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Songwriting

Syracuse winter workshops

Central New York musicians: take advantage of your indoor time this winter and sharpen your guitar playing or songwriting in these workshops led by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, founding editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine, grand prize winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and author of Beyond Strumming and The Complete Singer-Songwriter (more about JPR). See...

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David Rawlings on writing songs from tradition

[Poor David's Almanack] came out of 20 years of thinking about folk music and the roots of things, and seeing that so much beauty comes out of the fluidity of writing from things that move you. Sometimes I listen to songs that I love and I think, 'Wow, it’s like we’re all standing on the...

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Songwriting lesson: how to write a bridge

Think of the timeless ballad “Something,” from the Beatles’ Abbey Road, in which George Harrison muses on his lover’s allure over a wistful chord progression in the key of C. He sings a verse and loops back for another by way of the song’s signature guitar line, but the second time he lands not on a...

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Blues/rock chord changes lesson Back in the U.S.S.R.

Blues/rock chord changes

Adapted from The Complete Singer-Songwriter (Backbeat Books). Click the cover for more info. Go ahead: grab an open-position E chord on your guitar and give it a few good, hard strums. Do the same on a D chord and then an A. Get a steady rhythm going and keep circling around, E–D–A. Stand and sling your...

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Kingsmen Louie Louie cover

How to unlock I-IV-V progressions

The chord trinity known as I–IV–V is one of the most useful theoretical concepts for any musician. The I–IV–V is a skeleton key for countless songs in folk, country, rock, blues, and beyond, revealing the basic similarities of, say, “Louie Louie,” “Ring of Fire,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Helpless,” “Three Little Birds,” “I Still Haven’t Found...

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Simple chord substitutions

Adapted from The Complete Singer-Songwriter Let’s say you’re working on a song idea and playing some chords—you start on G, switch to C and back to G, go to D, and resolve to G. That chord progression sounds perfectly good but seems a little too familiar. You feel like you could be playing a thousand...

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Chord progressions in minor keys

Adapted from The Complete Singer-Songwriter Minor keys are often said to be brooding and sad, but not all minor key songs are as bleak as, say, “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” They can also be soothing (George Gershwin’s “Summertime”), funky (the Commodores’ “Brick House”), or upbeat and rocking (Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing”). Chord progressions...

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Copyright 2019 Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers