I would consider myself a creative person. Some of my favorite things include writing, journaling, making art, dancing, and playing music. I play three instruments-the piano, ukulele, and steel drum, singing along. Music a way of relaxing for me, and in addition, it works as a great emotional outlet, especially since I have written my own songs. Writing music is an unpredictable art. At times, I sit down to write a song and I have one in fifteen minutes. At other times though, it may take me days, weeks, or even months to come up with something I am happy with. Although each song is different, I have created somewhat of a foolproof method to songwriting. Today, I am sharing it in order to inspire you to take that step of writing your own song, if it’s something you are interested in doing.
The first step to songwriting, is choosing a topic, getting the idea. This is honestly half the battle. Coming up with something to write is hard because we often think of our lives as boring or insignificant. Remember though, that there is always something to write about. Life around us doesn’t stop, we just have to take note of it. My biggest piece of advice when it comes to producing the idea, is to use what you have the most material for. That means, you are going to have to look within yourself and figure out what you think the most about. A friendship, crush, or another relationship are common topics that people ponder over. Other topics I have written about include fantasies, stress, and insecurities. Whatever topic you spend the most time rolling around in your head…write about that. Keeping a journal (see “Journaling 101: Information and Inspiration“) has helped me immensely with this because I can go through my own thoughts and see what I have written about most frequently, as it can be difficult to figure out what you spend your free time thinking of.
Once you have chosen your topic, we move on to the real struggle…actually writing the song. Firstly, chose whether you are going to write the lyrics or the score (note/chords) first. This is going to vary from person to person. Personally, since I am a writer, I prefer to start with the lyrics. If you choose to do this, you can start by writing 10-15 sentences that encompass how you feel about the topic. Then, work to put them together, changing the lyrics as you go to make them fit together. You may find that you end up changing these 10-15 sentences into something completely different. What is crucial to know though, is song structure, basically the rulebook of songwriting.
- Introduction: This is the part of a song where the lyrics haven’t started yet. It is usually just background music that introduces the song before the lyrics begin. Usually, you can play through your main chords one time for your introduction.
- Verse: there is usually 2-3 verses in a song. The lyrics of a verse will change each time (be it a little or a lot) and they are mainly used to introduce a new topic of a song. They keep it moving forward. (ex: “I been tryna call. I been on my own for long enough. Maybe you can show me how to love, maybe… ” from Blinding Lights by The Weekend)
- Chorus: The chorus is the “main part” of a song. It is the few lines heard repeatedly throughout (usually 2 or more times) that everyone remembers. You want to get the main point across in the chorus because this is what the song is centered around. (ex: ” Cause baby, you’re a firework. Come on show ’em what you’re worth…” from Firework by Katy Perry)
- Bridge: The bridge is the part of the song that builds up emotion. Generally, the chords are different from that of the chorus and tends to turn to more minor. The emotion that is built up is generally let out when the chorus repeats. (ex: “I just wanna, I just wanna know. If you’re gonna, if you’re gonna stay. I just gotta, I just gotta know. I can’t have it, I can’t have it any other way….” from Riptide by Vance Joy)
These are the main parts to most songs. The most common song structure is introduction-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus. This is good when you first start writing, but after a while you can switch it up in any way you want. If this is too complex, feel free to just model your first few songs after one of your favorites.
Once you create your lyrics, the last step is to figure out what chords you want to use. Again, this is very specific to the artist. It will depend on if/what instrument you play and how you want the song to sound. When I write, I usually start with some basic chords like C, G, Am, F and then play around with different progressions until I find one that I like. If this doesn’t work for you, there are also plenty of online generators like this great one for ukulele. If you don’t play any instruments, that’s okay…you can still write songs! The best way to do this in my opinion, is to use a digital audio workstation like Garageband or StuidoOne. You can choose your own strings, bass, chords, etc. It will just take a bit of time to learn how to use it, depending on how complex your system is.
The key to writing good music, is that it has to come from a true emotion. Love, anger, pain, joy…any feeling you wish to exhibit has to be poured into the song in order for it to resonate with your audience. As I mentioned, songwriting is not simple, but if you continually practice and don’t allow yourself to get discouraged, you can write beautiful music, and who knows where that will take you! 🙂
“I don’t know anything about music. In my line you don’t have to.” -Elvis Presley
Happy Living ❤
Featured image by @jefflssantos on unsplash.com