Songwriting 101: How to Write a Song

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Did you know that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the estimate for the number of singers and musicians was over 34,000 in 2020 ? Additionally, the industries that included the highest level of employment for singers and musicians included performing arts companies and schools.

Whether you’re thinking of becoming a professional musician or playing music for fun, something you might want to learn is how to write a song.

When it comes to learning music, this is an essential skill for anyone who wants to become a songwriter. However, if you aren’t sure how to get started, this can be stressful.

Fortunately, in this article, we’ll review how to write a song. Finally, you can start writing songs and be well on your way to becoming a singer-songwriter. Read on to learn more.

Step 1: Create Your Creative Space

When it comes to writing a song, the first thing you need to do is create your creative space. This is a place where you’re giving yourself permission to write music, get creative, and experiment with different melodies and lyrics as you play.

Set up the surroundings of this area so you’re comfortable creating music there. Whether this means having a space by the window with your guitar or a full-on recording studio setup is up to you.

What matters is that you feel inspired here. Have all the materials you need, such as:

  • Your instrument (or instruments)
  • A paper and pen
  • Technology for recording

You might also want to have a laptop or computer set up with music writing software, depending on the types of songs you’re planning on creating (for example, if you want to create a song that has electronic elements). Once your space is set up, you can move on to the next step.

Step 2: Think About What Type of Song You’re Writing

This is the next step when it comes to learning to write songs, and it may take some time at first. This is because thinking about what type of song you’re writing requires you to first reflect on the types of songs you enjoy. Think about:

  • Which artists you like
  • What genres you enjoy
  • What types of songs you enjoy

For example, if you enjoy folk songs by artists like Bob Dylan, then on your way to becoming a songwriter, you would benefit from learning the song structure of these types of songs, how the rhymes work, and what chords are often used.

If you’d rather write an eighties power ballad, these elements of the song are likely to be different.

Note that a big part of how to write songs, at this point in the process, is to determine what structure you want your song to have.

Do you want a traditionally-structured song with verses, a chorus, and a bridge, or a different type of structure?

Once you’ve thought about all this, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step 3: Choose Your Topic and Start to Write a Song

At this point, you should know what type of song you’re going to be writing and in what style or genre. Now, you have to decide on what the song will be about. For example, you can decide to write a love song about someone you know.

Before you jump into songwriting, think about how you want this song to feel. What type of mood do you want to evoke with the song?

It’s a love song, but it is about your yearning, how wonderful the person is, or what it’s like to spend a day with them?

Once you’ve reflected on your topic, it’s time to start songwriting. There are a few different ways you can start, including:

  • Writing the song lyrics first
  • Coming up with the melody first
  • Putting together the chord progression first

Why so much variety? This is because one of the answers to the question, “How do you write a song?” is that it’s often about figuring out which process works best for you. So try out a few of these first so you can get an idea of what your approach is to getting started with the songwriting itself.

Keep in mind that the way you start might vary depending on the song and when inspiration strikes. Additionally, you might find that bouncing ideas off other musicians or jamming together helps.

A pro tip? If you don’t think you’ll remember what you come up with, record as you go and jot down lyric ideas as you do, too.

Step 4: Finish up the Song

Once you’ve started songwriting, you’ll likely have a melody, a few verses or a chorus, or a chord progression or collection of chords. Once you have a general idea of where it’s going, bring in some of the elements when we covered in the bullet points in the last step.

Do this until you’ve finished up the song. Then, give your song a title (if you haven’t already).

Feel free to set the song aside so you can add changes or ideas that suddenly come to you when you’re feeling inspired later.

If you feel comfortable, you can also get feedback from friends or family and make changes based on that feedback.

When you’re finally finished with your song, you can record it, practice it, and start performing it! The best thing is, you can keep writing songs using this very same process.

Interested in Learning Music?

Now that you’ve learned how to write a song, you might be interested in learning music to improve your songwriting even more or getting music lessons in an instrument you can play while you sing. Or maybe you’re looking for help writing songs and expanding your vocal range?

Sign up for vocal lessons at Sloan School of Music today. We offer virtual sessions as well as in-person and group lessons to students in the Hagerstown, Maryland area.

Contact Sloan School of Music now to discuss your musical education needs.