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best movie scores

Quiz: Which Well-Known Symphonic Movie Score Represents You?

best movie scores

Summertime is a prime time for blockbuster movies, and 2016 is no exception!

But even with all the new movies on the way, there’s nothing quite like the classics. Think about the movies that took you on great adventures, pulled at your heartstrings, and got your adrenaline racing. Which ones top your list?

Now think: can you recall the movie score? For many of the acclaimed films from the last few decades, the music behind it is integral. After all, where would Jaws be without the iconic two-note theme? Would Star Wars be the same without its epic intro?

Although not all movie-goers recognize it, it’s the music that leads you on the journey and coaxes your emotions out.

So, let’s have a little fun. Out of the best movie scores, which one represents you? Is your personality more adventurous… or more romantic?

Find out with this fun quiz from Connolly Music:

What’s YOUR soundtrack? Leave a comment below and share your results!

Want to learn more about the best movie scores, and how to get started composing your own? Continue exploring with these links:

Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras

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3 Things Songwriters Should Always Keep in Mind

Why Songwriting Matters

Are you perfectly content performing the pieces of famous composers and lyricists… or do you want to make your own contribution? If you want to learn how to become a songwriter, check out this guest post by teacher Eric C...

 

The world of music is as vast as the world that we live in. Some genres have existed for thousands of years, while others are still being created today. This is all because music is constantly evolving.

The evolution of music comes from songwriters and composers taking musical ideas that are common and then going a different direction. Other songwriters and composers seek to help a musical genre reach its perfection as they put their own spin on it.

Whether you are reinventing a genre, replicating a genre, or creating a completely new genre, it’s important to remember the value of songwriting, and why it matters. Here are a few things to keep in mind, as a composer:

1) Songwriting is important for the benefit of music as a whole.

Music is a constantly evolving field, and new songs and styles encourage this evolution. There will always be room for new, fresh ideas, as people’s interest in music changes as time goes on.

The only obviously incorrect ways to write music would be to completely copy another person’s song, or to not write at all. But when it comes down to it, there’s no right or wrong way to write a song if you’re writing your own original material. If you’re writing your own melody and/or words, you’re well on your way to becoming a composer — and pushing the music industry along!

2) Writing original music is important to yourself, as a composer.

Every song is a work of art, and a completed song is a measurement of your work. Songwriting is also a way to express yourself as an artist, and it can get you through difficult times (all music can). So when you think about it, writing music is good for your health!

As you continue to write songs, your style will develop and show through your music, and it will ultimately set you apart from others. Your writing style will also become more efficient and neater. This is an important skill that makes you more marketable and sought after as a musician and songwriter.

3) Finally, writing music is important to your audience.

An audience doesn’t have to be at a concert — it’s everyone who listens to your music. And sharing the story behind a song you wrote is a great way to connect you with that audience. It helps the audience relate to you and understand you better.

Similarly, when you sing a song you wrote, it’s like breaking off a piece of yourself and giving it to the audience. If you look at popular music today, the lyrics of most hit songs are clear and relatable. For example, Taylor Swift has several songs about breakups and the feelings associated with them. She has been very successful with connecting herself with her audience, because the thousands of teen girls going through breakups can relate to what her songs are about (and a catchy beat and melody helps, too).

As you can learn from Swift, sharing stories from your life through music is a very effective tool for aspiring songwriters. So, keep your audience in mind the next time you sit down to write a song!

How to Become a Songwriter

If you’re interested in songwriting as a career, just remember it will take some time. Even those who are proficient can sometimes struggle with coming up with song ideas.

If you’re feeling stuck, just sit down and start singing or playing an instrument, and try to make something up. It may not be a masterpiece, but sometimes writing something simple or off the top of your head can get the creativity flowing through your brain!

You can also study with a songwriting teacher to help get you started as well. When you study with a songwriting teacher, the goal is to help you figure out your “creative style,” give you more tools and ideas, and find a way to get YOUR music onto paper. There’s still plenty of room in the world of music for new ideas, so why not share yours?

Continue learning: Check out these 10 must-read tips for aspiring singer-songwriters!

Post Author: Eric C.
Eric C. teaches saxophone, singing, songwriting, and more in Upland, CA. He mostly performs jazz and has played saxophone for more than a decade. Eric is currently attending Azusa Pacific University to pursue a degree in Saxophone Performance. Learn more about Eric here!

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Quiz: What Should You Write Your Next Song About?

guitar man1
Writing songs is hard enough work without having to deal with songwriters’ block! To help you find inspiration for your next song, we created this easy personality quiz.

