While using the Uberchord app to practice the guitar and correcting your bad habits, why not put it into service helping you write your first song? It might just launch a stellar career, and at the very least it will make you a better player by helping you to practice and to understand chord progressions.
There are as many approaches to songwriting as there are songwriters. If you decide that composing music is for you, you’ll find that you too have a unique method inside you, a songwriting process that will emerge the more you experiment. But what we’re going to do today is teach you a super simple songwriting method, just to get you started. You don’t need to read music or tablature to do this, so even if you’re a guitar beginner there’s no excuse for not trying.
Everybody started with a first song! Bob Dylan’s first song was a tribute to another songwriter, Woody Guthrie. Back then hardly any singers wrote their own songs, so Bob’s first song was for one of the few who did.
As you prepare to write your first song, the first thing to do is to forget dignity. If you’re worried about someone making fun of you, work alone. If you can’t stand sounding like an idiot, get over yourself– we all sound like dopes at first. The most important thing right now is to feel free to brainstorm, opening the door to your own creativity.
Let’s get started, shall we? All you need is a guitar, the Uberchord app, a recording device, and pen and paper.
1. Start With a Phrase
Maybe it’s something you wrote in your journal. Maybe it’s some dumb thing that you and your friends always say to each other. Maybe your little sister, who’s just learning to talk, has said something amazingly cute. That phrase will form the title, the first line, or the chorus of your song.
Get out pen and paper and write this phrase down. Maybe as soon as you write it down you’ll come up with another phrase, and another, and another. Go ahead and write these lines down as soon as they come to you. Keep the pen and paper handy because you’re going to use them to continue adding words to the song and to make notes about the chords.
(Paul McCartney’s first song was “I Lost My Little Girl.” He wrote it on his first guitar, a Framus Zenith acoustic, which he still has. He sings the song in this video.)
2. Keep this phrase in your mind as you start to play your guitar.
Play in whatever key is your favourite right now. Use your Uberchord app to help you pick a chord progression. You can even use the chord progression of your favourite song because whereas melodies are subject to copyright laws, chord progressions are free for the taking. No one has yet copyrighted a chord progression! Just make sure that when you use the chord progression from another song you don’t use the same melody or words as the song it comes from. Your tune and your lyrics both have to be original.
Continue to play, relaxing and slipping into that special zone, letting ideas come to you freely. As you play, start humming and continue to hum along with your guitar until you’ve created a tune.
Now, instead of humming, try to sing your special phrase along with the tune you’ve created. This will take some repetition, but eventually, the phrase will fit the music. You should record your voice at this point if you think you might forget the melody.
(Keith Richards wrote his first song, “As Tears Go By” after his manager locked him in a kitchen with Mick Jagger and told them he wasn’t letting them out until they wrote a song.)
3. Now Finish Writing the Lyrics
Before you baulk, remember that at this point the creative conditions are right for you to build the lyrics for your song. You may have found that when you were singing the phrase other rhyming phrases came to you automatically. Write those down. If not, now’s the time. You can either keep strumming your guitar while coming up with lyrical ideas or you can stick with the paper.
If you want to have the standard verse and chorus format you’ll need different music for the chorus and at least two verses, but aside from that, anything goes. You may even decide to just repeat your phrase over and over again!
(Can’t get anything beyond that first phrase? Not to worry! Many songwriters, Fat Boy Slim, for example. write songs that simply repeat the initial phrase, like in “Funk Soul Brother.”)
4. Polish it Up!
This is where you turn your brainstorm into a finished product fit to be played and sung for somebody else. Go over your lyrics on paper and practice singing them, correcting them as you go along to ensure that they flow smoothly and are easy to sing.
You can now use your Uberchord app to help you play through the chord progression to make sure you’re playing it correctly.
Type up the song with its finished lyrics and add the chords where they belong. Make sure your name is added as a composer!
If you like this enough to continue writing songs, you’re headed for many adventures in instrumentation, writing, style, music theory, experimentation, arranging, and hopefully audio recording and live performance. Bon voyage!