One of the great pleasures in life for songwriters is playing one of their songs with a full band backing them up: 



hearing the drums emphasize the backbeat and breaking into 16ths on the hihat at the bridge, the bass playing the root/fifth before starting to walk, the lead guitarist playing fills between the vocals with a take away solo.


Or, maybe you don’t want those elements in your song.


The difference between getting other players to play what you want on your songs (or not) is usually your ability to communicate with the players.  Being able to do that with actual musical terminology or common band slang will garner you credibility and some level of respect.  (Another way to garner credibility and respect is paying your musicians.)


This doesn’t require an extensive music education or a costly course, but merely some time, some research, some memorization and some desire to do so.  What you’re looking for is the basics of the elements of the instruments other than the one you play.


Assuming you’re a songwriter, it is most likely you’re an acoustic guitarist or piano player in addition to being a singer: so you’ll want to learn the elements of bass and drums.  If you’re a non-playing songwriter (singer/lyricist), you’ll first want to learn the basics of the instrument of your main accompanist.


For a start, you might look at:




  • Whole, half, quarter and eighth note rhythms
  • Root/Fifth or one-five
  • Walking
  • Slap technique




  • Basic beats
  • 4/4 (common time)
  • 6/8 or 12/8 time signatures
  • ¾ waltz
  • straight, swing and shuffle




  • chords
  • melody
  • fills and soloing
  • arpeggios and/or finger picking
  • pads or padding


Of course, this is just scratching the surface of what each of these instruments is capable of, and what could be played on a song.  And be careful, a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.  Knowing what you want an instrumentalist to play (and instructing them to do so) can be insulting to their musical sensibilities.  (Besides, no one wants to be told what to do, they want to do what they want to do and be appreciated for it.)


A good rule of thumb is to assume that the players are specialist on their instruments.  You are the artist/songwriter with the vision.  A true pro will usually listen to what the artist desire and incorporate it, refine it and expand upon it.  If they feel it is not a good idea, they’ll suggest alternatives.  Since, they’re the specialist; it may be prudent to follow their advice.


This guy certainly knows the basics of drums, bass and guitar!