"Get More Inspiration With Composition"

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Jordan Warford here, Editorial Manager for Guitar Tips.

Thanks for tuning in this week as we dive into a new aspect of music that we haven't really touched on before! We will be covering the do's and do not's of writing music and how you can expand your musical creativity.

In this edition:

If you're sick and tired of listening to other peoples' music, we have the solution for you... write your own! We'll be taking some time to help you build the proper foundation when it comes to song writing by showing you some tricks of the trade. We also have some sweet scales for you to work on this week.

We have a great feedback booth this week, where we will be show casing some of the great comments you send us each week.

The internet is a great resource for guitarists and is what keeps us in business. Through your travels over the world wide web, you've probably come across a guy by the name of Andrew Koblick. We will give you the scoop on his site and what he has to offer you. You won't want to miss out on it!

To top off all of that, we have our regular gear review brought to you by Guitar Trader. They offer some awesome equipment that can certainly give you the leading edge with you playing.

Let's get right to it!

A Formula For Writing A Great Song

Where to get started.

When you started to play guitar, you naturally gravitated to playing the music of your favorite guitarist. We all thought we were really cool and sounded really good until we were thrown in the middle of our school cafeteria or workplace only to discover that every second, guitarists already knew what you were playing and where you were going with it next.

That gets old really fast. After all, your main goal in most cases is to connect with your audience and how could you possibly do that when everyone is playing the same thing? The truth is that many people will disconnect when they hear you play "Stairway To Heaven" the same way every other person has done it before you.

Then we need to ask the question, "If it sounds old when I play it, why am I still so moved by the song when Eric Clapton plays it?" The reason is because he wrote it. That song is a piece of him and no one could ever emulate that connection. Making his song something that you personalized will truly add to that piece of music.

There are steps to doing this, just as there are steps when writing a full song. The key problem that I've seen surface in musicians is the writer's block syndrome. I have fell into that trap many times and felt as if I was playing the same thing over and over again. Training your brain to think outside the box involves some new concepts that we'll be covering further on into the newsletter.

However, we need to start somewhere. For me, that starting point evolves around scales. Some writers prefer starting with chords and that's perfectly fine. Not unlike improvisation (which is a very big part of composition,) there is no set way to start writing a song.

The tips I'm about to give you are just a guideline and some rules are just meant to be broken. Let your creativity take you somewhere where you haven't been before and try something new. If you do something completely different than myself, that's great! This is the method I use and teach but by no means is it set in stone and the only way to write a "Correct" song.

As you will soon find out, I like to compose songs much like any construction worker would build a house: Starting from the ground up.

To start, let's take an everyday C Major scale:

...There are no sharps, no flats and is definitely a great starting point, no matter how boring it may look to you now.

After running through it a couple of times and getting familiar with the fingerings, we can start to analyze the things that are in this scale. You can look at them as your tools. You have an arpeggio that you can use, harmonics, a great location on the fretboard and a nice sound that can be mellow or in your face loud.

Let's take part of that scale and transform it into a lick. Perhaps you are looking for something a little more light... A nice start to a solo before you climax into the best part. Take a look at the high E string and your B and G string. All of the notes are centrally located, which means you can really speed them up or slow them down depending on what you want to do.

Using the techniques we learned from previous lessons, we can incorporate hammer on's and slides quite easily into something that's really close together. This is building the foundation to your piece of music. After some improv, I came up with this:

What we have is clearly derived from the C Major scale, but has an added twist with hammer on's and a sharp, staccato (short) attack on the notes. You may notice that the location of the notes, the techniques used and the repeat bars show that there is a pattern, or formula to this lick. It's the blueprint that will map out the rest of your music for you (yes I know that the blueprint normally comes before the foundation when building a house, so just work with me here!)

Maintaining the idea of the song throughout the entire piece is important. You don't want to sound disorganized but you do want to come off looking polished and professional.

All too often we will come up with a riff but that's about as far as it goes. For every riff you write, there are a hundred songs that could be written from it and that's no exaggeration! Take note of the style of that riff. For the one above, you can tell there's a balanced mix of speed and attack. It's fast yet it doesn't feel rushed. You can go with that and take a look at the rest of the notes you have in your tool box.

We could take the above riff and add this to it:

We kept the flavor that we were going for and simply used the area around that scale. We use a lot of the same notes, which is perfect. The key to creating a great arrangement is to keep it simple yet make it sound complicated. Changing the sounds of the same note by using different rhythmic techniques and volume intensities will leave you with something that is relatively easy to play yet creative and colorful. Take a look at this video to insure that you are using the proper fingers:

...The reason I bring up fingerings is because they lead you to the next part of the song, literally. For instance, the first riff we covered has all of the notes close by and our fingers hardly had to move. This allows our fingers to do the walking, while our brain can focus on rhythmic patterns and keeping the general idea of the song. This is another tool that we can utilize and believe me when I say every tool is essential when you're writing a song.

What to do with all of those riffs lying around...

Now the real fun starts. We know the basic concept of putting a song together. It needs a foundation, which includes the following:

  1. The key signature.
  2. The scale in the key that you have chosen (there are many choices with this.)
  3. The time signature.
  4. Analyzing the tools that you have available to you in that given key and space on the fretboard.
  5. An idea of the sound that you are going for.

It also needs a blueprint with the following attributes:

  1. A riff, as simple or as complicated as you like.
  2. The feel/sound that you are going for.
  3. The most popular techniques that you will be using. In other words, the techniques that the song is based on.

If we were building a house, the next step would be to get some walls up. This is where all of those riffs you have hanging around can come in handy. Pretend that those riffs are the walls. You already have your foundation and your blue print, so you know the direction you are headed in, you just need to find out how to nail them together.

The nails are transposition. I highly doubt all the riffs you have composed are in the same key, however, transposition isn't something that we can fit into this newsletter, so we're going to focus our next edition on this very topic. For now, try to use the riffs you have that are in the same key.

You can use riffs that are in different keys if you wish, but it gets a little more complicated with connecting them together. I will show you how to do a key change in a song in just a few moments but key changes in the middle of a riff will have to wait for another day.

Now would also be a good time to use riffs from your favorite guitarists and make it into your own masterpiece!

Creating a connection between the riffs to make them one could almost be looked at as the floor. A good connection between two riffs holds things down tight and is seamless. To place a connection between two different riffs (in the same key), look for connecting notes. If you can't read music or don't know which notes are what on your fretboard, look for places on your fretbaord where the two riffs overlap.

These connections, or transitions, are what will give you a professional appearance. They can be really slow, really fast or set at a normal tempo (speed.)

Now you see it coming together pretty quickly. What once was something that seemed kind of large now seems pretty easy when broken down. The only problem we have is the length of our song. We have the riff but now we need to top it off and put it all together. What we need now is a roof.

This roof comes in the form of a guideline, what musicians call "Musical form." This is the guideline that almost every musician uses, so I suggest you listen up. In a song, there are the following parts:

  • Introduction
  • Verse
  • Chorus
  • Bridge
  • Verse

The most normal and basic of musical forms follows the pattern of having an introduction, where you grab the audience's interest, which follows into a verse, which expresses a musical thought and then into the heart of the song which is the chorus. Then you will normally follow back to a new verse, which is different from your first verse.

The chorus will always be the same. The verses will always change and you can have as many of them as you want, so long as you follow the pattern of verse: chorus: verse: chorus, etc. Once again, we come back to a repeated pattern. This pattern actually makes it easier for us as guitarists when we're writing a lengthy instrumental.

Other things you can incorporate into your composition to make it snazzy are things like a bridge, which is introduced around 2/3 of the way through the song and eliminates the chance of your song getting boring. It should be as unique and as different as possible while trying to maintain the style without sounding out of key. Us musicians keep it simple, envision the bridge as a physical bridge that walks you from land (the chorus) to a small island (the verse.)

There's even something called a pre-chorus. The pre-chorus is designed to sound like the chorus but normally will do something different than any other part of a song. For example, this is used quite a bit in techno music to tease the dancer before building into the chorus. It's longer than the bridge and usually has a lot more going on, which is why it's under a different name.

Basically, I look at all of this information like this:

Suppose I have just finished putting a bunch of riffs together. I have a neat little lick that last around 10 seconds. It's flashy and impressive, something that grabs people's attention, so I'll use it as my introduction. I have yet another riff but this one is about 20-25 seconds.

