Do you want to write your own songs, but don’t know how? In this article how to write a song for beginners article, we will teach you how to write a song, from finding inspiration to polishing your lyrics and melody.
You will also get tips and tricks from professional songwriters, examples of songs to inspire you, and advice on how to collaborate with other musicians and find your own voice and style. By the end of this article, you will be ready to write your own songs and express your musical identity. Let’s get started.
P.S. Before we start, I would like to warn you that this article might be too long. Feel free to use the table of contents to jump to specific parts of the article.
How to write a song for beginners: finding an idea
First off, let’s tackle this mysterious notion of a ‘song idea’. In the simplest terms, a song idea is the core theme, the backbone, the heartbeat of your song. It’s that magical spark that kickstarts your creative journey, shaping the direction and purpose of your song. Whether it’s a phrase that’s stuck in your head, a burning question, a tantalizing tale, or a raw, pure emotion – it’s the seed from which your song will blossom.
Where Do Song Ideas Come From?
You’re probably asking – where do these ideas spring from? The beauty of songwriting is that inspiration lurks in every corner. Here are a few places you might stumble upon your next brilliant song idea:
- Your own experiences: Authenticity is the key to great music. Your personal experiences, emotions, and observations can provide a treasure trove of inspiration. “A concept can be a title, it can be a story, it can be an idea that you got from some experience that you’ve had” (Reynolds, 2021). Reflect on what stirs your soul, what keeps your mind racing at night, or what brings a smile to your face.
- External influences: Books, movies, news, art, and even other songs can all be catalysts for ideas. Ever stumbled upon a line in a book that resonated with you? Or watched a movie that sparked a thought? That’s potential song material waiting to be discovered.
- Brainstorming and freewriting: Let your imagination roam free. Scribble down every thought that crosses your mind, no matter how silly or insignificant it might seem. You’d be amazed how often a great song idea emerges from a seemingly random thought.
Real-World Song Ideas
To make this concept a little more tangible, let’s dive into a real-world example. For instance, the Beatles’ iconic song ‘Yesterday’ sprouted from a dream. Paul McCartney woke up one morning with a melody and lyrics dancing in his mind. After that, he penned them down, later weaving in chords and harmony, and voila – one of the most celebrated songs of all time was born.
Polishing Your Idea-Finding Skills
Finding song ideas is an art, and like any art, it can be fine-tuned and perfected. Here are some tips to help you unlock your creative potential:
- Keep a notebook or a recorder handy: Inspiration doesn’t work on a schedule. Make sure you’re always ready to jot down or record any ideas that pop into your head.
- Stay curious and open-minded: Venture into different topics and perspectives. Your next great idea might be hiding in the most unexpected places.
- Embrace originality and creativity: It’s perfectly fine to draw inspiration from others, but strive to inject your own unique flavor into your songs. Avoid imitating others or resorting to clichés.
- Stay flexible and adaptable: Your initial idea might need some tweaking. Be willing to modify or refine your song idea as you develop your song. Remember, songwriting is more about the journey than the destination.
You can also seek the help of songwriting apps, such as Songcraft so you can write songs wherever and whenever you are. So if ever an idea pops out, just open the app and write away.
How to Choose a Song Structure
So, you’re fired up, your guitar is tuned, and your creative energy is buzzing. You’re all set to craft your own original song. But where do you begin? Well, one crucial puzzle piece to consider is song structure.
Picture it as the blueprint of your musical masterpiece. It’s the pattern that weaves together the different parts of a song – the intro, verse, chorus, bridge, and outro. Song structure is like the plot twist in a page-turning novel or the climax in a blockbuster movie. It’s what gives your song coherence, makes it catchy, and etches it into listeners’ memories.
Moreover, it’s your secret weapon in creating contrast, variety, and suspense in your song. Let’s explore some common song structures that can serve as your launchpad for creating your own compositions.
Verse-Chorus: The Timeless Classic
The verse-chorus structure is the bread and butter of song structures – it’s a classic for a reason. You’ll find it in everything from pop to rock to country music. It alternates between verses and choruses, with an optional intro and outro. The verses unravel the story or the specifics of the song, while the chorus delivers the key idea or the hook. The chorus remains the same throughout, while the verses change, making this structure straightforward, effective, and easy to remember.
Verse-Prechorus-Chorus: Spicing Things Up
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to add a dash of excitement, give the verse-prechorus-chorus structure a whirl. It’s the verse-chorus structure, but with a twist. Nestled between the verse and the chorus, you’ll find a prechorus. This brief section builds up to the chorus, creating anticipation and excitement. It’s also an opportunity to introduce a new melody, chord, or lyric, adding a touch of contrast and intrigue. This structure is a staple in pop and R&B music.
