My Guide To Song Writing

This will be how I will write my first song, I know the basics of how to write a song, but personally have never triumphed, I hope you have more luck than me.

Ultimate Guitar
Just a note: Please bear in mind that I'm just as new to this as you are.

I find that writing things down help me to do them more efficiently, therefore I am writing this lesson so that it may help you, and me. The lesson will be split into 'steps' which I believe will help make the process of writing easier.

First things first:

When I write I use notepad on my computer, this is just a personal preference. I write initial ideas and thoughts, occasionally these grow into bigger ideas. I suggest having a word processor open to write on, or if you prefer a more conventional method, a pen and paper.

Step 1: Story Line

A method I have not previously attempted, but I have a feeling it could be a good start.

Let's take a song which we can study;

I'm going to use Misery Business by Paramore because it has a decent story line which makes it a good model. The song is about getting the guy she wants, and having to battle for him and eventually winning (my interpretation). Basic enough wouldn't you say, so how hard can it be?

A decent imagination is kind of a necessity at this point. In your head, or on paper, create a story, something to base your song around.

For example, you may choose something such as breaking up with someone you still love, maybe it's about something a bit happier, such as getting the person you want, maybe the best day you ever had. It could literally be anything, as detailed or basic as you want, different people may find it easier to use something basic, other people prefer more detail.

Once you have your story line you can move onto the next step.

Step 2: Language

I have a massive love of language, the use of words never bores me, and I love learning new words (especially big ones :]). You may choose to use elongated words or short words, this could depend on your story line or personal preference. If your story is about something happy you may use long, drawn out words to give a feel of being relaxed and joyful, if it's a sad or angry song, short, staccato words can make the song punchy. I enjoy using a mixture of short basic words alongside with long extravagant words.

Incubus are a great example of word usage, "On the verge of spontaneous combustion, woe is me. But I guess that it comes with the territory, an ominous landscape of never ending calamity." A sense of confusion is added by the long words, but it also makes it clear he knows what he's talking about, a wonderful example of language.

You may be lead to believe that rhyme is a vital must have in songs, this is not true. Many songs can have added effect from purposefully not rhyming. "You may even say, that I think about you every.." you would expect the next word to be day, would you not? But adding a short pause after the word 'every' then saying 'night' is a tasty little touch. You may even go to the next line and rhyme something with the expected word 'day'. That line was not from a pre-written song, I simply needed an example so made it up. Another technique I enjoy using is rhyming the last word of one line with maybe a middle word or first word of a next line, and the other way around as well, experiment, you don't learn until you try.

Language is covered, but it would probably mix with the next step too.

Step 3: Writing the song (First Draft)

Using the previous two steps you are now in a position to start writing. The order you write the song is totally up to you, chorus first or verses first, you may even have a bridge you already have in your head, get it all down, chances are it'll change eventually anyway. A catchy chorus is always a must have, you need something people will remember after they hear your song, rhyming is good for making it catchy, as is a good tune. Complex words could make it memorable, but used badly could make it confusing, your chorus needs to outline your storyline you wrote originally. Verses are a good way of describing how you feel about your chorus, maybe even something totally different, as long as it all makes sense at the end. Basically, put everything in your head, onto paper.

Step 4: Second Draft or Final Draft

I suggest doing the next draft a few hours later, or maybe the next day, which is what I did with this lesson, give yourself some rest from your song so you have a chance to change your views and feelings. Go back to your first draft with fresh eyes, you will most probably find bits you don't like, bits you love more than before and you'll probably have new ideas popping into your head. Personally, I would do two or three drafts before creating your final piece, fresh eyes bring fresh ideas, which therefore bring fresh, capturing songs.

Right folks, that's a wrap. I hope I managed to help you or at least give you new ideas.

Cheers for looking, feel free to comment, I'll answer asap.


25 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Great lesson man, I feel like you describe the way I think but that you did it in order.
    Got any tips on how to put the music to the words? As it stands i can pop out an assortment of lyrics but i can't for the life of me get my guitar playing in line with what i write. Any tips?
    I have wrote a couple of songs and I find them rather crappy and bland, but I am going to start writingg some new songs pretty soon and this lesson of yours has reall helped me m8...Keep up the good Dialogue and PeAcE
    nice tips....a great lesson for anyone..every little bit of advice helps if you want to write.and everyone on here dissing this style of writing needs to write a lesson on how they write songs with details like this....because there are unlimited ways on writing a song and the more ways of writing people are aware of the better song or songs they can write.
    This sounds like a great lesson, I haven't tried anything in it yet, but it sounds like it'll probably work well for me.
    i never thought about rhyming the middle with the end of a verse, its just something to rehearse over and over again.
    Same for me big_dro83, this is helping me more than i could imagine, i'm 14 and trying to write songs which gets tough without help. Thx gib-gib
    those were just examples, bjhman9. this lesson is about how gib-gib writes songs. Take his well written lesson and put it to use with whatever you like to write about. gib-gib hit the nail square on the head for me brotha.
    What really turned me off this lesson is that you do nothing but talk about writing songs about "losing someone" or "Finding someone". And you reference paramore. Last thing we need is more break up and love songs... For a good song you need creativity but at the same time something everyone can relate to. But the whole love bit gets old and won't get you anywhere as a starting musician. IMO
    That is a fair point zakske, I do agree with what you said, this is my first song writing experience, so I'm still learning.
    I don't agree about the "chorus has to be catchy" part, as I personally don't like sticking to a pattern... What I would recommend is create a storyline, as said in the lesson, divide the story into multiple parts, start off with an intro for the beginning of the story, then make your song and story evolve musically and lyrically. There doesn't have to be repetition of certain words or melodies, just write music to the story, don't adapt your story to the music. Write for yourself, not for others. Yet, if you choose to go for something less progressive than what I always aim for, this lesson is just perfect ;.
    If you subscribe to my lessons, I'm about to start work on the second part of this lesson, that will include chords and tabs
    these are some nice tips ive already started to try to write a song the lyrics are sorrta ok but i thought this might have covered how to write the chords and tab for it also :/