Take the quiz and find out what your next hit single will be about…

For more songwriting tips and songwriting prompts, check out our infographic guide 25 Ways to Break Free from Songwriters’ Block! Share your songwriting ideas, struggles, triumphs, and questions in the comments below.

 

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25 Ways to Break Free from Songwriters’ Block

Songwriting Tips- Songwriting Prompts for When You're Stuck

Every songwriter runs into writers’ block at some point in their career. To help you dig your way out of the dreaded doldrums of songwriters’ block, we put together 25 songwriting tips and prompts plus great songs to inspire you.

Check out these songwriting tips and find your muse today!

25-Ways-to-Break-Free-from-Songwriters'-Block

 

Bonus: Take the quiz to find out what you should write your next song about!

Write about your day.

Think your life is boring and you have nothing to say? Check out the lyrics to this Courtney Barnett song and think again. She starts “Small Poppies” by describing a yard and finds unique meaning in those every-day details.

Write about your favorite book.

You don’t need to have a degree in classic literature, and you don’t need to be an overtly bookish artist to pull this songwriting move off. For inspiration, look to Led Zeppelin. Their catalog is full of Lord of the Rings references, especially apparent in songs like “Ramble On”.

Literary references don’t have to stay on the page. Another great track that takes on this prompt is “Soma” by The Strokes. This song walks a line between referencing Brave New World and commenting on contemporary drug culture.

Write about someone from history.

No need to write a history lesson to follow this songwriting prompt. In her song, “Amelia”, Joni Mitchell drew on the amazing story of Amelia Earhart and combined it with a personal story to create a poignant and heartbreaking song.

Write a response to someone else’s song.

Got a song stuck in your head? Maybe you can write a response by taking on the subject of that song from a different point of view. For example, The Mamas & The Papas’ classic “California Dreamin'” is all about feeling restless and wanting to run away to California.

Wolf Parade’s 2008 song “California Dreamer” pulls imagery from The Mamas & The Papas original and tells the story of being left behind in the snow.

Write about something that makes you angry.

Odds are, the things that really grind your gears are super relatable. Tap into your anger and let it all out in a song.

Write about your favorite food.

Feeling hungry? Why not write an ode to your favorite food. “Grilled Cheese” by Cherry Glazerr is a fun and playful display of the band’s teenage attitude and garage-rock vibes.

Write a song with no chorus.

If you usually write songs with a predictable verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, breaking out of that box can be great for your creativity. For song structure inspiration, check out “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel, and their full album by the same name.

Use the chord progression from another song.

It’s okay to use the same chord progression as another song that already exists. There are hundreds of songs you can play using just a few chords. Experiment with some common chord progressions and feel free to put your own spin on it!

Write a song for your best friend.

Friends are some of the most special people in our lives, so why not honor your bond with your best bud in song? For inspiration, check out this song by The White Stripes.

Try writing in a different style than you’re used to.

Working in different styles is great way to avoid getting stuck as a songwriter. For example, check out this lovely acoustic song by drone-metal artist Chelsea Wolfe. On her album Unknown Rooms, Wolfe took a detour from her heavier, dronier electric material and wrote a beautiful album on acoustic guitar.

Write about your pet.

You can write a song about your pet without heading into childrens’ music territory. Pinback’s 2001 hit “Penelope” is actually about a pet goldfish.

Make your lyrics a conversation between two characters.

Thinking of a song as a conversation can open up tons of new songwriting possibilities. Even if you’re not as adventurous as David Bowie in his “Space Oddity” days, consider using dialog in your next song.

Write about your favorite holiday.

Holiday music doesn’t have to be sentimental or overly saccharine (unless that’s what you’re going for, of course). Take a cue from Misfits and write your own dark Halloween ballad, or be a trailblazer and write the first song ever about a more obscure holiday.

Write a sequel to one of your own songs.

Do you have a song that people seem to really love? Why not write part two! Ever since the 50s and 60s, pop artists have been following up hit singles with sequels, like Leslie Gore’s follow up to “It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To” entitled “Judy’s Turn To Cry”. Take that, Judy!

Write about someone in your family (you don’t have to tell them).

Family can be wonderful, horrible, comforting, difficult, or all of those things at once. There’s likely a lot of fodder for songs in your family story if you look. For inspiration, check out “Feet Asleep” by Thao, written about the singer’s relationship with her mother.

Write about your fondest memory.

Memories are a rich source of inspiration for many songwriters, so tap into your happiest memories to find your next song. Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath wrote “Come Down” about bathing with her cousins as a small child.

Write about something that scares you.

Fear is a powerful, primal emotion that we all experience. Whether you’re afraid of intimacy, loss, or monsters under the bed, your song about your fear is sure to resonate with many people.

