What's the catchiest song you've ever heard
How to write a song in 6 steps
A simple step-by-step guide to songwriting.
Do you have melodies floating around in your head? Do you only think in terms of bars? Do you see lyrics instead of words?
It's time to write a song!
“Songwriting is the highest art in music. There is no record without a song. "
- Bruce Roberts. Songwriter & musician
There are endless ways to write a song. But where do you even start? And more importantly, where should you stop?
The best way to achieve the perfect song is to know the basic rules of songwriting - preferably inside out!
This simple Step-by-step guide to songwriting will give you the tools you need to get started - and finish your songs.
Do you already have a first idea for a song? Perfect: let's go with our guide to perfect songwriting.
1. How to start a song
Before you start writing, you should roughly define what you actually want. I don't mean that you should build a rigid structure.
Rather, you should ask yourself key questions so that you have a guide to use from the beginning.
Which instrument do I choose?
Of course, you don't have to immediately specify all of the instruments that you want to use. As a good songwriter, you should be able to vary several types of instruments. But choosing at least one main instrument from the start is always a good idea.
Typically, piano and guitar are part of the songwriter's standard repertoire. But a drum machine, VST synth, or MIDI controller can also be a good place to start.
It is best to start with the instrument that you are most familiar with. Ideas come to you more easily when you are comfortable. You should first be familiar with your favorite instruments and then write a song.
Does the song have lyrics?
If you want your song to have lyrics, write down a few ideas first. These do not have to have a song structure yet (more on that later).
A few simple concepts will help you get started. A great resource for lyrics is a rhyming dictionary. It may sound trite, but if you're just starting out, that's where you can quickly find inspiration.
Write your texts with the instrument selection in mind. Having a piano or guitar nearby can help you understand your lyrics better.
When you 'play live' your lyrics, parts of the final song will fly to you all by themselves.
First lyrics will lead you to the core idea of your song. Once you have the basic idea in mind (or ears), everything else will come together as if by itself.
Any kind of language is music. Good lyrics conjure up a musical element in the spoken word.
In the end, don't worry too much about how to write songs. At the end of the day, you should feel comfortable writing songs.
What is the theme of my song?
A song should answer a question. Ask the question and answer it with the elements of your text.
Add the question and answer right into your lyrics.
Or find the answer to a question that you have always asked yourself. For example: "How would it sound if ..." or "How can you turn this idea / concept into music?". This can be a good starting point.
It might sound a bit cheesy, but good songs need substance. That means emotions, moods, feelings. Risk and experimentation are also part of it.
What moves you yourself? What emotions does your song evoke in you? Music is much more engaging when your lyrics are authentic.
If your own music doesn't make you feel anything, the chances are that other people won't feel anything emotionally either. Therefore: Create something that comes from the heart.
All of your daydreams and wandering thoughts are songs waiting to be written.
Step-by-step guide to songwriting
Okay great! Now you already know roughly where your song should go. And you also know which songwriting tools to use.
Here we go!
2. Make a rough draft
Knowing how to write songs means having an initial rough idea in mind that you can build on. You can't think of anything spontaneously? Do not worry.
Grab the instrument of your choice, hit "record" and start creating your song. You will be surprised how quickly your first song ideas come up.
"Don't edit your first thought, but make sure that you always have it with you."
– Bruce Roberts
You don't have to have the entire song in mind before you start writing. Just do a little jam session, listen to everything again and see if there is anything useful.
Tip: Don't write complete parts right from the start. Once you have a draft, you can always go back and pick out good-sounding passages.
3. Find your song idea
The hardest part in songwriting is getting started. Creating your first ideas out of nothing is a big challenge at first.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Every song has a central theme. Start with a main topic and it will be a breeze to get started on the song.
Take another look at your first drafts. Focus on the most telling ingredients. Songs are mostly created through random ideas that you can build on.
Your main part can be anything:
- A stanza
- A melody
- A chord progression
- A drum loop
- A hook line
- A refrain
- A bassline
- Or anything else that helps you write or play.
As soon as you have the idea for a song, the rest will come by itself. A main theme design is the foundation on which you build.
So: just start designing!
The components of a song
Before you build on your song idea, you should already be clear about the components of the song.
They are the building blocks in your work.
You don't have to use all of them. The exact structure is also up to you. Still, you should know which song parts actually exist.
Verse, chorus and bridge
There are three parts of a song: verse, chorus and the so-called bridge (= a song variation or transition). They are the three building blocks of songwriting.
In the following we describe the individual parts. Use them to create your next masterpiece.
The verse is there to move the song forward. When you think of a song as a story, the verse is the part that creates tension and action.
As you've already learned, you don't need lyrics to tell a story. It can also be a chord progression or a drum sequence. Just mix and match sounds until something interesting comes out of it.
Each new stanza is typically different from the previous stanza. The melody in your verse should work towards the chorus and then flow seamlessly into it.
The chorus is that part of a song that repeats a text, idea, or section between each verse.
The refrain follows almost always on a stanza. While stanzas can differ in their structure, the refrain thrives on repetition.
A good refrain is memorable and rousing. It should contain the main message of your song.
