Last Updated on May 15, 2019 by Klaus Crow
photo from Istockphoto
Songwriting is a great skill to learn but not always an easy one. Sometimes you are in the flow and sometimes you are just not. The process can be hard work but the result can be euphoric.
I’ve written songs since I was young and still I think it’s a challenge to write good quality and authentic lyrics. Writing lyrics and music are two different things. When you create music you got something to lean on. You already got a vocabulary of chords, scales, riffs, licks, arpeggios, triads, etc. You can put those in a certain order, shake them around a little bit, tear ‘m apart, add your own personal touch and voila music is in the air. I know that is easier said that done, but you have something to begin with. Writing lyrics is a little bit more difficult because you have to start from the bottom up, so were gonna help you out a bit.
Pick up your guitar from the stand. Grab a pencil & paper and let’s create a piece of art. You’ll be amazed what you can do after a little practice.
My dad always says: “The fans are already out there, you just have to come up with something.”
Here are some tips to get you started:
– Where do I start?
Do I start with lyrics, music or both simultaneously? There is no best way to do it. I always try different ways to be inspired. They all give a totally different feeling to the song.
Sometimes I think it’s great to start with the lyrics first. If you an important story to tell you will have more freedom and you don’t have to adjust it to the music.
If you start with the music first you can let your imagination run wild and experiment with all different chords, chord changes and rhythms. After that you fit the lyrics to the music.
And last but not least you can sing lyrics you come up with while you are strumming chord changes at the same time and fit them together. I think they are all great ways to write a song. There is no rule for it.
– Start with a working title
Choose something you wanna write about. Start with a working title. Maybe you want to change the title while the song develops or after you finished it. Write about something that has happened to you or somebody close. Write about something great, sad, cool, authentic, dramatic, uplifting. Maybe you are upset or happy about something in life. Write about that. Maybe you walk outside and create a story around a man who passes by. Where does he go? What does his life look like? What will become of him? Maybe you overheard a good line from somebody and use that.
– Ask yourself questions
When you’ve got a working title start asking yourself questions about the subject or person you want to tell about. What does the title say? What does it do? Where does he go? What does she want to accomplish? Why does he do those things? Why does she feel that way? Why doesn’t he do it any other way? How does she do it ? By asking questions you automatically create a story line. Try to put a message in your lyrics. Don’t give a way the whole story in the first verse. Build up some tension. Develop the story gradually. A good lyric is a lyric people can understand or relate to.
– Study your hero’s
What music do you listen to? Who are your favorite artists or bands. Study their music and lyrics. How do they set up a mood? What does their song structure look like? Analyze their chord progressions. What do they write about? What kind of songwriting style do they use? Where is the hook?(see below) How do they play and sing it? Loud, soft, emotional, rough, cool, honest, sharp, sarcastic, happy. Study every detail so you can learn from it and become a better songwriter.
– Song structure
Nine out of ten songs use a standard song structure. A song structure contains some or all of the following elements: Intro, verse, pre chorus, chorus, bridge, outro.
Here are some examples of song structures:
-Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, outro.
-Intro, verse, pre chorus, chorus, verse, pre chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus.
-Intro, verse, pre chorus, chorus, pre chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus.
-Verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus.
If you wanna be really original try something totally different. Screw to song structure. It’s fun to break the rules once in a while. It can turn out really cool, but be careful you need some sort of structure or people will find it difficult to keep listening.
– Chord progressions
Use standard chord progressions to get you started if you need some help.
Don’t wait for inspiration to come while you watch TV, you can wait a long time. Just sit down and start writing. Inspiration will come while you work on it. When you are stuck do something else for a few minutes. Take a walk outside, drink a cup of coffee or have a chat with someone. Your mind will be refreshed.
Now get back to the writing table.
Begin with a major or minor chord depending on what kind of mood you want it to have. Just strum a few chords and find out what you like. Go crazy on your strings or play nice and easy. Try to be original by breaking the rules a bit. Use unexpected chord changes. Create your own chords and shapes. Experiment and let your ears be the judge of it. Anything is possible.
– Record and write it down
Don’t trust your memory. Record every melody you come up with. The same goes for lyrics. If a great line pops into your head write it down. You can forget in a second while you think of something else. Make sure you’ve got your brilliant ideas save and secure.
– Create a hook
If you want to write a hit song you need a hook. A hook is a repetitive catchy melody, phrase, lick or riff in the song that is appealing to the listener.
– Writing the melody
You also need a melody to the lyrics. Well let’s assume you already written a nice chord progression.
You just sing what ever melody pops into your head while you strum those chords. Listen carefully so that the melody matches to the chords. Try different variations. Make it sound original and natural at the same time.
– When is it good enough
It’s good enough when you are sincerely happy about it. If you told everything you wanted to tell and you found the right melody with it that really excites you, you’ve done a good job. It’s the only right way to go about it.
Songwriting is a skill you have to learn. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first time. Practice, learn, challenge yourself, take a break, try again, write in different locations, feel, explore, be persistent, try and try again. You’ll be a winner!
“Nothing pleases me more than to go into a room
and come out with a piece of music.” – Paul McCartney