What do you need to record your songs at home?

As a songwriter, learning how to record and produce your own songs is a great skill to have. Here are some examples of home studio setups, with 1 being the most simple and 5 being the most complex.

Home Studio Setups

  1. The most simple – recording yourself performing your song using either the voice memo app on your phone or a tape recorder to capture the raw performance as it sounds in the room.
  2. Using a USB microphone with your computer to capture your performance, possibly adding a few simple effects afterwards to enhance the recording.
  3. Using music production software/a DAW to record the individual parts of your song separately. For example, a USB microphone and an adaptor/cable to connect a guitar/keyboard/MIDI keyboard directly into your computer, resulting in multiple recorded tracks that will be mixed together.
  4. Music production software/DAW using an audio interface, allowing for multiple instruments/voices to be recorded at once either by plugging microphones into the XLR inputs or jack leads into Hi-Z inputs. This can be combined with multiple virtual instruments controlled via MIDI in the DAW.
  5. A full studio setup, including 16 or more input channels, giving you the ability to record several instruments with multiple microphones, including live drums, live piano, guitar amps and strings, at the same time. This setup may also include a MIDI interface in order to control several synths and/or drum machines at the same time. This would also usually be accompanied by a monitoring setup that allows for multiple headphone mixes for different musicians.

Some of the most well known brands for home studio setup audio interfaces include Focusrite, Universal Audio, M-Audio and Presonus. The pros and cons will depend entirely on your needs, but it’s a good idea to research every bit of kit as thoroughly as possible as they all have their own unique selling points. As for microphones, the most well known brands are Shure, Rode, AKG, Audio Technica and Sennheiser. As with the audio interfaces, it’s a good idea to research microphones, and it may be more important as different microphones work better for different sources. A microphone that is good for vocals, may not be great for mic’ing a guitar amp, for example.

Why use a USB microphone?  The first step up from using your phone to record voice memos would be a USB microphone. These range in price and quality, but typically will sound better than a phone microphone or standard computer microphone. You can use it to record the different parts of your song in separately, then mix them together in a DAW, which brings us to the next question…

Why use a DAW?  A Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW, is a piece of software that allows for the recording, layering and processing of audio files. It is the heart of most modern setups, and DAWs are a cheaper, efficient alternative to expensive large format mixing consoles. Some bigger studios may still use traditional style consoles, but many will still record into a DAW via an audio interface instead of recording to tape.

Why use an audio interface?  Audio interfaces have many benefits over USB microphones or plugging a microphone directly into your computer. First of all, they are dedicated units that are built to record audio at a high quality without introducing unwanted noise or artefacts that you might get when using USB microphones. Most interfaces also have independent gain controls so you can set the gain of your microphone and get a comfortable level using a physical control on the interface itself. Audio interfaces can also have multiple inputs, something which isn’t usually possible (or is very difficult) without using one, so they increase the possibilities of your studio with each extra input. Lastly, most interfaces use XLR and jack inputs, that allow you to easily plug in a variety of instruments or microphones, including guitars, keyboards, drum machines. If the interface has a phantom power feature, it means you don’t have to have an extra phantom power supply for your microphone.”

We’re looking forward to helping you start your journey as a young producer and develop your production skillsIf you’d like some help with your production skills, check out our production workshops and 121 sessions.

Enter your original songs into The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2024 competition!  Open for entries from the 1st February to the 31st March 2024.

Do you know how to use rhyme schemes?

When we use rhyme in writing song lyrics, it helps to keep a rhyme scheme in mind. Rhyme helps give a song a sense of structure and make lines more memorable and catchy.

You may have already studied rhyme schemes in school, but let’s do a quick recap. Look at the lines below:

Twinkle twinkle little star A

How I wonder what you are A

Up above the world so high B

Like a diamond in the sky B

Twinkle twinkle little star A

How I wonder what you are A

The rhyming words appear at the end of each line, which is the most common type of rhyme. Each line is labelled with an alphabetical letter, and the lines that share rhyming words are labelled with the same letter. We then use that sequence of letters to describe the rhyme scheme. 

Therefore, in the example above, as lines 1, 2, 5, and 6 all rhyme (star/are), and lines 3 and 4 rhyme (high/sky), we would call this rhyme scheme AABBAA. 

Here’s another example:

Finding me outside A

I can’t fall asleep B

How my body aches C

How I’ve fallen deep B

This rhyme scheme is ABCB. Only lines 2 and 4 rhyme (asleep/deep), so we only label them as the same letter. 

Changing up the types of rhyme schemes you use is a good way to keep your writing fresh. Have a go at the tasks below…

BEGINNERS

  • Listen to a favourite song of yours, and write down the lyrics of the chorus, or look them up online. Label the rhyme scheme. 
  • Write four lines of lyrics using the rhyme scheme AABB. Then try again, using the rhyme scheme AABA. 
  • Make up your own 6 line rhyme scheme, and write some lyrics using that!

INTERMEDIATES

  • Listen to a favourite song of yours, and write down the lyrics of the song, or look them up online. Label the rhyme scheme of the whole song, and notice how it changes between each section – verse, chorus, pre-chorus, etc. 
  • Write some lyrics using a more challenging rhyme scheme – for example, ABCBDB
  • Write a song where the chorus, verse and middle section all use the same rhyme scheme. 
  • Write a song where the chorus, verse and middle section all use DIFFERENT rhyme schemes. 

We’d love you to enter your songs into The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2023 competition.  It’s a great opportunity to get your songs heard and connect to other young songwriters around the world….as well as winning some fantastic prizes!

All information on The Young Songwriter 2023 competition, open for entries from the 1st February to the 31st March 2023

Turning poems into songs

Can you turn a poem into a song?  Poetry and songwriting are very closely connected – in fact, many songwriters have stated that they started out writing poems before they wrote songs, and those poems became the basis for their lyrics. 

 

So what do a poem and a song have in common? Both make use of RHYTHM and RHYME. 

RHYTHM refers to the speed and pace of words, how fast we say them, and which words we emphasise. 

RHYME refers to words that sound the same. You’ll often see rhyming words at the ends of lines in poetry. There are many types of rhymes, including single-syllable – like ‘cat’ and ‘hat’ – double syllable – like ‘missing’ and ‘kissing’ – and more. 

In poetry, rhythm and rhyme provide a flow to a poem as it is spoken or read. However, in a song, rhythm and rhyme combine with the melodies and production. The rhythm of the words contributes to the overall mood of the song, and the rhyme enhances certain lines, making them more memorable and catchy. 

Do you want to practice your songwriting? Maybe you’ve written a poem already that would make a good song? Have a go at these tasks below…

BEGINNERS

  • Find a short poem to use – 4 to 8 lines. Get a beat going – this could be you tapping on a table, or the tick of a metronome, a clock tick, or even playing chords on an instrument. Speak the words of the poem over the beat. See if you can find the rhythm of the words. 
  • If you’ve found the rhythm of the words, have a go at singing the words! Do any melodies seem obvious to you?
  • Next, try the same thing – only this time, YOU write the poem first. 

INTERMEDIATES

  • Find a short poem to use – 4 to 8 lines. Speak the words of the poem over a beat, chords, a metronome or audio loop. Once you’ve found the rhythm of the words, change it up – try faster, slower, emphasise different words. See if you can find THREE different rhythms that work with the poem. 
  • Once you’ve found your three rhythms, it’s time to add melody! Singing or playing an instrument, integrate melodies to work with your different rhythms. Now you have three different short songs using the same words. 
  •  Next, try the same thing – only this time, YOU write the poem first. 

We’d love you to enter your songs into The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2023 competition.  It’s a great opportunity to get your songs heard and connect to other young songwriters around the world….as well as winning some fantastic prizes!

