Here’s a recent question posted on the Guitar Noise Forum pages:
This is my first post in this sub-forum.Â Honestly I’ve been lurking on GN for a long time and havent posted in a while.
Anyways. IÂ 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.Â 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 confidenceÂ in your abilities to play them, you will be constantly adding these new dimensions to your songwriting. That’s part of the natural evolutionÂ of a guitar player who also writes songs. Don’t worry about making everything different to start with. Songs have to have good melodies andÂ strong chord progressions first and then the fancy stuff can be added as you feel comfortableÂ doing so.Â 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.