Since the verses work towards the chorus and the chorus is repeated several times in the song, it is the part with the highest recognition value.
That's why you probably hum the chorus most of the time when you have a catchy tune.
The bridge is the part of a song that stands out from all other parts.
It allows you to briefly move away from the actual core of the song. To do this, you should choose a melody or chord progression that stands out from the verses and chorus.
Most of the time the bridge occurs between the verse and the chorus. When it is over, the chorus or verse starts again.
Listeners will long for your chorus or verse during the bridge. So give them what they want.
Further characteristics of a song
Verse, chorus and bridge are the main parts of your song. But there are a few other elements that you need to know before you get started:
The key determines the notes that make up your song. The tonic or the root note determines the appropriate notes or scale that you will use later.
This means that melodies, chords and also basslines are determined by this scale.
Knowledge of elementary music theory is the key to success when it comes to songwriting. So be sure to take the time to learn the basics.
A melody is a sequence of notes that forms the final element of your song. It's kind of the main part of your song. It defines the basic mood in the track.
Depending on the genre you work in, the melody can take different forms. However, it always has an influence on the tonality of the song.
The melody is often enhanced by background elements such as B. Percussions accompanied. Often it is vocals or a leading instrument that accompanies the main melody.
A hook is the part of the song that you sing along to in the shower. The catchy tune that you can't get rid of.
The hook can be a small, melodic section, part of a solo, lyrics from a verse, a background vocal, or any other part of your song. The hook makes a song catchy.
Good songwriters always have ideas for a good hook! Keep the hook in your ear when designing the song.
Are you working on the first verse? There should be a hook too! Are you working on the chorus? Remember the hook!
4. Determine the song structure
Now that you have the main message of your song and are familiar with the components of a song, we should go a step further.
The fundamental idea of your song is the part that the rest of it builds on. In the next section, you'll learn how to turn the rough idea into a structured track.
The nature of your song defines the song structure.
For example, if you are writing a pop song, the structure will be slightly different from that of an EDM track.
There are three basic structures that apply to almost all types of contemporary pop music:
There are tons of ways to arrange a song. How you build it is up to you. But there are typical song structures that you should work with in the beginning.
The most common song structures:
The best song structure to start with
The most important parts to start with are the verse and chorus. Be clear about both parts before moving on to more elements.
Once you're done, it's time to fill in the rest of the song. This results in a structure that is simple, clear and very helpful for narrative and tension building.
Your audience will ask for more. You will be taken on a journey and the song will stay in your ears.
And this is what it looks like:
Pretty easy, right?
This structure is everywhere in music history. And do you know why Because it works!
You probably think: “If all the songs have this structure, it's boring!” But actually this structure leaves a lot of room to be creative.
There are innumerable sounds that can be inserted into this structure. So just start experimenting to get used to it.
The structure of EDM songs
The structures of EDM songs are a little different from the above. There are only a few changes, however.
This is how EDM producers do it:
These sections even work without lyrics. A chorus doesn't need vocals. Just use a sweeping synth lead.
EDM offers endless possibilities to work with the classic song structure.
Perhaps your track has a driving bassline that remains unchanged throughout the song. However, the upper parts move and change in the process.
Or the lead melody stays the same, but the percussions form a verse, a chorus, etc. In the end it is completely up to you how you set it up.
5. Build on song ideas
Now that you know all the parts of a song and its overall structure, let's start writing.
Building on the first draft for your song means adding other suitable pieces.
Is your first draft already a catchy hook? Then you should think about where it fits best. You could include it in the chorus or in the bridge.
Does your rough draft already contain perfect lines for your lyrics? Pick the best place to put them. Maybe in the second stanza?
It doesn't really matter where you put your first idea. Once you've made up your mind, it will be easier for you to build on her.
For example, getting to the chorus is easier if you have your main idea built into the verse. Each part is a further step to the next.
So just start scribbling!
6. Complete a song
So now all song ideas are in place. You have all the parts you need and you have found a structure. Great!
At this point there are endless ways you can get there. This is exactly where the magic of songwriting lies: There is no such thing as the 'perfect' way to get your song.
"You can't say, 'How do you write a song?" It just happens. Everyone has their own process for this. "
- Bruce Roberts
When it comes to songwriting, Bruce Roberts is just right. The best songwriting process is this YOUR OWN.
You can only find this path if you take the time to sit down and put your song together. Hopefully your studio door can be locked!
Download the Essential Songwriting Checklist and make sure your song has everything it needs to be a success.
Sure, it won't always be easy. Sometimes a song just flies to you. Sometimes it takes a little patience.
Should you have a blockage, there are numerous songwriting tips that will help you get out of the valley.
These simple exercises will help you overcome writer's block, generate ideas, and be inspired.
- Copy and then do your own thing with it.
Timeless songs last for a reason. The best way to write songs is often to look at the classics.
"Good songs always remain changeable in meaning and form."
- Diane Warren
Listen to your favorite song and ask yourself: Why do I like it so much? How is it arranged? What are the components? Sum the melody or better: play it!