All information on The Young Songwriter 2023 competition, open for entries from the 1st February to 31st March 2023.

Spotlight on the Soul & Funk song genre

The aim of our spotlights on different song genres is to make it easy for Music teachers to bring to life the different contemporary music styles.  In addition, for English teachers to have the knowledge and a great instrumental track for pupils to write song lyrics in a style of music they choose.

Soul originated in the African American community throughout the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s after rhythm and blues was born. It uses elements of Jazz, Rhythm’n’Blues and Gospel music.

We’ve looked at some of the key features of instrumentation, rhythm & beat and chords & harmonies in Soul & Funk songs.  Plus we’ve selected some Soul & Funk songs to have a listen to.  Pupils can use our demonstration instrumental track to write their lyrics & melodies over.

Instrumentation
Soul and Funk music are characterised by using modern instruments for the time like the electric guitar and the fender Rhodes but also typical jazz instruments like horns and upright bass. The organ is often present and drums of course which are important for providing the energy and dynamic, often accompanied by percussions like shakers and congas.

Rhythm and Beat
We talk about a funky groove when an instrument like the drums, the guitar or the piano plays a rhythm with many ghost notes and most of the time with straight or swung 16th notes. You will not hear a funk ballad because I am not sure they exist. Soul can also be fast but not necessarily, we can also listen to many beautiful soul ballads by Ray Charles or Etta James.

Chords and Harmonies
Soul and Funk come directly from Jazz and were most of the time played by musicians and singers who had a strong Jazz background. We can recognise it in the improvisations parts and the chord progressions that use many colourful chords with 7th, 9th and more.

Demonstration instrumental track
You can use our demonstration instrumental track below to have a go at putting your lyrics and melodies over a Soul & Funk style instrumental.  The Demo has a 4/4 feel made of several parts using organ, percussions, drum breaks, guitars riffs to create dynamical evolution through the song. The song structure of this instrumental track is:

Intro – 4 bars
Verse 1 – 8 bars
Pre Chorus – 8 bars
Chorus – 8 bars
Re Intro – 4 bars
1/2 Verse – 4 bars
Pre Chorus – 8 bars
Chorus – 8 bars
Bridge – 8 bars
Chorus – 8 bars
Outro – 4 bars

SONG REFERENCES

Following references gives you a quick idea of the authentic sound of Soul & Funk as well as more contemporary artists that recreated it.

I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPE WINE – MARVIN GAYE
Marvin Gaye also nicknamed “the prince of soul” was an icon of Motown and soul music in the 1960s and 1970s. He wrote several hits songs that became classics.

REHAB – AMY WHINEHOUSE
Contemporary artist who made a big impact on the music scene with her retro style.

I FEEL GOOD – JAMES BROWN
The King of Funk was known for his energy, his dance moves and his funky songs full of hooks and grooves that make everyone dance. I feel good is definitely a classic funk song that many musicians play at jam sessions.

SEVEN NATION ARMY – BEN L´ONCLE SOUL
Contemporary French artist who also recreate a retro soul sound of the 1960s with originals songs and new interpretations of hits from different styles.

Click here to explore more of our songwriting resources for Teachers.

More information on The Young Songwriter 2023 competition, entry period 1st February to 31st March 2023

Spotlight on the Rock song genre

The aim of our spotlights on different song genres is to make it easy for Music teachers to bring to life the different contemporary music styles.  In addition, for English teachers to have the knowledge and a great instrumental track for pupils to write song lyrics in a style of music they choose.

Rock music is a broad style that originated directly from Rock’n’Roll but which evolved into many sub-genres since the early 1950s. It has often accompanied cultural movements and social protests and it influenced daily life, attitudes, fashion and language in a way few other social developments have equalled.

We’ve looked at some of the key features of instrumentation, rhythm & beat and chords & harmonies in Rock songs.  Plus we’ve selected some Rock songs to have a listen to.  Pupils can use our demonstration instrumental track to write their lyrics & melodies over.

