Once you have learned a few guitar chords, it’s possible to start writing your first songs. It may seem like it's a complex process, but really it's not. This short guide will show you how to write your first song.
Why Write a Song?
It’s a lot of fun to play other people’s music, but writing your own song is a huge step up. When you write your own song, it’s something that you created. It doesn’t matter how simple the song is. Many popular songs are quite simple, but we don’t realize that they are. Songs can sound complex but only have a few chords in them. Writing your own song is a milestone when you play guitar. Try writing one and see what you can come up with.
The first thing you need to do is to pick the song topic. This can be anything, but here are a few suggestions:
- A past love
- Life in general
- A past historical event
- Tell a story about something going on in your life
- Faith or spirituality
- Coming of Age
- Something you like or don’t like
The list of song topics is virtually endless. You can write about anything you want and turn it into a song. All you need is an idea in your head. You should walk around with your smartphone or some scraps of paper and jot down your ideas. Whenever an idea comes into your head, write it down, or record it into your smartphone. You never know when you might come up with a great idea for a song. If you don't write it down right away, you're going to forget it.
Create a bunch of ideas and then pick from your list to write a song. You should pick something that inspires or moves you. It doesn't have to be a positive emotion. Some of the most memorable songs are written about things such as heartbreak or loss. The song should move you in some way. If it does, then you know you are on the right track.
The easiest way to write a song is to limit it to three or four chords. You should do this at the beginning when you are not used to writing songs. For example, in the key of G major, you could use the three major chords, which are G, C, D. There are countless songs written with these three chords in the key of G major. You could throw a minor chord in there for some variety, but try to stick to the three major chords. Other chords to use include 7th chords, but feel free to use whatever chords you like.
There are many ways to structure a song. One of the simplest ways is to use the blues formula called the 12 Bar Blues. Here is an example of a verse using the 12 bar formula.
My hound dog is barking
And I am lonesome too
Said my hound dog is barking
And I am lonesome too
Rain keeps falling down
C G D
I don’t know what I’ll do
Of course, this is a simple example, but it shows you how easy it can be to write some lyrics and then make a song. All you need is a chord to match the first line of the lyrics, and then you can build from there. Listen to some of your favorite songs and see what the artist is using for the chords. Make a note of how the chords are arranged. Many songs follow the same formula.
Don't Worry About Singing On Pitch
Your first song isn’t going to be on the pitch for the most part. It takes time to develop your singing voice. Take some vocal lessons along with your guitar lessons, as this will help you a great deal. As you practice, your voice will get better.
If you can’t get your vocals on the exact pitch you want, use a capo. You can slide this up and down your fretboard until you find the pitch that works for your voice the best. Many guitar players use the capo to match their own vocal range.
Don’t be afraid to write a song. You will gain experience as you write more. It’s a big step on the guitar to write a song, so get started now and see where it takes you. Have fun with the creative process, and you never know what you’ll come up with.