Composing is a term generally associated with writing instrumental compositions, while Songwriting generally refers to writing songs with lyrics, (words).

Creating a musical piece involves following a process much like writing a story or a poem, otherwise the result can be random and confusing, and not very interesting to listen to. Most musical compositions share four aspects: Lyrics, Melody, Harmony, and Structure. There is no magic formula for writing a song. Some musicians start with the lyrics and write a melody around them.  Others start with a melody and let the tune inspire the words. Other times, a song is the result of a collaboration of two or more musicians working together, sharing ideas.  I have played in bands where songs have developed around bass lines that I'd originally only intended as warm-up exercises.  Other musicians would then add whatever they were inspired to play. 

Elements of a Song

Lyrics - the words of a song

Melody - the main tune, often the significant identifiable aspect of the song.

Harmony - creates a fuller sound by using a progression of the chords

Structure - how the various themes, verses, and choruses of the song are arranged.

Many songs follow similar structures, either verse and chorus sequences, or chord progressions. Two common themes are the Three Chord Progression and Four Chord Progression where there is a repeating pattern of three or four chords of a particular Key.

Click on the following examples to hear the chord progression.

        Click these:

Chord Progression

Taking Care of Business - B.T.O. C7 - Bb - F - C7
Get Off of My Cloud - Stones E - A - B - A
The Weight - The Band G - Bm - C - G
Dana California - Red Hot Chili Peppers Am - G - Dm - Am

Many rock, R & B. and Pop songs follow a pattern of a two or four bar intro, eight or twelve bars per verse, followed by a chorus, then repeating a second verse with the same chord progression. Often, a song is ended with a variation of the chorus, or solos.  Listen to some of your favourite songs to see if you can detect a particular structure. 

Keep all this in mind when you compose your next Garage Band project.


Click here to go back...