«By Matteo Miller-Nicolato This e-book is protected under copyright law. None of the contents may be copied, distributed, ...»
San Diego School of Guitar
Songwriting, Writing a Song and
Music Songwriting on Guitar
By Matteo Miller-Nicolato
This e-book is protected under copyright law.
None of the contents may be copied,
distributed, posted on a website, traded, or
sold without referencing the author.
If you believe somebody you know might benefit from reading this
e-book, direct them to www.matteomillernicolato.com and tell them to
download it. That would be greatly appreciated. 2 Table of Contents The Writing and Recording Process Page 4 Chords and Scales You Can USE! Page 7 7 Lead Guitar Techniques to Use in Songwriting Page 11 Phrasing Concepts For Better Riff-Making Page 16 Integrating Your Lead Guitar Techniques Page 18 Afterwords Page 20 About the Author Page 21 3 The Writing and Recording Process The more songwriting techniques you know and use, the more interesting you can make your songs, and the better you will become at songwriting. A common myth about songwriting is that the best songs come out when you get together with your band and have a long jam session, and record yourselves. This is a great strategy, and you should use it EVERY SINGLE TIME you jam with your band, but by no means should it be the only method. This is because you will only get a specific result from this - every 5 minutes you will have a great moment, but the rest of the stuff will be, well… stuff.
I have tried several songwriting methods, and I have found two that have had great results for me and my specific style of music. This does not mean that they won’t work for your style, I’m just saying they worked great for me, and they are relatively easy compared to some other songwriting methods.
The first songwriting lesson that I have for you (my favorite) is on Structured
Improvising. Here’s how you do it:
Step 1. Think in your mind what your song will be about, and visualize/hear in your mind how you want the song to start (or continue, if you already recorded your intro) Step 2.
Turn on your recorder, and sing/play the first few notes or the first riff, simply through improvising whatever comes to your mind at that moment Step 3. Stop your recorder (this is KEY!) Step 4. Listen back to your recording (it should only be a few seconds long) and then think about how you might harmonize that with something else Step 5. Go back to the beginning of the recording, and sing/play over your recording (on a separate track) by improvising what comes to your mind 4 Step 6. Repeat steps 1-5 with each section of your song As you might have noticed, there are some disadvantages to this technique.
Despite these pitfalls, this songwriting technique is extremely valuable, especially since you can write a song within an hour (if you don’t get angry and keep re-recording parts, like I always do)!
Obviously, you must already be very good at improvising on your instrument (or freestyle singing). Don’t worry, if you’re not that great at improvising, you can still do this and come up with something cool anyway. It just might not be hit-quality material, but that’s not the point. Every songwriter has to start somewhere, and you can imagine what kind of junk I used to come up with back in the day!
The most important skill that you need to have trained to make the best use of this technique is aural skills. That means, you need to train your ear to hear and create music in your mind, without actually playing it on your instrument, or singing it. You should be training this skill every single day.
It’s important to hit the stop button because when you are improvising, unless you are extremely capable at playing your instrument and have already mastered the ability to play whatever comes to your mind in the moment, you are focusing your energy on actually PLAYING your instrument (the actual physical part). Thus, your creative energy isn’t really flowing as well as if you just LISTENED to the music, and THINK about the next section, without playing.
*** The next songwriting lesson I think is really cool and interesting, and may perhaps be easier in terms of the creative process than the first technique. In this case, you will be writing your whole song using Guitar Pro (or another kind of software like it). This means that you won’t need your guitar in your hands, and you’ll have to rely entirely on your ear (aural skills, mentioned above). However, this is a great method if you perhaps don’t feel very confident with your songwriting skills, and are just DYING to write a song, but don’t know how to start.
Here’s how it works:
Step 2. Pick a note to start with, listen to it play back, and then IMAGINE how you want the next note to sound.
Repeat this process until you have a good 4 or 5 notes that you like Step 3. Go back and mess with the rhythm, make it sound like a cool riff Step 4. Create a backing or lead instrument, and repeat this process over the notes that you chose earlier Step 5. Repeat steps 1-4 until you finish the song In my opinion, there are NO disadvantages to this technique. Even if you don’t have a highly developed ear, you can still write a perfectly good song with this technique (though it will take much longer for you), because you can constantly go back and change/edit notes in or out and the most amazing part of it is that the sheet music is being written as you write your song!!!
Another advantage is that you don’t need your instrument! This means you can write songs while you’re on vacation, driving in your car, or when your instrument is broken.
Guess what? You don’t have a violin? No problem, you can use the guitar-pro software to make one for you. Don’t have a drum set? Don’t flinch, you can use the guitar-pro drums. ANY instrument that you don’t have, you can write parts for. Amazing!
Now that you just read these songwriting lessons, the worst thing you could do is DO NOTHING!!! Get started writing NOW! Don't wait until you feel like you're a better musician, because you will ALWAYS have a problem with songwriting until you get over your writer's block. These two lessons I gave you will instantly cure it, so get started NOW!
6 Chords and Scales You Can USE!
Have you ever wondered how to come up with a cool, catchy chord progression? Perhaps you’ve tried to play random chords, hoping you’d get something to sound good. I know that’s the same process I used when I was learning to play guitar, in the past. Even looking online for basic music theory just confused me even more!
So I’ll cut to the chase. I’ll give you everything you need to know about writing AMAZING chord progressions, and how to solo over them to make your music sound GREAT!
Most popular songs use chords from the C major scale. You can see these chords listed below. Any of these chords played together will sound really good.
