As the title implies, I have been writing some songs lately, and I’m trying to stretch my songwriting capabilities into new territory.
In the past, my song-writing talents have been limited strictly to metal songs. And they are not very hard to write. You shape a power chord, slide it up and down a few frets, and scream whatever you have to say into the mic. Done. OK, it’s not actually that easy, but it’s not necessarily what I could consider “hard”.
But writing songs where the key matters (and isn’t always just a down-tuned D), and you have to consider chord progressions and *gasp* guitar leads, it’s definitely a beast of a different sort. However, I have been making some headway.
I’m amazed at how much I have been influenced over the last few months to write, and not just because of the guitar lessons my wife got me (although that hasn’t hurt). More than anything else, it’s the style of music I’ve been listening to that has really helped stir my creative juices. A healthy does of bluegrass, folk singer-songwriters, some old classic rock and (of course) a sprinkling of thrash metal have given me a lot of room musically to just experiment and try to come up with something.
None of the material I’ve written is terribly original. In fact, I try desperately to hide its derivative nature. But I look at these songs as practice… something to get me started. Melody lines are a little hard for me (see paragraph one), so I am taking a lot of time making sure the melody fits the chords I am using in the song.
I’m pretty much just picking a key, and experimenting with chord combinations. As I have been watching and attending live music shows (for added inspiration), one thing that has so far baffled me is when to and when not to use the capo. I didn’t see much need for it. That is, until I was putting some chords to lyrics I wrote down yesterday. The chords I had sounded good, but they were just not in the key I wanted. For the roots of the melody I had in my head, they needed to be up a couple of notes.
Duh! I threw a capo on the 3rd fret and tried my chords again. Voila! The song sounded much closer to what I wanted, and I was able to get the first half of the song wrote, as well as putting down a melody line (the first time I’ve actually written down the notes to a vocal line). I was pretty excited!
My song-writing challenges continue. I feel like I’m working backwards a little. We’ve moved onto the electric guitar and classic rock/blues leads in my weekly lessons. But I am using the stuff I’ve learned on the acoustic to write these practice songs. I guess it’s just more what you are motivated to write, because all I want to do right now is write acoustic stuff. Maybe once I get more comfortable doing leads and getting confidence in that area, maybe I’ll have to throw out a rock song.
Who knows? It might even have a couple of power chords in it… and some screaming.