In the musical career of a guitar player, the urge to create your own complete compositions – as opposed to shining in your own particular instrumental light – will take hold.
Many guitarists and other instrumentalists wrongly believe there are two types – songwriters and players. But, with the right core concepts in mind, anyone can put together a complete tune that expresses a different area of their talents.
That’s why we’ve put together five tips a guitar player can utilize to help making songs easier to write. Ultimately, using these tips should build your songwriting confidence so you can truly show how multi-faceted all artists really are!
Thinking big picture in terms of composition simply means stepping out of the singular space many guitar players inhabit when it comes to a song. Instead of thinking about what a guitar part will be in a song, what is the whole song?
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 of the corner guitarists usually inhabit – rhythm sections, lead parts, or solos – is crucial to creating a whole bonafide song.
A guitar player playing chords is one thing. Thinking about the compositional relationship between chords opens up an entire world to the instrumentalist.
This is another facet of stepping outside of the piecemeal corner guitarists often find themselves in. With complete command of what a song will sound like, it’s helpful to think of chords and series of chords as opposed to melodies. Once you have a series of chords together, you can start with a barebones structure in which to incorporate your lyrics, other instruments, and the melodic direction of any one particular element of the song.
When we say “think concept” we really mean “what’s the song about”? Whether the song is about a former love interest or about something completely nonsensical, hammering down what exactly the song is about will give you the basis to start meditating on what actual lyrics will express those ideas.
One of the most important factors in determining what your song will sound like is how you want the piece to impact the listener. After all, why write a song if you don’t want to have someone – even just your girlfriend – hear it?
You’ll notice there are tons of songs out there that are incredibly catchy and poppy, but about really depressing topics. There are also incredibly happy songs that sound depressing. This level of nuance gives us such incredible songs as Elvis Costello’s “Alison” and The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun”. Thinking about how you want you song to impact the listener leads to many creative avenues that can leave listeners – and even yourself – surprised.
The best guitarists know that the things best played are the things best enjoyed. The same applies to songwriting.
The attitude you bring into your songwriting craft is always informed by whether you enjoy the effort or not. Lazy songs are a dime a dozen, but those truly passionate, inspired tunes are the ones that linger forever in your mind until you get them out of your head.
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!