Draw inspiration from your religion or spirituality.

If you’re a spiritual or religious person, you can absolutely find deep inspiration in your faith. Many of Leonard Cohen’s classic songs, such as “Hallelujah”, use religious imagery to illustrate personal stories and feelings.

Write about something in nature.

Get off  your computer, put down your phone, and write a song about something you see outside. Often, when you unplug, you’ll find inspiration is right there waiting for you.

Write about your daydreams.

Dreams and daydreams are great source material for songs! Don’t limit yourself to writing about the real world. You might even find themes from your dreams repeating throughout multiple songs, like Lorde’s frequent references to royalty in her work.

Write about something you regret.

We’ve all done things we’re not proud of or that we would rather not think about. Get in tune with your regrets and you’ll likely find something worth singing about. For inspiration, listen to “Cat’s in the Cradle”, one of the most well-known and haunting songs about regret.

Write about a social issue.

Do you have strong feelings about a social issue, like racial equality, LGBT rights, or feminism? Like Beyoncé, use your music to speak your mind and maybe even inspire change.

Write about the town where you grew up.

Evoke feelings of nostalgia by writing about the town where you grew up. How has it changed since you were young? What do you miss?

Write about the last time you cried.

You might not enjoy dwelling on pain or sadness, but there is something deeply satisfying about a well-written sad song. Check out this song by Angel Olsen for inspiration and try writing an emotional song of your own.

Write about someone or something that always makes you smile.

What makes you happiest? Whether it’s watching your favorite show, going to the beach, or just seeing that special someone, you can put that happiness into a song. The most important thing is to have fun!

For extra help or feedback with your songs, it’s always a great idea to work with a partner or private music teacher who can help you hear your songs in a new way.

What inspires you? Share the odd or interesting things that have sparked your songs in the comments below!

Learn more: Check out our step-by-step guide to songwriting!

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Songwriting Tips: 11 Helpful Examples From 7 Hit Songs

MO - Songwriting Tips 11 Helpful Examples Revised

Writing a catchy song that delivers a strong message can be quite difficult. Here, voice teacher Emmanuel N. shares the songwriting tips you can glean from several famous singers…  

 

When it comes to lyric-writing and songwriting, nobody can really teach you how to do it – it’s better to show by example. Whether you’re simply writing lyrics to a song you will one day sing (or someone else will sing for you) or you’re songwriting to a musical piece you found or created, you will have your own unique style. Songwriting and lyric-writing are some of the few artistic skills that are difficult to truly teach.

There are some songwriting tips and suggestions that can be very beneficial, but there is no real “by the book” way of writing lyrics for a song. So, the next best thing is offering examples of great songs by some very talented artists and songwriters. Although the artists listed below may not be the top singer-songwriters of all time, they represent a range of genres, including R&B (my specialty).

Listen to the lyrics in the tunes below, then check out my notes on what you can learn from each about writing songs:

“Looking At Her” – Paul McCartney [written by Paul McCartney]

  • Matching the melody of the vocals with the melody of the song is not a bad thing. Don’t be afraid to do what Paul did at [1:40] in the bridge where his vocals match the main melody of the music (“Doesn’t she know…”).

 

“Nobody Ever Told You” – Carrie Underwood [written by Carrie, Lindsey, and Laird]

  • When writing a song with a positive message, making it personal gives the song a stronger meaning. Carrie does this in the first verse as she talks about how beautiful she is despite what society says. At [0:21], for example, she says “…Don’t be shy, don’t be scared…” when pertaining to showing your real self.
  • Using similes in a song makes the lyrics more beautiful and poetic. Carrie does this at [0:51] and [2:20] with her chorus and bridge to give the listener a more vivid picture of just how beautiful they are (“You shine like a diamond, glitter like gold… you’re free as a bird… just like a flower growing wild.”)

 

“Looking In” – Mariah Carey [written by Mariah Carey & Afanasieff]

  • Similar to Carrie Underwood’s song, you’ll notice that getting personal in a song makes it that much more emotional and powerful. At [1:23] Mariah continues her second verse describing some girl by using “she,” yet not telling us who it is. She ends the verse by revealing this “she” was Mariah herself all along (“…and hides herself inside of me”), making it very personal.
  • Don’t be afraid to be passionate, emotional, and show your frustration. The bridge at [1:51] is short but straight to the point; Mariah exclaims her frustration on the lack of people understanding her pain and where she is coming from (“Don’t say she takes it all for granted… Please understand”).

