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Guest Article:  Matthew Delano

How I Approach Writing A Song Using Basic Music Theory

By Matthew Delano

As there are billions of people on this planet, there’s an unlimited amount of methods for musicians to write a song.  Musicians develop their own methods through experience and from personal perspectives. I believe that musicians become better by exchanging minds with other musicians.  One such way of doing this is called ‘jamming’; as a result, we play our instruments with other people and get their perspective on playing music.  Due to this only being an article, I can provide my own perspective…

Laying The Groundwork:

Before you plant a garden, you have to PLAN on what you’re going to put into that garden. You wouldn’t throw some seeds into a patch of dirt and hope for the best.  Just like writing a song, it’s always a good idea to create or follow some instructions. These instructions are known as ‘music theory’.

  • You are going to wanna establish the ‘key’ of a song.  For example, we will use the ‘key’ of E.

  • You are going to want to establish the ‘scale’ of a song.  For example, we’re going to minor scale.

  • You will want to use a type of music chords.  For example, we will want to use power chords or regular chords, assuming you are playing a tonal instrument.

  • Lastly, a song can be written with an individual instrument (i.e. guitar, piano, or bass), but having other instruments can make it more interesting.

Putting it together:

Once you have established your key, scale, chord progression, and your type of instrument.  These tools you have are universal.  Meaning that it can fit any type of song and style!  And now that you have them, you can use them to begin writing your own song!


For my own example, a typical song I might write will involve a guitar, bass, drums, and sometimes vocals.  Being a guitarist, I naturally gravitate towards the guitar first.  However, using our criteria earlier.  My song would look like this:


  • The guitar will play chords

  • The bass will play a root note usually the ‘key’ note of the scale or root note of the chords

  • The drums will play a type of beat/rhythm that will contextually match with the guitar and bass

  • Vocals will often play a melody in the key of whatever the instruments are doing.


As you can see, this is only one method from a single perspective of how to write your own song. Notice that I don’t assign a style of music to this.  Because all this information is universal and can be used by anyone.  This is just how I usually approach writing a song. 


Below is a video example of what we covered in the article.

About The Author:

Matthew Delano is a professional guitarist living in New York, playing with his band, Protean Fire. If you are interested in taking guitar lessons in Syracuse, NY, then be sure to contact Matthew!

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