So, you want to write a song but do not know your way around it, you’ve heard hit songs with powerful rhythms and lyrics from the greatest musicians all over the world, and you’re wondering “how do they do it?”. Good news! Songwriting is not as difficult as you think or have been told, what makes it even better is that there are no hard and fast rules to it, which makes it flexible and easy to work around. I’ll be sharing some step-by-step guidelines that great musicians use in writing their top hit songs, and you can also use to make your own bestseller song.
First Things First
The first thing to do when you sit with your pen and paper or your computer is to brainstorm; brainstorming means gathering all your thoughts and ideas for a potential song all in one place, select the idea that you like the most and build up on that selected idea over time with a new brainstorm, doing this will help you define exactly what you want your song to be about. For instance, you may have ideas on Leaving your ex, Finding love, Night out with the girls, The boy next door, The kind of neighborhood you come from, Your family etc., choose one out of these ideas and write a song about it. Let’s assume you picked ‘The boy next door’ idea, you can further narrow this down to a new brainstorm: talk about when he moved in (summer, spring, winter or autumn), talk about how he never paid any attention to you at first, talk about the first time you ran into him and how he makes your heart skip a beat…build up ideas around an idea, it will make your songwriting process more organized and make it easier for lyrics to flow to you. Make sure to write about something that you can easily express so that you don’t get stuck somewhere along the line, let it be something that your listeners can relate to, put yourself in their shoes and write from a listener’s viewpoint.
Pick A Genre
Choosing a genre of song will help you mentally picture what you want the melody to sound like. What is your favourite genre? What genre of music does your favourite hero sing? Ask yourself certain questions to help you make a choice. You can try listening to different genres of songs to help you find the one that “clicks”.
What comes first?
Like I earlier said, there is no hard and fast rule to songwriting, all you can get on the internet are just guidelines and tips. The lyrics can come first, or the melody, depending on which one you’re able to reach out to first. You could be walking along the road and hear a familiar song rhythm; you bring out your smart phone and use a recording app to hum a melody out of inspiration or you may be jolted up from sleep with two or three lines making up the lyrics of your song. If you play an instrument, chord and chord progressions may even come first, just do whichever works for you.
Write your lyrics…clearly
Lyrics is an important part of songwriting; it is what makes up or composes the whole song, write your lyrics in a way that it has a clear storyline so that your listeners can create an imagination when listening to your song. Let your lyrics answer the question of who or what the song was written for/about. Let your lyrics be genuine; write from your experiences and happenings around your life and environment. Ok, I understand that some people do not like to share their experiences or talk about their personal lives in a song, that’s fine too. However way you decide to write, even if your lyrics are based on fictional experiences, let it be authentic such that your listeners can relate to it without actually guessing that it is all made up.
There should be a pattern of how you want your song to go; most songs have a particular basic order or structure in which they are formed, it is called the A-B-A-B-C-B style of songwriting: verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus. ‘A’ stands for the verse, ‘B’ stands for the chorus and ‘C’ stands for the bridge. For more dynamics and uniqueness, you can add an intro, outro or pre-chorus to your song. The verse and chorus are actually the most important elements in a song because the verse describes the story behind the song in detail; you may have about 2, 3, 4 or as many as you want (not too many though), the chorus is that part of the song that people remember first when they think about your song, the more catchy and easy-to-remember you make it, the better.
You can pick a title from the most repeated words in your chorus, or the first word in the song, or whom/what the song is directed towards. Let’s go back to our idea ‘The boy next door’ and work with it, our song title here can be ‘Jason’ (who happens to be whom the song talks about; the boy next door), or ‘Hello Jason’ or ‘Say something to me’, your song title should be in sync with the context of the song.
Always record your sound and write down your lyrics, it is amazing how the human brain works, you can forget something you think you have “mastered” in the blink of an eye if it is not recorded or put down somewhere. For the initial songwriting process, you just need a smartphone to record the raw form of the melody by humming or ‘la-la-la-ing’ or a pen and paper or notebook app to write the lyrics so that you do not forget it.
Get a fresh pair of eyes and ears
After writing your song, leave it along for a couple of hours or days, forget about it and revisit it later. It’ll give you fresh eyes and ears to perceiving the song and help you see areas that need corrections or adjustment; you may need to take out a weird-sounding line and add another, you may need to restructure your tenses or maybe even add a new verse.
Ask for another opinion
Reach out to friends, family members or colleagues who are musically inclined and ask them to listen to your song. Ask for their honest opinions about both the lyrics and the melody and keep an open mind for criticism, take whatever they tell you with no grudge at all and work on the areas they’ve talked about.
Even if you were born with songwriting skills, they would quickly die if you don’t develop or work on them as with every other skill. Write often even if you’re not releasing a ‘big hit’ yet. You could sell out your lyrics to other musicians, this is a great way to make extra income instead of just sitting on your songwriting abilities.
Every songwriter is unique in their own way, you are too. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Have your own special style of writing and stick to it.
Write, write, write and keep writing. That’s the only sure way to grow your songwriting skills.
Every songwriter feels stuck at some point (even professionals), this is called the writer’s block; it’s that state where you feel your brain cannot function to write another word anymore and it is a terrible phase for every writer. Do you want to know how to get past that phase? Then check out this article: