If you are a relatively new songwriter, or you’ve been at it for a while, you’ve likely encountered some common roadblocks all the same. Figuring out how to start and finish a song can be daunting. But connecting the music to your words is vital to how your listeners can internalize the message you are trying to get across.
In his course, Song Synthesis, world renowned singer/songwriter, Willy Porter shares some of the key concepts and techniques he employs when synthesizing his own songs. He shows you his approach to connecting the meaning of the song with the music, and how your guitar, vocal, and lyrical performance plays into this.
Here are nine video songwriting lessons from the course. But for the full course, check out Willy Porter’s Song Synthesis on TrueFire!
Songwriting Guitar Lesson – Rhythmic Groove: Concept 4
So, my approach to the guitar to try to extract some rhythmic information out of it is largely derived in sort of an “osmotic transference” from the great Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke. Both of these influences did so much to put the guitar into a space where it could really drive a rhythm section (and be it by itself). So, I’ve borrowed heavily from their approaches without studying their music formally, just as someone who loved their music.
Songwriting Guitar Lesson – Embellishments & Polish: Concept 6
How do songs evolve over time so that you can polish them up and take them into performance? One of the things that I’m always struck by is how the song morphs and changes through the repetition of performing it, but also how you build on your technique so that when you actually go out and try to play it live, you actually have a baseline of performance that you know you have, before you get in front of people with it. I think for me, songs will start in crude form, and from there they evolve to have different ornaments and different elements in them that give them depth but also consistency.
Songwriting Guitar Lesson – Song Study 2: Hard Place – Overview & Story
Before we get into the performance of this song, here’s a little background on the meaning behind it.
Songwriting Guitar Lesson – Hard Place: Performance
Let’s check out the full performance of “Hard Place” so you can hear how it sounds up to tempo.
Songwriting Guitar Lesson – Song Study 3: This Train: Overview & Story
Here’s the background of “This Train.” Next, I’ll perform this for you, and we’ll break the song down by different parts.
Songwriting Guitar Lesson – Song Study 3: This Train: Performance
Let’s check out the full performance of “This Train”. Next, we’ll break down each part of the tune.
Songwriting Guitar Lesson – Lyrics & Narrator: This Train
So “This Train” is born out of the guitar part, one day just sitting around – as guitar players do – just trying to emulate the sound of a train. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling by train with Canadian Pacific Rail as well as through Europe. One of the things I really love is when a train hits and holds a constant speed and the way the track intervals create an internal rhythm. It’s one of those rhythmic backdrop elements in our lives that I’m super interested in.
Songwriting Guitar Lesson – The Tuning: This Train
The tuning for “This Train” is very close to the last song we played, that being DADGAD a whole step down. So, we’re in C – G – C – F – G, and then on the top note we’re at D – actually up a whole step from the “DADGAD” interval. That leaves us this wonderful 2nd on top that I really enjoy. That factors into this song quite a bit, in the call-and-response element of the groove. This tuning has brought many tunes to me, and in this particular case, the way the song lines up to play a C minor chord is really a lot of fun.
Songwriting Guitar Lesson – Verse A Breakdown: This Train
Let’s look at the basic pattern for the verses of “This Train”, and then we’ll add some basic ornaments and flourishes onto the “tree”. You’ll also notice that I’m adding a little bit of delay here, which gives me an “answer” to the phrase as well as an “echo” off the hills of the sound of the train rolling by.
Digging these free songwriting lessons? Check out Willy Porter’s full course, Song Synthesis.