Instrumentation
There is no Rock without electric guitars. They already existed since the 1930s in Jazz music and Blues but they got more presence in ‘rock and roll’ when distortions were used on purpose from the 1950s. Taking more and more space, performing solos, using effects, the Electric guitar became soon the iconic Rock instrument and from the 1960s the typical band formation was made of 2 e-guitars, 1 e-bass and drums. But of course, the genre continued to evolve with time and be influenced by new technologies. Contemporary Rock sounds sometimes similar to pop music, using electronic sounds and modern music production techniques but the signature has always been the same, electric guitars.

Rhythm and Beat
Rock is most of the time in 4/4 although there were times in the 1970s during the psychedelic apogee where musicians experimented with asymmetric rhythms, like Led Zepplin. The drum beats are characterised by big acoustic drum sound that can have different kind of grooves. Sometimes Rock music is influenced by Funk music, Pop, Rock’n’Roll.

Chords and Harmonies
Rock comes from Rock’n’Roll which originated from Blues. It is no surprise that the Blues scale and the Blues form play a big part of this genre which also has elements of many other styles. From Pop, Jazz, Country and more, Rock has had many influences and that is why there are so many names describing these sub genres: Rock alternative, Jazz Rock, Garage Rock, Indi Rock and much more.

Demonstration instrumental track
You can use our demonstration instrumental track below to have a go at putting your lyrics and melodies over a Rock style instrumental.  The Demo instrumental has an upbeat tempo with the dynamical guitars mostly playing 8th notes all along.  The song structure of this instrumental track is:

Intro – 2 bars
Refrain – 8 bars
Verse 1 – 8 bars
Pre Chorus – 8 bars
Chorus – 8 bars
Refrain – 8 bars
Verse 2 – 8 bars
Pre Chorus – 8 bars
Chorus – 8 bars
Chorus – 8 bars
Break – 2 bars
Bridge – 16 bars
Refrain – 8 bars
Refrain – 8 bars

SONG REFERENCES

Following references are here to help you get an idea of rock songs from different sub-genres.

NOTHING BUT THIEVES – AMSTERDAM
This band represents here contemporary rock music from our time. The formation is the same as classic Rock bands in the 1960s with 2 guitars, a bass, a drum and a singer.

WHOLE LOTTA LOVE – LED ZEPPLIN
This English band was formed at the end of the 1960s during the hippies highest times. They became famous for their dynamical songs but also for their melancholic ones.

SEX ON FIRE – KINGS OF LEON
Great song by this alternative/indie rock band.

SMELL LIKE TEEN SPIRITS – NIRVANA
Kurt Cobain is one of those artists that created something really special.

GREEN DAY – AMERICAN IDIOTS
One of the most known Punk band from the 2000s that made an impact with their provocative style.

Click here to explore more of our songwriting resources for Teachers.

More information on The Young Songwriter 2023 competition, entry period 1st February to 31st March 2023

Spotlight on the Folk song genre

The aim of our spotlights on different song genres is to make it easy for Music teachers to bring to life the different contemporary music styles.  In addition, for English teachers to have the knowledge and a great instrumental track for pupils to write song lyrics in a style of music they choose.

Folk music is a music genre that includes traditional folk music and the contemporary genre that evolved from the former during the 20th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, music that is played on traditional instruments, music about cultural or national identity. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles.

We’ve looked at some of the key features of instrumentation, rhythm & beat and chords & harmonies in Folk songs.  Plus we’ve selected some Folk songs to have a listen to.  Pupils can use our demonstration instrumental track to write their lyrics & melodies over.

Instrumentation
Traditional folk music is often related to national cultures which includes their traditional instruments and singing styles. Flutes, percussions and string instruments are the most common. The Mandolin, the Sitar, Bongos and the Marimba are among the best known instruments of nations around the world but there are many many more. In the western culture, folk music is mainly guitar based but it also includes drums, violin, upright bass, banjo and accordion just to name a few.

