How to Write Songs | 13 Songwriting Must-Read Tips
The notion of writing a song can often be a scary thought. Of course, you want to write songs that are good, but it’s sometimes hard to know where to get started. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can follow to make the songwriting process easier.
Knowing how to write songs is essential if you want to be in with a good chance of writing something you’ll be proud of. We have the 13 best tips on writing a song.
If you don’t know how to write a song effectively, you’re going to struggle to write something that other people will enjoy and relate to. Below are 13 ideas for how you can go about your songwriting process.
How to write songs
It isn’t the easiest thing to know the best ways to create original music, but there are some simple tips for writing a song below.
Following these tips will assist you in knowing how to write a good song:
- Use emotion
- Get creative
- Draw from personal experiences
- Write down anything and everything
- Have a theme to the song
- Know that rhyming is easier than you think
- Decide the genre of the song
- Decide the structure of the song
- Write music that complements the lyrics
- Work out a set of chords
- Practice music theory
- Experiment with different ways of writing songs
- Put on the finishing touches
How to write a song from the heart
#1 Use emotion when songwriting
Writing songs and song lyrics is a lot easier if you focus on something you are interested in and passionate about.
One way is to channel your emotions into a chosen topic that is really close or important to you. You will find the whole process a lot easier.
When writing lyrics, use emotive language that will trigger some intense feelings inside the listener and of course yourself when you’re singing it.
How are you feeling right now? Are you feeling frustrated, jealous, in love, happy, or excited? When you really focus in on one emotion, you can create a clear narrative that takes the listener on a journey.
It’s important to note that if you convey emotion in the song, people are often far more likely to relate to it.
How can I become a good songwriter?
#2 Get creative with songwriting
Songwriting is something anyone can achieve if they put their mind to it, but it’s important to understand writing song lyrics takes a lot of discipline and dedication. Writing song lyrics is a very personal process, everyone will have a different style and approach.
Getting started is often the hardest part of the songwriting process. Developing your song’s main melody or central chorus is considered by some to be the best place to begin writing your next track, but some people might prefer to write a set of lyrics in no particular order and then go from there.
Other songwriters might prefer to start at the beginning of their track by writing a great intro, which will lead them naturally into the rest of the song.
There are no set rules when it comes to writing a new song. It’s down to the creativity of the songwriter and your original inspiration to determine your starting point.
How to write original lyrics
Regarding song content, always remember that you’re free to write about whatever you want. Don’t feel restricted to write about what someone else has already written about – in fact, it’s probably better to write something completely different!
Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to be eccentric. As a creator, you have the freedom to make anything. Even if you think people might not seem to like your song initially, they will grow to like it if they see that you’ve been creative with it.
How to write a song about someone
#3 Draw from personal experience
The great thing about songwriting is that everyone can have a go at it. One of the main reasons for this is that everyone, no matter how old or young has had life experiences that are significant to them.
Think about the people you’ve met, the places you’ve been, the sounds you’ve heard and the sights you’ve seen. It’s inevitable that you’ll be able to think of something. Even if you think it might not be significant to you, if you can write a narrative about it you can create a great song from it!
If you want to write about someone specifically, try and tell a story about them. Who are they, what have they done, why did they do it, when did they do it and how does it relate to you?
Use bad, funny and ironic life experiences to your advantage. These are the type of songs fans can relate to. Many popular songs are about heartbreak and failed relationships like Adele. Think of relating your lyrics to what’s happening in your life or how you’re feeling about a certain situation.
Some of history’s greatest songs are about personal experiences when artists draw on real-life events and traumas to spark their creativity.
Whether you’ve been through hard times or great times, you can put those feelings into a song you can be proud of.
Writing songs without music
#4 Write down anything and everything
There’s nothing worse as a songwriter than coming up with an amazing melody or riff, only to completely forget what it was an hour later.
Forgetting your ideas can be really frustrating, so it’s important to make a note of your idea while it’s fresh in your mind. Keep a journal with you or a notes document on your phone – you’ll thank yourself later.
If you’re stuck wording your idea, jot down notes of what you’re trying to get across. Come back to it later with a fresh mind!