Verse-Bridge: The Minimalist Marvel
If you’re a fan of simplicity, the verse-bridge structure might be your perfect match. Here, there are only two main sections: the verse and the bridge. The verse repeats throughout the song, with slight variations in the lyrics or the melody. Then comes the bridge – a contrasting section that breaks the monotony of the verse, adding a fresh perspective or a surprising twist to the song. This structure is a favorite in folk and blues music.
AABA: The Jazz Standard
For those of you with a flair for jazz or musical theater, the AABA structure could be your ideal fit. Here, you have four sections: A, A, B, and A. The A sections are the verses, which share a similar melody but have different lyrics. The B section, or bridge, offers a contrasting melody and lyrics, providing a refreshing break from the repetition of the A sections. This structure is also known as the 32-bar form, as each section typically spans 8 bars.
ABABCB: Rock and Pop’s Darling
Lastly, let’s delve into the ABABCB structure. This six-part structure is a darling in rock and pop music. It includes A sections (verses), B sections (choruses), and a C section (bridge). The verses share the same melody but vary in lyrics, while the choruses share both melody and lyrics. The bridge introduces a contrast and a climax to the song. This structure is also known as the chorus-bridge form, merging the verse-chorus and the verse-bridge structures.
After determining your song structure, it is time to compose the lyrics and melody. Every great song starts with a captivating story and a catchy melody. Whether you’re a budding songwriter or an experienced musician, continuously refining your songwriting skills is essential to creating memorable music.
The Art of Writing Lyrics
Lyrics are the heart of your song. They are your message to the listener and the emotional pulse that captivates your audience. Here’s how you can craft lyrics that resonate.
Rhyme, Rhythm, and Repetition: The Holy Trinity
Rhyme, rhythm, and repetition are the pillars of memorable lyrics. It connects your ideas and adds musicality to your song. For instance, words like ‘love’ and ‘above’ create a pleasing effect. However, aim for natural and effortless rhymes, not forced or predictable ones.
Rhythm dictates the flow of your words. It’s the ‘heartbeat’ of your lyrics. A rhythmical line like ‘I’m a little teapot, short and stout’ makes it easy to remember, right?
Repetition is your magic wand for emphasis. It drives home your key idea or hook, making it catchy. Lines like ‘Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore’ are unforgettable because of repetition.
Hooks, Slogans, and Titles: The Earworms
Hooks, slogans, and titles are the bait for your listeners’ attention. They are the unforgettable lines that encapsulate your song’s essence.
The hook, usually found in the chorus, is the most memorable part of your song. Slogans are catchy phrases that encapsulate your song’s message, like ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ or ‘I will survive’. Titles, typically based on your hooks or slogans, are the labels of your songs.
Strive for simple, clear, and catchy hooks, slogans, and titles that reflect your song’s vibe. They should be original, creative, and resonate with your listeners.
Imagery, Metaphors, and Similes: The Paintbrush
Imagery, metaphors, and similes are your tools for creating vivid, expressive lyrics. They transport your listener into your song’s world.
Imagery paints sensory pictures. Descriptions like ‘The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the flowers were blooming’ create a vivid scene in your listener’s mind. Meanwhile, metaphors and similes draw comparisons, like ‘You are my sunshine’ or ‘Life is a roller coaster’.
Avoid clichés and overused comparisons. The more original and creative your imagery, metaphors, and similes, the more captivating your lyrics will be.
General tips for composing lyrics
Composing your lyrics can be fun and challenging at the same time. In general, here are helpful tips to jumpstart your lyric-writing journey:
- Draw inspiration for your lyrics from your own life experiences, feelings, and the world around you.
- Focus on crafting a standout line that captures attention and forms the backbone of your song’s lyrics.
- Employ vivid imagery and creative metaphors to delve deeper into your song’s main theme.
- Introduce dynamic contrasts through repetition and variation to add rhythm and intrigue to your song.
- Strive for simplicity in your wording to ensure your message is clear and easily understood.
- Seek constructive feedback on your lyrics from peers or other musicians to refine and improve them.
The Science of Creating Melodies
Melodies are the soul of your song. They are the sequence of notes that form your song’s musical backbone. Here’s how you can create melodies that stir emotions.
Using the Scale of Your Key
The scale of your key is the blueprint for creating a melody that harmonizes with your chord progression. It’s a family of notes that sound good together.
Choose a key that matches your genre, style, and mood. Use the tonic (the first note of the scale) as the starting and ending point of your melody for resolution. The dominant (the fifth note of the scale) adds tension and direction. Don’t ignore the other notes of the scale, they can add variety and interest.
