(review) How To Write Songs On Guitar

You would think that a book called “How To Write Songs On Guitar” would be relatively simple and straightforward, but you would be wrong. Maybe you would notice that it's sub-titled “A guitar-playing and songwriting course” and would think that it's instead a more rigorous step-by-step guide to playing and writing songs on guitar. That would be wrong too.

This book isn't a course or a “how to” guide, but instead a grab bag of ideas and observations about songwriting, mostly expressed using a lot of music theory. If you don't know much about music theory, this book probably isn't going to give you much help. While I personally can figure out various musical things on paper if pressed, I don't tend to apply it much in the normal course of songwriting. I'm open to learning, but what explanations there were in this book were very brief and not much help.

There are a lot of chord dictionaries and big lists of progressions from other songs. And while the author does touch on some classics and the occasional more modern pop hit in the progression lists, I wasn't familiar with the majority of the songs he held up as examples. And for some reason in most cases only the title of the song is provided as well, making it difficult to track them down the songs if I wanted to.

Perhaps I am biased by being a music dummy, but the sections I enjoyed the most were the ones that talked clearly about songwriting techniques without a lot of theory. The chapters on songwriting methods and song structures were interesting and had some ideas in them that I might not have come up with on my own, but they were very short and probably not worth the price of the book.

All in all, I wouldn't recommend this book to beginners thinking about giving songwriting a shot. I might recommend it to people comfortable in music theory who have no idea about songwriting, but I've never met anyone like that before.

Bradreview