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Basic Piano Song Composition

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How to begin writing songs on your piano

Whether you are relatively new or relatively seasoned on the piano, you have spent a lot of time learning and practicing pieces written by someone else. If you have ever yearned to write your own piece, this article will help you get started.

The major decisions

Don’t sit there staring at the keyboard and waiting for the muse to strike you. It doesn’t work for musicians any better than it does for novelists. Instead, start investigating your desires and ideas within the genre of your interest. Then, start formulating the concept of your song.

What is the theme of your song going to be? Think of a person, a cause, or even a general emotion. From that, you can choose the key, tempo, and general “feel” of the song.

Warm up and cool off

Before you start composing, go through some scales and a few tunes that you enjoy playing. In other words, warm up. This is both for your fingers and your mind.

Later in the process, don’t be afraid to take breaks. Many brilliant ideas have occurred on nature walks, while drinking coffee, or in the bathroom.

Play around

Once you’ve decided on all of the above, play through the root chords of your chosen key and then play around with them. Try them in different sequences and see how you like the different progressions. Soon you may develop a tune in your head that goes along with the chords you are playing.

Write – a lot

Record your ideas as they come — or you may lose them forever! Write them down, score them, and/or audio record your sessions. Don’t think you will always remember what you come up with without recording it. You won’t.

Let go of the critic

You are your own worst enemy. That judgmental voice in your head will never do you any favors, so don’t listen to it. Enjoy the process, and consider every idea.

Much like other artists, if you allow that inner critic to edit and/or censor as you create, you will stunt your own development. Let the ideas flow. They won’t all be great, but they won’t all be terrible, either. Even the “bad” ideas may work their way into another song later. They were only “bad” for this piece; maybe they will be awesome for the next.

Develop your writing style

Some like to write down words and then make a tune around them, others like to make a tune and throw in “placeholder” words until they decide what they want the song to be about (such as the original working title of Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” — which was “Scrambled Eggs”). Do what works best for you. Most likely, you will find yourself doing a little of both throughout the process. In fact, you may even decide that you don’t want lyrics at all!

Lather, rinse, repeat

Once you have a sequence of ideas in mind, develop out the song with recurring motifs and hooks. Play, write, revise. Play, write, revise. Play, write, revise. Eventually, your song will just “click” and you will find its perfect form. Then, set it aside for a while. Return to it later — days or even weeks — so that you can hear it with fresh ears.

Enjoy the process

It may seem daunting at first, but the more you do it, the more you will enjoy it. Nothing helps you learn musical notation faster than writing it. Throughout the process, you will develop a new respect for your favorite artists and songs. In fact, you will never look at music the same way again.

For keyboard and piano lessons contact Glenn Sutton at: 619-306-3664.

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