Books: How to Write Songs on Guitar


I have a house, and a wife.  We’re 9 to 12 minutes from the urban center of our nearest city, which means we’re in the suburbs.  Thus, I’m required to catch a lot of TV centered around how-to projects.  Most of them are about fixing your house or fixing some dinner.

All the shows are the same, take a host that is attractive to some demographic (you know there are some 80 year-old guys in Mississippi that think Paula Dean is a looker), have them outline a project, then cover the major steps toward completion.

Imagine if these shows followed a different format.  Let’s say, Rachael Ray spends 30 minutes showing you how to cut and measure celery, how to grind peppercorns, how to sauté onions (and how to get drunk)… but nothing ever got mixed together?  What if you were never given a recipe?

Or what if Norm Abram spent the day showing you how to miter cut, use a router, round corner… but nothing was ever assembled?  No house problem was ever outlined.  You just did the technique.

Those shows would be unwatchable.  You would never learn a thing, because there is no context.  Sure you can improve your techniques for building or cooking or whatever, but there must be a greater purpose to this training.  You practice using a chef’s knife so you can better dice up veggies for a soup recipe.  You want practice with a miter saw so you can build a new front porch.  Without this context, technique is kind of pointless.

But yet, this is how so many of us learn guitar.  We learn how to put our fingers in the right places, move them in patterns, and how to assign alphabetical letters to fret and string locations.  Sure, there is context thrown in early on, but so much of it is technique for the sake of technique.

I know that’s how I learned.  Which is why I wish I found this book much earlier.

how to write songs on guitar
how to write songs on guitar

Reading this book after playing for years created a ton of lightbulb moments.  I’ll be honest, it does not break any new ground.  It doesn’t convey ideas in any new ways.  But, what it does is give a purpose to everything you learn!  No explanation of chords, scales or progressions without providing the connection to songwriting.  They even give examples of famous tunes where these concepts exist.

If you’ve played for maybe a year, and know some basic scales and chords, this is a perfect way to complete the picture and really advance your learning.  But honestly, if you’re brand new, it will be over your head.  They don’t spend any time covering the bare essentials, it’s more like – this is a major chord, let’s move on to important stuff.  And the reviews on Amazon seem to convey the same thing.

Feeling stuck with learning?  Doing a lot of practicing and not a lot of writing?  Give the book a shot.