Monday, June 11, 2012

Solutions for Non-Playing Songwriters

An age old problem for some songwriters has been an inability to play guitar or piano to accompany themselves. The find they have things to say lyrically, but without tracks, they can't show off the song other than singing the melody a cappella into a recorder of some kind.

Through the years we have worked with many songwriters who deal with this problem, and have seen several ways to overcome it. 

(These may seem very steps for some of you more accomplished songwriters, but if you deal with this particular songwriting problem, this could change your life.)

1. Sit down with a player. This is the easiest and most reliable way for most folks. Just find a guitar player or keyboard player and sing your melody for them. They may play what you thought you wanted in your head, or something different. Many times, the song can take a whole new direction and you may be cool with that. If not have them try something else. 

This may seem like a strange thing to do, just singing your melody and hoping they find the right chords, but accomplished players and arrangers have been doing this for years. This has in fact been the staple of much of my business as a producer for years.

2. Find tracks that you can write to. The Internet has gotten to be such a big place now, you find about anything, Recently a client came in who had found tracks he liked from songwriters who didn't add melody. He got their permission, and added his own vocal melodies to them. Now in this method, you might be conforming your melody to the track, and that brings up a question whether it's all yours or more of a co-write situation. But it still can be an answer for you.

3. Use software that builds tracks for you. Many years ago I worked with a songwriter who had built tracks by trial and error using a program called Band-in-a-Box. This software still exists and is much more advanced. It requires some musical knowledge, so it's not just magic, but it could be another way to start. Every Mac now comes with Garageband, and by using the loops and tools it offers, even non-musicians can put together nice sounding tracks.

4. Play as much as you can. I have worked with many non-players who have been able to strum feebly on guitar or play a few chords on piano, just enough to show the chords and rhythm of the way they hear the song. It doesn't take being a virtuoso to show off a song to a producer to help you create a better demo.

So if you have been singing songs in your head for years, but think you have no way to get them out to the world, think again. Share those songs!

Have a great week!

Eric Copeland is a producer, arranger, and keyboardist who has ben banging out chords for his melodies since he was 13. This blog is brought to you by the folks at Creative Soul, a unique Christian Music Consulting, Production, and Marketing company in Nashville, TN. Find out more at


Anonymous said...

Great advice.

Kyle Bellinger said...

I have a free version of GarageBand on my iPad. It has a feature called Smart Guitar (also Smart Piano and Smart Bass). These features allow someone like me to use a set of 3 different pre-arranged rhythm patterns that I use for writing chord charts to my lyrics. I love this tool!! I can change keys, tempo, or just switch off the rhythm and display the chord structure in whatever key I'm in. And when I tap the chord it strums it. You can even tap the chord in a different place and it will play the chord in a different triad arrangement. In this way, I can complete a basic chord chart for any accompanist. This makes the music arrangement part of songwriting so much more fun! I'm writing a little almost every day now!!

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Eric Copeland is an author, producer, keyboardist, songwriter, and president of Creative Soul Companies. What is Creative Soul? Our main goals are to inform, encourage, and assist Christian creative folks in ministry, no matter where they are in their journey. Thanks for reading! Find out more about us at