Once you understand this, create your own tune that suits you. If you start from the crème de la crème, the chances are not bad that you end up with gold in your hand.
Listening increases your creativity. The best songwriters also listen to other musicians' music before picking up a pen.
Like Tom Waits. He listens to two different radio stations at the same time and looks for interesting overlaps.
Or Bob Dylan. Before writing a song, he meditates while listening to a song that inspires him.
Remember: there is a difference between inspiration and theft. Get the inspiration you need, but make it your own thing.
So listen carefully to the great musicians and you will get tons of ideas to get started.
Do you remember when you went to school when you had to learn all parts of a drama like "rising plot" or "climax"?
Or maybe you weren't paying attention because you preferred to listen to mini-discs.
What I actually want to say: Every type of song is also a story. If you apply the narrative arc to your song, it will make it more interesting for the audience.
Use every part of the song to build tension through to the climax. Highlight individual parts that the listener is interested in.
This is what the narrative sheet looks like:
Applied to an ordinary song, the narrative arc would look like this:
Another method is to find out how your favorite song works. To do this, you need to learn to listen actively.
Grab your pen and paper. Draw a diagram for a song you like. Now identify all the components of the song that I have already introduced to you in this text (verse, chorus, bridge, etc.).
This will help you visualize the structure of your favorite song.
Tip: I myself sometimes cut individual parts of the song in my DAW if I really want to understand how a certain song works exactly.
In this way, you not only visualize each individual part, but also the different dynamic ranges based on the wave curves in your DAW.
Then I assign different colors to the individual parts in order to be able to distinguish them.When the cursor moves through the song, I can hear and see exactly where which part merges into the next.
Once you have identified the individual parts, it will be much easier to make them your own.
- See your song as part of the whole
When writing a song, it's easy to get lost in parts.
Of course, one should concentrate on each individual part in-depth. But never forget to keep the big picture in mind. Use the already written parts as a help as soon as you feel a creative block.
The parts of your song should connect naturally. Each part has to tie in with the next in terms of context. But if you bite too tightly on a single part, the whole structure can fall apart.
Remember: you are not writing a chorus, a single verse or a melody. You write a song! Every element has to fit in perfectly so that it sounds good in the end.
So create individual sections with other parts in mind. So everything will fit together like pearls on a pearl necklace.
- Find your songwriting partner
Think Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The list goes on and on ...
Many hits were written by teams.
Find a colleague! Maybe you feel the same, but I myself would find it difficult to imagine creative work in complete isolation.
Co-producers are important to put your creative ideas to the test. Two or more people also mean more creative input. And faster progress on the job.
If you've been a songwriter before, contributors will bring a breath of fresh air by bringing in new sounds, approaches, and ideas. So work with others and double your output!
- Think from the listener's point of view
You want to find out if your song is any good: Play it!
It is easy to get lost in the individual parts during the creative process. Or in arrangements and diagrams.
Check your song regularly and do audio samples. Just play the part you get stuck on often a lot. The repetition will stimulate your mind. It wants progression and wants to fill in the pattern organically. So play what you've got as much as you can while you're writing.
Your brain is shifted to the next part in anticipation. The synapses want progress and will automatically fill in the missing gaps. So play whatever you have as often as you can. The stumbling blocks on your way will dissolve all by themselves.
One song is never enough!
Now that you have all the songwriting skills, all you need to do is:
Write millions of songs! To become a good songwriter, you don't have to do a lot, just: write, write, write!
“Just stay tuned! This is the only way to become good! At some point you will and will remain great. ”- Diane Warren. Grammy Award winner and multiple platinum honors.
The basic rule is: always have a song working. Preferably even 3 or more.
When it comes to learning, they say: "A lot helps a lot." Learn to fail just as you will learn to succeed. Learn to recognize when to say no and when to say yes.
Anything is possible with the tools presented. Your next big hit is not far away. As always in life:
"There is nothing good, unless you do it!"
The Method Behind The Music - Introduction to the basics of music theory and a compact music manual.
Autochords - Helps you find chords and chord progressions.
Uberchord - learning app for playing guitar. Helps you learn chords and even provides real-time feedback.
Multi Track Song Recorder - An ingenious four-track recorder for songwriting. Record your ideas anywhere or use it for songwriting in the studio.
Evernote - This notebook app is great for jotting down and collecting ideas. No matter where you are right now. You never know when you will have a creative inspiration. So you are always prepared.
SoundCloud - SoundCloud is exactly the right place to share drafts privately or publicly and to get feedback. You can even comment on individual parts of the waveform directly.
Rhyme Zone - Free rhyming dictionary for your lyrical awakening!
Hum - Hum is a recording device and a tool for music transcription in one. Organize your ideas by key or mood. It costs $ 2.99, but it's well worth the investment!
Lyricsmith - Lyricsmith is a free app for songwriters and includes a rhyming dictionary as well as an organizer, with the help of which you can find all your lyrics via search function.
Chordbot Lite - Chordbot lets you create, arrange and test chords and chord progressions. The tool is free!
Infinite Jukebox - Seeing means knowing! This great song visualization tool shows you which parts make up a song. Add your own song or find out how your favorite song is put together.
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