For a guitar player of any level, meeting the challenge to compose your own music is a very intriguing one. It can be incredibly rewarding if you get it right, and it's a great buzz being able to write music on the instrument that you love.
When you play the guitar, if you are reading from a book, then sometimes you can feel like a robot – you are simply obeying the instructions of another. Writing your own music, however, gives you more freedom and creativity when it comes to playing. Whatever you have in mind, whether it's a gentle instrumental piece or even writing your own music, it's a wonderful creative process that will encourage your ability to understand the rhythms and sounds that you hear every day.
There is no magic formula for songwriting, and that is one of the reasons why it is such an exciting process. Music, by definition, is meant to be free-flowing and creative – not just in the notes themselves but in creating emotional responses from the listener.
Despite the absence of the magic formula, there are a number of tips and techniques that you can learn in order to create your own music on the guitar:
· Think of a word such as, for example, 'snow'. Now think of how you would represent snow musically on your guitar. Think of all the things that the word 'snow' means to you, and play that. You may start out with just a few notes and mistimed chords, but keep at it.
· Try some other words – 'rain' or 'sadness', for example – and try to create something which best represents those words in your own way. It does not have to signify the same word to other people – music is best when it is objective. You'll find that you will fuss around with the notes a bit, but eventually you will find a finger-picking motion that you like.
· If you are writing lyrics to go with your music, then there are two ways you can approach this: you can start out with the words and apply the music, or do the opposite: start with the music and fit the lyrics around that. What works for one person may not work for another, so experiment, try both and see one best fits your individual songwriting style.
If you're still struggling, take a look at these more simplified steps:
· Find a chord that you are familiar playing (for example G or D) and experiment with it. Change some of the notes around and see what happens.
· Whilst you are doing this, leave one finger in the same place as you move others around to different strings.
· Now listen to the sound when you strum. Listen to the sound when you play individual notes.
· Now try the same again, but this time with a different chord, or even different notes.
· As soon as you hear something that you like, make sure you play it over and over again. This will commit it to memory.
· When you have this first series of notes in your head, you have the starting point for your song, and can build around it.
Relaxing and enjoying it are probably the most important things to remember when it comes to songwriting on your guitar. It's all part of the creative process when you sing complete nonsense or the first things that come into your mind. Keep going – you'll find that you will stumble upon a chord (or a variation) that you really like, or a lyric that fits perfectly. As soon as you do, make sure you write it down and build on it.
Another good tip is to get a friend to aid you. Some of the most beautiful and dynamic songs in history were written as collaborations between two or more musicians. Not only that, but a friend who is specifically musically minded can give you some great impartial feedback on how you are doing.