Rhythm and Beat
Folk musics around the world can sound very different from each other. Samba rhythms in Brazil is different to the grooves in Indian music. In the western countries, folk music has cohabited with Pop, Rock, Blues, Jazz, classical and many other genres so of course it has always been influenced since the 20th century. Taylor Swift is a good example of contemporary artists who started out with Folk music although we could described her music as Pop.

Chords and Harmonies
Same as for the rhythms and instrumentations, folk musicians in Arab countries felt the music differently than in asian countries for example. They perceived and structured music from their own ears that is why they use different scales and harmonies. In western countries, folk has been influenced by other genres to create crossovers like rock folk, jazz folk although the roots of Folk mainly are influenced by Classical music, using the Main I, IV and V degrees.

Demonstration instrumental track
You can use our demonstration instrumental track below to have a go at putting your lyrics and melodies over a Folk style instrumental. The Demo instrumental uses mainly 2 acoustic guitars which is very common in American folk music. It’s in 6/8 time.  The song structure of this instrumental track is:

Intro – 4 bars
Verse 1 – 8 bars
Pre Chorus – 4 bars
Chorus – 16 bars
Intro – 4 bars
Verse 2 – 8 bars
Pre Chorus – 4 bars
Chorus – 16 bars
Bridge – 8 bars
Drop – 1 bar
Chorus – 16 bars

SONG REFERENCES

Following songs are here to show you the similarities of western folk songs from different times.

RIPTIDE – VANCE JOY
Contemporary Folk Song that uses mainly the ukulele. A folk instrument that originated in Hawaii.

GEORGE EZRA – BUDAPEST
An other contemporary Pop Folk song that could actually be a pop song. The element that mainly make it sounds as a Folk song is the instrumentation: the acoustic guitars, the way of singing, the acoustic drums and the percussions (especially the tambourine which is often present in most pop folk productions)

BLOWING IN THE WIND – BOB DYLAN
One of the most important Folk´s characteristic are stories that are told with poetical lyrics. Bob Dylan is a master of it and has had a big influence on songwriting in Popular music since the 1960s with his deep messages but also his unconventional singing skills.

CLOSER TO FINE – INDIGO GIRLS
This is an acoustic folk song from 1989 that uses mainly guitar rhythms. The main vocal is accompanied by a typical and single folk backing vocal.

Click here to explore more of our songwriting resources for Teachers.

Information on The Young Songwriter 2023 competition, entry period 1st February to 31st March 2023

Spotlight on the Pop song genre

The aim of our spotlights on different song genres is to make it easy for Music teachers to bring to life the different contemporary music styles.  In addition, for English teachers to have the knowledge and a great instrumental track for pupils to write song lyrics in a style of music they choose.

The terms popular music and pop music are often used interchangeably, although the former describes all music that is popular and includes many disparate styles. During the 1950s and 1960s, pop music encompassed rock and roll and the youth-oriented styles it influenced. Rock and pop music remained roughly synonymous until the late 1960s, after which pop became associated with music that was more commercial, and accessible. Since then Pop evolved, following the development of new technologies and social trends. While Rock continued its evolution to harder genres and Jazz’s success was already far from the popular big bands in the 1930s with its evolution too complex for the masses, Pop´s goal was to write songs that everyone could sing to.
This hasn’t changed since then although Pop has been influenced by other genres like EDM, Hiphop, RnB with their success in the charts.

We’ve looked at some of the key features of instrumentation, rhythm & beat and chords & harmonies in Pop songs.  Plus we’ve selected some Pop songs to have a listen to.  Pupils can use our demonstration instrumental track to write their lyrics & melodies over.

