Music Mastery - How To Be An Awesome Songwriter

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An immediate four track mixer on your smartphone. This is especially handy if you want to record melody, background, and harmony quickly. This simple app helps you find both direct and creative rhymes. A great way to spice up your song.

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This free app helps find chord progressions for your song. Build musical phrases and playback popular progressions. Carry a notebook with you at all times and jot down events — both the mundane and the significant — throughout the day. Write down lyrics, rhymes, and ideas. If you like to sing your melodies as you develop your lyrics, then use your smartphone to record your voice, especially if you are not sure if you will remember the melody later. Using a simple recording device, practice singing your lyrics and developing rhythms and harmonies.

The chances are, even without playing an instrument, you can sing your melody.


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For this exercise you will need to record using a program like Garageband or Audacity , or maybe an app like Fourtrack mentioned above. You can also ask a friend to help you record or let you use their equipment if you want to record with more professional gear. As you edit your lyrics, it is time to separate out the verses, chorus, and bridge to your song. There are many different patterns that you can follow. This is one of the more popular song structures:. Sometimes you might have to work around practical needs. Read through your lyrics. Which lines come back a second or third time?

That is probably your chorus. Usually you will find the title of your song in the chorus too. This is probably the most difficult aspect of songwriting for those that do not play an instrument, but it is not impossible. I will admit that as a percussionist, I often hear the rhythm and bass lines of a song well before I will ever hear the actual harmonies. In many ways, I feel like I have to figure out a song almost backwards sometimes! This is when it is helpful to know some basics of harmonic structure, like common chords for popular song styles. Ironically, most mainstream music is based on simple chord structures based on I-IV-V chords.

For example in the key of C that would be the C-F-G chords. A common chord structure can be derived from the classical song Canon in D by Pachelbel. The actual chord structure for this song is as follows:. By listening to this quirky video by musician Rob Paravonian below, you can hear how knowing just this one chord progression can help you write a song in almost any genre:. Is it really that easy? Well, no.


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  • You need to develop some your chord listening skills to be able to sing over a chord progression even if you are not personally playing it on piano or guitar. Music is a communal activity, and nothing is more fun that jamming with your besties. Arrange a night of jamming and it can quickly turn into a song writing session. Work with technology or with friends to flesh out the details and you can produce a full arrangement and recorded version of your song from scratch. Never let not playing an instrument hold you back in song-writing!

    We can help! Whether you want to sing in tune, play by ear, improvise, write your own songs, perform more confidently or just make faster progress, first you need to know where you're starting from. The Musicality Checklist will quickly reveal your personal musicality profile and how you can improve your natural musicianship. Get the Checklist.

    Musical U provides in-depth training modules, an easy-to-use personalised planning system, a friendly and supportive community, and access to expert help whenever you need it. Start Now. Musical U membership provides you with dozens of training modules, tools for goal-setting and planning, and a friendly, supportive community who will help you succeed.

    Download free ear training apps to help you improve your ear for music:. Facebook Twitter. Welcome to Musical U!

    Before you dive in, did you know that we offer a Free Checklist to help you become more musical? You can learn to play by ear, sing in tune, become more musically confident, and more Once you can play one piece well, you will be thrilled. Progress in whatever way you find effective and enjoyable, learn theory, even, you may even understand it then.

    If you want to write, most composers find this easier at their instrument, even if they're going to punch it into a sequencer later or transcribe it because you need the instant feedback from the experimentation, free play and creativity, personally I find it easier to work from lyrics, with lyrics, the melody soon comes, then once there's a melody, the chord progression is just there, everything else falls in to place, it's difficult to explain, particularly when I don't know the theory behind it.

    To me, the theory would only describe what I composed, but not the process or approach that I took. Music theory is not music, it is a way of classifying and describing music. It is "metadata". Being conversant in the metadata is not a prerequisite for being a musician. That said, someone who plays music well certainly understands music theory on some level, perhaps intuitively. They may not use the same terminology as you to describe what they are doing but they recognize and work from the same musical patterns that a music theory would describe.

    In any case, when someone picks up a guitar and can play without any formal training, it's because they have an ability to recognize patterns: the tonal patterns and how these correspond to the fretboard patterns. For the most part this is basically a native talent, but as long as you are not tone-deaf you can certainly make great strides yourself with the right teacher.

