Arts & Entertainment, Music

Rock Songwriting Fundamentals

Tom Morello

Lesson time 8:46 min

Tom demystifies the songwriting process to teach you how to break down the barrier between yourself and the greats. Learn how to stay open to inspiration and patiently explore your ideas to create original, authentic songs.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Demystify the Songwriting Process • Stay Open to Inspiration • Give Your Ideas Time to Find a Home


The greatest part about being a musician is having a blank canvas, and all of a sudden, sounds existed in the world that didn't exist before, because you thought of them, because your hand played them, because your heart and soul created them. [MUSIC - RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE] For me, the songwriting process began early. I was very frustrated. First of all, I'm a frustrated-- I was a French horn player when I was nine years old. I hated the instrument, and I hated being told what to do. It felt like it was working music, not playing music. Then I discovered rock 'n roll. I got an electric guitar, and I thought, well, now here comes the breakthrough. I went to take two guitar lessons at Rigoni's Music in Libertyville, Illinois. Plunked down my $5, and I said, I want to learn "Black Dog" and "Detroit Rock City." They said, hold on, son. What you need to learn first is how to tune the guitar. I thought that was a huge waste of time, yet I'm willing to pay my dues. So I go home and learn to tune my guitar, come back the next week. $5 more. Teach me my songs. Today's the C major scale. And I took that guitar home, I threw it in the closet, and I didn't touch it for four years before I had the punk rock revelation. It had felt, until that moment, that songwriting, playing guitar was an inaccessible thing that mystical gods who owned, you know, castles on Scottish lakes could do, but a kid in an Illinois basement had no chance of doing. When I discovered punk rock music, I was in a band within the same day, and I immediately started writing songs. Years later, as a guitar teacher, I remember those lessons and how off-putting it was to walk into a room, to have expectations of, like, making rock 'n roll, and being told they had to do a bunch of busywork first before they could do it. But the process of a songwriter-- in order to be artistically, personally successful has to be authentic and come from you. Hopefully, on that path, I can provide a walking stick or a wind at your back to help you become a songwriter. [ACOUSTIC GUITAR PLAYING] Throughout this songwriting part of the course, there's going to be some stuff that's going to be geared towards absolute beginners, intermediate players, and advanced players. This part is for the absolute beginners. Like, you don't know what the world can be with you as a guitar player. And I'm here to show you that right now, within a matter of minutes, that you can be a songwriter. So we'll start like this. So if you're holding a guitar in your hands and you can play a couple of notes on the guitar, you're well on your way to being a songwriter. You don't even have to know the names of the strings. For the moment, let's just call it the fattest string, the one closest to you. It happens to be the E string. But play that string. [PLAYS E STRING] Great job. Okay. So then-- so and then pick any of the-- pick a dot, the first, second, or third. Let's take the first dot just for ...

About the Instructor

Tom Morello is a two-time Grammy winner and one of Rolling Stone’s "greatest guitarists of all time." In his first online guitar class, the co-founder of Rage Against the Machine will teach you the riffs, rhythms, and solos that launched his career and sent his music to the top of the charts. Tom will share his approach to making music that challenges the status quo and teach you how to create your own musical style.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Tom Morello

In 26 lessons, Grammy-winning musician Tom Morello will teach you the guitar techniques, rhythms, and riffs that define his signature style.

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