For many aspiring songwriters the biggest problem they have is trying to reproduce the sound they have in their head so other people can hear how good their song is. Those who are in a band can easily try out their compositions with other band members, until they are happy with the finished song.
But for those who don't have access to band members this can be a problem. It can be very frustrating to have that finished song floating around in our head but never quite managing to replicate it using just a piano or guitar. I have been in this situation most of the time I have been writing songs, and long before home computers became popular it was a real concern. The song in my head always sounded much better than the one I played solo on my guitar.
But for the last ten years or so I have been using a piece of music software from PG Music Inc called Band in a Box. For me this has revolutionized my songwriting, and what's more it's really easy to use. Finally I can get as close as possible to the song I hear in my head.
What I do is I write the song in the normal way, working out the chords on either my electric keyboard or guitar, mostly guitar in my case. For me I tend to write the chords, melody and lyrics together, as I find that one helps write the other.
So, I now have the lyrics and melody to which I can sing along to as I strum the chords on my acoustic guitar. Once I am happy with the structure of the song I can turn my attention to getting the song into Band in a Box. There are different ways I can do this. I could play my song via a midi keyboard direct into Band in a Box, but I tend to physically enter all the chords from your computer keyboard.
Band in a Box's main input area is divided into a grid, similar to Microsoft's table; I simply enter the chord into one grid box where I want to make a chord change. So, if my song was in the Key of C I would simply type in C Am F G or whatever other chords I want into the various grids.
Once I have got the whole song entered into Band in a Box and I am happy that the tempo is correct and all the chord changes are in the right place, I start to get creative.
This is where it gets interesting.
One of the main features in Band in a Box is the hundreds of different styles to choose from and these different styles have different instruments. So, let's say I had written a Country song. I can now hear what particular country style suits my song best. I might like the Country Swing style, but after experimenting, decide the Country Shuffle suites the song better.
Now it gets even more interesting! I may find that the Country Shuffle has a mute guitar in it which I don't actually like. After trying a few different guitars out decide I prefer the jazz guitar and so change it to that. I can add reverb, chorus and pan to all the instruments, mute instruments I don't want to hear. Add a lead guitar intro, a Honky Tonk piano lead in the middle. The choice is up to me, I become the producer of my own song.
When I have finished I will have, as it says on the box, a full backing band of Bass, Drums, Piano and Guitar all playing my song which I can then sing along to. This has to be the best backing band I have ever played with, no stroppy drummer to content with. No flashy lead guitarist wanting to hog the limelight. Just my song being played as I heard it in my head!
From this point I can save the instruments as individual tracks, import them into a Sequencer, record the vocals and make my demo CD. Or, save the file as a midi file and use it on stage as a backing track for me to add live vocals to.
There are many more features in Band in a Box that I have never got round to using, but it has been the best thing I have used to help with my songwriting. For those who don't play an instrument it would be ideal, it can even create a melody for you. All in all I would recommend this product.