Category Archives: How To Write A Song

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Should You Write Lyrics or Music First?

Writing a song is an intensely personal act. Each songwriter may favor their own unique process. Fortunately, there is no right or wrong way to write a song.

Sometimes the hardest part is just choosing which journey to take on the way to your musical destination.

Here’s a field guide to finding what style works best for you:

A Way With Words

Many songwriters who write lyrics first draw inspiration from reading and writing poetry. Writing poetry can be an excellent starting place when beginning the writing process. Drawing a seed from other lyricists is also another great way to break through creative blocks.

Another great way to get excited about words is to explore alternative rhyme schemes.

Exploring and experimenting with different rhyme forms, such as End rhymes, Internal rhymes, Slant rhymes, Eye rhymes & Identical rhymes can give your lyrics an interesting and fresh relationship.

I Can Hear Music

Got a melody stuck in your head? You may find that it’s far easier to explore writing the music first. Writing music, as opposed to writing only lyrics, can prove to require more previous knowledge and training than the lyrical process. It seems that a musician is limited only by his or her own creativity, knowledge of an instrument, and level of musical training.

Sure, a basic knowledge of a few chords will get you far enough to record the basics of your ideas, but without years of musical training it can be difficult to capture the complexities of the music you hear in your head.

If you’ve got limited training, but you’re hell-bent on becoming the next Miles Davis, you’re going to have to invest some time and effort before expecting to create your masterpiece.

Don’t have time to go back to school to major in classical guitar or jazz studies? That’s ok too. Seek out collaborative partners to help you better convey your ideas. You just might learn more about yourself and your instrument in the process!

Working with a Writing Partner

Sometimes, you just don’t have the years of musical experience to delve as deep as you’d like into writing the music. Other times, the words just don’t seem to come out right. There’s nothing wrong with that. You just need a songwriting partner.

Fortunately, whatever your greatest weakness is, there’s someone out there that considers that very thing their biggest strength…. and if you’re lucky, they’ve got wifi.

With the advent of the internet connecting musicians all over the world, finding the musical yin to your yang has never been easier.

Elton John and Bernie Taupin may be the most famous of songwriting duos with over fifty years of collaboration. Famously, lyricist Taupin has said “I’m dealing with a guy that’s got more hooks than a tackle box” of Elton. This statement only further proves that Taupin’s way with words has met its match in a man so full of music.

Steal From the Greats

Disclaimer: Don’t ACTUALLY Steal. (Just steal some inspiration.)

In “Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” author Austin Kleon elaborates on the idea that there are very few truly original pieces of art.

Viewing, listening, and consuming art (even art we hate) has such a strong impact on the patron, that it will likely influence your voice forever.

When we are moved to create our own art, it is nearly impossible to make without including a highly nuanced history of our personal experiences and the art that has most inspired us.

Try on a New Hat

If all else fails and you find yourself stuck and musically stranded, just pretend to be someone else.

Yup, we said it. Music is a lot like theater and creating a larger than life persona can be your ticket to inspiration and the big time.

In a world where everyone is always telling you to be yourself, it can be exceedingly difficult to define yourself in such succinct terms. One way out is to imagine yourself as someone else and try to write a song as you feel they would.

This isn’t to say that you’ve got to go against your instincts here, finding your voice should feel natural to you and shouldn’t go against any of your natural inclinations.

If your greatest inspirations are Biggie and TuPac, don’t force yourself to write an Alanis Morrisette inspired tune. (Unless you really want to challenge yourself to step out of your musical comfort zone.)

It could be a simple as trying on the persona of a favorite artist. Challenge yourself to write a tune that sounds like it could’ve been the missing bonus track on your favorite album.

Try on an alternative experience. What sort of song would you write about a lover you’d lost to a friend? What tone would resonate best for a song written by someone on top of the world? When all else fails, you can always ask yourself ‘What would the Beatles do?’

Set a Quota

Don’t get stuck in the mud. When in doubt, just churn it out.

Set a goal to write a set amount of songs in a set amount of time. Rather you want to write a song for every day of a year, or just enough songs to fill your debut album, just keep the ideas flowing. Don’t be afraid to put one idea down and pick up a new one, if you need a break.

Just whatever you do, don’t trust your brain to remember what you’ve written so far. Using the voice memo recorder on your phone is a great way to save those melodies that come at you when you least expect them.

Roadblocks in the Rearview

Still stuck? Don’t get discouraged or let a feeling of writer’s block hold you back from creating your masterpiece!

Join an online songwriting community to get your juices flowing or take some time to call up an old friend and take a walk down memory lane.

Old feelings and distant memories can always suddenly reappear to help us find a new source of inspiration.

Oh, and once you’ve finished writing that hit song? Don’t forget to protect yourself by copyrighting it.

