar - chords - songwriter

Fitting Melodies to Chords, and Vice Versa

Melody notes only sound right if the chords underneath them fit properly. If you’re a chords-first songwriter, you need to say it the other way — chords only sound right if the melody you eventually write fits them. But in any case, good songs are a partnership between melodies and chords, and then they need to […]