Monthly Archives: January 2017

how to write a song

How to Write a Song: Guide For First-Timers

Maybe you want to become a YouTube sensation. Or you want your voice heard all over the world through Twitter. Or maybe you just want to try your luck on America’s Got Talent.

A whole bunch of music artists made it big through the internet.

You have Tori Kelly who remained undaunted after her American Idol attempt. Then you have the all-famous Justin Bieber, who surfed to stardom through his childhood singing videos.

But, what’s the first thing you need to do if you ever want to get off the ground like these YouTube stars?

You need to learn how to write a song.

You wouldn’t have made it to reading your first novel if you hadn’t learned to read first. And you won’t make it to singer-songwriter status without knowing how to write a song.

1. Listen To The Greats

 

“…We see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.”

And that’s exactly how we need to act as aspiring artists.

Every great artist has emulated someone before them until they themselves adopt their own style.

You might ask ho should you listen to. I might say that it really depends on what style you are going for.

Most songs today are four chord songs anyway. So, my advice is to begin with the great rock musicians.

Listen to The Eagles. Bob Dylan. Chuck Berry. The Beatles. Queen. Lynyrd Skynyrd. Led Zeppelin.

And listen carefully. Think, what happened when they wrote these songs.

Ask yourself, “What’s repeating in these songs?” “How is each song similar?” “How is each song different?”

And keep a journal of your thoughts.

Emotional Narrative

 

Pay attention to how the songs you listen to make you feel. Notice how the song doesn’t make you feel the same way all the way through.

This is what we call the emotional narrative of the song.

The emotional narrative is like a story told through your feelings. If you can learn how to write a song with this in mind, you might actually write an award winning song.

We connect to music through our emotions. Listening to music is not a rational process.

And if you are trying to convey some sort of message, do it through emotion.

2. If You Want to Know How To Write A Song, Learn To Play An Instrument

 

This may be hard to hear, especially if your parents tried to force piano lessons on you. But learning to play an instrument is the best way to learn how to write a song.

Of course, the easiest path would be either the guitar or the piano. These are the soloist bedrocks of popular music.

Unless you’re planning on strictly being a singer, you’re going to have to learn musical instrument incorporation.

So, what better way to learn this than by actually learning to play? And if you ever want to sing your own songs, it’s always a bonus when an artist can play an instrument too.

You Don’t Have To Spend Money Right Away

 

You don’t have to jump into the deep end when it comes to an instrument purchase.

A used guitar or drum set can be a great launchpad for learning.

Even if you have to borrow it from a friend or go down to the local community college to play, get an instrument in your hands.

Get Lessons

 

If you can, get some lessons.

Self-taught sounds awesome, but there is some truly great wisdom and skill out there to be learned.

Start Simple

 

While it’s admirable that you want to play some Carlos Santana greats right off the bat, these kinds of intricate chords and riffs might be a little over your beginner head.Instead start small. Like, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star small. You have to walk before you can run, right?

Instead start small. Like, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star small. You have to walk before you can run, right?

While it might be horribly maddening, the very basics are where you need to start. If you’re ever going to learn how to write a song, it’s the building blocks that will get you there.

3. Finally Getting Lyrical

 

Ok, it’s time. Crack those knuckles and sharpen your pencil. Because it’s time to learn how to actually write that song.

Some of us have an ear for music. We can hear it in our head and then just play it, hum it, or sing it.

Some of us see the words and the notes and can write it.

Others just struggle to get just one note to come out.

If you’ve taken some lessons or at least learned a few chords, you should have some basic notation down. At least you’ll know the names of your favorite chords. That can be enough to get started.

Let The Words Tumble

 

If you’re looking for words, just start scribbling them onto the page. Some of the best songs I’ve written came from just brainstorming interconnecting words. These words usually well out of emotions deep inside me.

Grab A Thesaurus

 

If you feel like your language is too basic, grab a thesaurus. It’s a great tool for improving your lyrics, but it’s also a great inspirational tool.

You can hop around and get the feel for the meaning of different words and how they fit together.

Read Some Poetry

 

Look up some basic rhyming schemes. Music is poetry.

