How Good Do I Need to be at an Instrument to Write Music

To all of our dedicated readers (okay, the intonation of sarcasm is difficult to deliver online, but it’s there) we apologize for this hiatus – as you can see there hasn’t been a post since late March. Nevertheless, we’re back on track now. Time to jump into the actual topic of this post.

The answer to the question that the title of this post poses is: not very. In other words, you don’t have to be a virtuoso in any instrument. Let’s use the example of a guitar (after all, what band doesn’t use a guitar). If you have ever picked up a guitar or have taken a couple classes you know that the first thing you learn is open chords. Open chords are named as such because at least one or more string will be left untouched when playing the chord (hence open). The basic chords are A, Am, C, D, Dm, E, Em, F sharp, and G. Once you figure all of these out all you have left to do is practice enough so that you can easily switch from one to the other. Believe it or not that’s pretty much all you have to do to be able to compose music using a guitar.

What’s even easier than open chords is power chords. This is when you push down on only the top three strings (either from the E or the A – remember the six strings are EADGBE) – here’s a picture of what we mean.

A lot of rock songs use power chords because they actually sound pretty good with the Gain and Treble on the electric guitar. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana was actually considered to be a relatively poor guitarist. So, as you may have guessed most of his songs were composed using power chords. Lyrically however the man was a genius.

Many songs ranging from modern to classical use similar (if not the same) chord progressions. Here is a link to a comedian that proves exactly this point Thus as the video shows just because two songs use the same chords doesn’t mean they have the same lyrical melody. Disc Jockeys that mix music have a keen ear for recognizing similar chord progressions and beats. If you want an example of this click here.

To drive the point home (as cliché as that sounds) you do not have to be a professional guitarist or pianist to compose music. Obviously if you get better at an instrument your music becomes more complex, but sometimes simplicity is bliss.

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