Sally Keys



Sally Keys was in touch with Local Music Live to say “I am writing because as a child, I really wanted to play guitar and it took a long time. Not everyone is so patient - my brother who wanted to be Van Halen certainly wasn’t. However, through learning the hard way I realised in hindsight, there were some easier ways for when it comes to teaching my own children. I’m the Content Manager for a small music learning website. We’ve researched an in depth guide on The Fool’s Gold method which quickly teaches people of all ages how to play the guitar.” Following our on-line conversation, Sally’s written this excellent piece exclusively for Local Music Live. It’s well worth a read. John from Local Music Live


Starting Out Songwriting With Your Guitar


If you’ve been playing songs on your acoustic guitar, then writing your own music is a natural progression. All you need is your guitar, a quiet space and a little inspiration, and you can create something beautiful out of nothing. A song can be personal, emotional, or just a bit of fun. The most important thing is writing music.


Which came first, the chicken or the egg?


This same argument arises with songwriting - what comes first, the music or the lyrics? For the purposes of melody, let’s argue that the lyrics come first. Lyrics can be an excellent tool to help drive the rhythmic variations in the melody. When you are writing your first melody, it can help to have some lyric ideas ready, or even some poetry that you can use to drive the tune. Take for instance the poem “Cloths of Heaven” by Yeats. The first two lines of this read:


Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light


Think about how you would interpret this musically into a melody. Perhaps you would use a melody in a major key, or make the music rise towards the end of the second line to reflect moving into the light. Saying your poem or lyrics out loud will really help you develop rhythms that fit. 


Using a chord progression


Working out a simple chord progression is a great place to start writing your song. Especially if you are fairly new to playing the guitar, three chords can give your song a basic structure. Some of the most famous songs are made up of just three simple chords. Think of “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan. Just because a chord progression seems conventional, doesn’t mean that something great can come from it. 


Think about song structure


You might want to go for the traditional verse, chorus, verse, chorus structure, possibly with an added bridge. But never be afraid of thinking outside the box. Particularly if you are starting your melody writing with lyrics, you might find that the structure of your songs are more complex. After all, imagine where Queen started the songwriting process with Bohemian Rhapsody. That couldn’t be further from traditional songwriting, yet is profoundly successful. 


When you’re starting out with songwriting, make sure that you write things down and record. They might be fragments of lyrics, a little part of a melody, a dream of a tune that has been stuck in your head for a while. But it can all add up together to make the most inspirational music.


Never Underestimate the Importance of Marketing Local Music


The British music industry is booming, making an estimated economic contribution of approximately £4.4bn to the UK economy during 2016 and supporting as many as 142,200 jobs. During the same year, 3 of the top 5 best-selling artists in the world were British (Adele, Coldplay & David Bowie) with UK music generating in excess of £2.5bn in export revenues. While sheer natural talent plays a huge role in becoming a successful artist, so too does a factor that often gets either completely overlooked or terribly neglected: promotion.


Creating brilliant music is the easy part of being an artist. You can have an amazing product but if no one knows about it how will you be able to gauge its value? After spending countless hours rehearsing or recording it is pivotal to invest in promotional tactics to present your music to the market.  Have you ever given thought as to why some phenomenally talented artists do not enjoy the recognition they deserve while mediocre musicians get significantly more exposure? While there could be a number of contributing factors to this the most common one lies in the successful person’s ability to handle the business side of the industry and more importantly, the marketing side of it.


Music Marketing does not have to be difficult


If you want people to hear your music you need to market it, first within your own community and then on a larger scale. As daunting as this may sound it doesn’t need to be. All you need to know about promoting your music can be learned without acquiring a special degree or diploma. As long as you are willing to learn and put in the time and effort where needed, the marketing process will become second nature to you and you will probably find yourself enjoying delving into this side of the industry.


Turn your gig into an event


If you are trying to impress on a local level plan a single show and make it big, pulling out all the stops.  By focussing your attention on a single, explosive event, you will create an experience that continues to pay you back in dividends as people continue to remember the show.  There is no stronger form of promotion than word of mouth advertising and if you can wow your fans with an explosive show they will do the promoting for you.


Music promotion is an on-going process


The marketing process should commence as soon as you are comfortable that you have a decent amount of talent worth promoting and should continue until such a time that you are no longer interested in being a contender within the music industry.  It is important to understand that you cannot wait until you are due to release a single or album to start promoting as awareness should be created long before that.


Establish a residency


Many bands and artists manage to grow their careers effectively by playing a residency (series of regular shows at the same venue). Playing a residency holds numerous benefits. It gives everyone who wants to see you multiple times an opportunity to do so and it enables your local friends and fans to see you change and grow as an artist.


Promote your music both on-and-offline


The internet has made it increasingly easy to promote your music fast and effectively online but it is important to not solely rely on online marketing in an attempt to reach as wide a market as possible. Live performance remains one of the most powerful marketing opportunities due to its level of intimacy and you can make some extra money by selling merchandise at your gigs. If you connect with your local fans and friends they will continue to attend your gigs and buy whatever you sell at them as well.  Finding a balance between online and offline promotional strategies will leave you with the best possible recipe for success and one that you should embrace fully.


It is important to familiarise yourself with the various music marketing options available and to choose the ones that will benefit you most.  If you are not confident in your own marketing capabilities get someone to help you, whether it is a trusted friend or family member or a professional promotions company.  Your career is worth every bit the effort you invest in it.



Other industry advice

Sally Keys

some excellent advice from the Content Manager of a music learning website.

John Mayoh

Owner of John Mayoh Events

John McLaughlin

Owner of JM Songs

Carl Heyes

Director of Redwall Studios


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