Writing a song may feel like an insurmountable feat to anyone who has never tried. Where does one begin when writing a song? If you have a song idea, how do you organize your thoughts? Having an intuitive, step-by-step approach can be a huge help if you have the determination to learn this awesome craft.
In his course, Write Your First Song, singer-songwriter and Nashville Producer, Robbie Calvo gives you just that: a roadmap to songwriting success.
Here are seven video songwriting guitar lessons from the course. For the full course, check out Robbie Calvo’s Write Your First Song on TrueFire!
Popular Chord Progressions: Chord Progressions Demo
Let’s take a moment to discover and explore a selection of popular chord progressions within the key of C. We can use our numbers to denote what those progressions are as well. For example, you’ve probably heard the musical terms I – IV – V or II – V – I
This is telling us that the chords to use are the ones from those scale degrees of the major scale.
The Chorus: Song Form Overview
The chorus is typically the title of your song and the message or hook. This is the section of the song your audience will remember most and will want to sing along with. Chorus sections are usually repeated without a melodic or lyric variation. We want to reinforce the message and the hooks by repetitions.
Build Your Chorus Progression: Writing Your Harmony Demo
I want my chorus section to have a new harmonic progression and start from a different chord other than C major. We can choose any one of the other chords from the key. F is a great option, and so is the G. But, I think we’ll step down to a different flavor as well. Let’s think about using a minor chord from the key of C to start the chorus.
Choosing a Groove: Find Your Feel Demo
Let’s take a listen to a few different groove options for your song. We’ll look at a straight eighth feel to start, then some variations on the groove: a swing 16th feel, 6/8 feel, etc.
Sweet Notes: Developing Melody Demo
“Sweet notes” are the notes found in your chords. This is an ideal place to find and create melodies. More often than not, the chords will even suggest melodies to you. Let’s take one of our progressions and explore that a little bit with you.Let’s take a C major chord and play it. The notes that make up that chord are: C – E – G. You can use those 3 notes to start writing melodies over that chord. You can use any of the other notes from the C major scale too, but the 3 chord tones will sound the strongest and sound resolved when you land on them over that chord. I call chord tones “sweet notes” and use them all the time to write melodic hooks and motifs in my music.
Now, let’s take another chord and repeat the process. A minor 7 = A – C – E – G. Using those 4 notes over the A minor 7 chord is going to be a great place to start writing super strong melodic hooks.Let’s add in one more example so that you can really hear how powerful this approach is: F Major 7 = F – A – C – E. Let’s sing those tones against the chord. Sounds great, doesn’t it?OK, now I’m going to play those 3 chords as a progression and sing chord tones over the chords. These are simple ideas that are great starting points for more complex melodies should you want to get deeper. Most songs however are super simple melodically…so don’t feel pressured to write more detailed lines. Simple sweet notes are always good.
The Chorus Lyric & Hook: Crafting Lyrics Demo
The chorus is the hook…the title…the message of the song. This is the section of the song that the audience will relate to most. Make your chorus memorable and easy to sing.
Here’s the chorus to my song:
I’m the O.N.E. in lonely
I’m the one doing solitary time
I don’t answer the door
Pick up the phone
I just sit in the dark, like nobody’s home
It’s just me and your memory
I’m the O.N.E. in lonely
So far we know that the singer is falling apart because his partner has left him…he’s alone, lonely…now I want to write a bridge with some semblance of hope in it…a cry for forgiveness or hope that they might get back together…let’s take a look at the bridge.
Full Song Performance: I’m the O.N.E. in Lonely
Let’s now take a look at the full version of “I’m the O.N.E. in Lonely”.
Digging these free video songwriting guitar lessons? Check out Robbie Calvo’s Write Your First Song.