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Songwriting Simplified: How to Easily Compose Music Without Playing an Instrument

Songwriting is an art form that, like everything else, is constantly evolving. In today’s digital age, songwriting and composing have evolved beyond traditional instruments, opening doors for creatives who may not play an instrument or know music theory but possess a love for music.

We’ll guide you through the process of writing and composing songs using digital tools, focusing on chord progressions, song structure, and innovative technologies like our very own CMPSR.

Understanding Chord Progressions

A chord progression is the backbone of a song, setting the tone and emotion. If you’re not familiar with playing an instrument, digital tools and software can simplify this process and help generate or adapt your ideas. Let’s start with the simple 4 chord progression – the basis of almost every pop song that sticks in your head. 

First, think of a key you like – if you’re unsure where to start, load up a free DAW like BandLab where you can set the key and experiment with the sounds of each. Or use an instrument like CMPSR where you can set the key and use it to play any instrument in any app.

C Major is a good place to start. Once you have your key, you need to choose 4 chords which work well together. We’ll use CMPSR and Arrownotes in this example.

The first chord we will choose is ⬆️ – which in the key of C Major, is the chord C Major.

We now need to choose another direction, in this case we’ll go with ➡️ (G Major).

Next we’ll choose ↙️ (A Minor) and we’ll finish with ⬅️ (F Major).

You can see the chords we’ve chosen here. This happens to be a very popular chord progression used in a lot of pop songs – and for good reason.

Now try your own using the functions in BandLab, or an open tuned instrument like CMPSR.

Songwriting Basics and Structure

A song typically consists of verses, choruses, and possibly a bridge. Each component serves a purpose, with the verse setting the scene, the chorus offering the main message or hook, and the bridge providing a contrast or a build-u​​​​p. 

A simple way to start creating new sections is to rearrange the chords from the first section. You can change the timing of each chord too. If your first section played each chord for one bar, try taking the 3rd chord and playing it for two bars then going to the 4th then 1st chord. Experiment with different ways of arranging the chords to create different sections.

The chord progression will give you the backbone but you need a melody to make it a song. When playing your chords, hum simple melodies to see what works. The melody should be very simple and catchy over your chorus.

By using a digital audio workstations (DAWs) you can arrange these elements into a cohesive structure, and don’t worry if you can’t play the melody, just hum it and record it (it worked for Michael Jackson so it’ll work for us!) and use an app or the inbuilt audio to midi functions to use those hummed notes to play a synth or instrument of your choice.

BandLab’s Voice-to-MIDI function works perfectly for this.

Generative AI for Composition

Generative AI has revolutionised music composition by offering tools that can generate melodies, harmonies, and even entire compositions based on your inputs. You can even use AI to help finalise your song and release it to the world, but that’s for another piece.

Check out AI chord generators and try some of the options. There are too many to mention, but ones we have found interesting include Chord Chord and Chord Create.

There are other AI songwriting tools like Jasper that can assist in lyric writing, while platforms like Soundraw allow you to create original, royalty-free music tailored to your project’s needs​​​​. These AI generators can be invaluable for overcoming writer’s block or finding new inspirations. 

Utilising Samples and Loops

Samples and loops are not just for beginners; they can be a powerful tool in the hands of an experienced songwriter. Tools like BandLab Sounds offer a vast array of sounds to experiment with, providing a starting point for new tracks or the missing piece in your current project​​. Once you know the key of your song you can find samples that are in the same key or manipulate the samples to work in your composition.

Our sample label, Digit Sounds, have a vast collection of multi-genre samples that can help you in getting started. You can explore the catalogue HERE.

By importing samples into your DAW you have complete control over your arrangement and can easily rearrange the samples to make the various sections like verse, chorus, etc.

You can try one of our BandLab sessions HERE and move the sample blocks around to create new sections.

Composing with Digital Tools

Digital tools have revolutionised music composition. Loops, samples and AI generated ideas really help to easily compose music but music is something that needs to be played and the new digital tools allow musical input even for non-musicians.

CMPSR, for example, is an inclusive digital instrument designed to make everyone into a musicians. It is open tuned so all the notes and chords you play are in tune with your song and the joystick design means you can play with just one finger.

It has a notation system called Arrownotes which uses colours and shapes to represent music which means everyone can be a composer.

Tips and Tricks for Better Creative Results

Experiment Freely: Use digital tools to experiment with different sounds and structures. Don’t be afraid to break traditional song structures or try unconventional chord progressions.

Focus on Emotion: Think about the emotion you want to convey with your song and select chords and melodies that reflect this feeling.

Collaborate: Many digital platforms allow for collaboration. Work with others to get feedback and new ideas.

Utilise Technology: Explore instruments like CMPSR that focus on intuitive design and ease of use, making music composition accessible regardless of your musical background.

Keep Learning: You don’t need to play an instrument, but learning how to get the best from your software or apps will help you become a better songwriter.

In conclusion, composing music without playing an instrument has never been more accessible, thanks to advancements in digital technology.

By leveraging tools like CMPSR and embracing a creative mindset, anyone can become a songwriter. Remember, the essence of music is expression, and with the right tools at your disposal, there are no limits to what you can create.

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