 

“You Said” – Keri Hilson [written by Keri Hilson]

  • Having each line in a chorus start off the same is a good way to grab someone’s attention – and it makes the song catchy. Keri’s chorus at [0:48] starts off each line with “Thought you said…” to capture that feeling of annoyance we get when we’ve been lied to repeatedly.
  • The bridge of a song is the perfect place to get real and just say it like it is – and if you’re going to repeat it, add some harmonies like she did. At [2:11] Keri gets to the point and tells her boyfriend he lost her trust (“…now I can’t believe a word that comes from you”).

 

“Cry” – Mariah Carey [written by Mariah Carey & James Wright]

  • When the music gets stronger and more powerful, let loose and let those emotions out. During the bridge, as the piano chords get stronger, Mariah gets dynamic as she lets those emotions out at [3:06]. “…So naked…” is extended vocally to let the emotions sink in, in between emotional lyrics.

 

“Born This Way” – Lady Gaga [written by Gaga and Laursen]

  • Adding a message in the intro of a song has a good chance of capturing the listener’s attention. Lady Gaga does this in the beginning of her song with, “It doesn’t matter if you love him or capital H-I-M…” to provide a sort of prologue to the song.
  • Don’t be afraid to use the title of your song throughout the entire song itself. Lady Gaga mentions “born this way” in the intro, first verse, chorus, bridge, and outro several times to truly stress that we really are born this way (regarding what makes us different, so that we learn to love ourselves and each other).

 

“My Everything” – Ariana Grande [written by Ariana et al.]

  • Use a specific theme to give your message more dimension. At [1:10] Ariana uses the theme of distance and time to show the strain that distance has on her relationship. With “I know you’re not far… can’t handle all the distance… you’re traveling with my heart… temporary feeling,” you can see the theme play out nicely and poetically.

 

So there you have it, some examples that showcase how creative you can get when writing songs. I have written more than 100 songs and I learned by listening to songs that inspire me or make me feel something. Hopefully these songs help you in your endeavor of creating masterpieces and will lead you down the path to becoming a successful singer-songwriter!

Editor’s Note: Want even more examples of great songwriting? We love this resource by Robin Frederick, detailing the strategies behind several hit songs, including the lyrics, structure, and melody of each.

Emmanuel NoriegaPost Author: Emmanuel N.
Emmanuel N. teaches online Spanish and singing lessons. He earned his B.A. in psychology from California State University, Fullerton and has been teaching lessons since January 2015. Learn more about Emmanuel here!

Photo by Roger Blackwell

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songwriting strategies for singers

10 Must-Read Tips for Aspiring Singer-Songwriters

What does it take to be a successful singer-songwriter? If you want to try your hand at writing your own tunes, you’ll want to read the following tips for how to be a singer-songwriter, shared by teacher Liz T...

 

So you’re a singer who’s always wanted to dabble with songwriting, but maybe you’re not quite sure where to start? Here are some pointers on how to kick off your songwriting career!

Getting Started With Songwriting

writing lyrics - how to be a singer-songwriter

1. Find your inspiration
Look into your own life, your surroundings, and people that you look up to in order to find your muse for writing lyrics. Find a subject you are passionate about, whether it’s set to a love ballad or an uptempo dance song. Think about what kind of music really speaks to you, and what other listeners will relate to.

I encourage you to listen to other artists and different genres of music, but stay true to yourself and be original! Never copy another singer-songwriter’s style or lyrics.

2. Write everything down
Once you have found your inspiration, keep some sort of journal. You never know when lyrics may come to you — you could be on the subway, at a park, or in school, and you don’t want to forget what comes to you!

Also, I suggest having some type of recording software to record what comes to you, such as with the voice memos on your cell phone, or with GarageBand on your computer. If you keep singing a chorus or melody line over and over your head, record it as soon as you can so you don’t lose it!

3. Shape your song
Now it’s time to start crafting your song! Most successful songs have 2-3 verses and 2-3 choruses. Anything less or more than that may be a challenge.

Make sure there is a story in your song, and that you have some sort of point coming across. What do you want people to feel and think when they hear your songs? While there is no absolute right way to write a song, many people start out with writing meaningful lyrics, and then putting chords or melody to the words. Or you can do it the other way around, writing a beautiful melody and chord progression, and coming up with the lyrics last. Either of these approaches is acceptable.

Refining Your Songwriting

how to be a singer-songwriter

4. Test your songs out live
So, you think you have your song completed and ready to put out there? I suggest performing your song live — at an open mic or a talent show — to get all the kinks out, and to see how an audience reacts to it. Or you may want to start out simple by playing it for your friends and family, since performing original material in front of a live audience can be nerve-wracking!

5. Try recording your song
After you’ve been performing the song for a few months, it’s time to record your song! First, decide if you want to book a session in a recording studio or take a stab at recording in a home studio with the equipment you have. With technology today, it’s easy to record your own songs with the right computer software and a quality microphone.

