Today we’re going to look at how to write a song, even if you’re new to the whole song writing process. By the end of this guide you should have a good understanding of what it takes to song write, and be able to get going with writing your first song.
If you need any additional help, please leave your questions in the comments section at the bottom of this gudie. You can also read the other article this guide was inspired from here. I’ve elaborated on that in some ways, although that guide is also worth checking out.
Let’s look at the first thing you need to do.
How To Come Up With A Subject For Your Song.
Before writing a song, you should aim to come up with the subject of the song first. This is important because it will guide you to write coherent content. Most of the time, your own experiences, belief systems, emotions, ideals, and the like provide insight into what the song should be about. However, it is also important to think about subject matters that a target audience can relate to.
There are many instances when songs do not have a coherent subject matter, but still appeal to listeners, most probably because they have a catchy tune. Nonetheless, having one makes it easier to write lyrics that have meaning. Remember that the meaning of the song is important because people tend to listen to music that they can be able to connect with even after years have passed.
You can come up with a subject at anytime and at anywhere. Some people suddenly come up with ideas while they are chatting with friends or after they have just woken up from dream. Moments of inspiration can sometimes occur unexpectedly and without warning. The subject can be about a particular experience you had that most people can relate to, a belief that you want to convey in verse, a particular event in your life, a person you admire (usually songs do not name the person), a place you love, etc.
Another technique that you can use is to create the music first. The back track can help you find the most appropriate subject matter depending on the mood that the track gives you. Quiet your mind and listen attentively to the music as you let the creative juices fire up like an exploding volcano. Let the ideas begin to pour in until you finally have a “eureka” moment.
The Difference Between A Verse And A Chorus.
When listening to a typical song, there are elements that carry the story, while there are those that carry the theme. The chorus is usually the theme carrier and is distinctively the catchiest part of the song. The verse, on the other hand, carries the story.
If the song tells a story, it usually has around three or more verses, a beginning, middle, and ending. This is not a hard and fast rule because some popular songs have only two verses. The verses usually have the same tune, but sometimes with slight variations. However, each verse has a different content. In some cases, a verse gets repeated at the ending of the song, to give emphasis to its content.
Unlike the verse, the chorus carries with it the same content (with slight variations). It is repeated throughout the song, making it even catchier and easier to remember. It should be because it carries with it the theme of the song, which is often the reason why most people remember the chorus more than the verses.
Another characteristic of the chorus is its seemingly higher pitch as compared to the verse. You can notice this distinction in a lot of songs. The song “We Are Young” by Fun shows this distinction quite clearly. The verse starts off with a more relaxed tune, but as soon as it hits the chorus, the pitch noticeably goes higher in comparison.
When structuring an entire song, most songwriters start with a verse, followed by the chorus, and then the next verse, etc. Again, this is not always the case, because some of the most popular songs start with the chorus. A good example is Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff”.
How To Write A Catchy Chorus.
The chorus is the most important part of the song because it acts as the hook that catches and ensnares audiences. In fact, a chorus can either make or break the entire song. If you are a beginner, it is a good practice to start writing the hook.
The best choruses usually hit the high notes, and you can do that too, while you are writing yours. The melody is very critical at this point so make sure that you come up with a catchy melody before writing the lyrics. Hence, focus on making the melody simple, yet strong.
You can start the lyrics of the chorus with the subject or title of the song. If you are listening to a back track while writing the chorus, listen to it carefully as you let creative ideas enter into your mind. Start with a line of lyrics and keep coming up with more lines to fit the track. Write as many variations as possible, but remember to keep it short and simple.
A lengthy chorus is not a good idea because it will require more brain power from a listener to memorize. Remember that the objective of the chorus is to get a listener hooked to the song, and that is possible if the chorus is very easy to enunciate and memorize. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” chorus uses the same word four times, but it sure is catchy.
When coming up with lyrics, write something universal, or something that a lot of people can relate to. Choruses can be about what real love is, having fun, making the world a better place, or anything that gives a ubiquitous message worth repeating. If you are having trouble coming up with ideas, take a moment to rest and listen to as many popular songs for inspiration.
You can get more information on writing catchy choruses here.
How To Write A Good Verse.
While the chorus provides the main message of the song, the verses provide the details. They tell a story and often provide a better understanding about what the song is really about. Hence, if you are a beginner, try writing verses in story form.
Taylor Swift’s “Love Song” is a good example. The verses in the song tell a story about how two young lover’s meet, the difficulties they have to face, and how they finally were got engaged. The story of young love is one of the best stories to put into verse because almost everyone has experienced it.
