Songwriting Tips & Techniques
Songwriting is one of the most important parts of the music industry, and if you’re thinking of writing your own songs, we have plenty of information on what it means to be a songwriter and how you can become one yourself.
Understanding the essence of songwriting is essential if you want to know how this part of the industry works. We have lots of important information on songwriting and everything that goes along with it.
So what is songwriting? Here’s our short answer – songwriting is the process of writing lyrics and creating musical compositions. What do you call someone who writes songs? A songwriter. They can also be called a composer, although ‘composer’ tends to be used mainly for individuals who write instrumental music.
- Write down lyrics when they come to you
- Structure your song
- Make your chorus catchy
- Use tips from famous pros
- Download songwriting apps
- Use tried and tested tools
- Don’t give up!
The great thing about songwriting is that everyone can have a go at it. One of the best techniques for songwriting is drawing from personal experiences.
Think about the places you’ve been to and the people you’ve met throughout your life. You’ll definitely be able to think of something.
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?
More on how to write songs here.
Write down lyrics when they come to you
When you start writing lyrics, it’s always important to make notes of your ideas whilst they’re fresh in your mind. Keep a journal with you or a notes document on your phone.
If you’re stuck wording your ideas, come back to them later.
Try not to judge your lyrics too harshly – you’ll never get anything done if you keep scrapping your ideas! It’s often easier to get things done when you let the songwriting process flow, stop worrying and just be persistent.
If you’re struggling to get your ideas out, here are some ways to overcome writer’s block.
Structure your 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.
Songwriting 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.
Make sure, when you’re writing a song, that it 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.
Remember that, once you’re further into the process, go back to the first line – it’s very important to get this right as the first line introduces the song and establishes the song’s mood. It’s the very first thing that grabs the listener’s attention, so make the most of it.
Make sure to give this article a read before you start work on your chorus.
Make your chorus catchy
Normally a good chorus is one that’s catchy and memorable but isn’t too ‘cheesy.’ It’s often hard to strike that balance.
Lyrically, avoid lots of exact rhymes that the listener can see coming from a mile away, instead use some near rhymes to keep the listener’s interest.
Musically, it’s important not to over-complicate it. With pop music especially, the melody might just be a few notes repeated with the lyrics changing over the top. Some choruses don’t have lyrics at all – they might just be ‘heys’ or ‘woahs.’
‘Good Time’ by Carly Rae Jepson and Owl City balances all of this perfectly. The chorus is simple, memorable, but not too ‘cheesy’:
Songwriting tips from famous songwriters
Beyoncé is an advocate of working together with others.
She says that “I love being around great writers because I’m finding that a lot of the things I want to say, I don’t articulate as good as maybe Amanda Ghost, so I want to keep collaborating with writers, and I love classics and I want to make sure years from now the song is still something that’s relevant.”
John Legend always goes with his gut when songwriting.
He says that “I just try to go with what feels right musically and melodically. I’ll sometimes establish the musical format of the song and the melody of the song within the first ten minutes of the original idea coming to me… I think music should dictate the lyrics always.”
Taylor is certainly aware of the fact that her songs are judged by millions, but she doesn’t let it get to her.
“I think it’s important that I don’t necessarily think too hard about what everybody else’s perception of me is or else I’d just get completely lost in it. It’s just easier to think of myself that way.”
Modern songwriting techniques; our top 3 songwriting apps:
There are plenty of music apps out there that will help you improve your songwriting. Here are some of our favourites.
Hum is an app dedicated to storing your songs, ideas, lyrics, and recordings all in one place. When you open the app you can click ‘add song’ to get started.
You can colour code your projects just in case you have multiple ideas for one song.
Information like the key, capo needed and feel of the song can be inputted in for reference.
#2 Garage band
Garageband is a mobile app (and desktop app) that’s perfect for arranging new ideas quickly and easily. It has its own built-in guitar, drums, and keyboard sounds. It also gives you the option to record your voice to edit later.
There are so many options for editing your song ideas together that the app will keep your ideas flowing for hours!
#3 Music Memos
Music memos is an app to help record and organise your ideas on the go. When you open the app you’ll be able to record your idea on a vocal clip which will be saved as a waveform.
Inside the app, you can save information on your song (like lyrics, key, and chords) and edit it from there.
It’s very easy to organise your ideas in this app – there is an option in the bottom left icon that contains your library of ideas once you have some recorded.
The best songwriting tools are often the most simple of them all. Here are our top 3 tools that you can use if you’re looking for how to write an original song.
If you need help with your rhyming, Rhymezone is the website for you.
You can simply type in any word and you’ll find out what rhymes with it – there will always be words that you won’t have thought of.
It also brings up near rhymes for when you’re feeling more adventurous.
Soundcloud is one of the most popular services for new songwriters to share their music with the world. It’s a free service that allows you to upload music to a global platform, on which, anyone can listen to your songs.
