Writing Songs

A lot of people ask me how I go about writing songs. Well in short, it comes from endless hours of trial and error just with a guitar in my hands. Over the years I have learned a lot of songs by different artists, as a youngling and also with how I started my career as a teacher online for Licklibrary to the present day. As for anyone who writes songs it’s often a feeling or a certain vibe you want to capture, inspired by a feeling or certain vibe you have experienced or are experiencing. It can start with a riff, sound or effect you are using, or a drum beat or a melody that gets lodged in your head, the latter being the most dangerous form of writing as chances are, you’ve heard it somewhere and it’s been used lol.

Melodies for me generally come after the basic riff and song structure are mapped out in my recording program (cubase generally, but others include logic, protools, sonar, ableton, nuendo etc). Now, the more time you have spent learning songs and solos, it’s already inadvertently engrained a musical sense of direction that can guide you through your writing process. There are loads of different styles of music, techniques, arrangements, bands etc that influence you but that is generally guided by what you listen to yourself or grew up listening to. When I started playing guitar I was learning Guns n Roses songs because Appetite was the first proper album I ever owned on cassette (yes kids cassette lol look it up) and I don’t class the Simpsons album or Jive Bunny to really be up there as musical influences ;). As a result Slash became a massive influence on my approach to soloing, with his great sense of what a melody was/is and his contribution to the song as well as standing out as a great player. After a few years of exhausting those songs my focus on technique became more prominent with the discovery of Joe Satriani. I remember I had a record vinyl version of Surfing with the Alien, and I had to borrow a record player to hear it. My mind was blown! Fact, and I was struggling to come to terms with whether I’d ever have a cat in hells chance of attempting any of that shit, but……, I’ve never looked at another player and said to myself “I can’t and will never be able to do that” my thought process is more like ” bollocks, I’ll have a go, see what happens”. Satriani songs did become more manageable once I had figured out the record player was on double speed lol, so set it to the proper speed and there you go, progress was made.

When I got to college my eyes were opened to all kinds of players and that was it, I was officially hooked on shredding and seeking out new players and techniques. The thing that has always developed in tandem with learning technique, is providing my own backing tracks to jam over and figuring out little chord progressions to record on a tape player, then with my amp, jam over it. This would happen for hours and hours, and much more rewarding than playing to a metronome, but they are useful to work on fixed picking patterns and monitoring speed, so they do have their place in practice.

I’ve never not had a life. There does seem to be this stigma attached to shredding that possibly you have been neglecting interests in girls and going out drinking and all that kind of stuff. We’ll I’ve never passed up the opportunity to have a beer or 10 and make a dick of myself, or have I passed up the attention of a bird (when I’m single of course) but as memory serves, there was one time a girl in a club, she got down between my legs and asked me if there was anything she could do for me, implied sexual connotations and all that to which I replied “yeah, have you got the time” lol. I was 16 and clueless I might add so I’ve forgiven myself. Anyway going off topic slightly, but to some up you can have both, I just didn’t work at school or college, so that free’d up time to just throw myself into getting as good as I possibly can at growing as a musician/guitarist (note musician first!)

Fast forwarding to present day, all the style lessons, recording with bands, recording backing tracks, writing and recording solo albums, playing live shows and touring etc is all part of growing as a musician/guitarist. If any of you expect a golden answer, it simply doesn’t exist! To quote Morpheus “nobody can be told what the matrix is, you have to see it for yourself” meaning, nobody can tell you what is right or wrong in song writing because in essence they would have to tell you how you think and feel which is impossible to know, only you can know that. There are formulas in place that are adopted to maximise commercial potential, but you still need to know what you’re doing and that comes down to experience.

To sum up, shred all you want but create a musical vehicle for that to exist, not the other way around, shredding regardless of the song. Also get in a band!! Nothing whips you into shape faster than playing with musicians preferably better than you, because you really ain’t shit unless you can keep up!

Never stop learning \m/.

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