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How to Write Songs on Guitar: A Guitar-Playing and Songwriting Course Paperback – September 1, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A useful source of knowledge for those just beginning with either writing or guitar." -- Dirty Linen

"An extremely valuable source book for wannabe songwriters as well as a highly readable journey of the popular song." -- Guitarist

About the Author

Rikky Rooksby is author of several best selling how-to books for guitar players. A guitar columnist for Making Music, he has also written for Guitar Techniques, Bassist, and other magazines.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Miller Freeman Books; 1 edition (September 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879306114
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879306113
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.4 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #679,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I wish I had this book 5 years ago. I would be so much further along.
This book is similar to a boy scout manual. Turn to any page and you *will* find something vital to making music. The author never explicitly supports any one way of playing guitar or writing a song. On the contrary, the book teaches "if it works, and you like it, then who can say something is done wrong." The one criticism I can recall is when the author lambasts singers, esp. Whitney Houston, for endless and mindless scales decorating every other word in their songs.
If you have the patience to really STUDY and DIGEST this book, it will teach you the following:
*Basic chord shapes (many of which are left out of other books)
*Non-Basic chords (but later in the book and only the ones that you will actually use. WooHoo! No more Fm13b5b7 chords cluttering the world!)
*All of the chords in each key (You had better make a copy of this page and use that or you will wear out this page and lose it. I promise. Substitutions for the blues and hard rock are also included and explained.)
*Exhaustive 'study' of the basic chord progressions (e.g., I VI IV V, I V IV III, etc. and many examples of songs from the 50s to Fatboy Slim so you know what they sound like. The 'study' part is mostly left to you. This makes practice much more interesting. Play "Message in a Bottle" or "Smells Like Teen Spirit" instead of "Greensleeves". You are given the progressions for thousands of songs. Find the right key and the words and commence to rockin'.)
*Lots of tips on creating non-standard progressions (if it sounds good and you like it...
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Format: Paperback
In order to benefit from this book, several things should be true:
1) you should be a guitar player (duh) although the progressions apply to all instruments
2) you should already have some knowledge of chords and basic theory.
3) you should be somewhat caught up with and interested in current popular music from the 1950's through the early 2000's, since the author cites songs as examples of certain types of chord progressions. If you haven't heard the songs, the examples will be pretty meaningless. A companion CD would be great addition.
The book is logically organized and is printed on high quality color stock. I sat down and played through ALL the material once so I could associate certain patterns with the way they sound. I also refer to the book a lot when writing, since it has all kinds of useful charts and tools. If my studio burned down, this would be one of the first books I'd replace.
If you are a guitar player and are interested in expanding your knowledge of songwriting, this book is GOLD. Other books that I would put in the "indispensable" category with this one would be "Fretboard Logic" by Bill Edwards (learning the fretboard inside out) and "The Advancing Guitarist" by Mick Goodrick (playing philiosophy, motivation, advanced concepts). The later book is primarily geared towards the accomplished guitarist and tends towards jazz and fusion playing so may not be suitable for everyone.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First off, understand this: This is not--nor is it meant to be--a guitar-playing instruction manual. If you aren't already familiar with guitar basics, you'll probably be mystified by at least some of what Rooksby presents here. He devotes a great deal of space, for instance, to discussing various chord progressions, but he does so almost entirely in the key of C & Am--if you don't know how to figure out how to go from, say, a II, V, I, VI, I, VI progression in C to the same in E (or whatever), you'll either be lost, or at the very least stuck in C until you get some theory basics under your belt. You don't need a lot, but you do need some.

Also, don't expect to find instruction on playing rhythm, or lead, or this style or that style, or scale patterns.... There are plenty of good books dealing with this sort of instruction; this one isn't one of those. And it doesn't pretend to be one of them. It might touch on some of these areas, but only as it relates to songwriting, specifically songwriting on guitar.

But this book does provide a wealth of progressions, and examples of popular songs that use those progressions. Rooksby also discusses harmony, rhythms, intervals, modes, and alternate tunings. In fact, he presents a BUNCH of alternate tunings, not just the most widely-used G/A, D/E, and drop D tunings (the most popular). He also provides an abundance of chords for each tuning--very handy!

The book also presents a useful, in-depth discussion of key changes within songs, what works, what doesn't.

There are also chapters on composing lyrics, structuring songs, finding subjects, avoiding cliches, making demos.

This is a great resource for any guitarist who already knows the basics, not just songwriters. If you are interesting in writing, or even just playing, popular music, this is a great book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best (and most comprehensive/complete) songwriting book in existence. Seriously. I am a 26-year old multi-instrumentalist who has studied my fair share of songwriting books and techniques... I listen to, write, and study virtually every style of music (even oldschool country and some R+B).

What Rikky Rooksby has done is create an easily understood book on modern (and not-so-modern) GOOD songwriting... how to make interesting chord progressions, how to write memorable melodies, what songs use certain chord progressions (from the popular Beatles stuff all the way to The Smiths (!!) and Sixpence None The Richer!) It's the only book I have seen that spotlights lesser-known amazing legendary alternative groups and their songwriting. Too many books these days show you how to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.... what the hell is that? Who wants to learn songs like that? Rikky's book focuses on why the great pop/alternative/folk songs in history ARE great, why they work, what elements make them work, etc... you wanna write good solid songs that people will remember? Catchy, full of great hooks, etc... This book is IT.

In the back of the book he even lists 24 CD's you should buy (and/or study) to improve your songwriting, and he cannot be more ON when it comes to what he chooses:

1. The Beatles- 1967-1970
2. Bob Dylan- Blonde on Blonde
3. Beach Boys- Pet Sounds
4. Love- Forever Changes
5. Burt Bacharach- The Look Of Love
6. The Band- The Band
7. Motown Chartbusters Volumes I-V
8. Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits
9. Led Zeppelin IV
10. Bruce Springsteen- The Wild the Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle
11. Joni Mitchell- Hejira
12. Carpenters- Their Greatest Hits
13. Queen II (EXCELLENT choice)
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