You may be thinking that it has nothing to do with songwriting, however, you can use it to your advantage by sharing it with people and asking them for feedback.
Even if you just have an idea, you don’t have to make the song ‘public’ you can simply upload it and send a private link to someone you think can give you valuable feedback. It will provide you with a wider scope of opinions on your writing which will definitely improve your skills as a songwriter.
#3 Pen and paper!
Nowadays lots of songwriters will use apps or Microsoft Word, which are great, but they don’t quite hold the authenticity of the traditional methods of songwriting and writing in general.
You might find that the visceral experience of physically writing some of your ideas down will help you with your workflow.
The importance of songwriting
On a very basic level as a singer, you are only likely to make money when you perform. Through songwriting, you open up so many potential opportunities and avenues. Working on your songwriting increases your chances of being noticed as you’re offering something new to the market.
Why get into songwriting?
It can open doors
As a singer unless you sing original material, certain doors and places to play won’t be available to you. Many open mic nights and festivals will only want artists that play their own songs, so by songwriting and performing your original songs you will make these opportunities available to you.
Record labels as a general rule are looking for acts that are good at songwriting, as they know that’s where the money is; otherwise, you need to demonstrate something quite unique in your talent and personality to be signed. If they do sign you without your own songwriting, it’s just another thing the label needs to develop.
Songwriting competitions and songwriting opportunities
Another avenue that opens up to you as a songwriter is songwriting competitions. There are plenty out there and they can really make you grow as a writer and musician due to the valuable feedback that you can receive from them.
The UK Songwriting Contest
The UK Songwriting Contest is one of the world’s most popular, longest-running and established songwriting events.
It works with top British producers and industry professionals and was formed with the aim of “discovering and encouraging new songwriting talent and promoting the craft of songwriting.”
How much money does a songwriter make per song?
The money in music has in recent times been in songwriting. Regardless of who is performing the song, or where and when, you should receive money each time it is played.
This can be quite significant, so if you have a successful song but you played no part in the songwriting of the original for the band or group you are in you are unlikely to receive a penny.
The exact amount can vary, but if you have a successful song that works well with a certain artist, it can earn you thousands!
Songs can get you signed
There have been some massive notable examples of acts who wrote for other artists that had huge success from songwriting. As a result, the songwriter has received a lot of attention and a spotlight to launch their own career.
There are no guarantees that just because you can sing and perform that you are going to be good at songwriting too, but the thing to remember is that just like your singing, just like your performance, it needs to start from somewhere!
Eventually even if songwriting doesn’t come naturally you can at least get to the level of being a co-writer and as a result, you will receive credit and a cut of the money.
Who is the richest songwriter in the world?
The richest songwriters of all time are Paul McCartney & Andrew Lloyd Webber. Both have a net worth of approximately $1.2 billion.
Paul McCartney is famously known, alongside John Lennon, as one of the principal songwriters behind the Beatles. He has also had plenty of success with his other band, Wings, and as a solo artist, generating millions in royalties every year.
A love of show tunes and stage performances has made Broadway legend Andrew Lloyd Webber the most successful songwriter in the world. He’s written musicals such as Cats, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, and, of course, The Phantom of the Opera.
How do I get into songwriting?
Songwriting is one of the easiest things to get into! It only takes imagination, perseverance and a pinch of musical talent to get the ball rolling. Before you know it, you’ll be fluently writing songs without even thinking.
How do you write a song?
Start with either the music or the lyrics
If you’re looking to make your own song, a good place to start would be with a set of chords. Keep it simple by playing around on an acoustic guitar or a piano and play some basic chords in different orders.
The key of C major is a great place to start, as it doesn’t use any sharps or flats in the key.
As a beginner, try and find chords that don’t disrupt the flow of the song, for example, C major, A minor, F major and G major (in the key of C).
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.
When writing lyrics, start off with using emotive language that will trigger some intense feelings inside the listener and of course yourself when you’re singing it. It’s a great place to start because everyone experiences emotions.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Most importantly, think outside the box and don’t be afraid to be eccentric.
You might find that it’s a good idea to think of individual words or phrases that might spark interest. We have some ideas that might spark your creativity below:
- I’ve got a thing about you
- I mean what I say
- Trapped in my mind
- What’s the big deal?
- An amazing dream
- Out of time
- Where I want to be
- What have I done?
- Want us to last forever
- Just beautiful
More on how to write better songs here.
How can I get better at songwriting?
Experiment with different ways of writing songs; putting time and effort into seeing what works for you is the best way to be successful.
Try sitting outside, try using tools like Pro Tools or Logic straight away and experimenting with sounds, or try finding a friend to write with.
Writing with someone else can give both of you more freedom to balance what you write individually and as a partnership. You both might have started writing an awesome song but it just needs some extra perspective to finish it off.
Here are some tips for preparing for a co-writing session.
Have you got any tips for songwriting? What advice would you give to others starting their songwriting journey? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!