I watched a TV programme about John Peel and how he listened to any music sent to him. He gave so many pop stars their first airplay who then went on to huge success. There are many more who deserved that success but never had the luck. Then there are people like yourself who have never taken the first step but who may be lucky.
But songwriting is difficult!
Songwriting is not difficult. Most songs are composed on a piano. This is because it is the only instrument that you can play more than one note at a time, unless you are a drummer, but they are all mad. Pop music composers who are wizard guitarists often compose hits on the keyboard. The piano lets them play the melody and the harmony together to get a feel for how the song sounds. Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Andrew Lloyd Webber all sit at their pianos with a blank sheet of paper in front of them.
Many popular songs are based on blues music. Elvis and The Stones began their careers singing the blues. They listened to recordings of blues artists in the 1950's and learnt the songs by trial and error. The Stones went on to write their own songs whereas the King never had to. The simplicity of the blues is its great strength. It has captivated listeners for decades and has formed the basis for every type of popular music for generations.
The blues developed in the beginning of the 20th century in the rural south of the U. S. A. Originally there was country blues played by the travelling musicians. The famous Robert Johnson was reputed to have sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in exchange for his talent. Urban blues emerged in the 1920's as a more professionally presented entertainment form, played in the jukejoints located on the wrong side of the tracks. The blues has survived to the present day because it allows self expression and interpretation, and is simple to learn.
Piano keyboard - simplified
The beauty of the piano keyboard is that all the notes are available all the time, unlike stringed or woodwind instruments. You can play a melody and the chords that harmonise with these notes together. These 85 notes on the keyboard of a standard piano can look quite daunting. Better to think of them as 12 notes repeated 7 times. Each of these 12 notes is a key note or starting note. All music (in the western world) is identified by these keys. Within each key there are 7 chords, 3 major chords, 3 minor chords and a diminished chord. Think I'm getting too technical? That's all there is to it.
The 3 major chords begin with notes 1, 4 and 5 on the scale, the 3 minor chords with notes 2, 3 and 6, leaving the diminished chord 7. Most blues tunes use notes 1, 4 and 5 as do many popular songs. Most of the greatest hits in the history of pop music use only three chords. If you can think of a catchy chorus and have a little luck you could make a lot of money. There will always be great singers like the King and Sinatra looking for great songs.
Roan Taylor is the author of How To Play Blues Piano , an easy to follow guide to playing the blues. You may use and redistribute this article on the condition that this paragraph remains intact and the link active.