Don’t judge yourself
Musicians and songwriters are often our own worst critics. If you judge your own songs too harshly you’ll never get anything done, so it’s important to keep an open mind, and while it’s great to take your time and carefully consider each facet of a new song.
It’s often easier to get things done when you let the songwriting process flow, stop worrying and just get on with it. Overthinking can be your worst enemy. Get a basic idea for your song down, and you can always go back and change things afterward.
If you’re struggling to get your ideas out, here are some ways to overcome writer’s block:
How to write song lyrics
#5 Have a theme to the song
Unless you’re producing instrumental music, the lyrics are arguably the most important part of your song. Lyric writing can often be the most frustrating and difficult aspect of the songwriting process though.
Once you’ve got some basic lyrical ideas down, having a clear idea of what your song will be about is a good place to start.
You could write down exactly what you want to get across in your lyrics, then play about with the rhythm, structure, and cadence of your words to fit them around your melody.
A solid lyrical hook for your chorus is particularly important, while the verses and bridge can be built more around your central theme.
#6 Know that rhyming is easier than you think
When it comes to rhyming, try not to overthink it. There are plenty of ways to rhyme phrases.
Some examples of this are: having every line rhyme exactly, having the first two lines rhyme and the third and fourth lines rhyme, having the second and fourth lines rhyme – there are swathes of different ways!
Try and avoid ‘cheese’ and cliché though – don’t make your rhyming scheme to predictable either with exact rhymes all the time (for example rhyming ‘me’ with: ‘see’, ‘be’ or ‘he’). They’re definitely the foundation of rhyming, but try not to overuse them.
A great alternative to exact rhymes is near rhymes. Almost all artists use these at some point. Below is an example from Ed Sheeran’s song ‘Perfect’ where he rhymes words that don’t exactly rhyme but don’t disrupt the flow of the song.
“I found a love
Darling just dive right in
And follow my lead
Well I found a girl
Beautiful and sweet
I never knew you were the someone
Waiting for me”
Ed even rhymes the word ‘me’ twice, but there’s enough space between the two instances for it to not be noticed.
Remember, not every line needs to rhyme! Sometimes this sounds forced. Don’t shy from ending lines with the same vowel sound, this is far more subtle than forced rhyming.
How do you write a song for beginners?
#7 Decide the genre of the song
When you’re starting out, it might be best to write a song in a genre that you’re familiar with.
If you want to get inspired, listen to music that’s typical of the genre you’re looking at writing. You might get new lyrical or musical ideas from studying the genre in depth – of course, don’t copy, instead draw inspiration by taking small ideas and expanding on them, making a new song.
Does the genre have a specific song theme? A particular tempo? Does it use a certain set of instruments? Ask yourself these sorts of questions when you’re listening to music in the genre you want to write in.
How to write a song for kids
If you’re writing for kids, for example, keep it simple. Keep the words basic and understandable, don’t use heavy instruments.
You also might want to consider writing it in a major key so that the kids feel happy and respond to the song positively!
#8 Decide the structure of the song
Deciding the structure of your song is also an important aspect to consider towards the start of your songwriting process.
Keeping your track as simple as possible at first is an excellent way to accelerate the songwriting process and work out the structure of your song.
Many complex songs from 5 or 6-piece bands started life as a few chords strummed on an acoustic guitar. Once you have the basis of the song in its simplest form, you can go about adding drums, strings, brass or any other additional elements afterward.
Think about how many choruses and verses you’re going to have, then think about intros, pre-choruses and middle sections (or bridges).
Song structure ideas
A typical song structure you could try is a four–verse structure, each with four–lines, plus a four line chorus every two verses. You could also try putting in a middle section known as a bridge towards the end of the song.
Avoid making things harder for yourself by overcomplicating your track right from the start of the process.
Remember that, once you’re further into the process, go back to the first line – The first line is it’s very important to get right! This line introduces the song and establishes the song’s mood. It’s the first line that grabs the listener’s attention, so make the most of it.
Make sure, when you’re writing song lyrics, that the song has a clear structure and progression as the song develops. This is particularly important when writing lyrics that portray a story. Always check your song makes sense when you read back over it.
Make sure to give this article a read before you start work on your chorus.