When you begin writing the lyrics, make sure that the elements of the story are in line with the message of the song. In addition, create content that will logically build up to the chorus as well. Like a good book, the verses should be able to draw the attention of the audiences from start to finish. This can be done by perfecting your own style of story-telling that builds up content that is consistent with the theme.
Another technique to writing verse is to come up with mini-stories that are related to the chorus. Each of the stories does not have to be totally related or chronological in order, as long as they provide a good description of what is stated in the chorus.
When it comes to melody, the verse and chorus should have a contrasting sound. Since the chorus usually has the high notes and usually the most energetic melodies of the song, the verses should have lower notes to provide contrast.
How Many Verses And Choruses Should Your Song Have?
Structuring the song is the most technical aspect of songwriting. It involves coming up with the right number of verse and choruses. However, the combination of verses and choruses will depend on what song structure you want to follow.
The most basic song structure looks like this:
Verse > Chorus > Verse > Chorus > … etc.
This is typically the structure followed in gospel songs or in any other song used for large gatherings. This makes it possible to add more verses to the song as well. However, in popular music, most of the songs follow a structure that employs what is known as the Middle 8. It goes like this:
Intro > Verse > Chorus > Verse > Chorus > Middle 8 > Chorus > Chorus > Outro
The song structure above has two verses and four choruses. However, the third chorus can also be replaced with another verse. The middle 8 is composed of eight bars of music to break the common verse-chorus pattern. It is also so-called because it is usually found at the middle of the song. The eight bars of music usually have a different chord pattern, but sometimes, it could just be a simple instrumental to do away with usual melody of the song.
An average song usually has 2-3 verses and around 3-4 choruses (the chorus is often sang twice towards the ending of the song). However, you can experiment to see just how many verses and choruses you can use without ruining the entire song.
Making Sure Your Song Is Written In Time To The Backing Track.
As was mentioned earlier, it is a good practice to come up with the music to the song before writing the lyrics. This makes it easier to come up with the right combination of words and syllables per line of verse or chorus. Since timing is very crucial to the success of the song, make sure that the songs you write coincide with the backing track as well.
There are a few places to get backing tracks, but my favourite is neo sounds. You can either buy the tracks, of just use their free samples if you’re only looking to write to them and not record over them.
When you have written the lyrics first before the making backing track, you can always edit the lyrics to ensure that they are timed perfectly. One technique you can use is to paraphrase each line that does not coincide correctly with the music. Hence, you may need to rewrite whole lines of text or simply replace some words with their respective synonyms.
Remember that when you paraphrase, strive to keep the context as similar as possible. There are instances when rewriting the lines may alter the meaning a little bit. If this happens, you can either make a few changes in the backing track, or decide whether it is okay to have the slight alteration in meaning.
To minimize future corrections in timing between backing track and lyrics, try to create the music first before writing lyrics to the song. If not, you can write both the music and the lyrics at the same time. Many songwriters know how to play instruments, and this makes it easier for them to do both at the same time.
Being Ready To Write Wherever You Go
As an aspiring song-writer, it is always best to keep on practicing your craft. Always have a pen and paper ready. The world out there is full of inspiration for budding songwriters. While it is okay to write songs in your bedroom, it is not the only place where you can tap into your creativity. Some of the most profound writers often go out into the real world to draw inspiration from what they see, hear, touch, taste, smell and experience.
Songwriting is an art that can be influenced by everything around you. If you want to write a more meaningful song, try walking to the park, find a good spot and observe people, animals, and nature all around you. You can also go to a nearby café and write songs while sipping a warm cup of coffee. As soon as you find a creative spot, you can visit there regularly to write new songs.
You can even write songs while traveling. Meeting new people, seeing new sites, and experiencing something new can often provide you with sudden moments of inspiration. Remember that the creative part of the brain often lights up when you experience new things. Hence, grab the opportunity to write something new every time you visit a different place.
Moments of tranquility open up the creative imagination as well. A Zen garden or a yoga room can become a good spot for songwriting. After doing meditation, prayers, or simple relaxation routines, try to have a pen and paper ready, just in case a sparkle of creativity seeps through.
If you are having trouble coming up with new ideas for a song, just simply relax and listen to music. There are instances when people get their inspirations from their dreams. Hence, if you experience writer’s block, learn to relax or take a nap. It may help.
If you want more songwriting tips, you should check out the gudie this was based on, or this guide. Both are top resources for becoming a songwriting, so have a look. Please share this guide with friends if you found it useful.
P.S. If you’ve already writing a song and want to know how to get people to hear it, have a look at my guide on marketing (promoting) your music.