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How To Start Writing Songs On The Guitar

Ayla Tesler-Mabe  /  Lessons / Dec 29

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If you’ve ever wanted to write your own music but you’re not sure where to start, then this lesson is for you! Writing songs on the guitar isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think and you only need a few basic chords and a couple of beginner techniques to get started. 

What Is A Song?
Before we go any further, it’s important to know exactly what a song is. A song is some sort of harmonic framework (i.e. chord progression) played on an instrument accompanied by a melody. This melody can be played by another instrument or your voice. 

There’s no right way to approach writing songs, but most people either…

  1. Start with the lyrics/melody and add chords.
  2. Start with the chords and add melody/lyrics.

Figuring Out What Chords Sound Good Together
To figure out which chords sound good together, we need to make sure we take them from the same key. These are called diatonic chords. To start, we’ll use chords from the key of G major – G major, A minor, C major, D major, and E minor. These aren’t all the chords in G major, but these are definitely the most important and accessible ones.

Progression #1: G major, C major, D major
Progression #2: G major, A minor, C major, D major
Progression #3: G major, E minor, C major, D major

As you play through each progression, listen to how the mood and feeling of the song changes. Now that you’ve got a few simple progressions under your belt, try playing around with different combinations of these chords and see which ones you like. This chord progression will make up the basis for your new song.

Changing Keys
If you’re finding that the key of G major doesn’t suit your voice too well, you can try playing in other keys. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is by using a capo. Simply move the capo up the fretboard to raise the key of the song while playing the exact same chords.


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