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Arts & Entertainment

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.

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


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 ...

Strike a Chord

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.


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

As a guitar player it was almost everything I wanted to know about Tom's playing/set-up and I learned things I applied to my own playing.

this helped me learned how to challenge myself on making songs and how to play guitar the way I want to play

Very thoughtful and human. I really enjoyed his insights on music, philosophy and how to treat others :-). Thanks!

Politics and guitar. I saw Tom's first show with Bruce in Anaheim, and I have loved him ever since.


Glen B.

This was an exceptional lesson and very inspirational.... Tom is superb at breaking down the details and helping a musician with limited knowledge and experience to feel comfortable about playing and writing music without feeling intimidated.

Marc T.

Wait for your ideas to find a home. Never self-censor. That's some great advice right there!

Kenneth S.

I can't say that this was my favourite lesson in the series, the extremely early learning items could be footnotes in the Introduction class, and perhaps not 2/3's the way through a Masterclass. That might just be, but there are likely players that might circle back in the mind and get a new approach out of it. But the ending note about not self-censoring are a spot-on reminder.

Tom B.

That was a fun one!!! I played French Horn too! Didn't pick up my first guitar until I was 19, it is sooooo much more fun!!!!!!

Jonathan S.

I had that same experience about how my one "formal" guitar teacher wanted me to learn. But I didn't throw my guitar into the closet for four years. The songs were in my head, and I put them onto cassette tape. I have 140 finished songs and hundreds of snippets—most of them are dreck. But some that I thought were dreck turned into something amazing when seen years later.

Gabriel R.

Song tittles, Riffs and Concepts!!! I follow the same way to write songs. And those ideas are waiting the right moment to find their home! I call them EMBRYOS, a nickname from the therm "embryonic cells" . It's so inspire to know that Tom Morello is teaching songwriting in the same way I use to gather my ideas! All the best Master.