    It sounds to me like you've been trying to teach yourself, but what you really need is a good teacher to guide you along. Definitely don't throw in the towel. Everyone is different. Some amazing musicians have no grasp of theory at all, but over time they learn what sounds work and what sounds don't. For most of the music I play, theory is unnecessary - but it helps once you have some physical capability. Or - I could understand that I can use Dorian and Mixolydian in a solo, and create a bridge that varies from the rule of fifths, and generally build a better tune.

    Those folks who have no theory may have more of an affinity for notes, melodies, chords or progressions - which is fine. The best option is to have that and theory in my opinion - I have a bit of theory, and a lot of practical experience, and wish I had learned more theory when younger as it takes a lot of effort at this age. You last question is a non-sequetur. The question of whether or not you do something has nothing to do with how easy it is for others to do.

    The question before you is whether you want to put in the time and effort to bring yourself to the level you want to be at. I have seen people with great natural talents squander them because they didn't care to invest the time and effort it would have taken to bring them to the level they felt adequate; and I, myself, who much like you am someone for whom almost everything in music came hard, decided that the extraordinary effort it would require of me was worth it, and so I put in the epic number of hours.

    I'm not talented: I'm the poster child for practice and hard work. So the question is where do you want to go, musically -- that is what do you want to accomplish -- what will it take to get you not anybody else there, and are you willing to do that? Me: Well, I started studying an instrument at the age of 6.

    I'm now It took me 20 years to learn to play like that. I know that sounds like a long time, but just think! If you want to be able play like I do, start now : and then when you're 40, you will! Lots of people have natural aptitude to something - be it swimming, painting, playing football Those lucky enough to have it in music will be able to just play. Maybe not brilliantly at the start, but progress is usually good,. Getting to know the instrument is paramount. Theory not so. More later. With a complete beginner, I get them used to the instrument,how it makes sounds, how they can affect those sounds, making up their own ditties, etc.

    No music to read, certainly. Only when they are totally happy with making their own noises on the instrument will written music come along - maybe. My theory on theory is that it explains what happens. As in the practical part already exists before any theory can be attached to it. You can't theorise without something tangential to hang it on. In other words, theory didn't come first, so it shouldn't be tackled first.

    Most players who have experience will glean theory on the way - it should become apparent that certain patterns work most of the time, etc. Humans seem to be programmed to see patterns - once bitten, etc!

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    In your musical journey, try to play by ear initially. If this works, move forward. If it's hard work, you probably need a teacher a brilliant move, anyway , but some people can only play from music, once they have learnt. It's a fact that some rely on the dots totally. This makes them great pianists, guitarists, but somehow maybe not great musicians, as they will be able to produce only what already exists. The difference between a reader and an orator, maybe?

    Your playing abilities are currently basic. Music theory is about as helpful to you as a thorough knowledge of some language's grammar is to somebody who knows about words in that language. The point is that a grammar is something that emerged along with the language itself. It's good for deducing things about the language and structuring the way you learn and understand it.

    But someone having read several dozens of books will still tend to be able to write a better speech than somebody having read a grammar, even though he won't be able to explain what he does. You'll probably progress a lot over time and be able to play much more complex stuff. The difference between a "natural speaker" and somebody with an accent will, however, show itself more with the simple stuff. Once you proud yourself at playing some pretty complex stuff, try playing "Twinkle, Twinkle, little Star" again. More likely than not, you'll be annoyed how hard it is to play it in a pleasant and natural manner, with a nice phrasing and pacing.

    Music theory is like a grammar, being able to read music is like being able to read a book rather than have to learn a language just by listening. Both help you working "offline", without interacting with other musicians, for acquiring skills. But music is not a dead language: your real level of mastery will develop when you interact with your instruments and other musicians. You can prepare yourself to make this more effective. Notice I didn't say "learning music". I think the term "play an instrument" is absolutely appropriate, because it is literally play : creation, imagination, "what if" scenarios, no limit on what you can do.

    You can play any note you like, however you like. No right and wrong. This isn't as empty a statement as it sounds : What will happen is you'll 'find' things that work, establish 'points of knowledge' not sure how else to put it which you can re-use and begin to understand how the notes of chords and melody can fit together. Doesn't matter what you play : covers, your own thing.. This is NOT the same as learnign from a book!

