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How do you write a song? What are the components of a song? What do you need to know? These are all good questions and I hope to answer them in this lesson. The very first thing you need to do is pick a key for your song. The key of the song is the scale that your chord progression and melodies will be based on. I am going to use C major for an example, because it is an easy scale to work with. As you learn more scales, you will begin to get a feel for what emotions relate best to certain scales.
Now that we know our song is in the C major key, what chords do we use? A lot of popular songs use three basic chords. These chords are the I, IV, and V chords. In the key of C those chords are C, F, and G. The V chord has a tendency to push the ear back toward the I chord. Because of this it is common to end a phrase or a musical section on the V chord. The root chord itself gives a sense of closure, so it is good to end a song on that chord.
Ok, so we know what key our song is in, and what chords we are going to use. How do we go about creating melodies that work well with those chords? It's fairly easy to create a little melody in your head, but you need to transfer it to keys. Well, first and foremost, you know that you are going to be using the notes in the scale that you have chosen for your song, so that narrows it down a bit. Until you develop the knowledge of intervals needed to really play by ear, try making your melody out of the notes of the chord you are using.
Now, let's just start playing. I'm going to play the root note in my left hand, and a C major chord in my right. Instead of playing the whole chord with my right hand, I'm going to play around with the notes of the chord to make a melody. From the C chord, I'm going to move to the IV chord, which is the F. Next I'm going to take the progression to the V chord, which pushes us back toward the C chord.
So, have we written a song yet? Not really, but we have created a musical idea. What makes up a full song? Well, in popular music there is usually a verse, a chorus, and maybe a little change in there somewhere called a bridge. The process for creating each of these is the same as for creating the basic musical idea from above.
I'm going to repeat the process I used above, and this time I'm going to add in another chord. The new chord is going to be the VI chord. In our case it's an A minor chord. When I sit down to write a song, I know how the chords relate to each other in a particular key. Sitting down at your piano and playing the different chords that make up the key, just messing around and playing them in different orders, will give you the same knowledge.
After you get the chord progression down, begin to play a melody based on the scale that the song is in. Just play around with the notes and see what comes up. The more you play around like this, the better you'll become at knowing what sounds well together, what works well together, and what doesn't.
For the next lesson, I recommend practicing some piano covers.