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Songwriting - Expand your Ideas with Music Theory.

Updated: Jan 31

Lots of facial emotions
Expand your ideas

Songwriting - The Start.

Music theory is the description of the language of music. So how to expand your ideas using music theory. Firstly, do not be afraid of music theory it is there to help you express yourself. In the same way that when you were a child you learnt more and more of your chosen language. As a result, you were able to communicate better.

Music theory gives you the tools you need to communicate better.

Something Simple.

All western music starts with the Major Scale. It is widely considered a happy sounding scale. However, if you want to create something sad you need something different. Music theory tells us that the best Scale for sad is the Natural Minor Scale.

There is a whole world of explanation around this and I am planning to build up a series of factsheets that can take you more deeply into this.

For now, goggle the “Major Scale” and listen to how it sounds. Then google the “Natural Minor Scale” and listen to how it sounds. Try to listen to them again and think about how they make you feel. Do they make you feel happy or sad.

The Next Step.

As a songwriter you may want a mood somewhere between happy and sad. You might even want to switch between the two. At this point you can start using some of the Major Scale and some of the Natural Minor Scale and combine them. If you use mostly the Major Scale and a bit of the Natural Minor Scale there will be just a hint of sadness. Then if you use more of the Natural Minor Scale, you will get another degree of happy or sad.

Start with Chords.

Every Scale comes with a group of chords, that work with that scale. Some are Major and some are Minor. This is a great way to start creating a range of emotions. Each Scale has three Major chords and three Minor chords.

If you use only Major chords the music will sound happy. If use only Minor chords the music will sound sad. If you use, say, two Major chords and a Minor chord there will be an added element of sadness but mostly happy.

Start Creating Moods and Emotions.

The standard chords look like this for all Major Scales –

Chord 1 is Major, Chord 2 is Minor, Chord 3 is Minor, Chord 4 is Major, Chord 5 is Major and Chord 6 is Minor. One of the best ways I have found of creating new ideas is be random. I write the numbers 1 to 6 each on individual pieces of paper and put the pieces of paper in a bowl then I close my eyes and pull out three pieces of paper. I put them in the order that I pulled them out and then play them on my guitar. I listen to how they sound and how they make me feel.

Building More and More.

As you learn more music theory and more chords put them in the bowl and give yourself more and more options. Pull out, say, four pieces of paper and play them. Some will sound bad; some will grow on you and some will inspire you to create songs or instrumentals.

Look out for the factsheets that are coming, soon, to help you through the steps to using music theory to create.

If you have enjoyed what I have written please follow me and get my songwriting posts sent to you so that you don’t miss any. Please comment. If there are any topics you are interested in, let me know and I will do my best to post about them.

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