Introduction To Dice Songwriting
We’re going to do something completely different here! I hope you have as much fun with this as I did.
We’re going to write a song together - a complete song, start to finish in just 30 minutes! This is just to give you a crash course in what it’s like to write a song. Hopefully, you’ll see that there’s nothing to be afraid of when delving into the world of songwriting! You may also be surprised at how many wonderful tunes you can conjure up with the open chords you already know, even as a beginner.
For this experiment, I crowdsourced lyrics from you all on my Instagram - and wow! You all came up with some really interesting lines! Thank you to all who contributed, and I hope I did justice to your lyrics.
In a proper songwriting session, you’d obviously have to spend a bit more time on the lyrics than I did, but for the sake of this video, I’m pretty happy with how they turned out.
When applying pre-written lyrics to a song, you’ve got to be aware of pacing. How many syllables can you fit into a line? Can you possibly carry a lyric over from one line to the next, breaking it up in a way that makes sense musically? Or do you need to re-write the lyric to shorten or lengthen it?
For the music, you’re taking the chord you know, picking a few of them, and arranging them into a chord progression. There are a few go-to chord progressions that you’ll often find in popular songs, but when you’re hoping for a fresh sound, there’s always the Dice Method.
For this, you simply assign each chord in a key a number, 1-6. You then roll your die. Whichever number comes up is the chord number you’ll play first. Roll the die again to get the second chord in your progression. Continue on until you’ve got a few lined up and give it a go on your guitar.
There’s a very good chance a few chords may sound out of place! If something doesn’t sound great to you, the great thing about writing music is that you can change it - after all, it’s your song! You’ve all the creative license in the world.
When playing your chord progression, this is a good time to think about rhythm and strumming patterns. Think about the tone you’re after or the emotions you’re trying to convey with the song. Experiment with different patterns until you find something you’re happy with.
Putting It Together
Now, the fun stuff. Sing your lyrics over your chord progression and hear how it all comes together. Don’t be afraid to try different melody lines, too. If you sing it a certain way but the chord beneath the melody doesn’t quite work here or there, try subbing out a different chord. Seriously - it’s all up to you.
Learning From The Best
Just to get this out of the way, the first few songs you write will probably be absolutely awful! Just resign yourself to a few horrible attempts and know that you’ll just have to get through them. I can’t even think about my first attempts at songwriting. Everything from the lyrics to the melodies were boring, cliche, and just not interesting. But as with most things, it will get easier over time and you will become a better songwriter.
One thing you can do that will greatly improve your songwriting skills is to take a song that you love and really dive into it. Pick it apart. Look at the chord structure, the melody lines, the tempo, the dynamics, the emotion, the story in the lyrics, the overall structure of the song - all of it! Take note of the things you like and the things you don’t like. Listen for what works and contemplate why it works. Do the same for those things that don’t work for you.
Once you’ve done that, pick another song and do it all over again! Study songs in different genres, or maybe even songs from the same artist at different points in their career. You can learn so much by doing this and just being an astute listener.
Song Structure Outline
Start the story
develop the story but KEEP THE SAME MELODY
Keep it simple and hook the listener
Drop it down - SAME VERSE MELODY
SAME AS LAST TIME
Big change in pace and chords
SAME AS LAST TIME
SAME AS LAST TIME (or with minor variations!)
- LESSON STEPS -