The CIG to the Art of Songwriting comes out tomorrow!

Hello to all!

I’m thrilled to announce my latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Art of Songwriting will be available at bookstores everywhere as of tomorrow, August 2!

This is a new experience for me as it’s the first book I’ve co-written, working with Nashville songwriter, Casey Kelly. As you can read in his bio on Amazon, Casey is the writer of several Grammy-nominated songs, and his songwriting catalogue includes Kenny Rogers & Dottie West’s “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight,” Tanya Tucker’s “Soon” and George Strait’s country music standard, “The Cowboy Rides Away.” In addition to his songwriting, Casey works as a session player and singer and performs in clubs and concerts for audiences throughout the US and Europe.  A frequent mentor, panelist and workshop contributor, Casey is a member of ASCAP, NSAI and he is currently a Songwriters
Guild of America Board of Councilors member, and Vice President.

This is also a new experience in that this book is the first of mine that’s available for Kindle and other online electronic book devices. I don’t think that was even possible for my first book, and that came out just five years ago!

Anway, there’s a lot here that hopefully you’ll like and enjoy. And, if it’s not too much to ask, should you decide to order one through Amazon, be sure to use the Guitar Noise affiliate link. And, as always, don’t hesitate to either post a note here or drop me an email directly ( with whatever questions you might have.



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Q & A: Making songs less boring

Here’s a recent question posted on the Guitar Noise Forum pages:


This is my first post in this sub-forum. Honestly I’ve been lurking on GN for a long time and havent posted in a while.

Anyways. I set the guitar down for a bit while some big stuff happened (moved 2000 miles, bought my first home, changed jobs, yadda yadda you know the drill). Just picking it back up these past few weeks. I’ve been working on chords and honestly just switching between chords (following Justin Sandercoe’s lessons) is not super exciting in itself so I’m kind of strumming along and trying to find pleasant combinations of the chords I’m learning.

So I’m playing some chords and have a combination / progression that I like, Id like to write my first “song.” Problem is I need to spice it up somehow… you don’t hear many
songs that are just four chords strum strum strum strum chord change type songs (I’m
sure somebody will prove me wrong !).

Anyone have any tips for how to spruce this up a bit? I’m looking around posts here and a lot of them seem to be more tailored towards the lyrics side, which I havent even gotten to yet.

It would be cool to be able to add in some single notes etc into the song instead of just the chords, I guess I just dont even know what to try beyond hitting the notes of the chord one by one… I will keep experimenting to see what “sounds good” but wondered if anybody had any advice.
Thanks and either way, have a good one!


There are actually thousands of songs that are, as you put it, “just 4 chords strum strum strum strum chord change type songs.” Not that that’s a bad thing.

What you’re discussing here could be considered more of the arrangement of the song, rather than just the song itself, but there are also a lot of songs that are built around single note guitar riffs as well as other things such as bass lines and even just different chord voicings.

For instance, you could have a song that’s just G, Am, D and back to G. Sounds simple enough and it’s easy enough to just strum, strum, strum, but you could make it sound a lot different, even though strumming the chords the same, by changing the voicing of the chords. Playing Am with the (x 0 10 9 10 0) fingering or using Am7 (x05555) for the
“normal” open position Am and playing D as (xx0775) or even going with Dadd9

One of the best ways to learn how to go about this is to hear it in other songs and to find what they’ve done to change up the expectation.  You can find a whole lot of examples like this on our song lessons here on Guitar Noise. Even without the tablatures you will get detailed explanations of how different chord voicings are used. There’s also a good article called Multiple Personality Disorder that goes into this topic as well.

As far as strumming differently, may I be so bold as to suggest giving a listen to some of our Guitar Noise Podcasts (just click on the Podcast icon at the top of any page). The whole purpose of these podcasts is to demonstrate the very thing you’re looking for – coming up with interesting ways to spice up your strumming, which will in turn make your songs (whether your own originals or covers) less boring.

A big thing to remember is that as you grow and improve as a guitarist, that is, as you learn new techniques and gain confidence in your abilities to play them, you will be constantly adding these new dimensions to your songwriting. That’s part of the natural evolution of a guitar player who also writes songs. Don’t worry about making everything different to start with. Songs have to have good melodies and strong chord progressions first and then the fancy stuff can be added as you feel comfortable doing so.  Most songwriters are constantly rewriting and rearranging their earlier material in accordance to their new and ever-growing skillset.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to email me or PM me directly if I can be of help. And I’m sure you’ll be getting lots of other good advice as well!

Looking forward to seeing you around on the boards.



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Strumming Resources

Hello to all and I hope you’re having a wonderful summer (or winter as the case may be!) so far.

Here’s a recent email:

Hey guys,

I just want to write how much I love your site and your lessons. I’ve recently picked up my guitar again, i’ve been trying to get into it and learning to play it, but it was just so difficult finding the correct resources on the Internet. But your site, it was well set out, really appealing the first time i entered it, and I’m just loving it.

I’ve just discovered your “Absolute Beginner” series, and I’m just wondering: Do you have an article for beginners about strumming yet?

Thanks guys, and keep up the great work.

Thanks for writing and thank you as well for your kind words concerning Guitar Noise. We certainly have a number of articles and lessons when it comes to strumming.

You might want to start out with either Tom Serb’s Keeping Time or Strumming for Beginners by Matt Guitar. Additionally, be sure to check out our mini-series on “Getting Past Up and Down.” The first article, Sock Puppets, gears you up with basic techniques while the second, Turning Notes into Strokes, explains how you can figure out the strumming for any rhythm that’s been written out for you.

Strumming and rhythm are vital parts of playing but we at Guitar Noise also want to encourage players to not become dependent on the idea of “strumming patterns.” Be sure to read our lesson on The Pattern Trap to understand why.

In addition to these great articles, we also have the Guitar Noise Podcasts, which are (and I think a lot of people will back me up on this) probably one of the best strumming resources you can find online.  Each podcast is a thirty-minute audio lesson covering a specific aspect of strumming. You might want to check out the first one and see how you like it.

Finally, I’d like to add that I am right now finishing up work on a book for String Letter Publishing (the same people who produce Acoustic Guitar Magazine) that will cover the basics of strumming and rhythm. We’re hoping it will be out sometime late this year and I’ll be posting more details about it both here and at the Guitar Noise website, not to mention in the Guitar Noise News, our free twice-monthly newsletter.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to write anytime. I look forward to chatting with you again.


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