Having a recording of your song, even if it is just a demo, will open many doors, especially if you want to become a singer-songwriter for your career. You can publish your song on YouTube, iTunes, or Soundcloud so potential fans, other artists, and established people in the music business can have access to your songs.

Establishing Your Songwriting Career

singer-songwriter

6. Collaborate with others
It’s fun to collaborate and write with other musicians! Sometimes writing lyrics may be your strongest skill, while it may be a weak point for someone else who is better at writing the instrumental part. Many famous singers collaborate in this way, including Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and Ashford & Simpson.

By collaborating with others, you may find someone that truly understands your music perspective and where you want to take your music, which can be an important asset for you in your career as a singer-songwriter. Of course, make sure you discuss splitting any profits 50/50 or come to an agreement in writing if you plan to distribute your music professionally.

7. Copyright your music
Getting a copyright for your music is crucial as a songwriter, and should not be overlooked! I recommend registering your song as soon as you have the final version of it written and recorded. You can do so easily online here at the U.S Copyright Office.

For a small fee you can register any songs that you have written, by submitting lyrics and a recording of your work of art (can be a demo). Once you have paid the fee and submitted your original materials, you then own the copyright to your song, and no one can use it without your permission. If you don’t register your works with the U.S Copyright Office, someone could steal your lyrics or your melody line, and make a whole new recording without your permission or having to pay you any royalties.

8. Look into Performing Rights Organizations
Once you have submitted your works to the U.S Copyright Office, I recommend joining a Performing Rights Organization (PRO). ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI are organizations that will collect any monetary royalties on your behalf and distribute them to you in a fair and organized way.

You may be earning royalties if you have songs on the radio, TV, YouTube, Spotify, or iTunes. Each time your song plays in a public place you are entitled to royalties. Some PROs are free to join while others have a joining fee, so do your research to see what’s best for you.

9. Consider writing for others
Being a songwriter doesn’t mean you have to write songs just for yourself. Some of the best singers in the world prefer to write songs for others. This could mean writing a song for the opposite gender, a song in a different language or a different genre, or a song that is too high or low for your vocal range. It’s perfectly normal to be a songwriter for other artists: Lady Gaga, Sia, and Bruno Mars all started out this way!

10. Pitch your music
Once you are confident in your original song, it’s time to pitch your music to the industry! This is not easy and won’t happen overnight, but with technology today, you do have an advantage of getting your music heard and seen by important music industry professionals.

One way is by submitting your music online to a music catalog. Many TV shows and commercial companies will look through these production libraries to find songs for their needs, and yours could be exactly what they are looking for! Do your research with these, as some have fees associated with signing up, while others are free. In major cities, there are also major networking events where artists can pitch their songs in person to companies like MTV and VH1 for a small fee. New York City’s “Spony” is a great opportunity for this.

 

Being a singer-songwriter myself (I’ve produced my own original songs and written jingles for companies), I hope that these strategies will help you create your songs and bring them to life for yourself and others to hear!

If you need help structuring your songs, or want even more advice on how to be a singer-songwriter, I’d love to work with you. Good luck!

Learn more: Check out our step-by-step guide to writing songs!
LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

Photo by Fredrik RubenssonThomas HawkJanetandPhil

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How to Write a Song

How to Write a Song When You Know Next to Nothing About Guitar

How to Write a Song

Even if you just started learning to play guitar,  you already have the tools to write your first song. Guitar teacher Aimee B. shares how to get started…

You can write a song on guitar as early as after your first lesson or once you’ve learned a few basic chords. Whether you ultimately want to accompany your lead vocal, jam with others, or to be a wailing lead guitarist, you can, at anytime, write your own unique song.

So where do you begin? How do you write a song? Here’s how to write a song using only three chords.

Chord Progression

Listen to the pros. Numerous hits have been written using only three chords. Below is a list of ten songs that use three easy guitar chords.

I, IV, V

  • “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (G, C, D) — Bob Dylan
  • “Tush” (G, C, D) — ZZ Top
  • “Sweet Home Alabama” (G, C, D) — Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • “Atmosphere ” (A, D, E) — Joy Division
  • “Release” (G, C, D) — Pearl Jam

I, V, IV

  • “Rock Around the Clock” (E, B, A) — Bill Haley & His Comets
  • “Margaritaville” (D, A, G) — Jimmy Buffett
  • “Wild Thing” (A, D, E) — The Troggs

Other

  • “Get it On” (E, A, G) — T. Rex
  • “505” (Dm, Em) — Arctic Monkeys

Roman numerals are used to describe the chord progression, independent from what key you are in. For example, if you are in the key of G, the chords of the harmonized G scale are:

Guitar Chords

To note:

  • A capital letter or roman numeral indicates a major chord.
  • A lower-case letter or roman numeral indicates a minor chord.
  • “Dim” refers to a diminished chord.

