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Song writing, help and advice


Nicole

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Basically, I take Music as my GCSE option, cos I thought it would be a laugh (well the 11 others are anyway) and basically, I've got to write a song based around 12 bar blues, NOT blues itself. 12 bar blues is

 

1 1 1 1/4 4/1 1/5 4/1/1

 

In any chord, so basically in the key of C it would be

 

C C C C/F F/G G/G F/C C

 

So basically I just need tips on how to get started on this thing. All I've got to keep in mind is that this composition has to be realised, so I only have limited instruments including me singing, Bass, guitar, Piano/keyboard, Drums, Sax or Clarinets basically. I just need some general ideas on what I could do.

 

Also need help on writing lyrics, lyrics to fit this would need to be in AAB form, and sang like

 

 

1Now that you've left me, 1I feel these blues///1///1

1Now that you've left me, 1I feel these blues///1///1

5And baby I realised, 4 I got nothing to use///1///1

 

So yeah, anything helpful would be appreciated, as I'm having major problems with this :)

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Well you kind of know where you're going already with the I-IV-V progressions and bluesy lyrics. Shame you're not a black guy though as it would sound so much more authentic moaning about women while wearing a brown suit and shades!

 

I would say to have a think about whether you want to bother with keyboards. A guitar, simple bassline based on the pentatonic minor or pentatonic blues scale and maybe some drums and singing should do it.

 

The pentatonic scale is, as you might expect, a five-note scale. Pentatonic minor looks like this:

 

I-b3-4-5-b7

 

So in C that would be:

 

C-Eb-F-G-Bb

 

Which you could use to come up with a bassline and maybe a cheeky slow solo with a few string bends if you want to be bluesy. Pentatonic blues is the same scale but with an extra note, a b5 between the 4 and 5, so in C for instance that would be the F#/Gb note. Either way, if you're not sure about where to slow down the solo or linger during the bassline, the I and IV notes are usually good places to rest. Try to follow the chords if you can, so maybe going to F pentatonic minor or pentatonic blues when you switch to that from C, but if you're keeping it simple then the pentatonic minor or pentatonic blues scale of the I note should get you by as long as you know which notes of it to play before you play it.

 

If you're using keyboards then maybe C would be the easiest key to use, but if you give them a miss, why not try writing it in E or A? E is probably the most common blues key, but it does mean that your I-IV-V progression would mean using B or B7 which are both tricky if you go outside of power chords and you're not confident of them. In A though, you'd have A as I, D as IV and E or E7 as V which would be much easier.

 

Don't forget in twelve-bar blues to use fifth chords (power chords) using your third finger to bar the two notes on the frets two above where your index finger is so that you can then add a sixth note sound on and off with your little finger to create a twelve-bar rythm. So you would go:

 

Chord 1

 

*|||||

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|**|||

 

to Chord 2:

 

*|||||

||*|||

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|*||||

 

and maybe taking it further to a b7 (Chord 3):

 

*|||||

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||*|||

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|*||||

 

Chord 3 is a bit of a stretch but not as bad as you think, especially if you do the song in A. Remember you're only hitting the E, A and D strings, or just the A, D and G strings if you move the whole shape over by a string, which you could do. If you do the song in A or E then it's not criminal if you hit the E string when you're only meant to hit the A, D and G strings, but if you can then make your index finger that's holding down the A string note just touch the E string as that should help to mute it. Try to put an accent (strum harder) on either just the third or on both the first and third strum of every four. The rythm pattern choices based on the three chord styles I offered would be:

 

1-1-2-1-1-1-2-1

or 1-1-2-1-3-1-2-1

 

with that representing eight strums. The accents would be on the chord 2s (third and seventh strums) in the first pattern and on the first, third, fifth and seventh strums in the second. You see how the strumming pattern works per four strums, looking at those patterns of eight strums.

 

For recommended listening, Chuck Berry and Status Quo would be a good start.

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I actually got somewhere with this today, cos my friend Machin sat down and helped me write a chord progression that could be altered for different styles, including blues.

 

Basically, we shortened the 12 bar blues into 8, in A minor or something, with a g added for variety.

 

Am Dm G Am/Em Dm Am A7.

 

Definately gonna shy away from Keyboards, probably use some acoustic guitar, bass and maybe some piano to mirror the melody I'll be singing and stuff. Just gotta get some lyrics written, and I can work from there.

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That is taking things just a little further than basic I-IV-V by adding minor chord progressions to it. If you have any I-IV-V progression using major chords (so C, F and G for example), then go down three semitones (so three frets on the guitar) then you'll find the minor chords of those major chords (in the case of the key of C, that is to say using the major chords of C, F and G, you would get minor chords of Am, Dm and Em). You wouldn't find minor chords that often in blues, particularly twelve-bar blues, but that idea of major and minor progression and relation can work for all styles. For twelve-bar blues if you want to add the minor chord ideas then you might want to 'major them up', that is if you're going to throw in, say, an Am/Dm/Em switch during a C major chord progression to mix up things a bit, you might instead want to try just A/D/E instead and see if it sounds better.
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