How to write a song with guitar chords

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How to write a song with guitar chords
How to write a song with guitar chords

Even if you are a beginner on the guitar, composing original songs is at your fingertips. Creating a single piece of music through chord progression is literally a mechanical approach to songwriting.


Part 1 of 3: Write Letters

Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 1
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 1

Step 1. Choose a story to tell

Imagine the settings and characters. Although the theme can be almost anything, songs are widely used to convey very personal stories, so focus especially on the characters - their motivations, the actions they might take, and the consequences of those actions.

  • Of course, there is no rule that says you must start with the lyrics before composing the music, so if you wake up at night with a fragment of a melody in your head, feel free to skip to part 2 and start with there. However, having a firm understanding of the story you want to tell can facilitate critical decisions when composing music.
  • Even if you're only aiming to create an instrumental piece, consider having a story in mind to guide you. Classical composers often did this for inspiration. For example, Dvorak composed the second and third movements of his ninth symphony, the New World Symphony, from a poem by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow.
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 2
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 2

Step 2. Body your story in verse

The songs are normally structured in verses and choruses. A traditional stanza is made up of four verses, the second and fourth forming a rhyme. Develop your characters and your story here.

For example, Brilliant Disguise by Bruce Springsteen portrays the growing mistrust between a married couple. Each stanza portrays their relationship by listing the husband's growing suspicions

Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 3
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 3

Step 3. Encapsulate your theme in the chorus

While the stanzas develop a story, the chorus sums up the situation. Use chorus to emphasize the point you are trying to make. It can be expressed in a single line that is only sung once, in a single line that is repeated for emphasis, in a rhymed couplet, or in four lines, like a traditional stanza.

In Brilliant Disguise, Springsteen follows the four-line format for the chorus. In a few words, summarize the general theme of distrust with "So tell me what I see / When I look in your eyes / Is that you, baby / Or just a brilliant disguise?" in the eyes / Is it you, darling, / Or just a shiny disguise?) "

Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 4
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 4

Step 4. Consider including an eight bar bridge in the middle

This is a unique piece of music within a song. It usually comes before the last verse and the last chorus, offering the audience a refreshing change in sound. Lyrically, it serves as a means of expressing a significant change in the story, be it a change in perspective for the characters or a new twist in the narrative. However, the eight bars in the middle aren't necessary, so don't feel compelled to include them.

In the last verse before the middle eight bars in Brilliant Disguise, the narrator begins to shift his focus from his wife to himself as he wonders why she is with him. Springsteen uses the eight bars in the middle to expand on this shift in focus. Here, the narrator examines his own actions and state of mind, revealing a new dimension in his mistrust with the conclusion: "I wanna know if it's you I don't trust / 'Cause I damn sure don't trust myself" know if it's you I don't trust / Because I definitely don't trust myself ")

Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 5
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 5

Step 5. Write multiple drafts

In your first draft, focus on the story itself and flesh it out. With each subsequent draft, make edits that strengthen your lyrics when sung.

  • Count the number of syllables in each line to make sure no line has too many to sing.
  • If you are using a rhyme scheme, identify rhymes that are clichéd, such as "heart" and "reason." See if you can express the same idea in other words that stand out as an original statement rather than a borrowed phrase.
  • Don't worry about perfecting a final draft just yet. You will most likely have to make additional edits after you've composed the music.

Part 2 of 3: Composing Music Using Chord Progressions

Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 6
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 6

Step 1. Choose a clef to play on

Do, re, mi, sol and la lend themselves well to the guitar. Certain cues tend to elicit specific emotions in the audience. Choose one that complements the tone of your story.

  • Use larger cues to elicit happier reactions from the audience and smaller cues to evoke sadness. To hear the difference between a minor and a major clef, listen to John Williams' original "Imperial March" from the Star Wars films. In the movies, it is played in the treble clef and sounds exactly like the terrifying war march it should be. However, you can find other recordings online where G major is played instead, which makes it sound more like a nice parade march on a sunny afternoon.
  • Listen to the following songs, which have been grouped by key. Evaluate your own reactions to them and decide which ones you want to replicate: key to: Out on the Weekend by Neil Young, Wild Thing by Chip Taylor; C key: Imagine by John Lennon, Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis; key of re: Free Fallin 'by Tom Petty, Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash; my key: Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel, Take a Message to Mary by The Everly Brothers; treble clef: Sitting on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding, Eternal Flame by The Bangles.
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 7
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 7

Step 2. Determine the harmonized chords for your key

Chord progressions are expressed numerically (for example: I-IV-V), with each chord being a degree on the key scale. The I chord is always the key in which you have chosen to play. Roman numerals trace the other chords on the scale: uppercase numbers denote major chords and lowercase numbers denote minor chords. A number followed by "dim" indicates a diminished chord (for its abbreviation in English). A chord progression from I-IV-V played in the key of D, for example, would be re-sol-a.

Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 8
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 8

Step 3. Choose how many chords to play in the progression

Two-chord progressions may sound simple but they are limited, which means you may have to employ a few extra tricks and play with nuances to make the song stand out. The three and four chord progressions are perhaps the most common in popular music.

