Songwriting – The Song Is You

There are a growing number of singers who have been finalists in singing competition shows, but very few of them go on to become successful.  Even fewer are able to do it on their terms.  One of the most important skills to becoming in control of your own career is to write your own songs.

Songs are the raw material of the record business.  Without great songs you aren’t going anywhere.  But if you can’t write you are at the mercy of others, hoping to get their best material – before it goes to more established singers.

By becoming a skilled writer you can save the best for yourself.  You also control more of your artistic and financial future.  Royalties from songwriting can keep your bank account happy long after the touring and recording stops.  Think of all the old hit songs used in commercials.  Someone’s getting paid for that.

Becoming a great writer and musician is a lifelong pursuit and the time to start is now.


Songwriting – Learn an Instrument

Learning an instrument is key in songwriting, otherwise you walk around with all your ideas simply stuck in your head.

You sing the melody but the instrument will provide the chords or harmony, an essential component of a song.

You don’t need to become a master of your instrument, just enough working knowledge to be able to compose, which is surprisingly less than you think.  Hundreds of hit songs have been written with only three chords – the secret in songwriting is finding the right three!


Which One?

I recommend everyone start with piano.  Even though I love to play the guitar, the piano is laid out in a very linear fashion which makes learning the components of music easier.  The guitar with its strings and frets is slightly more abstract in its layout.  However, if the spirit of the guitar truly calls to you, go ahead and get one.



The first thing is to learn how the major scale works and what chords come from it.  The most common chords are called Triads.  They derive their name from being made up of three notes (TRI-ad).  These simple three note chords are the building blocks of popular music (rock, country and pop).

The two main types of triads are Major and Minor.  Major will tend to have a happier sound, Minor sadder.


Simple Works


Take the Taylor Swift song Safe and Sound.  The song starts with minor chords, creating a somber feeling.  At the chorus the chords are Major (‘just close your eyes”).  This lifts the mood of the song and provides contrast.  The entire verse and chorus is created out of only five chords, yet the effect is deep and beautiful.

The average person could learn these five chords on piano in less than a week.  So what’s stopping you from learning songwriting and taking control of you career?


Coming in Part 2 – how to take a simple major scale and turn it into chords and music.