Monthly Archives: October 2013

SONGWRITING: Working out melodies for songs

Was talking to a friend last night and gave her some advice, when working out melodies for songs… I saw a video about this on YouTube like four years ago or something…. it’s simple, but it works….

Say you have two parts of a song (a verse and a chorus), and you have lyrics for the same parts. Just record yourself playing these two parts back to back, over and over again, singing the parts in a different way in each pass (improvising the vocals on the spot). Do this for 20 solid minutes to a half hour. Somewhere in there, while working the parts out vocally, you’ll come across some good ideas… they might be in two completely different locations in this 20-30 minute recording, but you’ll usually have something great to work with… something that might even be final.

I’ve used this technique only a few times in the last year or so, but holy shit, it works. Now if I could just stop being so damn lazy about the vocal process…


SONGWRITING: Chords that fit together (in common keys)

A lot of people out there curious about songwriting might not know exactly which chords fit together, or why. They just experiment and see what “sounds good”… that’s how I initially learned. Now, I find it very beneficial to easily use the chords available in any key, without even thinking about it. All songwriters should at least learn the chords that fit together, because it makes songwriting so much easier.

Let’s assume that whatever chord you play is the first chord of your song or your verse… we’ll assume that’s the key of your song (as 95% of the time, it is)… so if you start a song with a C chord, you’re in the key of C. If you started with a G chord, you’re in the key of G. Etc.

Most songs use only the first six chords in every key (ignoring the diminished triad which falls on the 7th scale degree). This simple chart will help you, too, especially if you’re a singer/songwriter who plays guitar:


most common guitar and piano keys:

key of C / Am

major C Dm Em F G Am
minor Am C Dm Em F G and occasionally E

famous songs in C
The Shins “Gone For Good”
John Lennon “Imagine”
Mazzy Star “Halah”

using the above chord shapes with
capo 2: becomes key of D / capo 4: key of E


key of G / Em

major G Am Bm C D E F#m
minor Em G Am Bm C D and occasionally B

famous songs in G (there are a LOT)
Third Eye Blind “Semi-Charmed Life”
Beatles “I Want To Hold Your Hand”
Beatles “Love Me Do”
Eric Johnson “Cliffs Of Dover”
The Sundays “Here’s Where The Story Ends”
Fountains Of Wayne “Hey Julie”

using the above chord shapes with
capo 2: becomes key of A / capo 5: key of C


key of D / Bm

major D Em F#m G A Bm
minor Bm D Em F#m G A and occasionally F#

famous songs in D
cranberries “Linger”
Queen “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
Creedence Clearwater Revival “Proud Mary”
Loretta Lynn “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (changes key throughout)
Belly “Gepetto”

using the above chord shapes with
capo 2: becomes key of E / capo 5: key of G


key of A / F#m

major A Bm C#m D E F#m
minor F#m A Bm C#m D E and occasionally C#

famous songs in A
Allo Darlin “Capricornia”
Beatles “Here Comes The Sun” (capo 7th fret)
Beatles “All My Life”
Filter “Take A Picture”
Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train” (verses)

using the above chord shapes with
capo 3: becomes key of C / capo 5: key of D / capo 7: key of E


key of E / C#m

major E F#m G#m A B C#m
minor C#m E F#m G#m A B and occasionally G#

famous songs in E
cranberries “Dreams”
Maria Taylor “Song Beneath The Song”
Jimmy Eat World “Hear You Me”

using the above chord shapes with
capo 3: becomes key of G / capo 5: key of A