How do songwriters write songs?
#9 Write music that complements the lyrics
To make a great song, it’s a good idea to make sure that the lyrics gel with the musical ideas – most professional songwriters think about this a lot when they’re creating their songs.
Try to match up your lyrics with your music, so if it’s a sad song lyrically then perhaps write a slow song in a minor key. If it’s a happy song then perhaps write a faster song with higher energy, reflecting the positive mood.
‘Galway Girl’ by Ed Sheeran is a perfect example of this – the lyrics are about Ed meeting an Irish girl and having a fun night out with her. The music reflects his happiness (as it’s upbeat and in a major key) and the instrumentation he uses also contains traditional Irish folk instruments (like the acoustic guitar and fiddle).
Some bands, however, like The 1975, defy these conventions – they’ll write very sombre and meaningful lyrics but to a catchy pop beat.
Having lyrical hooks are great too. These are phrases that you can imagine people really relating to and singing over and over again.
The first time your fans hear your song they will only hear the parts that stand out the most, this is why it’s important to have a lyrical hook in your song as well as a musical hook!
How do you write a good chorus?
#10 Work out a set of chords
To write a good chorus, you’ll need to have a set of chords that work well together.
Typically chord progressions that work are ones that are somewhat familiar to us as listeners. Simple chords are a great place to start.
Play around on an acoustic guitar or a piano and play some basic chords in different orders – you’ll more than likely stumble across something that you like.
The key of C major is a great place to start, as it doesn’t use any sharps or flats in the key.
Chords that work great in the key of C include C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, and A minor. Of course, you could put in a rogue F#dim7 for example, but that’s a bit eccentric if you’re just trying to write a simple catchy chorus that doesn’t disrupt the flow of the song!
Here’s ‘The 4-Chord Song’ – it combines loads of other songs into one medley using only 4 chords. This shows that so many completely different songs work with exactly the same chords:
#11 Practice music theory
If you’re not sure what ‘keys’ or ‘chords’ are, a great place to start off is by learning music theory.
It will definitely help you understand music in a much deeper way, and it should help your songwriting skills immensely.
There are plenty of teachers who would be able to teach you basic music theory, both in person and online. You can even take graded exams in exactly the same way as you would take a piano or guitar grade exam.
If you’d prefer to teach yourself, musictheory.net is a great place to get started.
How do I get into songwriting?
#12 Experiment with different ways of writing songs
There are so many different ways of songwriting, it definitely takes time to realise which method works best for you.
If you prefer writing lyrics first, try writing in different places – go outside, sit down with a notepad, or sit down with Microsoft Word. You might even want to just mumble phrases to a tune and form lyrics that way.
If you prefer writing the music first sit down with an instrument (like a piano or guitar) and play some chords or riffs to start off with. Again, you might prefer to go outside to change the setting in which you’re writing.
Think outside the box too – you might want to, instead, sit down at a Digital Audio Workstation (like Logic) and play around with the effects to see what inspires you and write from there. There is no right answer to creativity.
For some people writing song lyrics can be daunting, so try writing with someone else. Sometimes songwriting works better if there’s someone else you bounce ideas around with.
Stuck writing lyrics on your own? Consider a co-writing session:
How do you produce a song?
#13 Put on the finishing touches
Once you’ve followed all the previous steps and you now have a full song it’s time to put the finishing touches on it.
This stage of the songwriting process, also known as production, often comes when you take the song into the studio. Production is where you and a producer add extra parts or effects to your song to make it sound even better.
Working with a producer can help make the song ‘pop’ – they might add something that you might not have thought of, or they might make it sound more radio ready.
Getting advice once it’s finished
It’s easy to lose sight of how good or bad your song is after you’ve spent hours and hours working, changing and creating it by yourself. So finding someone you trust (like a producer) to give honest advice is always a great thing to do.
Anyone else who has an opinion you value, ask them to critique your song for you. You might just find they have some fantastic insight into how it could be improved. Don’t just play it to someone who might be afraid to hurt your feelings – you want honest, genuine feedback to make your song the best it can possibly be!
Have you already written a song? What advice would you give to others starting their songwriting journey? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!