Instrumentation
Pop is so wide, it includes almost everything. There could be acoustic instruments as well as digital. Some productions even use traditional instruments from exotic countries worldwide. As long as it sounds fresh and interesting, there are no rules.

Rhythm and Beat
Pop includes dance songs but also ballads. The rhythms can be influenced by any other music genres.

Chords and Harmonies
Like for the Rhythm, Pop has been influenced by many other genres for harmonies. Some songs have chords using many 7th or even 9th chords like in Jazz, some songs have simple 3 notes chords and some others just a bass line or riffs in some parts.

Demonstration instrumental track
You can use our demonstration instrumental track below to have a go at putting your lyrics and melodies over a Pop style instrumental.  The Demo instrumental was inspired by popular trendy pop songs like “Stay” by “The Kid Laroi” or “Light switch” by Charlie Puth. The song structure of this instrumental track is:

Intro x4
Verse x8
Prechorus x4
Chorus x8
2nd Verse x8
2nd Prechorus x4
Chorus x8
Chorus x8
Outro x4

SONG REFERENCES

Following references are here to give you  examples of what has been done with such a beat.

STAY – THE KID LAROI Feat JUSTIN BIEBER
It is very trendy to have productions that use the sound aesthetic of the 80s like in this dynamical song.

BLINDING LIGHTS – THE WEEKND
The Weeknd is known for its futuristic sound that also remind the 80s. Similar beat and energy than “Stay”.

PHYSICAL – DUA LIPA
An other artist that have pop songs influenced by the 80s style.

LIGHT SWITCH – CHARLIE PUTH
Talented producer and singer-songwriter who recently released a fun Pop song worth listening to.

Click here to explore more of our songwriting resources for Teachers.

Information on The Young Songwriter 2023 competition, entry period 1st February to 31st March 2023

Spotlight on the Jazz song genre

The aim of our spotlights on different song genres is to make it easy for Music teachers to bring to life the different contemporary music styles.  In addition, for English teachers to have the knowledge and a great instrumental track for pupils to write song lyrics in a style of music they choose.

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities from a bond of African-American and European-American musical parentage and culture. It finds its roots in Blues and Ragtime in the late 19th century and is characterised by swing and blue notes, complex chords, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in European Harmony and African rhythmic rituals. It’s a genre that rapidly evolved through the whole century and influenced almost every other kind of music that already existed or that came after it.

We’ve looked at some of the key features of instrumentation, rhythm & beat and chords & harmonies in Jazz songs.  Plus we’ve selected some Jazz songs to have a listen to.  Pupils can use our demonstration instrumental track to write their lyrics & melodies over.

Instrumentation
From the beginning, Jazz was unique for using a mix of classic instruments like the piano and the trumpet but also more modern ones like the drums and from the 1930s the e-guitar. Jazz ensembles with only 5 or 6 musicians became so popular that bigger ensembles were soon formed. Called “Big Bands”, they are like orchestras but with a more jazzy instrumentation by having a small rhythm section based of the guitar, the piano, the drum, the upright bass and a horn section composed of several trumpets, trombones, saxophones and sometimes clarinets. Nowadays, we can see all kind of ensembles, small or big, using all kind of instruments: vibraphone, violin, accordion etc…

Rhythm and Beat
The rhythms of Jazz is known for being swung. The swing consists of delaying the off beats until the rhythm feels like in three. Also called the ternary rhythm.

Chords and Harmonies
Jazz is known for having very rich chords. The structures were influenced by European classical theory but with the influence of Blues music and talented musicians, Jazz harmonies developed so much that it can even be too complicated to understand for non-educated ears. Many other genres have been influenced by Jazz and have used its chords to add new colours and create crossover genres.

