Does it seem daunting when you consider baring your soul in a song? If you make it memorable and sincere you will connect with your audience more strongly, so it’s well worth doing.
Most songwriters want to know how to write a song from the heart, that’s meaningful and honest. Being able to express feelings through words and music is a gift that can be shared with others and tell a story.
In this article, we’ll explain how to get started and create a sense of honesty when songwriting.
How to write a song from the heart
Firstly, decide if you will write from experience or if it will be a fantasy. You could start with a title, although this sometimes develops as you construct the song. Make a list of points you want to cover, describing places, people, times, events that will feature in the story. Decide on the subject of each verse.
You could build the story with a beginning, middle and end, connected by choruses, or the first verse could tell about the ending and where you are now in life, and work it back in time through verses. Decide how the chorus will connect the narrative. Start to work on chords and a melody line. Think about what you want to communicate to the listener. A moving song from the heart will always resonate with audiences as everyone can relate to heartfelt emotions.
What should I write a song about?
#1 Be real
While it perfectly possible, and in some cases easier, to imagine a situation which the writer has never experienced personally and put it into words, it’s often more convincing if a song reflects the honest thoughts and emotions of the lyricist. A vulnerability will come through, both in lyrics and music that will make the song more genuine. It takes courage to express profoundly deep feelings in a song, but many artists have had big hits with songs from the heart because they are honest words and emotions.
We often connect love with the heart, but not all songs need to have love as the core subject. Sadness, anger, beauty, frustration, desire, longing and many other feelings can be deeply felt and inspiring to the lyricist. Equally, chords and music describe and encourage these emotions. Just singing about a beautiful scene as the sunsets can be as genuine and poignant as a song about tender longing for someone you miss, or a story of courage or compassion.
How to write a song from the heart for beginners
#2 Listen to examples of other music
This is debatable, as many artists prefer to do exactly the opposite, that is, not listen to any music that might influence them and their style as they want to be totally original and unique. However, it can be very helpful to get an idea of how an emotional song works and is structured. Listen to different genres. Country and soul, ballads or blues, rap, pop or classical, they all have great examples of meaningful heartfelt songs.
#3 Work with collaborators
Shared experiences offer more topics and perspectives. You don’t necessarily have to collaborate with other songwriters, although this can be productive. Talking to friends, family, work colleagues and other musicians and listening to their life stories will frequently open up a whole new set of ideas. This doesn’t mean writing their stories unless they’d be happy for you to do so, but rather to widen the scope of narratives and bring in fresh subjects.
If you do find another songwriter who is willing to collaborate and you feel you would work well together and complement each other, it gives freedom to play around with new ideas, forgotten stories and occurrences. Partnerships in successful songs have achieved big hits over the years and often one is more gifted towards music composition and the other towards lyric writing.
How do you write emotional music?
#4 Turn your experiences into songs
If you feel your life experiences could make good songs and that you can capture the hearts of listeners, you have a good starting point. Some artists are natural songwriters but others don’t find it so easy. You need to figure out how to write and compose in a way that people would want to listen. Ask yourself if the experience you want to write about is interesting, amusing or captivating. Maybe there is something or someone constantly in your thoughts. Think of the location or setting, perhaps it happened on a bus, a random meeting, at work, or a romantic holiday.
Perhaps your song is based on something you read in the paper or a book, or it could be from daily life, the main issue is to find a way of making it interesting and heartfelt. Write a short story describing what happened, set the scene with a beginning, middle and end. Write down the thoughts it evokes, and what category it fits into life, love, loss, scenic places, friends, desires, whichever suits your theme.
When you have your topic or subject, your emotional reactions and keywords listed, start to write the lyrics, using the story as a guideline. Remember that if listeners can translate the overall feeling into their own life, you’re more likely to catch their attention.
How to start a song from the heart
#5 Try brainstorming your heart
Think of experiences, memories and the associated feelings and write them down. List words you can use, for example, freedom, anger, sadness, regret, courage, concern, tenderness, and see if you can incorporate them. Focus on specific experiences and write down how they made you feel at the time and now. A descriptive word list about the topic can help with the detail, such as a summer holiday, a long lost friend, a much-loved pet, a missed opportunity, young and free, walking through snow, and the obvious one, falling in love.
These topics will help steer your imagination towards something you feel comfortable writing about. Sit at the piano or use a guitar if you play, and strum some melodies and chord progressions to get a feel for the mood and pace of the song. Try out different title ideas.
How do you write a song with your heart?
#6 Songs from heart content
Some songs can be described as “nonsense songs” or just funny, silly songs, but with a song, truly from the heart the content is vitally important. Fun and happy, lighthearted songs have a place, but deeply felt subjects that are personal need to have authentic content. If the song has a special meaning and honest lyrics it will be more powerful, and if you believe in your writing there will be others who feel that way too. If you’re capable of connecting your feelings to words, the content will take shape and have real meaning.
From the heart lyrics
#7 Choose a style
There are different styles of songs that pull at the heartstrings. Big belters such as Celine Dion’s iconic My Heart Will Go On with all its associations with the film Titanic will always stir emotions and has melancholy and romantic lyrics. It’s a stately ballad that became a global hit. In a different style a more subdued, softer tone is becoming a popular trend with singers like Lana del Rey and Lorde to deliver equally powerful songs. Sometimes described as “whisper pop” it can be very effective and with a slight breathlessness brings a seductive twist to a song sung from the heart. One of the most famous deliveries in this style was from Marilyn Monroe when she sang Happy Birthday to President Kennedy.
