Guillermo Ojeda began writing his three-minute romantic guitar solo with just seven notes.
Ojeda, a graduate student in social welfare, submitted his song “Soledad” to “7 Notes Experiment,” a global contest that encourages musicians from across the world to compose a song of any genre from a given set of seven notes. Ojeda is one of 100 finalists who were selected out of thousands of entries from across the world. The contest accepted entries until Dec. 15, and will announce its winner at an unspecified date.
Ojeda heard about the competition from a notification on his Facebook feed in the middle of his fall quarter finals at UCLA. And with just five days to submit his piece, he took on the challenge of composing a new song in under a week.
“Soledad” – which means “solitude” in Spanish – was written in Ojeda’s own space of solitude: his living space, which also doubles as his studio. Ojeda’s grandfather, who often played romantic Spanish songs around Ojeda as a child, inspired him to learn how to play guitar.
“The theme is … the attempt to ‘conquistar el corazon,’ or ‘win the heart,’” Ojeda said. “I tried to convey the joy, sadness, et cetera that one might experience in such a romantic avenue, with two different melodies that repeat throughout the song.”
“Soledad” layers different romantic melodies strummed on Ojeda’s guitar. The tempo varies, yet the distinct theme of the seven notes returns continuously throughout the song.
Ojeda said he wanted to play the song on guitar as soon as he began listening to the seven notes. As he listened, he remembered a chord progression of romantic Spanish-style strumming from his past songwriting, and decided to incorporate it into “Soledad.”
“Soledad” is not Ojeda’s first songwriting venture. He was also a part of a reggae band, After the Smoke, with his high school classmates. His former bandmate, Angel Perez, said Ojeda’s songwriting earned the band much of its success.
“One of our popular songs today that we have as a group, (Ojeda) wrote,” Perez said. “I would say most of the songs that people latch onto, those are all because of (Ojeda).”
Perez said Ojeda also has a penchant for dealing with challenges that he thinks lent itself well to writing “Soledad.” Ojeda used a trial-and-error process when writing “Soledad,” using the open-ended possibilities of the “7 Notes Experiment” contest to his advantage, Perez said. Perez added that Ojeda thinks everything through, from the bass line to the lyrics to the melodies, often pulling from his familiarity with many musical genres, and continuously goes back to his initial ideas and improves them.
Jacob Marquez, a former bandmate, said Ojeda’s songwriting process begins long before he even starts strumming notes on his guitar or experimenting with the keys of his piano. Ojeda often forms a melody or a lyric in his head while doing day-to-day activities such as driving around, jotting them down and using them in his songwriting process later on. Marquez said Ojeda then builds off his initial ideas, revisiting them and editing them as he writes the rest of the song.
Marquez said Ojeda’s years of musical schooling led to his success with the “7 Notes Experiment.” Marquez said he’s encountered few people with such precise attention to musical technique as Ojeda, a characteristic that “Soledad” features in its complicated arrangement.
“Everything has a purpose, everything has a reason in his music,” Marquez said.
But his bandmates aren’t Ojeda’s only supporters. Ojeda said he felt confident in his abilities as a songwriter upon hearing he was selected as a top-100 finalist among thousands of songwriters. Although he doesn’t know if he will win, Ojeda said he feels motivated by the experience to continue working on his songwriting and to possibly pursue it professionally in the future.
“When it comes to songwriting, music is very subjective – what one prefers can greatly differ from the next person over,” Ojeda said. “I’m excited, I’m happy and regardless of the results, I just remind myself to be a humble songwriter.”