Creating Drama with Intervals and Leaps
Intervals and leaps add drama to your melody. Intervals are the distances between two notes, and leaps are large intervals that skip one or more notes.
Small intervals create a smooth, flowing melody, while large ones add power and drama. Octaves (the same note in a higher or lower pitch) create a bold melody. Use leaps sparingly and balance them with steps and returns for a coherent melody.
Motifs and Variations: The Rhythm
Motifs and variations are the rhythm of your melody. A motif is a recurring musical idea, while a variation is a change to the motif.
Choose simple, catchy motifs that reflect your song’s vibe. Variations should be interesting and meaningful. Experiment with different types of variations, such as changing the rhythm, pitch, harmony, or instrumentation of your motif. Use motifs and variations in different parts of your song for contrast and coherence.
Adding Chords and Harmony: Breathing Life into Your Melodies
Imagine you’ve crafted a melody that dances through the air, solo and serene. Now picture that melody being joined by a choir of chords and harmonies, each one adding depth and richness to the song. It’s like your melody has found a supportive ensemble, helping it communicate the mood and tell a more profound story. So how exactly do you go about adding chords and harmony? Let’s dive in!
Using the Scale of Your Key
When you first started learning guitar, scales might have seemed like a tedious necessity. But they are actually indispensable roadmaps for creating harmonious chords that fit your melody seamlessly.
So how do you navigate this roadmap? Here are some pointers:
- Choose a key that complements your song’s style, mood, and your vocal range or instrument.
- The tonic, or the first chord of the scale, is your ‘home base’. Starting and ending on this note creates a sense of resolution and firmly establishes the key.
- The fifth chord, or the dominant, is your ‘drama queen’. It creates tension and movement in your chord progression.
- The other chords in the scale are your ‘supporting actors’. They create contrast, variety, and intrigue.
Using Intervals and Leaps
Think of intervals and leaps as the spices in your musical stew. They add flavor, create dynamics, and can even make your harmony more expressive. Here’s how:
- Small intervals create a smooth and flowing harmony, like a tranquil river, subtly making its way.
- Large intervals introduce drama and power, like a sudden waterfall disrupting the tranquility.
- Octaves, or the same note but in a higher or lower pitch, create a bold, emphatic harmony. They’re the undercurrent that displays the river’s strength.
- Use leaps sparingly and strategically, balancing them with steps and returns. This ensures your harmony remains balanced and doesn’t veer off-course.
Using Motifs and Variations
Motifs and variations are the recurring themes and unexpected plot twists in your musical narrative. They can make your harmony consistent, memorable, and even creative. Here’s how:
- Use motifs that are simple, lucid, catchy, and reflect your song’s genre, style, and message.
- Variations should be subtle, interesting, and meaningful. They should amplify your song’s emotion and message.
- Experiment with different types of variations, such as changing the rhythm, pitch, harmony, or instrumentation of your motif.
- Use motifs and variations across your song to create contrast, variety, and coherence.
Want to delve deeper into the world of chords and harmony? Check out these additional online resources:
- How to Harmonize
- Chords and Harmony
- Adding Chords to a Melody: the 3 Easy Steps
- How to Harmonize a Melody In 4 Easy Steps
Revision and Editing: The Unsung Heroes of Songwriting
We’ve all been there, pouring our hearts into a fresh set of chords and lyrics, unleashing the raw, unfiltered passion of a new song. But as any seasoned songwriter will tell you, the initial burst of creativity is just the beginning of the journey. The magic truly blossoms in the revision and editing stage.
The Power of Revising and Editing
Revising and editing is the process of chiseling your rough diamond into a gleaming gem. It’s the equivalent of sanding and varnishing a handcrafted guitar – it brings out the beauty in your creation, and it’s a pivotal part of the process.
Revising is all about refining your song idea, your lyrics, your melody, your chords, and your harmony. It’s the stage where you zoom out and look at your creation from a broader perspective.
Editing, on the other hand, is where you zoom in and patch up any errors, inconsistencies, or weaknesses in your song. It’s the detail-oriented phase that ensures your song is not just good, but great.
Strategies for Effective Song Revision and Editing
Refining your song to perfection might seem like a daunting task. But fear not! Here are some strategies that I’ve gleaned from my own experience and from fellow musicians I’ve encountered during my travels:
Feedback, Critique, and Collaboration: Enlist different perspectives and opinions on your song. Input from other musicians, friends, or even online communities can offer valuable insights.
Recording, Playback, and Analysis: Be your own critic. Listen to your song objectively and critically. Does the melody hook you? Are the lyrics expressing your intended message? Is the harmony complementing the melody?