It's not the most dazzling one I have but it's cool and great to listen to, I'll use that as a verse. If I have a pretty intense riff, that lasts roughly 30-35 seconds then I will use it as my chorus. I also have a little doodle that I enjoy and it's in the right key, so why not make it my bridge? I go and incorporate another verse from my library of licks in that key.

Now I want to blow my audience away! I decide to use an amazing riff that's in a different key. So how do I get to the point where I can do that key change? Simple, just do a pre-chorus and build up an intense anticipation. Use some accidentals (notes that aren't in the key you currently are in but sound good) and move on up to the key change in the Chorus.

Notice how I said up, not down? This is because you always want to build your song up, just like a house. Changing the key down just takes away and you tend to loose that intensity. I've yet to see a key change down for a chorus pulled off nicely. If you think you can, email me with your recording!

Some musicians think pre-choruses are for pop or R&B. I disagree for the above reason, they can be a great tool for changing the key of a song.


Well my friends, we have come to the point where some of you may actually want to include lyrics. This unfortunately, is not my specialty... I actually think my neighbor's dog could do a better job than me! That applies to singing as well so don't expect any lessons on either of these subjects. So far, everything I have written about has pertained to instrumental music (music without lyrics.) You can use the same musical form as mentioned above, the problem is that writing lyrics are much different than writing music on a guitar.

I have done some research to find someone who could actually teach this to you for free and came up with a pretty cool site. Click here to check it out. I hope this helps you out and that I see your song on the top 10 billboard charts!

Putting It All Together

Now that we have a pretty good idea of how to string together a song, it's a good idea to get inspiration. When writing music in specific keys, we sometimes forget about all of the exotic scales out there that we can utilize to get a great solo. So instead of writing a song, I'm going to give you some scales that you can use to write your own songs.

Hope you have fun and get the musical juices flowing!

G diminished {whole-staff}

G#/Ab Locrian

Eb jazz melodic minor:

B pentatonic major:

F blues scale {with major third and flatted fifth}:


Gear Review

Have you ever seen a piece of gear that every musician around you seems to have but you're not quite sure why? Perhaps you've been admiring a top of the line guitar that you plan on working towards getting but aren't sure if it's something that fits your style of taste... let alone budget. In this segment we will take a look at those questions by reviewing some pretty popular gear and see if it's worth the 60 hours you worked for it.

Boss TU-2 Pedal Tuner

In previous editions we have taken a look at some of the products Boss offers (the GT6 pedal for example). You may also remember me telling you that I prefer individual stomp boxes and the TU-2 is one of the reasons why. I can't stress to you how incredible this tool is when placed with your arsenal of effect pedals. You may be thinking "Hey dude, it's just a tuner." In the world of playing performance guitar... there's no such thing as "Just a tuner."

The TU-2 is a top of the line tuner built from ridged metal that will last you a lifetime. Not only is it durable but it's extremely accurate. Let's say you needed to tune down to drop D of maybe even down a halfstep during a show that you're playing, you simply turn the tuner on, which cuts out any noise from tuning that may go to the speakers or amps and allows you to tune quickly and precicely the exact tuning you need. Let's put it this way: the TU-2 is battle tested and came out on top with many of your favourite guitarist's wish lists.

Click here if you would like to check it out.

Fender US Tele Spruce Top Chambered Ash RW Cherry Sunburst

In 1951, Leo Fender introduced the Broadcaster, which would eventually be renamed the TelecasterŽ guitar. It was the first solid-body electric Spanish-style guitar that would ever get the chance to see the production line and be shipped around the world. {Source: Fender.com}

If you're looking for a guitar that is stage ready and a perfect match for almost any style, I really suggest you put this guitar on your shopping list of things to do. This guitar is one of the most versitile guitars around and it can kick out rock, blues, country, funk and raggae with the best of them! It has amazing pickups, which have become knowns as the "Lipstick pickups."

These pickups are single coil. While they may not sound like a beefed up Les Paul, it doesn't need to. It has it's own character and handles both clean and distorted tones very well. I used to dislike this guitar because I felt that it had to much of a high end, meaning that it was a little too twangy for my tastes. However, with some adjustments and the right settings (not to mention amp) you can really push it out on this baby.

