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4 Music Theory Exercises To Improve Your Songwriting Skills

There are numerous ways to approach songwriting, but the most important thing is having a message you want to share with the world. In order to write a song, one should have a basic understanding of music theory as well as a story they want to tell.

Although there is no need to be a high-skilled poet, one should be able to put a message into words that connect with the listeners. Also, it’s important to create the right melody and find the rhythm to bring them to life. Luckily, it’s possible to learn through continuous practice. The more you work on songwriting, the better you get at it.

Music theory is a powerful tool that any music creator should use to bring something new and valuable to their songwriting practice. Consider music theory as a production aid that can open up a new vision and spark ideas. Some of its techniques can really inspire you to invent extraordinary song ideas. Learn more about them below!

1. Experiment With Modes

Although modes sound like a complicated music theory term, they are just a fancy word for scales that most musicians were forced to play over and over again by their teachers. Each of the seven music modes can bring their own feel to the songwriting process. For instance, the Lydian mode, which consists of three whole tones, a semitone, two whole tones, and a final semitone, is bright and consonant, while the Locrian mode is brutally dissonant and rarely used in pop music.

The best and the easiest way to understand modes or scales is to look at a keyboard or a piano. Each mode is built on 7-note patterns beginning on each white key, for instance, the major scale starts on C major while the Lydian Mode begins on F. You can adapt unique tone and semitone patterns from modes to any key in music.

2. Transform a Non-Lyric Into a Lyric

For this exercise, choose a very short piece of writing, less than 100 words. It can be anything, from the text of a flyer to the instructions on a box of macaroni. You can also use an abstract from an essay or any professional writing. All you need to do is to adjust the line breaks in your text to make it more poetic.

If you don’t have such skills, you can turn for help to a Canadian writing service Edubirdie and get some examples of such work from them. It’s really important for beginners to be guided by professionals and do things right. In the end, choose a key phrase or two from your text and repeat them to create your chorus. This method can even inspire you to some melodic ideas for your song. 

3. Play With Chords

If you’ve been learning music theory for a while, you must be well-versed when it comes to major and minor chords. So you can branch out of these basic chords in order not to limit the potential of your songwriting. Try to place a diminished or augmented chord in the right way to make the difference in music.

This way your chord progression may sound incredible. Remember that diminished chords affect the tonal direction and augmented chords typically sound aimless or obscure, which decreases musical predictability. Stop using boring chords and add some creativity!

4. Use a Song Structure

You probably have a song that you really love and already know how to play. To do this exercise, write new lyrics to its music. Set a time limit of approximately 10 minutes, so you have no time to think. Just do it! If you start overthinking, you will find it impossible to keep the original lyrics and melody out of your head. So don’t let your mind do that.

Then forget the melody and look at the lyrics you’ve just written with fresh eyes. Set a timer for 10 minutes again and write new music to these lyrics. As a result, you can write a completely new song in just 20 minutes. Using someone else’s track as a supporting structure can be very helpful not only for beginning students but also for experienced songwriters. 

Songwriting is a great way to express yourself, so most importantly, it should match your unique style and be very personalized. Be authentic and passionate to make melody and lyrics flow together and create something really powerful. Your song will be outstanding if you manage to tap into the emotion behind the song.


About the Author: Emma Rundle is an academic writer and amateur musician. She has recently started learning music theory and playing the piano but she already makes incredible progress in it. Emma is also interested in songwriting, so she is seeking ways to master this skill.

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