Demonstration instrumental track
You can use our demonstration instrumental track below to have a go at putting your lyrics and melodies over a Jazz style instrumental.  The Demo instrumental has a medium swing feel structured with the typical jazz standard form AABA. Instead of having verses and choruses alternating with each other, most jazz songs used this form that means having twice the same part A, then a bridge B, then back to the first part A. The song structure of this instrumental track is:

Intro x8
A part x8
A part x8
B part (bridge) x8
A part x8
A part x8 (Piano solo)
A part x8 (Piano solo)
B part (bridge) x8
A part x8
Outro x4

SONG REFERENCES

L-O-V-E – DIANA KRALL
Contemporary singer and pianist who is well known for her elegant, swingy and minimalistic style interpreting old Jazz standards with fresh energy.

A FOGGY DAY IN LONDON TOWN – MICHAEL BUBLÉ
An other modern Jazz artist singing this swingy song with a Big band.

SMILE – NAT KING COLE
A very charismatic jazz singer and pianist successful in the 1940s until his death in 1964.

FEVER – PEGGY LEE
A Classic jazz tune with a lot space and minimalism.

Click here to explore more of our songwriting resources for Teachers.

Information on The Young Songwriter 2023 competition, entry period 1st February to 31st March 2023

Spotlight on the Country song genre

The aim of our spotlights on different song genres is to make it easy for Music teachers to bring to life the different contemporary music styles.  In addition, for English teachers to have the knowledge and a great instrumental track for pupils to write song lyrics in a style of music they choose.

There could be some difficulties to distinguish Country and Folk music as they share a lot in common. The difference is that Country is a music genre within the big family of Folk music but a folk song is not necessarily a country song.
Country music originated from Blues, Church music and several forms of American folk music in the 1920s. It continued to evolve until nowadays with influences from other traditional genres music but also more commercial styles like Pop since the 2000s.

We’ve looked at some of the key features of instrumentation, rhythm & beat and chords & harmonies in Country songs.  Plus we’ve selected some Country songs to have a listen to.  Pupils can use our demonstration instrumental track to write their lyrics & melodies over.

Instrumentation
In the 1920s, there were no electric instruments and the drum kit was just about to be developed. That’s why the first country musicians mostly used acoustic instruments to accompany their singing like the guitar, the banjo or the accordion and other European instruments like the harmonica and the violin. Drums was at the beginning described as being “too loud” and “not pure” and musicians started to have a drummer only from the 1950s while Electric guitar was used in country music for the first time in 1938. Although it continued to be influenced by other modern genres, the authentic sound of country remains with acoustic instruments.

Rhythm and Beat
Although many country songs tends to be ballads, it’s difficult to say what it the typical rhythm for country. Through time since 1920s it evolved a lot, influenced by many other genres, but mainly by Blues, Rock and Pop music. Some country songs have a shuffle feeling like in Rock”n”roll while others like in contemporary country music sounds similar to Pop music.

Chords and Harmonies
Country took a lot from Blues’ harmonies and scales but like most music, it also uses the normal chord progressions of European diatonic scales.

Demonstration instrumental track
You can use our demonstration instrumental track below to have a go at putting your lyrics and melodies over a Country style instrumental.   The Demo has a 4/4 feel groove with typical country slide electric but also acoustic guitars.  The song structure of this instrumental track is:

Refrain – 4 bars
Verse 1 – 8 bars
Pre Chorus – 8 bars
Chorus – 8 bars
Refrain – 4 bars
Verse 2 – 8 bars
Pre Chorus – 8 bars
Chorus – 8 bars
Refrain – 4 bars
Bridge – 16 bars
Double Chorus – 16 Bars
Refrain – 4 bars

SONG REFERENCES

The following references are here to give you an idea of country music from different period of time. From traditional country to a more commercial one.

JOLENE – DOLLY PARTON

A very well known country song released in 1974 with a typical country sound by an artist still active today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ixrje2rXLMA

FOLSOM PRISON – JOHNNY CASH

Around the same time as Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash was one of the most influential country singer and songwriter of all time. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeZRYhLDLeU

HUMBLE AND KIND – TIM MCGRAW

Tim McGraw is a very successful country artist since 1994 with his blending of traditional and Rock music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awzNHuGqoMc

I HOPE – GABBY BARRETT

This was the most listened country song of 2020 but you can already hear that it sounds very far away from the authentic sound. It’s more a blend of pop music with guitars that reminds you of the traditional country genre. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcCH6JpcK5w

Click here to explore more of our songwriting resources for Teachers.

