Becoming a songwriter is a lifelong dream for many. Although anyone can technically write a song, only a small portion of people end up make a living off their passion. Writing good songs is a major part of being a songwriter, but it doesn’t stop there. If you want to make the leap, you’ll need to market your songs once they’re polished up. Songwriting can be a harrowing field to get into, and it’s extremely competitive. However, with the right dedication and artistic integrity, there just might be a place for you in this field.
Part 1 Composing the Music
Begin with a chord progression. A chord progression is the basis of any pop song. Chord progressions are fundamentally simple to come up with, but it requires inspiration to come up with a truly great one. Using an instrument of your choice, play around with a few different chords and see how they match up together.
- Chord progressions are often predictable and simple in the context of pop music. Especially if you are starting out as a songwriter, it’s a good idea to start small at first and work from there.
Build a song structure. A hit song will always come in the form of a coherent song structure. It may be helpful to write out the parts of your song down, and attach musical ideas to them as they come. Here is a list of some common parts in songs:
- The intro: An instrumental opening for the song that introduces the tone and rhythm of the song. Certain songs, like the Beatles’ “She Loves You” break typical form and open up the song with the melodic chorus.
- The verse: The most common part of a song, where the main body of the lyrics and music tends to go. In Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and others, this is where the story is told. The “summary” of the song is reserved for the chorus.
- The chorus: A repeated section, often the most memorable melody in the song. Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” uses two verses before its chorus. The chorus uses repetitive lyrics stating the speaker’s summary of the action.
- The bridge: A change of pace featured later on in the song, often following a chorus. If a fresh idea happens right before a chorus, it may be called a pre-chorus. “Billie Jean” uses a pre-chorus after the verse and before the chorus. This is used to build up the tension before letting loose in the song’s melodic hook.
Practice your instrument daily. If you play an instrument, noodling around on it every day may lead to surprising new insights and ideas. Give yourself some time to play in a freeform mode on your instrument. Let all pretenses drop, play around and see what happens. If you end up hearing an idea you like, write it down or record it for use on a song.
- Practicing and rehearsing songs written by other people can be the springboard for your own creative ideas.
Record a demo. After you have a basic demo prepared, you can revisit it and listen for yourself. This will shed a fresh insight on the music and what it may need. Improve upon the demo version as you see fit. Because songwriting is a constantly evolving process, you may record several demos of the same song before you’re done.
- Recording a demo will allow you to hear any changes you need to make in the song, and you’ll be able to work out details like what to do with the back-up vocals or when the song should get more powerful.
Verse yourself in music theory. Although being educated in music theory isn’t necessary for a songwriter by any means, it may help set you on the right track. Knowing which notes tend to agree with each other the most may give you a valuable insight if you’re stuck on a certain part of a song and aren’t sure how to proceed.
- Theory books are widely available.
- Community colleges also often host classes in music theory.
Part 2 Writing Your Lyrics
Keep an ideas notebook. The best lyric writers take a notebook around with them wherever they go. That way, when a clever line strikes them, they can record it down before it’s lost forever. Make a habit of writing down the random thoughts that come into your head on a day-to-day basis.
- Keeping a thesaurus around with you will help as well.
Give your inspiration a rest. You may find your creativity reinvigorated if you give yourself a day or so to rest away from your work. It is easy to burn out in any creative process. When you come back, you’ll hopefully have a refreshing perspective on your art.
- Most often, sleeping things over will give your brain time to consolidate your thoughts. When you make up the next morning, you’ll have a fresh insight on what you worked on the day before.
- If you’re getting stressed out over the creative process, go for a walk and take half an hour to relax.
Any songwriter worth his salt will tell you that the best song material is written from the heart. Although this can be different if you’re attempting to “make it big”, do the best you can to be emotionally invested in whatever music you’re making. Even if you’re not the one who will ultimately perform the music, you should be communicating an inner part of yourself to your prospective audience.
- Taking a page from your own life will make it easier to evoke a real emotional response. Take a life experience that moves you and write about it.
Tell a story with your lyrics. Some of the best songs tell a story. If there’s something noteworthy that happened to your recently, consider writing a track about it. Base your verses around telling the story, while the chorus can reiterate the general theme of what you’re attempting to convey.
- Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” tells the story of a man who is accused by a one night stand of being a woman’s father. The story incorporates romance and a dimension of tension.
Avoid cliche and forced rhymes. An easy beginning mistake in writing lyrics is to place the importance of the rhyme above anything else. Rhymes can be very effective when used cleverly, but they can just as easily make lyrics feel amateurish if you’re building a song specifically around them. The same idea applies to overused cliches and cheesy sentimentality as well. Although you may feel you need to rely on bombastic emotional insights to get your feeling across, you’ll get better mileage by toning it down for something more intimate.
- Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” sneaks in rhyming within the same lines, but the rhymes are only used because they advance the story.
Employ repetition in your lyrics. Repetition allows a listener to latch onto something familiar in a song before the first listen is over. This is an important psychological aspect of music appreciation. Take the most pithy line in your lyrics and repeat it. A small verse section can be re-imagined as a chorus.
- The most repeated lyrics in a song often ends up as the song’s chorus.
Match your lyrics to the music. Finally, integrate your lyrics with the melody in your song. This may involve tweaking your melody and rhythm to accommodate the lyrics. You should keep in mind however that the music should almost always come first, as it’s the thing people will be focusing on the first time they hear the song.
- You can stretch vowels and vocal sounds to match the music.
- If you’re writing a hip-hop track, a skilled rapper will usually be able to fit irregular verses into any steady rhythm.
Come up with a fitting title. A song title should catch the audience’s eye immediately. Some great titles may be plucked from the lyrical ideas you’ve already written. While there is no single step-by-step process on how to get the perfect song title, play around with a few words or phrases and decide for yourself which one matches the message your song is getting across.
- You might pick a title that captures the essence of your song. If your song is story-based, pick a word or theme that describes what it’s about. If your song is about someone, name the song after them. Michael Jackson’s song “Billie Jean”, for example, is named after the primary character.
Part 3 Marketing Yourself
Acknowledge the expectations of your genre. Even if you’re not trying yourself to a genre in the long run, it is probable that your song demos will adhere to a given style. Due to the fact that this is what people will initially judge you by, it’s important to consider what people will actually be looking out for that kind of music.
Develop a portfolio of demos. recording a single demo isn’t enough. Although people may only skim the first 30 seconds of one of your songs before moving onwards, if someone hears a song and likes it, he’ll want to know that it’s not just a fluke. Compile a demo collection of a few of your best songs. If you’re wanting to make an impression as a versatile songwriter, you might try writing tunes in different sounds.
- You can hire musicians or enlist friends to play your songs for you. The performance on a demo can make a major difference.
- If you plan to release your music commercially on sites like iTunes, Spotify, or Tidal, record them at a professional recording studio.
Share your work with friends. Friends are a great place to start with if you have songs to show. Because friends will usually have a genuine interest in seeing you succeed, they’ll be able to give you tight constructive criticism about your work. When your work is sharpened up, they can help you spread the word of your music to other people they may know.
- If you have a friend who is already associated with professionals in the music industry, you should make an extra effort to show that person your music. Even if he’s not directly associated with a label or publishing house, he may know people that could be interested in the music you’re producing.
Post your songs online. In an age of social media and easy networking, you can make a big name for yourself simply through word of mouth and link sharing. Provided your material is strong enough, you can post your demos on websites like Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Youtube. From there, people who come across it may be inclined to share it if they enjoy it enough.
- To help manage any royalties from your music, register with a performing rights organization (PRO) like BMI, ASCAP, or SoundExchange.
Connect with the music industry. Professional songwriters may find it useful to live in one of the central hubs for the music industry, including Los Angeles, New York and London. Although these days you can actually make a start in music without ever dealing with the “industry”, it’s nonetheless a vital place to look to if you want to write songs professionally. Mail off your demos and cover letter to a variety of musical publishing houses and record labels. Try to get in contact with people who are already in the industry and tell them what you want to do.
- The people in the music industry are quickly desensitized to the number of people who are pursuing their dreams. Don’t take it personally if you get the cold shoulder treatment from these people. It’s all part of the process.
- There are agencies that base their business around helping prospective writers find work Outlets such as Taxi may be of use to you if you’re having difficulty linking up with the right publishers.
- Certain genres favour certain regions. Nashville, for example, is largely enough for its bustling country music scene.
Stay focused and persistent.Persistence is the key. This is especially true once your music is done and it’s time to show it to other people. Because there is so much music coming out these days, it may take years to properly get your foot in the door. The only thing that can defeat you is if you give up entirely. Develop a thick skin for criticism, and don’t lose a passion for the songs you produce, even if you can’t find a market for it yet.
- It’s normal to question your path sometimes, especially in a tough industry like music. If you feel like you’re losing your passion, spend some time listening to the artists who originally inspired you so you can remember why you fell in love with music in the first place.