    A Basic Overview of Melody

    If you go about things this way you'll eventually discover the chords and scales - they're all on the instrument waiting for you. Admittedly some help from music thory etc shortens the learning curve, but I think there's a big difference between learning a chord by its shape eg from a book or course and playing it so that you understand what it feels like. Especially if you've worked out the notes in the chord yourself through just mucking about. I've overstated my case a little bit here just to make the point- Music theory does of course have huge value and learning from books helps to get you going.

    But if you want to "just play", then what I say here may be of value. Excellent question. It's because these people learn to play by ear, they learn how to use music as a language of its own, and usually this learning process is done by listening, imitating, noodling and experimenting. Doing that enough will get you to a high degree of proficiency without needing music theory. There's also probably an element of having a "musical ear.

    But don't dismiss yourself. Anybody who has an interest in music can find a role to fulfill. In your case, I would suggest a good teacher a pop or jazz teacher who can teach you how to play by ear and improvise. Talent can somewhat reduce the time required to build skill because it means that you have to pay less attention to the craft but it's not necessary if you have the determination. I've known a lot of talented people over the years and I felt like I couldn't keep up. I've learned over time that I don't need to. They eventually lose interest or fall into drugs or whatever and if I've been working on my skills I'm out on top.

    That's not to say I value myself only relative to others but that it doesn't matter what others can do. Your ability to keep going will trump "talent" over any appreciable time.

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    Mastery is a marathon not a sprint. I think the most important thing when learning a skill is to find the fun so that that it takes less determination to get over the initial hump. Learning at its best feels like play. People with "talent" I think are more able to find the fun early on.

    They can feel the patterns in things that others struggle with. Some people just have a good ear and had an opportunity to start playing at a very early age. They have an instinct to respond to music around them and it is like a language. Many blues players have no idea how theory works and are amazing. James Hetfield who wrote all that complicated music admitted he can't read or write music in an interview that I once read. I can only think he had a drive that only few have and an all or nothing approach to play and write. What's funny is how people try to analyze compositions with theory when the composer was not thinking about theory.

    Every good musician have their own music theory, sometimes they just don't care of others point of view on music theory because they already play their instrument well. First premise: Music is created and manifests itself in real time in sounds generated among people. Corollary: Notation is not music, but the record of music. Music theory is not music, but rather a systemized way to analyze it. Second premise: People tend to attribute to musical experiences both emotional and intellectual value.

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    My sense of how humans generally value music leans heavily on the emotional side, though I have known individual exceptions whose regard for music is almost exclusively intellectual. Therefore we can understand a person with an almost entirely emotional connection to music and making music, putting in the time to learn the features of an instrument, to sing, and to compose music.

    The fact that the person is not concerned about or constrained by intellectual standards lends an element of freedom to that person's effort that better schooled musicians must reach for. Like others struggling to answer this, I believe there is value in both the emotion-based and information-based approaches to learning and making music.

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    As I acquired more theory, it was frustrating me to work with unlettered musicians. When I called for certain chords, or spoke in terms of chord relationships, I would get a blank stare. Then I noticed that these players often left me in the dust when it came to ease and expressiveness.

    I would not want their lack of certain knowledge to have deprived us of Irving Berlin, or Paul McCartney, to name just a couple of the very sort of person your question refers to. And for you, who has been striving to access music through the intellectual side, I urge you to set that aside just for the moment!

    Playing is play, to paraphrase Peter Brook. Take your right brain out of the drivers seat for awhile, and give your left brain the wheel. Maybe that will get you over the hump you are facing. And you can always switch drivers again when you need to. Well personally for me I've been playing guitar4 months Now with no previous experience with instruments and I'm actually giving lessons too others.

    I play constantly and can learn most songs in a good 2 hours and master them by 4. It's all about practice practice practice. I write my own music as well and I tend to make up the best stuff when I'm not even thinking. Instead just let the music flow through you. Dont think just Play. Recently started learning piano and Ukalele as well. I hope this helps. It appears the definitions are quite loose , however it was explained to me when beginning classical guitar lessons the objective was to make a guitarist that could play any technique, to then make a musician and hopefully to nurture a compositional side.

    A musician seems to be a person that can read and write music. They can play music from ear with feeling with others and additionally play music by reading music sheets on multiple instruments without hesitation. This is likely a musician. An instrumentalist is someone who plays an instrument. An untrained instrumentalist is someone who usually cannot read or write music but may understand and practice patterns chords and scales of music they may like to make some really pleasant sounds. Eg Paul Mcartney is a song writer of popular music.


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