  • For reference, listen to the following songs, which have been grouped by the number of chords in their progressions: a chord:

    Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley, Coconut by Harry Nilsson; two chords:

    The Who's My Generation, Sublime's Wrong Way; three chords:

    Twist and Shout by the Beatles, Let My Love Open the Door by Pete Townshend; four chords:

    With or Without You from U2, Peace of Mind from Boston.

Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 9
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 9

Step 4. Start with a basic three-chord progression, such as I-V-IV or I-IV-V

This is a fairly popular chord progression in pop music and is perfect for beginners. Let's say you've chosen the I-V-IV progression for the introduction and stanzas. For the chorus, try switching to progression V-IV-I. Experiment with various chords and progressions until you find a combination that fits the mood of the lyrics.

  • Listen to the following songs, which have been grouped by their respective chord progressions: I-IV-V:

    Knockin’on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan, Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd; I-V-IV:

    Rock around the Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets, Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet.

Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 10
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 10

Step 5. Explore the melodies

Countless melodies can be played with a single chord progression. Sing or hum the lyrics as you play until you find a melody that complements your story.

  • If you're stuck, forget the song you're working on and play without worrying about finding the "right" tune. Play "stream of consciousness" style for the sheer joy of playing. You may discover the correct tune by accident.
  • If you're still stuck, play one or more songs by other artists that inspire you. Once you have mastered your melodies, experiment with changing them little by little, studying the effects that each change produces until you have obtained a melody that is similar to but different from the original.
  • Remember: there is a fine line between imitation and plagiarism. When using other people's works for inspiration, honesty is the best policy. Kurt Cobain admitted that Nirvana's Smells like Teen Spirit was a copy of The Pixies. The music of The Smiths' Rusholme Ruffians was so directly influenced by Elvis Presley's Marie’s the Name (of His Latest Flame) that the band would introduce their own song in concert by playing the first couple of stanzas of Elvis's. You can hear both the similarity and the subtle differences between the two on their Rank live album.

Part 3 of 3: Perfecting Your Material

Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 11
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 11

Step 1. Re-edit the lyrics if necessary

Now that you have the music, check the lyrics to see if any words or phrases are blocking you when singing it out loud. For example, let's say you used the word "particular" in a verse, which now seems to you to have too many syllables to clearly enunciate. Try replacing it with a shorter synonym, such as "true" or "unique."

Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 12
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 12

Step 2. Add a hook

Spice up the chorus with an additional musical or lyric phrase to make it catchier. Lyrically, this could be the "yeah, yeah, yeah" in the Beatles' She Loves You chorus. Musically, it could be The Edge's guitar lick on U2's With or Without You. Either way, it is an added flourish to the chorus that creates an expectation of repetition in the next chorus. By meeting this expectation, the hook creates satisfaction in the listener. As with composing lyrics and melodies, embrace the trial and error process. The right hook could come to mind immediately, or you may have to work on several to find the right one.

Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 13
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 13

Step 3. Reassess the structure

Make sure it supports the emotional outcome you want to bring with your song.

  • If your story requires numerous verses to develop your characters effectively, consider having two stanzas before each chorus rather than one so that the effect of the chorus on the audience does not wear off due to excessive repetition.
  • If your characters have changed significantly by the end of your story, consider adding a twist to the last chorus to indicate this change. Returning to the last Brilliant Disguise chorus as an example, the narrator now challenges his wife: "Tell me what you see / When you look in my eyes / Is that me, baby / Or just a brilliant disguise?" you see / When you look into my eyes / Is it me, darling, / or just a shiny disguise? ").
  • If your story ends on a note of ambiguity, like Brilliant Disguise, consider ending with a verse instead of a chorus. Since most popular songs end with one or more choruses, play up your audience's expectations by denying them the neat ending they expect.
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 14
Write a Song with Guitar Chords Step 14

Step 4. Work your songs with others

Test your material by playing an open mic night or playing for one or more friends and then asking them for honest feedback. If you're playing for your friends, be sure to emphasize the "honest" of "honest feedback." Look for songwriters you know and respect for advice and techniques.


  • Write down your chords and lyrics so you don't forget them.
  • Listen to the artists you enjoy. Pay attention to the clefs and chord progressions they use, and study your own emotional reactions when listening to them.
  • Mix things up a bit with chord substitutions. For example, play the A minor seventh chord instead of an A minor chord or a C major seventh chord instead of a C chord. This gives the song a "more than normal" sound that will make it stand out.
  • Listen to covers of songs by other artists or alternative versions by original artists. Concentrate on the variations in the arrangements and the differences they produce.
  • Study the chords, how they flow with each other, and how they work in tune.
  • Record yourself tapping if you can. This way, if you sing a tune and can't tabulate it, you have something to refer to.
  • Alternate techniques (for example, switch between fingering and strumming) to add more complexity to your sound.
  • Try using the minor or major chords related to a chord. For example, the minor chord related to the C major chord would be the A minor chord.


  • Don't be put off by the amount of time compositing can take. It often takes weeks to be completely satisfied with a song, so don't think you're not a good songwriter if you can't write a song in a week.
  • Imitation is often the best way to learn. However, there is a fine line between imitation and plagiarism. Avoid stealing other people's work.
  • Don't get stuck on an idea. Your lyrics and music will change throughout the songwriting process. A new twist could be just what your song needs.

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