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How to Write a Good Song

By Edited Jul 8, 2016 1 1

Writing a song can seem like an extremely daunting task, but like many things, it can be broken down into several simple steps.  If you are new to songwriting or simply want to take a crack at something you've never tried before, it may be a while before you arrive at a piece of music you are truly proud of.  If you practice the steps listed in this article, however, you will be surprised at how quickly your skills improve.  For those who have written before and want to hone their craft, this article may also provide some fresh insights into the songwriting process.

Step 1.  Grab an instrument.  If you have no instruments available, you can download any free audio recording software from the Internet, such as Audacity, to get your ideas down as a sound file.  It is perfectly acceptable to write a song that is solely a cappella.  You can also use household objects to create your sounds.  For example, a pencil beating against a notebook might inspire you to record a rhythm that you can sing along with.  For the purposes of this article, however, we will assume that you have a musical instrument at hand, such as a guitar or a piano, and that you are familiar with a few chords, for example G major, C major and D major.  

Step 2.  Play around with chords and riffs -- you may use the chords listed above or use your own sounds -- while you sing along.  The idea is to find a pattern that sounds interesting.  Don't worry about lyrics; they will come later.  For now, you are simply experimenting with various instrumental and vocal ideas.  You might start by singing nonsense or listing what you ate for breakfast.  The only thing that matters is that you are jogging your creativity.  If you have audio recording software, it may help to start recording, just in case you stumble upon a great idea and want to make sure you remember it.  It may take some time before you have a workable idea but keep hammering away at it until something sounds good to you. 

Step 3.  Once you have an idea that sounds great, it's time to come up with another section of the song.  It's usually helpful to continue playing the original idea, however, to get a sense of how this new section might work together with it.  Don't think about verses or choruses yet, just repeat Step 2 until you have a second idea that works well to your ears. 

Step 4.  Play around with these two sections, noting how they might connect to each other and how they segue back and forth.  Which one sounds more energetic and vibrant?  Which one sounds more mellow?  How do these sections sound when repeated?  Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to do this.  Just follow your instincts and experiment with a structure for your song.  For example, you might decide to play the 2nd section two times as an intro, then begin singing along to the same section for the first verse.  For the chorus, you might change to the 1st section.  It helps to write this down on paper.  Here's an example:

Intro: Section 2 (2 times)

Verse 1: Section 2 (2 times)

Chorus 1: Section 1 (2 times)

Verse 2: Section 2 (4 times)

Chorus 2: Section 1 (4 times)

Outro: Section 2 (2 times) 

Step 5.  Once you have your structure, it's time to take your nonsense words and turn them into real lyrics.  It's always a good idea to start by writing stream-of-consciousness prose -- whatever comes to your head.  Fill up a whole page with these thoughts.  The less you think about it, the better. The best writing comes from the gut.

Step 6.  Take these words and begin to fit them into the song and into the abstract melodies you've been working with.  This requires finesse and a lot of rewriting, but it's always better to start with a page full of rambling ideas than from an empty sheet of paper.  Do you want to use rhymes or employ something more free-form?  Is there a story hidden in the page of prose you wrote?  Continue to work with the words until you have a finished lyric. 

Step 7.  Play the entire song and get a feeling for how it flows together.  Is there anything that might need some tweaking?  Maybe the verses are too long?  Maybe you want to try adding a 3rd section as a bridge?  Rewrite the lyrics?  These choices are up to you, but in the end, you will have a completed song!

As you can see, once you break down the songwriting process, it's not as impossible as you may have originally expected.  Keep plugging away at it and you will find your skill level and creativity getting stronger.  This is all about self-expression.  As long as you are satisfied with your work, no other opinion matters.  The most important thing is to try. 

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Comments

Jan 12, 2015 6:19pm
Minnie27
Great article!! I've wanted to start writing songs, but I needed some guidance. Your article provided that. Thank you!!
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