There are basically three schools of thought on songwriting. First you have those who believe that “either you have it or you don’t.”

In other words, songwriters are born, not made. Others subscribe to the quasi-mystical notion that all songs have already been written and are out there in the ether, one simply must be open to receiving them.

Finally, you’ve got those who regard songwriting as a craft, with its own set of rules and techniques that even the average musician can learn. While it would be presumptuous to determine that any one school is right, we will explore the idea that songwriting, like basketball, drawing and skeet shooting, can be taught.

Of course, just as practicing a jump shot does not guarantee admission to the NBA, no amount of information about songwriting can turn someone into Paul McCartney, or Paul Stanley, for that matter.

The idea is that an understanding of songwriting basics will help you come that much closer to fully realizing whatever “talent” you were endowed with by God or fate.

Chords and Spark

Even if one were to limit himself to an examination of pop songwriting over the last 40 years, a true instructional “guide” would take up many volumes, as it would involve a serious study of musical theory. Our aim here is to prove a sampling of common chord progressions that you can use with your own songs, and to examine some of the things a guitarist can do to add a little zip to his or her songs. All popular tunes, regardless of genre, are based on chord progressions.

Even if a song consists mostly of single-note riffs (Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” is a good example) or an a capella vocal line (Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s

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