Writing a song can be difficult and frustrating to the point where it has you scratching your head and wondering how singer-songwriters can craft an entire album. Do you have a bad case of songwriting mental block? Here are ten simple steps to learn how to write a song for beginners.
What Are the Elements of a Song?
Songs usually consist of verses, a chorus, an intro, an outro, a breakdown, a bridge, a pre-chorus, and sometimes a drop. A chorus is the repeated primary phrase of a song, while the verses are recurrent melodies with different accompanying lyrics.
An intro and an outro are the first and last musical phrases, respectively, often unique to the rest of the song.
The breakdown occurs when a particular instrument drops out or has a solo section, while the bridge is a phrase of music that contrasts with the rest of the piece and is typically used to evoke emotion.
A pre-chorus is the concise phrase used to connect the verses to the chorus, and the drop is a section of the song with a drastic, sudden change in rhythmic structure.
Where to Begin
Whether to begin with writing music or lyrics depends on which you find most inspiring. In this article, we lean toward writing your lyrics first but encourage you to make minor rearrangements to the steps as you see fit. Regardless, it is essential to compose the music using your main chordal instrument, like a guitar or piano.
If you are using a pre-made backing track, be aware of the existing sentiments, structures, and sounds you’ll need to incorporate.
Step 1: Inspiration
Any great song begins with the artist creating “raw” material while experimenting with different ideas, inspirations, music, and lyrics. A key to any memorable song is choosing a subject matter that speaks to you, and your audience finds relatable.
If experiencing a mental block, it can be helpful to find inspiration through analyzing your favorite songs.
Step 2: Find a Title
The next step is to craft a descriptive title that acts as a hook, capturing the audience’s attention right away. The title should summarize the subject and be between one and six words. When brainstorming, think of exciting phrases, suggestions, and questions.
Overall, the title should define the piece’s focal point, therefore heavily influencing the remainder of the songwriting process.
Step 3: Ask Questions
After determining your inspiring subject matter, exciting title, and general focus, the next step is to ask questions. Questions concerning emotions, situations, themes, messages, and intentions are fantastic aids to delve into the details of the issue.
Great questions should relate to the title and further inspire you, giving you specific directions to go in.
Step 4: Decide on a Song Structure
Determining a song structure as a way to define boundaries is a crucial step in the creation process. Every song doesn’t contain all of the song elements discussed earlier. One of the most common structures in pop music is verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, and maybe a good starting point for your project.
While it isn’t necessary to compose the music at this stage, remember that your structure will need to lend itself to an identifiable melody.
Step 5: Write Your Chorus
First, you should work on your chorus, as it is the most repetitive and critical phrase in your music. Great lyrics are catchy and involve a unique rhythm structure. Answer your most important question in the chorus by crafting a brief statement. It is vital to keep your intention and theme prevalent in your chorus.
Step 6: Write Your Chorus Chord Progression
After detailing the lyrics and rough rhythmic structure, it is time to add a melody to your chorus. Choruses succeed when they are easily memorable, so simplistic chord patterns are typically best. Pop songs, for example, often use a repeated four-chord progression.
A great way to experiment with chord progressions is to record different possibilities, play them back, and then manipulate them as you see fit.
Step 7: Outline Your Verses and Write the Lyric
Once you’ve finished your chorus, shift your focus to the verses. Pick your most relevant questions and determine the order you want to answer them. Your lyrics should tell a story or captivate with ideas.
It’s important not to rush through your verses but build on them and discover a natural flow. Furthermore, it is essential to win the audience’s attention quickly and remain on topic.
Step 8: Craft the Verse Melody and the Build of the Song
The rhythm of your lyrical phrases should influence the rhythm of the music. While examining the lyrical rhythm, really elaborate the emotions and listen for any other rhythmic qualities. Analyzing these patterns will help you craft the melody while keeping a smooth flow and preventing yourself from going too off-beat.
When writing your bridge, consider modulating to give the song more texture and avoid too much repetition. Remember, the bridge is typically the “aha” moment of a piece and should have a unique flavor to reflect that realization.
Step 9: Add an Intro, Outro, and Any Additional Sections
With the majority of your song laid out, next, you need to create your intro and outro along with any additional sections. While it may seem counterproductive, crafting your intro (and outro) last is ideal because they are easiest to write once you know the song and can modify them to match the more significant pieces.
You’ll also need to connect your chorus and verses if you haven’t done so already, and you may need to adjust your pitches to make the transition more natural. Remember that choruses tend to have a higher key and more vocally impressive melody than verses. A pre-chorus can help with this modulation.
Step 10: Make Your Finishing Touches
Finally, you have crafted your song, and it is time to make the finishing touches. The best way to edit your music is by recording rough takes and setting them aside, editing them, refining them, and repeating the process until you are happy with the final result. If you plan to add in other instrumentation or backup vocals, this is a great time to do so.
Most of the time, writing a song won’t happen overnight, so expecting quick results will often end in frustration. When facing mental blocks, it can be helpful to give some space and time between you and the project rather than forcing yourself to continue to work.
Programs such as Garageband or LogicProX can be beneficial when recording and testing demos or adding backing tracks and additional instrumentation. Never forget song creation should be about what inspires you, not what you think your audience wants or what will be popular.