Music Theory, Songwriting, The Muse, Writing

Saturday Songwriting: Through the Woods

Some songs I hear for the first time and I’m just floored. “You Are Not Alone,” performed by Mavis Staples is one of those songs. The lyric is simple, but deep. The chords and melody, likewise are pretty straight forward. But there are some kinks.  

Watch for the moment about 30 seconds in, right after the line “What’s that song . . . “  where Jeff Tweedy extends the song a measure on the Em and Mavis has to stop herself from singing the next line, because it’s what a person would expect to happen. That moment of space and melancholy fits the song perfectly. Could adding space, (or taking it away), help a song of yours? The only way to fing out is to try.  Here’s the video:

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Jennybird Alacantra’s “Tender”

The Musical Idea:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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Music Theory, Songwriting, The Muse, Writing

Saturday Songwriting: I Needed a Myth

Sometimes things can be virtually the same, even though they look pretty different. That’s the case with the C and G chords on the guitar. They are built in the same way, but use different notes. Also, their fingering on the fretboard appears pretty different because of the how the guitar is tuned.  

This week, why not play around with just the G and C chord in a song? 

What happens if you only use two chords, G & C major, in a song anyway? Some thoughts that may or may not be useful to you if you decide to use just these two chords: 

1) There are five notes in these two chords.  C, E G, B, and D, which are Do, Mi, Sol, Ti, and Re, in Solfege.  

2) These two chords share only one note, G, or Sol. 

What happens when you use a note in the melody that’s in the chord, what about one that isn’t? 

What happens when you use a note that isn’t in either chord, but is in a scale the chords share? (This might be F, or A (Fa or La) in the key of C.  (In the key of G, the notes would be A or F#, (La or Fi in solfege) 

Stretching things a bit further—what if you were to write a melody in the the relative minor of one of these chord (Am for C, or Em for G) 

These are all just questions and experiments. If you like, work with one that feels comfortable to you. Simply playing around with only two chords could be plenty.   

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Ann James Massey’s “The Connoisseur”

The Musical Idea:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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Music Theory, Songwriting, The Muse, Writing

Saturday Songwriting: Days Like These

Yesterday was John Lennon’s birthday. In today’s lesson I’m talking about the principle that guides the chord change in the chorus of his song “Imagine.”

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Aron Wiesenfeld’s “Bunker”

The Musical Idea:

It’s John Lennon’s Birthday, in this video I talk about the musical principle behind the chorus of his song, “Imagine.”

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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Music Theory, Songwriting, The Muse, Writing

Saturday Songwriting: Flowers in Last Month’s Newspaper

This weeks lesson, (about using the last couple of lessons I’ve sent out to name the notes in a C chord*), has me thinking about arpeggios.  An arpeggio is just the fancy name for playing the notes of a chord individually, instead of strumming. When guitarist finger picks, they’re playing arpeggios, but you can also pick out arpeggios as with a guitar pick, like lots of bluegrass pickers do.  So this week, instead of strumming, why not break up your chords into individual notes like rain drops hitting the ground?   

This week’s sheet is below.  If you have any questions let me know or could use some clarification, leave a comment below.  

*If you missed the last couple sheets they are here, here, and, here

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Gordon Hopkin’s “landscape and sea in Spain 2”

The Musical Idea:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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Music Theory, Songwriting, The Muse, Writing

Saturday Songwriting: A Message

There’s a time honored tradition of switching a chord from major to minor, which means if you’re playing an F major chord in a song, making the next chord you play an F minor. 

The worksheet I included today is talking about the difference between major and minor chords.  (It’s just one note!) It ended up being an explanation of how chords are built instead of a musical idea someone could really try out. But why not just play around with changing a chord from major to minor? See what happens. A classic way the Beatles (among many others) make this change is this:

Say you’re using BEAD Guides Chord Flow in the key of C (Here’s a link to BEAD Guides Chord Flow for the key of C).  That makes the major chords G, C, and F.

When it served the song, they would play an F chord and the next chord in the progression would be F minor.  

Another key you could try this in and avoid the F minor bar chord would be the Key of A. (If you’re avoiding bar chords note all the minor chords in A: C#m, F#m, and Bm, are bar chords).  

That’s the idea, give me a shout if you have questions or could use clarification.   

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Richard Hall’s “Message in a Bottle”

The Musical Idea:

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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