Rewriting, Rearranging, and Deleting: Don’t shy away from changing parts of your song that aren’t hitting the mark. Sometimes, less is indeed more. If a section doesn’t serve the song, it might be best to bid it farewell.
Polishing, Fine-tuning, and Mastering: This is where you enhance and perfect your song’s sound and quality. Pay attention to every little detail, from the strumming pattern to the vocal inflections.
Learning from the Masters: Song Revision and Editing in Action
Sometimes, the best way to learn is by example. Let’s take a peek at some popular songs that underwent significant revision and editing before becoming the hits we know today.
First up, the timeless ’60s hit “I’m a Believer” by The Monkees. This catchy tune was originally penned by Neil Diamond. However, it underwent revisions and editing by the producer and the band to make it more upbeat, catapulting it to a number one hit.
The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” is another sterling example. Originally, Paul McCartney wrote it for John Lennon’s son Julian to comfort him during his parents’ divorce. But after revisions and editing by the band and the producer, it morphed into a universal anthem of encouragement.
Finally, who can forget Eminem’s iconic “Lose Yourself”? Eminem initially scribbled the rap on a napkin, but with revisions and extensive editing by the producer and the engineer, it evolved into an unforgettable anthem that still reverberates powerfully today.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I create a foot-tapping, addictive chorus?
The power of a captivating chorus is undeniable! It’s that one section of your song that resonates in listeners’ minds and turns them into your fans. So let’s delve into the art of crafting a chorus that strikes a chord:
- Rhyme, Rhythm, and Repetition: This is the holy trinity of a memorable chorus. Rhyme makes your words flow like a melodious brook, rhythm gives it an infectious beat, and repetition ensures that it sticks in listeners’ minds.
- Hooks and Slogans: Your chorus is your song’s brand ambassador. It needs to be catchy, and this is where hooks and slogans come into play – they have an uncanny ability to implant themselves in listeners’ brains.
- Contrast and Irony: These elements add a dash of intrigue to your chorus, making it more engaging and giving it a deeper meaning.
- Vivid Imagery: Use your words to paint vibrant pictures or create moving scenes. This will make your chorus more immersive and relatable.
- Authentic Details: Make your chorus specific and grounded in reality. Use vivid, sensory language to forge a deeper connection with your listeners.
How can I find songwriting inspiration?
Inspiration for songwriting is a fickle mistress – it can strike anytime, anywhere. It could be a poignant personal experience or a profound observation, a favorite book or a moving film, an intriguing news story, or even another song. If you’re feeling stuck, try brainstorming, freewriting, or looking at prompts to kickstart those creative juices.
Finding inspiration can also become easier when you collaborate with others. Online platforms like Kompoz, SoundBetter, Procollabs, and Music Gateway can connect you with fellow musicians and give you a fresh perspective.
Here’s a video where I recommended a book that inspired me in my songwriting journey:
What’s the process of recording and producing my own song?
Once you’ve penned your song, it’s time to breathe life into it! Whether you’re using your voice, your trusty guitar, or a software, recording your song can be an exhilarating journey.
Online tools like GarageBand, Logic, Pro Tools, Audacity, Soundtrap, and BandLab are your virtual recording studios. They offer a range of features, including recording, playback, analysis, editing, mixing, and mastering. So go ahead and experiment with them to find the one that suits you the best.
How can I safeguard my songs and rights as a songwriter?
As a songwriter, it’s of utmost importance to protect your songs and rights. It’s not just about getting credit for your work, but also about ensuring you get the compensation you deserve.
Register your songs with a performing rights organization such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, or with a mechanical rights organization like HFA or Music Reports. Platforms like DistroKid, TuneCore, CD Baby, Songtrust, and SongSplits can also help you with various aspects like licensing, distribution, publishing, and more.
How do I promote and distribute my songs to reach my audience?
Now that you’ve created your masterpiece, it’s time to share it with the world. Platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, SoundCloud, and TikTok can help you distribute your songs and reach your potential fans.
But don’t stop there – leverage the power of social media, blogs, podcasts, radio, and live shows to spread your music far and wide. Remember, every listener is a potential fan, so make sure your music gets the exposure it deserves.
You have just learned the basic steps and tips of writing a song for beginners, from finding inspiration to polishing your lyrics and melody. You have also discovered how to collaborate with other songwriters and musicians, and how to find your own voice and style as a songwriter.
Writing a song is a creative and rewarding process that can help you express your musical identity and connect with your audience. Now that you have the skills and knowledge to write your own songs, you can start creating your own music and having fun.
The journey from strumming the first chord to producing the final song is indeed a long one, fellow guitarists. But with the right guidance, dedication, and a dash of passion, you’ll surely find your way to musical greatness. Happy strumming!