Nine Ways Guitarists Can Write Better Songs

(Image credit: Cindy Moorhead)

If you’re a guitarist who writes music, this video is especially for you.

In this installment of his Sensei Series, guitar instructor Steve “Samurai Guitarist” Onotera focuses on songwriting and offers nine tips that can help guitarists write songs.

“As a non-vocalist, there have been certain elements of songwriting that have not come naturally to me,” he says. “I made a video going through some things that I did that helped overcome this.”

His nine tips are below. We’ve included the start times for each.

1. Analyze Melodies (0:22)
“As a nonsinger, my melodies would often come out stagnant, simple and boring. By doing some analysis, I was able to break down why this was happening.” Steve identifies a number of areas where you can examine your music more carefully to improve.

2. Understand Theory (0:51)
“By understanding theory, analysis is going to come much quicker and easier. It also gives us the tools required to apply musical twists and tricks that we might not come across otherwise.”

3. Practice Songwriting (1:11)
“It takes a lot of practice and patience to hone this craft. Inspiration ties into all of this. Music is a craft that must be honed if we want to improve.” Steve shares some ideas about how his methods of composing.

4. See the World Through Writer’s Glasses (2:10)
Check out his tip for this.

5. Create Lyrical Road Maps (3:16)
“I’ve found it’s so much easier to write a song when I’ve already created a structure for what the song is going to look like.”

6. Rewrite (3:58)
“Great songs aren’t written—they’re rewritten. The song that I’m most proud of took me over two years to write.”

7. Use Resources (4:53)
Steve shares some tools that can help you further your craft, including the books Writing Better Lyrics and Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting and the Coursera Songwriter Course.

8. Give and Receive Critiques (6:04)
“Other people will hear things in our music that we simply don’t hear because we’re too close to it. Being receptive to suggestions can only help your writing.”

9. Study All Genres (6:51)
“Every genre has something interesting that you can apply to whatever music you write. Try to look for interesting overarching concepts.”

Take a look.

For more of Steve’s videos, be sure to check out the SamuraiGuitarist channel on YouTube.

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Christopher Scapelliti

Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World, a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.