Part 4 Gathering Your Influences
Decide on the kind of songwriter you want to be.Songwriters come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re wanting to get serious as a songwriter, you should get an idea of the direction you would like to take. Some songwriters write music to play themselves, while others work for publishing agencies and have their material used by famous artists. The vast majority of songwriters also have particular genres they’re most inclined to write in. Take a moment to imagine the sort of songwriter you would like to be.
Broaden your musical horizons. The most successful songwriters listen to a wide variety of musical styles. This is because work isn’t always available in one style. If you’re aiming to make a living from your songs, you’ll need to cover the range of popular musical styles. What’s more, being versed in a variety of genres will open new doors to be inspired by.
- Don’t be afraid to listen to types of music you don’t normally listen to.
Analyze a variety of hit songs. As always, it’s a good idea to look at hits from a variety of styles and eras. This will offer you the most dynamic insight into what a “hit” is, and how you can replicate that success. Here are a few hit songs you might look at for the sake of a good example:
- “Roundabout” by Yes.
- “Yesterday” by the Beatles.
- “Trains” by Porcupine Tree.
- “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson.
Attend a live concert. If you’re thirsting for inspiration, there are few places as well-suited to get the creative fires stoked as a live concert. Not only will you get to watch an artist passionate interpret a collection of songs, you’ll also be able to see the life-affirming effect music has on the listeners. By the time you get back home, you should have a refreshed perspective on the reasons why you want to write songs.
Stay busy. Inspiration doesn’t come to those who idle. Even if you’re fixated on writing music, the only way you’ll be properly inspired is if you are getting out and doing things. Spend time with friends, or go out to see new film. The more fresh stimulation your mind has, the more potential you’ll have to be inspired about something.
Community Q&A Did you know you can get expert answers for this article
- QuestionWhy do I need to record a demo of a song?Vocal CoachExpert AnswerRecording a demo lets you really get a feel of how to use your voice on that particular song, because it will sound very different on a condenser mic than when you’re singing in person. In addition, it’s really helpful if you’re planning on recording in a studio, because you can have the background vocals done and the other details of the song worked out, so you can use your time to focus on just executing the lead vocals.
- QuestionWhat if you want to become a songwriter but don’t know how to play any instrument?Community Answer You can write music using your voice. Otherwise, you may consider collaborating with someone who does play an instrument
- QuestionHow can I think of good lyrics?Community Answer First, think about a topic like love, horror, etc. Then think about how you feel about the topic. Jot those feelings all down until you have none left. Then, piece them together into lyrics.
- QuestionHow do I record my song?Community Answer Most computers nowadays have a basic recording function. Cellphones and handheld recorders are also well-suited for making demos. More professional recordings may be done in a studio.
- QuestionI believe I have great lyrics. However, I am severely hearing impaired. I know how I want my songs to sound what can I do?Community Answer You can collaborate with a musician who will attempt to realize your ideas as music. Depending on your level of hearing impairment, you may try to hum the musical notes you want used to the musician to include in the arrangement.
- QuestionI’m a very good songwriter but I can’t sing, and I really want the world to listen to the music I write. What should i do?Community Answer Work with other people. Find a great singer to perform your songs.
- QuestionHow do I become a songwriter if I have trouble thinking of things to write?Community Answer It is all a matter of practice. Start by thinking about a subject. Think about what words describe that subject, then try rhyming lines. The more you write, the easier it will get. Collaborating with other people on a song is also a great way to spread lyrical and musical ideas around. All in all, practice, practice, practice. Experience leads to better lyrics, and better lyrics lead to becoming a better songwriter.
- QuestionWhat can I do if I can write lyrics, but not songs?Community Answer You can try to practice more, or you can find a partner that specializes in putting lyrics into songs. That way, the two of you can work together.
- QuestionWhere can I find someone to sing my songs?Community Answer Use social media and try to get in touch with some artists you think would be a good fit for your songs. Or, if you know any singers in real life, ask them if they’d be interested in recording one of your songs, and if they say yes, you could upload their version to YouTube or Soundcloud.
- QuestionWho do I contact once I have finished a song?Community Answer You don’t necessarily have to contact anyone, but you could contact your friends and family. You can also upload your music to a streaming service or social media.
Can I write songs if I have no instruments?
Yes! There are types of music that employ vocals only (a cappella). If you have a computer or smartphone, you can download software online and create music digitally.
I am in middle school, and people at my church think I’m a good songwriter. The music director thinks I have a good voice. What should I do next?
Start writing your own songs and start singing. The best way to improve is to get started, keep practicing and learn from those already successful.
What can I do if I’m new to this and need help coming up with ideas?
Kit Kat Tube
Try writing about what you like, school/work, family/friends, etc. You can also try asking around for possible topics. Or, write about an emotion or an event!