Notice that eight out of the 10 hits listed above use the I, IV, and V chords. This is the arguably the most common chord progression in popular music. And this is where I suggest you start writing your first song.

The Verse

A very common and simple song format uses just two parts: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, etc.

The verse is the main narrative section of the song, or the part where the writer describes what is going on in the song. It is the place where the setting is established and characters and actions are introduced; in other words, where the story happens.

Here are a couple example verses:

Verse of “Knocking on Heavens Door”

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see
I feel I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Verse of “Margaritaville”

Nibblin’ on sponge cake,
watchin’ the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin’ my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp
They’re beginnin’ to boil.

The Chorus

The chorus is often the most memorable and sing-along-friendly part of the song. It is the part that people will recall most readily when they ask, “Hey, do you know that song that goes like this…?” The chorus repeats numerous times, and it serves to drive home the overall sentiment or feeling being expressed.

The chorus is also the place reserved for a “hook” (easily-remembered melodic or lyric phrase that repeats throughout song). A chorus can be one hook phrase repeated, like in “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” or a group of words repeated, like in “Margaritaville” or “Wild Thing.”

Chorus of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Chorus of “Margaritaville”

Wasted away again in Margaritaville,
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame,
But I know it’s nobody’s fault.

Chorus of “Wild Thing”

Wild thing, you make my heart sing
You make everything groovy, wild thing

Take a moment to listen to the ten songs listed above, and see if you can identify the verses and choruses.

You may also run across a third section that appears only once in a song that doesn’t sound like either the verse or the chorus. This is called the bridge of the song, and it serves to break the momentum and monotony of the song, while offering a very specific outlook on the lyrical information in the verses and choruses.

To keep it simple for your very first song, however, you do not need to write a bridge.

Easy Form for your First Song

Here is a suggested song form to start with to keep things very simple. You can write as many verses as you want while keeping one chorus that repeats throughout the song. It might look something like this:

Keys of G, C, or D

  • I, V, IV: (G, D, C), (C, G, F), or (D, A, G)
  • V, IV, I: (D, C, G), (G, F, C), or (A, G, D)

Verse
I, V, IV on each of the four lines
1.
2.
3.
4.

Chorus
V, IV, I on each of the four lines
1.
2.
3.
4.

Verse
Chorus
Verse
Chorus
Verse
Chorus
Chorus

Here is a sample of my own first verse and chorus as an example.

“Summer Love” by Aimee Bobruk

Verse

G D C C
I can see us when I close my eyes

G D C C
Runin’ away on the 4th of July

G D C C
Under a sky glowing with sparks

G D C C C
You took my hand and pulled me into the dark

Chorus

D C G G
Summer love
Summer love
Summer love
Summer love

As you’re experimenting with how to write a song, try to come up with a simple melody that you can remember and have fun while playing. A million melodies can fit over the same exact chord progression, so your choices are endless. You can explore using some rhymes at the end of lines or write free verse with no rhymes.

Just remember: Put the story part of the song in the verses, and reserve the chorus for your catchy phrase or theme.

Have a blast!

Learn more: Check out our Ultimate Guide to Songwriting!
Aimee B.Post Author: Aimee B.
Aimee B. teaches piano, guitar and music theory in Austin, TX. She earned her B.A. in philosophy and art from St. Edward’s University, has worked as a professional musician for over ten years, and has taught over 100 students as a private music instructor. Learn more about Aimee here!

Photo by Daniel Montemayor

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5 Reasons Why Songwriters Should Collaborate

collaborating with other musicians

This article was originally published on Soundfly and is being shared as part of Songwriting Week! Join the conversation on social media (#SongwritingWeek) for even more tips, articles, and resources.

 

So many musicians and songwriters stress the importance of collaboration. But without knowing how collaboration could benefit your work, why would you share an idea you’ve spent countless hours thinking about, only to open yourself up to criticism? As it turns out, all those advice-givers really are on to something — collaboration can tease out new ideas you hadn’t considered before, help you get past roadblocks, and even validate your idea. Here are five reasons why collaboration is one of the most helpful things you can do to improve your art.

1. Collaboration forces you to articulate your ideas to other people.

One of the most difficult parts of being an artist is clearly explaining your ideas so that other people understand them. You may know exactly what you’re trying to tell the audience with that story about your break-up, but the audience may have no idea what you’re referring to. When you talk your ideas out with other people, you can explain the thinking behind them and collectively come up with the clearest way to articulate the idea to others. (And if you need further help developing your ideas, consider signing up for our new songwriting course!)