(I) C major - (IV) F major - (V) G major - (I) C major - (V) G major (ii) E minor - (V) G major - (vii) B diminished (IV) F major - (ii) D minor - (vi) A minor - (iii) E minor Play through these chord progressions and create several more on your own.
TIP FOR ADVANCING GUITAR PLAYERS: Once you can play barre chords, you can make chord progressions in any key. All you need to do is move the chords in C major up or down the fretboard. For example, the chords in G
major are below:
G major A minor B minor C major D major E minor F# diminished G major From the chords above, you should notice how the ‘chords’ in G major and C major are exactly the same, but just played in different places on the fretboard.
Okay, now that you have a nice little chord progression going on, let’s say you want to make a melody over these chords. Usually guitar players find creating melodies and solos to be much more difficult than writing chord progressions, but actually, it’s a very simple process.
On the next page, you will see 3 scales that you can use to make a melody.
You can improvise a solo over the chord progression you just wrote too. All you have to do is play random notes in the scale, and they will all sound good over the chords because they are all in the same key. If you hit a wrong note, it just means you are going out of key, and most of the time, it won’t sound right.
Well, that’s all you need to know about music theory at this point. You just learned a whole set of chords to play through to make great chord progressions, and 3 scales to use over those chords to improvise solos or write melodies. All you need to do at this point is improvise a bit and write 9 down some licks or riffs that you think sound really cool!
Once you write a few licks, you’ll have enough material for a whole song!
All of these scales can be played over the C major chords.
Important: Right now, you should STOP reading this article, pick up your guitar, and start playing through the options. Spend some time understanding this music theory and applying it to writing music. Come back here after you’ve written a few songs. 10 7 Lead Guitar Techniques to Use in Songwriting
There is a myth amongst lead guitar players that goes something like this:
“the best guitar players get more out of one note than any other player.” It seems like a good logic, in theory, but when you really think about it… you can’t really do anything with one note. One note is just one note is just one note. Jimi Hendrix would get the same feeling out of one note that any other player would.
What makes good music is what you DO with the notes you play!
That may seem a bit unclear… let me explain: in order to make a note come to life, you need to play at least one other note. If you play a note, and bend the string, you’re not playing a single note, you’re playing TWO notes!
The WAY that you get from one note to the next makes up part of what we would call ‘phrasing’. Master guitar players have this skill perfected. THAT is the way to make your guitar playing come to life. If you don’t know what this word ‘phrasing’ means, I’ll put it in simpler terms… Imagine what it’s like to be in a conversation. When you are speaking, you are raising or lowering your voice and making various motions with your expression, and body to speak in a way that is dynamic and interesting to listen to. If you think about people who speak in a monotone, unexcited way, looking down at the ground all the time, you probably remember them as being totally boring and I’m sure you probably did your best to avoid them.
Maybe you’ve experienced a time when someone was constantly talking about themselves without stopping. Perhaps you even try asking a question, which they answer before you even finish, likely not actually answering the question you intended to ask (because they assumed you were asking something else). Probably, you got bored very quickly.
This is what happens when you are playing guitar! If you don’t use interesting expressions, and different ways to move from one note to another, AND including pauses and silences effectively, you will probably not sound very good to a listener. To you, it might sound great!! But just like the ones who are always talking and enjoying themselves, the listener is not.
So what makes our guitar playing sound great? It’s in the various techniques we use to play each note, and HOW we use the technique.
If you listen to great guitar players, you will probably hear all sorts of techniques being used in creative ways: vibrato, legato, bends, etc..
I’m going to be covering all of these techniques in this e-book, as well as how to apply them effectively not only in isolation, but also how to integrate them together (combining them). When you have developed your phrasing skill, you will be able to capture the listener’s attention very easily, and hold it for long periods of time by coming up with very cool licks and solos without thinking. If you follow the guidelines and practice the exercises, you will very 11 likely notice some BIG changes in your guitar playing in a very short period of time.
Lead Guitar Technique #1: Alternate Picking/Tremolo Picking Perhaps the most easiest lead guitar technique is alternate picking. This means that instead of playing only with downstrokes, you would alternate between downstrokes and UPSTROKES. When you pick a single note multiple times, within a single measure, you are using tremolo picking. Here is what it
looks like in tab form:
v = upstroke (pick crosses the string towards the sky) ^ = downstroke (pick crosses the string towards the ground) You can play a single note three times, four times, 12 times, 30 times, or more during a single measure, and this is called tremolo picking – striking a single note more than once within a given measure.
Lead Guitar Technique #2: Single String Technique The next lead guitar technique is playing notes that are only along a single string on your guitar. You can play any of the notes in any order. Actually, this is a great way to get some cool new ideas out of your guitar that you wouldn’t normally get. You can imagine your guitar like your own voicebox;
the sound moves up and down as you play notes up and down the string. If you have a basic understanding of scales, you will be able to improvise very easily along a single string.
12 13 Lead Guitar Technique #3: Slides Slides are a very expressive technique. The way to execute this is to fret a note on your guitar, then play the note. After you play the note, you slide your finger up or down the fretboard (still pressing down on the note).
Here is how it looks on paper:
Lead Guitar Technique #4: Double Stops This technique can create a lot of cool harmonies and new sounds. It basically means any two notes being played together. This is similar to a power chord. As you can see from the tab below, you can play double stops all over the neck, on any two strings.
Lead Guitar Technique #5: String Skipping You can also play notes on two or more non-adjacent strings. This is what it