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October 27, 2008

Songwriting Using A Magic Decoder Ring

In my last post I mentioned that I have to write a simple song over Rockschool half term and that Teach showed us a simple way to find the major and minor chords in any major key, using the guitar as a magic decoder ring.

Over the weekened I had a crack and it and found that something surprising happened. In previous songwriting attempts I've always thrown loads of chord changes in, occasionally switching voicings on the fly and so on. My approach wasn't very structured in that I'd strum a chord then think "what would sound good after that?". When I sat down and applied Teach's method, first by strumming the I-IV-V majors) followed by the VI-II-III (minors) I obviously had a much more limited palette. Now, we're allowed to modify the chords for our song, but the point is to think about what we're doing logically rather than haphazardly.

So, I screwed around with various chord patterns, but ended up basically coming back to an 8-bar format using I-IIIm-V.

Erm... I think I was in the key of A...

|  A  | C#m |  A  | C#m |
|  A  | C#m |  E  |  E  |

Something like that. Rather than playing full chords I was plucking and slapping the strings a bit using three fingers making an 'E major' shape, which I guess means that the chords were actually inversions. Sounded very cool and relaxing. You get tension building from the switch from the major I to the minor III, with an 'optimistic' sounding partial release when you hit the V.

I need to fool around with it more, but it sounds like a decent start to a pretty little etherial tune...

Oh, and based on Col of Axevictim's recommendation I invested in a Korg Pitchblack tuner yesterday. A very cool little device! Easy to use. Does exactly what it says on the tin.


Col said...

That's the ticket ken. And speaking of tickets might I advise that you order yours now becasue they are going like hot cakes.

Frank said...

Hey Ken!

How ya been? I hope good.

Your post reminded me of a book I bought a little while ago. It was a cool book but not extremly useful to me since I'm not quite to the song writing stage (though, I tried that too).

The book is called the "The Chord Wheel". I've had a link to it on my site but I don't think I've ever posted about it.

Check it out:

Same concept as your Rockschool instructor's method, but this (is probably) a bit simpler to use.

Best Regards,
Frank V.

Aunt Jackie said...

Ethereal is cool... this is a great post I love this slant on it. I would write about how I write songs too, if I had any idea how, I play by ear and really leave most of the "music writing" to my husband, he's great at it.

You guitarists make me sick with envy.