Happy writing.

How to Write a Song

The Beginner’s Guide for Learning How to Write a Song

Many musicians and songwriters out there will tell you that songwriting is easy. You just get into a zen mode, get creative, and pop out a hit. A lot of the biggest and greatest songwriters of all time have agreed to this as well.

Unfortunately, this isn’t such an easy task for most. In fact, reducing songwriting to “just do it” almost trivializes songwriting as an art and a skill.

If you want to become a good songwriter, you’ll need to learn from the best and start somewhere. We put together a beginner’s guide on how to write a song with tips from professional musicians from around the world.

Check out this awesome guide!

How To Write A Song For Beginners

When one begins learning how to write a song, finding the theme is only a small part of the songwriting process.

Get a notebook and pencil and carry them with you everywhere.

Tiny notebooks work well and can be shoved into your pocket on your way out the door in the morning. Don Henley, founder of rock band The Eagles, is a fan of this tip: “I’m always jotting things down on pieces of paper. I’ve got pieces of paper all over my house.”

You can also use a smartphone note-taking app or an audio recording app like FourTrack. The point is to have something with you at all time for when inspiration strikes.

Have you ever thought of an idea for a split moment at a party or in the middle of class and told yourself, “I’ll have to write that down later!” Did you remember to write it down? Probably not.

If you want to take your songwriting seriously and create authentic music, you should do your best to carry songwriting materials with you for when inspiration strikes.

Experiment with different songwriting methods.

Learning how to write a song starts with experimenting. It’s a very creative process, and not all methods of songwriting will work for everybody.

There are several songwriting methods to consider:

  • Lyrics + Instruments
  • Instruments + Lyrics
  • Beats + Instruments + Lyrics
  • Vocal Melody + Lyrics + Beats/Instruments

Musician String is an advocate for going even more outside the box with songwriting, stating, “I don’t write the first line of a song. I write backwards from the chorus line or hook to come up with it.”

Try playing with each of these steps and see which one feels both easy and creatively satisfying to you.

Find your lyrical subject.

The next step in your songwriting should be looking for that theme or subject. Traditionally, listeners find more appeal in songs with lyrical subjects that are clear, engaging, and relatable. Why else would songs about heartbreak or falling in love be so popular?

This isn’t a set in stone rule by any means. If you want to create a song with a more poetic, abstract theme, then go for it! Songwriting is an art that is very specific to the creator.

There are steps you can take to brainstorm ideas for your song:

  • Build your song on a particular line that you’ve written. Did you have a moment of intense inspiration and write down a line or two? You can absolutely build a song around that.
  • Choose a specific word or phrase. This method can be a bit more adventurous but definitely works for many songwriters. Words like “love” “survival” or “beauty” can be the central theme to your song and you can build lines and lyrics around it.
  • Turn beats into words. Did you recently hear an instrumental beat that made you unconsciously put together lyrics? Did that beat remind you of a memory, event, or something else? Building a subject, theme, line, and eventually lyrics around a beat is a possible path to take as well.

Once you have your method and subject down, it’s time for the hard part of learning how to write a song– the actual writing.

Having trouble finding that great musical subject? Singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge has talked about finding her musical subjects and inspirations within herself: “My songs are inspired by my experiences. Sometimes they are more than my real life and, conversely, my life is more than just my songs.”

Musician Jason Mraz, on the other hand, tends to think in the opposite way: “The easiest songs to write are pure fiction. There is no limit to how you can tell the story.”

Create that “hook”.

The hook of the song is also known as the chorus of the song. Typically, the structure of writing a chorus is simple– find a melody that would work well for a chorus, write along with it, and keep it simple and brief.

You can be as brief or as thorough with your chorus as you want, but one or two lines usually will do the job.

Don’t be afraid to write multiple chorus lines and experiment with which one fits best. Sometimes the process of elimination works well with songwriting.

Take your time with the chorus, as it is the most vital part of the song. The hook literally “hooks” the verses and bridges together, making it a vital part of creating a catchy song.

Focus on the verses.

When it comes to the verses, you’ll need to find some balance. Verses sound great when they aren’t entirely symmetrical, but a melodic lyrical mess can be difficult for listeners to follow.

It can also be helpful to separate your verses into sections (like verse 1, verse 2, etc.) and designating a subtheme for each verse.

This way, each verse will get your undivided individual attention.

Rewrite, proofread, rewrite, proofread again.

Like any form of literature or art, you’ll want to work out the imperfections.

Take your time when proofreading and rewriting your lyrics. Ask peers and other fans of music what they think and decide if you agree with their advice, then rewrite and proofread again.

How was our guide on how to write a song for beginners? Tell us what you think, along with your own tips and tricks for songwriting, in the comments section below.

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.