Selena Gomez has used understated but compelling, almost whispering tones in her hits. In contrast, when Freddie Mercury sang “I want to break free from your lies” it was full of almost desperate energy and has even been used as an anthem against oppression. There are no rules for the most suitable or successful songs from the heart, but if the words and music convey a mix of tenderness, compassion, comfort and warmth they will be understood by the listener. Or a strong song full of passion, despair, anger, loss or courage will portray a different but equally heartfelt or heartbreaking story.
Writing music from the heart
#8 Write from your imagination
Writing from a perspective of personal experiences, difficult times, shared joys, whether positive or negative, can be inspiring and gripping. But for some this can prove very difficult. Imagination is a powerful tool and can open the mind to many possibilities. You don’t necessarily have to go through a situation yourself to feel empathy for something others are going through. It’s certainly not wrong to write creatively about events you dream up or imagine, in fact, it can produce some amazing ideas. Try to incorporate sincerity and understanding, even if it is not from your own life experience.
How to write a song about someone
#9 Write a song about someone
If you want to write about a specific person you could describe their eyes, the way they smile or talk. On the other hand, if you want a more general dedication, listen to Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson’s To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before, as an example of how you can include groups of people instead of just that one. Adele’s first UK no.1 single, ‘Someone Like You’ was inspired by a broken relationship. She has described how she was feeling miserable and lonely when she decided to write down those emotions, and the honesty in this true to life song gave it an aching sadness, but also beauty.
When writing about someone it can be about the actual person, or about memories you shared, or about how you would like things to be between you. You may not want to use that person’s name, especially if it is a sensitive topic. It’s possible to write about someone you’ve never met, perhaps a person you admire or whose story has inspired you. Elton John sang about ‘Daniel’. The song was about a wounded Vietnam war veteran. Dolly Parton wrote I Will Always Love You, without naming anyone, which made it applicable to anyone. It could be dedicated to anyone and covered by anyone, most famously by Whitney Houston.
So consider who you could write about: a loved one, a stranger you’ve heard about, someone in the past, a group of people, even an imaginary person. Make it resonate with audiences by keeping it genuine and heartfelt.
How to write a song about someone you lost
At some point, all of us want to express how we feel about someone we’ve lost. It could be a lost love or a friend we no longer see. It could be an expression of grief or longing for someone far away. So firstly you need to decide what sort of feelings you want to communicate. The words tell part of the story but also consider the music, which can carry the emotional charge of the song. There are so many hugely moving songs in this genre. Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven is a good example of a song written straight from the heart. As well as being a huge hit, it touched everyone who heard it.
#10 Have a clear picture of why you want to create the song
Think about the story development and the character of the person you’re writing about. It’s a good idea to decide how personal you want it to be and whether you want to reflect general feelings or a more detailed personal song. Another different type of song within the genre is Yesterday. The iconic Beatles song describes a lost love and a time when life was very different.
Pop songs about emotions
#11 Give some thought to how you’ll perform it
For some artists, this comes naturally, but others have to practice and perfect that delivery and performance to make it moving and real. A singer can come out on stage with a guitar and sit on a stool, with no props or backing singers, just some simple lighting, and give the most emotional and heartfelt performance.
The eyes can say it all, and if you’re lucky enough to have very expressive eyes and the right vocal tone, you can let the lyrics and melody shine through. Yet another singer can stage it just as simply. But have no emotion either vocally or facially. This is when the song can fall flat or even seem boring. When Art Garfunkel performs, he usually stands stock still in front of the mic. Often he’ll wear jeans and a casual shirt, sometimes hand in the pocket in the most laid back manner. But when he starts to sing a song such as Bright Eyes his voice interprets those lyrics in an almost hypnotic way. Thus completely drawing in the audience and delivering beautifully.
Creating powerful emotional songs
Not everyone has that same gift and that is where acting and performance skills are useful. If when you’re starting out it doesn’t happen instinctively, keep practising. Watch videos of other sensitive performers and if you can act out the song you’ll have a more compelling story. A bad habit to avoid is singing an entire song with your eyes shut. It’s tempting when singing a song from the heart, to close your eyes to feel it and go inside yourself. But this will cut off engagement with the listener and it can become a habit difficult to break.
You might be singing something very personal and deeply felt, and almost want to sing it for yourself. However, the audience needs to be allowed into your world to share the experience. Not all performances need to be laid back and sung gently. In the Harry Styles 2019 hit ‘Adore You’ the pleading in his voice is straight from the heart and strong. And Adele is a perfect example of delivering all the emotion of her songs visually, vocally and physically. Her facial expressions leave no doubt as to what she is feeling, saying and recalling.
Whichever style you adopt, make it real and sincere. A great way to share feelings is through a song.
Can anybody write a song?
In theory, yes. Although it helps if you have some musical experience and knowledge of music theory, a well as a good imagination. Like most skills though, it’s improved with practice and exposure to the medium. Begin simply or work with a more seasoned writer to gain some momentum.
How do you make a song step by step?
You’ll need to come up with lyrics, a melody, beat (if applicable to your genre), chorus, hook, verses. And any backing or accompaniment you want to add. There’s also the option to incorporate a middle 8 and breakdown. The order songwriters do this and whether they collaborate, varies.
How can I record a song at home?
This is actually very simple. To create a basic recording, you only need a smartphone as they all have the ability to record. If you want something more polished, you can create your own DIY sound booth and purchase some equipment, as well as software to edit, mix and master tracks for release.
Have you written a song from the heart? What was your inspiration? Let us know and share links to it in the comments below.