You Don’t Need to Know Music Theory
Many people will argue that knowing music theory is a must when crafting a song. Though it can help when developing a song, it’s not something that’s required. Did you know there are successful song writers who know nothing about music theory and are some of the best selling song writers? Jason Blume is a prime example of this and is a top selling song writer. His approach towards song writing, in his early days, consisted with him writing the lyrics and then having a professional musician add chords to his songs. His song writing skills have developed so well that instincts take over and he is able to produce hit after hit.
The overall goal should be to focus on the melody itself. When listening to songs listeners don’t care about the chord progressions; rather, they listen to the melody and lyrics. A well developed melody will sell the song and hopefully turn it into a hit. This is why some song writers don’t work with chords while writing.
The song writer should not be focused on music composition or production during this crafting period but should put all their efforts in the backbone actually writing the song; melody, lyrics, and rhythm.
Knowing a Few Chords can go a Long Way
Knowing a few chords can really help your writing skills if you find yourself stuck. If you’re not interested in studying theory, you’ll be glad to know most songs are written from three chords in any scale—The 1st Chord, 4th Chord, & 5th Chord. Without getting too technical, staying in the C Major and G Major scale is a good idea. As the song writer develops more confidence, more chords can be explored and new keys learned. Spending a few hours learning these chords on a piano or guitar can be beneficial as they can make a difference—especially when you feel the melody is stuck or feel you are out of ideas.
Music theory, if mastered, is a wonderful tool when crafting a song and will greatly increase your song writing skills.
Get Your Ideas Recorded
Often times, song writers get ideas and quickly record them on anything they have handy. This allows them to playback later. For example, it is not uncommon for a song writer to travel and call their voicemail to leave a message with a melody or lyric line. Some will carry a small tape or a digital recorder and hum a tune into it. This is important as our best ideas often come to us when we are least expecting them to do so. Having a recorder is a great way to save your idea and develop it later when time is available.
Notepads or a Smartphone are wonderful items to carry around as well. When away from home the writer can still continue to write and nothing will be lost. Often times, writing a few words down about a song or an emotion is all that is needed to turn out a hit. Sarah McLaughlin will thumb around on her piano and sing anything that comes to mind while recording with a tape recorder. Then she goes back to listen to what she recorded and picks out what she likes and then develops it.
Technology is Your Friend
We live in a wonderful time with so much available technology. Gone are the days when a guitar or piano was the only tool available to songwriters to craft their songs. Because of technological advancements, now song writers literally have many tools available to them. There are computer programs that can literally map out chords to your melody and help develop your song.
A recommended program for this is Microsoft’s Songsmith. This program is wonderful as it generates musical chords for the songwriter’s voice. Simply choose your musical style and sing your song. The program gives the song writer the opportunity to listen to the song and if she or he chooses the application can re-craft it until the melody is refined.
Cell phones are now becoming more and more power too. There are many apps that allow you to strum chords out if you’re not familiar with music theory. A program from the Android market that is recommended is Chordbot. This simple program has all the chords you can imagine. It has a menu with chords that users can quickly choose and add into the song. Timing and tempo are available as well with this handy little program.
Technology gadgets are only one part of the equation as recording studio software is another. There are many wonderful programs such as Fl Studio, Protools, Calkwalk, Garage Band and Cubase that allow song writers to quickly get their ideas recorded. Knowing these programs is essential as most record companies are now looking for more polished demos.