2. It helps you play to your strengths and accept your weaknesses.

In order to collaborate with other people, you must first understand what your personal strengths and weaknesses are. If you claim to be a world-renowned MC, but you can’t keep a steady rhythm for your life, your project is going to fall apart. If you are up-front about your out-of-whack rhythm skills, you can find a drummer or beatboxer who can improve your project. Bring to the table what you know you’re good at and find a friend who can compliment your weaknesses.

3. It reminds you that your project is part of something bigger.

It can be easy to forget that one section of a song you’re working on is part of a much larger work when you concentrate on it for so long. Working with other people helps you remember that what you’re working on is combined with many other parts to create something wonderful. Check in every once and a while with your fellow collaborators and see where they are in their part of the project. It can inspire you in new ways and help you remember why you’re working so hard on your section. Although everyone is working on something different, having collaborators helps remind you that everyone is working towards one larger goal.

4. You have real deadlines to hit.

When we’re working on something that is only for ourselves, it’s easy to get lost in procrastination. We are only letting ourselves down in these situations, so without a ton of self-drive, a lot of these projects are never completed. When we work with other people, there is a greater sense of deadlines because missing them impacts everyone. If the group sets up a timeline for the project, it will be easier to keep track of deadlines and make sure the project is completed in a timely manner.

5. It’s an easy way to gain fans!!

One of the best benefits of working with other musicians is that you’re opened up to a whole new set of fans! If your sound is similar to, but with a unique spin on the work of the person you’re collaborating with, you’re sure to open up the door to many fans coming your way. People are always looking for new music, and what better way than to find it through their favorite artists?! Even if your acts are completely different, you’ll get your music in front of an audience you never would have found before, and you can bet that fans respect artists that their favorite musicians are into! Sharing fan bases makes for easier collaboration on songs, shows, and many other aspects of your musical career.

We are all still learning as musicians, and what better way than to learn from each other? Collaboration exercises your brain while producing tremendous work. And if it doesn’t work out? Learn from your mistakes this time and try again. Everyone works differently, and before long you’ll find the right type of collaborators for you.

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5 Tips for Writing a Jazz Song on Guitar

Five Tips For Writing A Jazz Song On Guitar

5 Tips for Writing a Jazz Song on Guitar

Take the plunge into writing jazz songs on guitar with these tips from guitar teacher Samuel B.

Although jazz guitar is a formal discipline, you can mix it into your repertoire of original songs without formal training. Here are five easy ways to do this:

Include Triads In Your Songs

Triads (three-note chords) are your most accessible ally. There are two basic ones.

I refer to the first one as the “L.” It looks like this:

L Triad Guitar Chord

 

Although it can be strummed, the “L” chord sounds best when plucked (with your thumb, index, and middle fingers to be specific). When plucked, it makes an attractive “thumping” sound. When multiple “L” chords in different positions are played in quick succession, they can imitate walking bass patterns which are common to jazz.

I refer to the other triad as the “triangle.” It looks like this:

Triangle Triad Guitar Chord

 

The “triangle” is a five (not six) string chord (ADGBE). Like the “L”, it can be easily transposed anywhere on the neck just by sliding it up or down. While writing a song, I recommend experimenting with both formations in as many different positions as possible.

Combine Them With Barre Chords

Jazz chords are typically more complex than the common first-position chords (C, D, E, F, G, A, and B7th). Sevenths, minors, and other chord variations are common. These two barre chord formations can easily be switched from major to seventh if you remove the note marked with an X. They can also be changed from major to minor by moving the Y back a half step.

E Barre Chord

 

A Barre Chord

 

As with the triads, I recommend experimenting with barre chords in different positions too.

Add Pentatonic Notes

The pentatonic scale (“penta” meaning “five”) is comprised entirely of notes that make up the circle of fifths (C, G, D, A, E, B, Gb/F#, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, and F):

 

pentatonic scale 1

pentatonic scale 2

If you haven’t already done so, practice these scale patterns. Use the notes in these scales to improvise.

Keep Your Progression Simple

Although may be familiar with complicated-looking jazz guitar scores (and, yes, many of them contain laundry lists of intricate chords), you’ll benefit more as a songwriter by keeping your chords trim. Start with a I-IV-V pattern (such as A, D, and E7th) and embellish it with the suggestions above.

Remember, your objective is not to win a prize for complexity. It’s to make memorable music. The easier it will be to learn to play, the more memorable it will be in the long run.

