If you’ve wondered how to write a song or struggled to write songs this is for you!
Stop littering the Boulevard of Broken Songs with half finished songs wrapped in crumpled frustration and start finishing songs!
In this article you’ll learn:
- How to start a song and channel your inspiration
- How to write the lyrics by starting with a story
- What song sections you need to write
- What to put in your song sections
- How to write the music… melodies, chords and the arrangement for a song
- How to put all the sections together and finish your song
- Why songwriting is harder than you expect, and
- Why you shouldn’t be disappointed in your first songs!
Below the video lesson is a written transcript of this video and for more details about the how of each step. There are also other tips and techniques that couldn’t fit in the video!
Begin Video Transcript
How Do I Write a Song?
If you’ve wondered how to write a song or struggled to write songs, this video is for you.
In this video (and article), I’ll explain how you can write a song including the lyrics, melody, chords, arrangement and put them into a song structure. This is a basic outline explained in just a few minutes. Click the link description for a written transcript of this video and for more details about the how of each step. There are also other tips and techniques that I couldn’t fit into this video.
Hi, I’m Trevor Dimoff, I transform musicians into songwriters at epicsongwriting.com.
Here’s how you can start writing songs…
To write a song you need to write:
4. the Arrangement, how you play the music, and
5. Put all the pieces into a finished song structure.
I usually write them in this order, but you can write them in any order that makes sense to you. As long as you finish the song, any way that you write it is okay, especially when you’re getting started.
What Parts of a Song Do I Need to Write?
There are 4 types of songs sections, the chorus, verses, bridge and the pre-chorus.
The Chorus is the singalong part of the song. Put the title of your song here and write about emotions. Think about how you want your audience to feel.
The Verses are where you put the story in your song. The second verse should continue the story of the first verse.
The Pre-Chorus is an optional section that connects the chorus and verse both with lyrics and music. For simplicity, I’m skipping it in this tutorial.
The Bridge is also optional, it creates contrast with the other song sections to make the song more interesting. Bridges are notoriously hard to write because you have to balance “sounds different” with “sounds like it belongs in this song.” For more about writing a song bridge watch this video (article: How to Write a Song Bridge).
There are always exceptions, but usually each song section has 4 lines of lyrics and 8 bars of music.
How Do I Start Writing My Song?
Every song starts with an idea, or inspiration. Some songwriters start with words, a topic, title or phrase. Others prefer to work from emotions, from a situation or they get inspiration from looking at an image.
Wherever you get your inspiration from, it’s tempting to try writing lines of lyrics right away. This can work but many songwriters get stuck or overwhelmed in the details. It’s actually faster to brainstorm ideas, just write as many ideas as you can related to your title or topic in say 5 minutes. Then stop and decide which ideas are the most promising. Some ideas won’t be as good or fit in this song. If you need more ideas, brainstorm again.
The Story in Your Song
The next step is to create a story in point form. What do you want to happen in the song? Brainstorm some ideas and put the best ones into an order that makes sense so you have a story arc to follow as you write your song.
How Do I Write Song Lyrics?
Once you have an outline of a story, you can decide what to write about in each part of the song, in the verses, chorus and bridge. It’s easier and faster to write when you know what you want to say before you start writing lyrics.
I usually start with the chorus because it sets the tone for the entire song, and the words should be simple so your audience can sing along with you. Start with a phrase and try to create a line of lyrics. Brainstorm rhyme words with the last word of the line, then write another line that fits.
What are Rhyme Schemes?
Rhyme schemes are the patterns of rhymes created by the last words of each line of lyrics. I choose the rhyme schemes for each song section before writing the lyrics, but you can feel your way through it if you like.
The last syllables of each line are organized in simple patterns, designated by capital letters, starting with A then B then C, for each song section. X is a line that doesn’t rhyme with another, including X. Each section is self contained, so an A in a chorus doesn’t rhyme with the A in a verse.
Three basic common rhyme schemes you can start with are
AABB, where the first and second lines rhyme and the third and fourth line rhyme.
ABAB, where the first and third lines rhyme, and the second and fourth lines rhyme, and
XAXA, where the second and fourth lines rhyme with each other, but the other two lines don’t rhyme.
There are many other rhyme schemes you can experiment with later. Keep it simple for now.
How Do I Write the Music for My Song?
I break the music into 3 parts, the melodies, chords and the arrangement so it’s easier to focus and work quickly. The music for each verse should be the same.
How Do I Write Song Chord Progressions?
Each song section usually has 8 bars of music. To write a simple chord progression, there are a few simple patterns to start with:
1. Use 2 chords and move back and forth for a bar each.
2. Use 3 or 4 chords and play them for 4 bars twice, or for 2 bars four times.
If you want you can also borrow and adapt a chord progression from a song you love. I explain how to transform a chord progression for your song in this video (article: Writing Chord Progressions for Your Songs).
Keep it simple. You can always dress up the chord progression and make it more complicated later when you write the arrangement.
How Do I Write Song Melodies?
I like to write the chord progression first and then sing the lyrics so they fit the chord progression. It’s easier than writing a melody and then fitting chords to it afterwards. Play your progression on your instrument and improvise a line or two several times. When you find something you like, keep it!
How Do I Write a Song Arrangement?
I save the arrangement, the actual notes I play for the end, otherwise I get distracted and take forever. Start with a guitar strumming pattern you like or a piano pattern that’s easy to play. If you’re writing with loops, start with drums and add a few other layers. Change the loops in each song section and add more loops or instruments as you move though the song.
Make the chorus more exciting than the verses. Increase the energy level as you move through the song.
How Do I Put Song Sections into a Song Structure?
With verses and a chorus, the most common song structure is V C V C C.
If you write a bridge, then V C V C B C C.
Once you have the song together you can add an introduction of a few bars with music from either the verse or the chorus.
More Songwriting Advice
- Don’t be disappointed with your first songs. Songwriting takes longer to learn and it takes more time to write a song than you expect.
- Finish the song even if it doesn’t sound as great as you imagined. It’s easier to imagine a brilliant song than to write a finished song. It’s common even for advanced songwriters to be (slightly) disappointed with a finished song… this just means your imagination is stronger than your songwriting skills.
- Think of your song as a first draft. Don’t try to be perfect the first time. Instead, get your ideas down and finish the draft, then go back and improve it if you think it needs improvement. Trying to be “perfect” is an easy way to block yourself.
- Remember: finishing a song is better than not finishing it. However you finish it is the “right” way. The fastest, least frustrating way that gets you the strongest song is the “best” way to write that song.
- Click the first link description for more details about the how of each of these steps, and for a written transcript to help you follow along as you write. You can also watch more songwriting videos in this playlist.
Thanks for reading, now go have some fun writing your songs….
More Songwriting Help
Learn to write the lyrics and music to a song chorus!
Click and enter your email address to get it straight to your inbox…
It’s faster to get songwriting training from someone who knows how to teach it, than endlessly questing on Google or YouTube!