Information on The Young Songwriter 2023 competition, entry period 1st February to 31st March 2023

Spotlight on the Blues song genre

The aim of our spotlights on different song genres is to make it easy for Music teachers to bring to life the different contemporary music styles.  In addition, for English teachers to have the knowledge and a great instrumental track for pupils to write song lyrics in a style of music they choose.

The Blues, which originated from the African Americans communities in the 1860s, is one of the most influential music of the 19th and 20th century. It is the root of many contemporary genres like Jazz, Rock”n”Roll, Country, R”n”B, Soul, Funk and many more.

We’ve looked at some of the key features of instrumentation, rhythm & beat and chords & harmonies in Blues songs.  Plus we’ve selected some Blues songs to have a listen to.  Pupils can use our demonstration instrumental track to write their lyrics & melodies over.

Instrumentation
Slaves in the deep South of America used to sing work songs narrating their routine. When slavery was abolished in 1865 and they were able to have their own instruments, the best one they could afford to accompany their singing was the guitar. Blues evolved with time and incorporated quickly the harmonica, the piano and in the 20th century, the drums, the bass, the electric guitars and the organs.

Rhythm and Beat
Because it originated from songs that accompanied Slaves working on fields, Blues had at the beginning a slow tempo, to sync with the speed of walking footsteps. It is also the music that created a new rhythmical feeling calling shuffle, which led from the 1910s to the rhythmical feeling called swing, used in jazz and many other genres.

Chords and Harmonies
Although it came from musically uneducated people, the Blues revolutionised completely the western perception of music because of its unconventional harmonies. Some “rules” were unconsciously broken, like the fact of singing a minor third while the chord played was major. These discoveries led classically trained pianists to create new piano genres of music like the ragtime and the boogie boogie. The authentic Blues form was created and respected since the beginning and The Blues scale is nowadays used in all kind of music, as well as for improvising melodies.

Demonstration instrumental track
You can use our demonstration instrumental track below to have a go at putting your lyrics and melodies over a Blues style instrumental.  The Demo instrumental has the minor blue form and has a slow 6/8 feel which is quite common.  The song structure of this instrumental track is:

Refrain – 4 bars
Verse 1 – 16 bars
Refrain – 4 bars
Verse 2 – 16 bars
Solo – 16 bars
Verse 3 – 16 bars
Turnaround – 8 bars (second half of verse progression)

SONG REFERENCES

HREE O’CLOCK BLUES – BB.KING
BB.King was considered as one of the “three kings of the blues” with a career longer than 65 years as a singer and guitarist. He was one of the most influential blues musicians since his first record in 1949. This song has a slow 6/8 feel like the reference instrumental.

BEFORE YOU ACCUSE ME – ERIC CLAPTON
In the 1960s, rock”n”roll came to life. Many guitar heroes like Eric Clapton (who was a a friend of BB King) arrived from that time and although music continued to evolve, nobody forgot where all the inspiration came from, the Blues.

SWEET HOME CHICAGO – ROBERT JOHNSON
The legend says Robert sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his talent and ability to create the blues. Sweet Home Chicago is one of the oldest recorded blues song that became a standard among musicians.

SWEET HOME CHICAGO – THE BLUES BROTHERS
The blues brothers became famous worldwide with their movie “the blues brothers” in 1980 which features stars from their time like Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles..
This is an interpretation of the song by Robert Johnson which they performed with a whole band including e-guitars, horns, drums etc… It’s a great example of how Blues has evolved through time.
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=blues+brothers+sweet+home+chicago

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