Keep Your Subject Material Light

Here’s the fun part – writing lyrics. Compared to other American genres, jazz involves soft and gentle themes. “Grab your coat. Grab your hat. Leave your worries on the doorstep,” is a good example of a great jazz lyric. So is “Stars shining bright above you. Night breezes seem to whisper ‘I love you.’ Birds singing in the sycamore trees. Dream a little dream of me.”

Forget angry topics. You’re not out to take your audience on an emotional roller coaster. If you’re writing a song about heartache, it should be sad and not vindictive:

Willow weep for me
Willow weep for me
Bend your branches down along the ground and cover me

For me, jazz is a basically joyful-sounding music. It’s free from the raw exuberance, aggressive sounds, and gritty topics common to Chicago and Texas blues, contemporary country, and metal. Its music and lyrics should both reflect this by having been written in a peaceful state of mind.

Working with a private guitar teacher is a great way to build your jazz guitar skills fast. Find your guitar teacher today!

SamuelBSamuel B. teaches beginner guitar lessons in Austin, TX. He teaches lessons face-to-face without sheet music, which is his adaptation of Japanese instruction (involving a call-and-response method). Learn more about Samuel here!

 

 

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How to Create Unique and Catchy Guitar Chord Progressions

How to Create Unique and Catchy Guitar Chord Progressions

How to Create Unique and Catchy Guitar Chord ProgressionsA big part of songwriting is creating interesting guitar chord progressions. Guitar teacher Heather L. shares her secrets to finding chords that sound good together…

Writing unique and catchy guitar chord progressions is one of the keys to creating unique and catchy songs. But so often, it seems like such a mystery, especially when you consider the fact that there are only so many possible combinations. In fact, thousands of doo wop tunes of the 1950’s and 1960’s were driven by a single progression, notated like this:

I, vi, IV, V, I (one, six, four, five, and one)

See, every chord of a chord progression is named after the number that its root corresponds to in the key you’re playing in.  The root of a chord is kind of like its home base. In other words, a “one” chord, traditionally notated with a Roman numeral I, is made up of the very first note of the key that you’re using, or the first pitch of the scale.  If you’re in the key of C, then the I chord is C.  Moving up four steps on the scale, the IV (“four”) chord is F, and the V (“five”) chord is G.  There are chords that are based on every note of every scale.  The key here is finding the guitar chords that sound good together.

The blues progression is typically I, IV and V (“one”, “four” and “five”). Almost all of the blues songs that you’ve ever heard consist of those chords, and many pop and rock songs too. So how do you create a progression that’s exciting and fresh? One answer is something called chord leading.

Chord Leading

Certain chords sound best when they’re followed by certain other chords. Here are some examples of chords that go well together:

I – Any chord

ii, IV, V, vii0

iii, ii, vi

IV, I, V, vii0

V, I

vi, ii

vii0, I, iii

Mix and Match

Now, having shown you a list that seems pretty restrictive, let me balance that by telling you that terrific chord progressions have been easily written without the used of this chart and without the use of chord leading at all. I have a much more informal way of create unique and catchy guitar chord progressions.

Take the chords I, IV, V and vi. This is sometimes called the “Nashville chord progression”, while I’ve also heard it called the “pop chord progression”, but it’s not a progression, it’s just a set of four chords that are often used to create appealing progressions. Play each one four times; let’s say, for right now, that that’s four beats in each of our future measures. Go from one chord to another, in no particular order at all. If you’re inclined to sing or hum a random melody, even if you wouldn’t consider yourself a singer, then I would highly recommend it. It helps the creative process in that it keeps your imagination running. This can help to prevent writer’s block. Plus, the nature of how the human voice phrases music on its own can help to facilitate the motion or fluidity of this new song.

Keep Everything

Keep everything that you write. One of my college songwriting professors told me that writing about what you write, not about what you think, sounds best. What you think sounds best may change from day to day. Moreover, sometimes we write bits and pieces of songs and progressions on different days that may only come together on some future day.

Unique and catchy guitar chords don’t always, or most often, come overnight. They are built like little houses. Just as in building houses, once you start over-analyzing and rearranging too much, the whole thing could start to crumble. A big part of songwriting is being happy about what’s been written today and leaving it alone.

There’s so much technology out there to record your musical ideas. But for practical purposes, all that you really need is a simple sound recorder on your laptop or tablet. Remember, this is only in order to remember what you’ve come up with.

To quote the film Napoleon Dynamite, “Listen to your heart. That’s what I do.” Creating anything unique and catchy means looking at what you could contribute artistically and being open and willing to sharing that with the world.

Learn more about playing the guitar and making music by taking private lessons with a guitar instructor. Search for a guitar teacher today! 

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

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Photo by Janne Poikolainen