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.
Small 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. The point is to have something with you at all times 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.