Find out who the great lyrical poets were and find out how they wrote their poems. Emulate those styles of rhyming.

Monkey See Monkey Do

 

Don’t be afraid to borrow.

Don’t outright plagiarize, but structure and style and themes all get recycled, remixed and reused. It’s a great way to get your feet wet.

Just don’t over-use other people’s styles. You need some of your own vibes in there somewhere.

Now Go Write Your Song

 

If you’re too afraid of failure, you’ll never do anything.

If you’ve already written your awesome song or music, get it into one of our contests.

And, as always, keep making that music.

Tip on Being a Professional Songwriter: Saving Money on Copyrights

 

 

When artists first start creating with being a professional songwriter in mind, information floating around can be a little misleading about copyrights. It is surprising that there are still people who would like to think that cheap copyrights can be achieved by mailing something to yourself, but take a moment to walk through that theoretical lawsuit in the context of the music industry:

You and your band get a hit song stolen by a multimillion dollar record company backed boy-band, and you put together your case using all the money you didn’t make from the royalties of your plagiarized work. You walk into the courtroom facing a team of lawyers, all of them sharks sizing you up for the value of a counter-suit, and your best evidence is a disc sealed in a padded mailer, and perhaps the other members of your band who by hearsay claim you were the first to the punch. For more on this and other issues in music law, you can check out this article here on our own site.

A copyright through the Library of Congress, on the other hand, would mean that an official report was available showing exactly when they received the record of your having written the song, and exactly what you recorded when you documented that as your own composition.

So now you’ve faced facts and you’re ready to invest in actually protecting your work. The best way to save on copyrights is to register fewer of them altogether. If you are immediately concerned about the safety of something you have written, by all means file immediately. But the fact is, if you wait until you have a collection to bundle into a single registration, you can save quite of a bit of money, especially over time.

It used to be that one needed to fill out what’s called Form CA after registering a collection of songs in order to validate the collection entirely. Now that the copyright office is online, you can simply call what you are submitting a collection and go through the Form PA process, checking the box along the way that this is not just a single work you are registering. One snag–this savings plan assumes that each song in the collection is going to get the same songwriting credits across the board. (You can’t give your drummer credit for tracks 1 and 3 and take credit for the rest yourself, for example).

If all you want to protect is a single song, it is $35, and the fee for a collection is $55. To fill out the paper application and send a hard copy representation of your work, the Library of Congress penalizes you for the extra manpower in the mail-room, charging $85.

Once you have your collection together and have a record of it (it doesn’t have to be a high quality recording at all–just as long as it can be heard, or read in the case of lyrics), you are ready to get your form together.

  1. Go to http://www.copyright.gov–or if you don’t feel the need to peruse the website’s information, go straight to the Register a Copyright page. You will need to register with them first (in a manner similar to many websites requiring some personal info). From there, you are going to want to register your songs as a work of Performing Arts, using Form PA. For the hard copy application process here is the PDF link: http://copyright.gov/forms/formpa.pdf
  2. The website is fairly intuitive. You will follow some slightly less intuitive prompts along the way. One is regarding the “Type of Work.” For this “Add” a “New” listing. Select “Title of work being registered” for each song you want to include, and click on the “edit” icon to the right of the listing when you see it, to put in every detail you can about it. It’s the same process when you get to the “Authors” section of the form–remember that you won’t be able to save money registering songs with different combinations of authors.
  3. Some of the next steps (“Limitation of Claims,” “Special Handling”) you might be able to skip through (by pressing “Continue”). Look them over to see if they might apply to your situation.
  4. When you’ve added all the information the Copyright Office requires, it’ll be time to “Review Submission.”
  5. Finally, after you review the information, you’ll “Add to Cart,” and check out. Note that after checkout is when you’ll upload your material.

So there you have it! For each demo of material you might save yourself one hundred dollars, provided each song is written by the same author (or combination of authors, such as the entire band), and you take the time to put it all into one registration form!

Indie International is here to offer as much information as possible to creative people in the entertainment industry. Please feel free to contact us for more information about songwriting and the music industry.