Starting Out

Songwriting

Where to start

If you play an instrument, you'll have an advantage when writing songs. If you don't play, getting hold of a cheap keyboard or guitar could be a big help when writing melodies. You don't need to be a concert pianist or Coventry's answer to Slash - you can let other members of the band worry about that later - but tinkling the ivories or plucking those strings could help you develop new ideas.

That eureka moment can come in loads of different ways. For VV Brown it was giving up on the piano and using a customised one-string guitar that helped her learn to play the blues, for Kate Nash learning to play the guitar whilst laid up with a broken foot helped her to start writing.

If you're starting out you can buy chord books to expand your repertoire and learn which ones fit together in a particular key. It can also help to take a look at other people's music, both old and new, to get you started. See which chord progressions you like in other acts' songs and then adapt them to write a melody of your own. If you want to get an idea of how your favourite songs are put together don't be afraid to flick through sheet music books which you can pick up in music shops. You can find them online too at places like Sheet Music Direct or Music Room. If you're a guitarist there are also plenty of guitar tab sites like Ultimate Guitar or Guitare Tab. If you'd rather see people in action to pick up some tips YouTube has plenty videos offering tutorials, tips and tricks.

Hard work can often be the missing ingredient when it comes to songwriting. Just ask Marina Diamond who by her own admission took time to get it right. Keep plugging away at writing and your own style will soon develop. Before you know it, you'll have some half decent tunes. Try mixing up the verse from one song with the chorus of another - it might just give you another idea for a track.

It's also worth experimenting with different ways of starting and ending songs, as well as varying how you lead into your choruses. Remember, now is the time to experiment and no one else needs to hear your ideas until you're ready. Even bad ideas can help to shape your style.

Be prepared for inspiration to come at any moment. If that killer melody or a way to make that middle eight work suddenly pops into your head you don't want to forget it. Don't be shy about using the memo function on your phone or a little dictaphone to capture any off-the-cuff ideas you may have.

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