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Songwriting 101: Introduction


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Songwriting 101

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Hi, this is Mike with Guitar Tricks, and today we're going to cover some of the basics of songwriting. Specifically, this lesson will focus on how to create form and structure in an original composition.

Before we begin, I'd like to emphasize that there is no single way to write a song, and there is definitely no correct or incorrect way of doing it. Songwriting is, after all, a creative and artistic process that is constantly being discovered and rediscovered by people from different cultures, backgrounds, and with differing musical tastes. Having said that, many songs share common traits, and understanding these similarities can help you become a better songwriter.

Creating a song is all abut making choices, and when it comes time to write your own tunes, you'll have to make some decisions. Not many songs include every chord in a writer's repertoire, or have twelve different tempos and five different genres, so at some point in the writing process choices need to be made. Our most celebrated songwriters, like Bob Dylan, Carol King, Paul Simon, Patty Griffin, are opinionated people. They probably hate (and love) hundreds or thousands of different songs, and that's ok. The key is that these great songwriters know why they love or hate something. More specifically, they know why they dislike the bridge of one song and think the chorus of another is awesome; or why a specific rhyme scheme, melody, or arrangement moves them in a certain way. A true songwriter has opinions about music, and he knows how to use them.

One of the most important yet basic choices a songwriter can make is how to structure his song. In this tutorial, I'll break down the form of one of my original songs and give you insight as to why I made the decisions that I did. Understanding why I chose to put two verses before the first chorus, or to create tension in the bridge by avoiding the one chord, might help you make some tough calls when writing and structuring your own original tunes. At the very least, we'll be breaking down a song and analyzing its form, and that's a skill that all songwriters should master.