A few weeks ago, I saw yet another TeleŽ in action and I must say I was impressed by its response on stage and how much it added to the music. Is this guitar for everyone? No. That's a decision that you need to make for yourself but for anyone looking for a professional quality instrument, it's worth the $1000.

Normally I wouldn't review an instrument like this due to the fact that many of us just can't afford to go and blow that kind of money on an instrument with school, work or kids. The reason I did review it is simply because if nothing else, you know what's available to you when the opportunity arises for you to go and get a new guitar. No one said it would be easy or that you wouldn't have to work for it!

When all is said and done, you can't go wrong with a TeleŽ. It's got that hot sound that can be totally manipulated to the tone that you personally prefer.

Click here to check it out!

As many of you know, this section of our newsletter is brought to you by Guitar Trader. We've partnered with them yet again to offer you a chance to win Joe Satriani's signed electric guitar... pretty impressive stuff1 Even our staff around the office are wishing they could enter! Don't wait much longer because we're going to announce a winner in our next newsletter! Click here if you want to get in on the action.

Feedback Booth

Every week many of you take the time to send off an email to us with your comments and ideas. It's always a pleasure to hear back from our subscribers and I would like to extend my personal thanks to all of you who put in so much effort! In the future, I will be working on new ideas and directions for this newsletter as we continually evolve and your thoughts are vital.

One of our favorite ways of showing our appreciation to our subscribers who mail us is by featuring them on the site. This week we have some questions and comments to share.

John Robert Hostutler writes to us with this question:

"I am sure that this Bruno has some fine guitar tips. By the way what happened to the guitar licks. Have you stopped sending them? I could use some more of them. Thank you."

John was one of many who emailed us with this question. The answer is no, we have not stopped sending them and will continue to send you the hottest tips and tricks for as long as this site is running. However, playing guitar involves a lot more than just music to practice and sometimes it's healthy to put down the guitar for a few moments and analyze what you are doing and where you are headed... Our last newsletter was a perfect example of one of those times.

Sue writes to us with this question:

"Hi Jordan, thanks for the tips on how to land a record deal. However, it mentions a demo, which my band has but we want to protect our material and need it copyrighted. How do we go about it and register our band name too? I live in the UK. Thanks!"

Great question! We will be looking into doing an article of this nature in the future. Until that point in time, I encourage all of you to try a Google search and see what's out there on the world wide web. There are some amazing sites that are specific to every Country's laws. If you're in a tight situation, there's always your local Yellow Pages and you can get in contact with a lawer or similar music business.

Chathura Kodagoda has a few suggestions that she sent along to us:

"Hi, I would like to congratulate you on the newsletter and what you have done with it. But I have a few suggestions. Just a quick line, If you formulate a 3 month basic guitar course and publish it with the newsletter and show us what tips we can use and what not to and cycle that every 3 months while getting feed back and monitoring it and improving, you will get much more traffic for your web site. Thanks, Chathura. Sri Lanka"

A wonderful compliment was sent to us from Bob:

"WOW! The "new" newsletter is awesome! I've never seen a video newsletter before. There is a lot of info on here I found useful. I hope you market this into your membership offer because it should increase subscribers! Best wishes. Bob / Nashville USA"


If there's one thing that I've learned from teaching guitar, it's that musical composition is a vital tool that compresses all the talents of a guitarist into one package. Not only does it serve as a way to entertain people but it also soothes and relaxes your mind. It's a perfect outlet for the daily frustrations and joys of life.

I hope you walk away from your computer encouraged and ready to take on the next challenge that awaits you. Like everything else with music, it takes time and practice to write good material but it can be done. Thinking outside of the box involves you taking the time to step out of it. Look at scales and chords and don't be afraid to hop around your fretbaord and have fun.

Remember, for every scale you do, there are many other places on the fretboard that you can play it.

I would like to thank everyone who sent in their band's press package in response to my call for help in our last edition... Great stuff! If you have something unique that you would like to share with your fellow subscribers, please don't hesitate to send it along.

Until next time, keep on picking!


If you've always wanted to learn to play the guitar but never had the chance, give me 17 minutes a day for 90 days and I'll show you how to play virtually any song you want! Visit http://www.guitartips.com.au