During the musical career of a guitar player, the urge to create their own complete compositions generally will take hold. However, some musicians wrongly believe songwriters and players are two different entities. On the other hand, with the right concepts in mind, anyone can put together a complete tune that expresses a different side of their talent.
That being said, we put together five tips a guitar player can utilize to help make songwriting easier. Ultimately, using these tips should build your songwriting confidence so you can truly show how multi-faceted you are as an artist!
1. Think Big
Thinking about the big picture in terms of composition simply means stepping out of the singular space many guitar players inhabit when it comes to a song. What is the whole song instead of just the guitar part?
This is where ideas are made. What is the song about? What melodic and harmonic direction do you want to go? What might other instruments be doing at any particular moment? Stepping outside the corner guitarists usually inhabit – rhythm sections, lead parts, solos – is crucial to creating a whole bonafide song.
Playing chords on the guitar is one thing. Thinking about the compositional relationship between those chords opens up an entire world to the instrumentalist. It’s helpful to think of chords and series of chords as opposed to melodies to gain a complete command of how a song will sound.
You can start with a barebones structure once you have a series of chords together. After that, you can incorporate your lyrics, other instruments, and the melodic direction of any one particular song element.
When we say “concept” we really mean “what’s the song about”? Was it a former love interest or maybe something completely nonsensical. Hammer down exactly what the song is about. Give yourself the basis to start meditating on actual lyrics to express those ideas.
One of the most important factors to determine how your song will sound is how you would like the piece to impact the listener.
You’ll notice there are tons of songs out there that are incredibly light and catchy about depressing topics. On the other side, there are incredibly happy songs that sound depressing. This level of nuance gives us incredible songs like Elvis Costello’s “Alison” and The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” Think about how you would like your song to impact the listener. This leads to many creative avenues that can leave you and your listeners pleasantly surprised.
The best guitarists know the best played songs are the best enjoyed. In the same vein, this can apply to songwriting. The attitude you bring to your songwriting craft is always influenced by whether you enjoy the effort or not. Lazy songs are a dime a dozen. However, those truly passionate and inspired tunes are the ones that linger forever in your heart and mind.
Pro tip: If a song idea is incessantly playing in your mind, you just might have your next song idea. Capture that inspiration whenever possible!