How to Write a Song: Guide For First-Timers

how to write a song

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.

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