Song writing – How to write a song

Song writing.  nobody ever said it was easy right?  Not true.  You will hear plenty of famous songwriters talk about how easy song writing is all the time.  But why?  Why does it come so naturally for some people and at the expense of so much hair pulling and frustrating work for others?  Well there are several things that factor into both sides of this coin, so let’s dive right in.

Song writing – Where do I even start?

Well the first thing for me is a feeling.  No matter what else I always start out with a feeling.  How I feel about someone or something.  Often times this can be an ex girlfriend, a current girlfriend, past and current lovers, family, friends, and so on.  But I also love being unconventional, so I also tend to look for inspiration elsewhere.  I go to beaches, parks, even the airport and focus on how watching people go through a moment in time makes me feel.  Once I have internalized that particular situation, then we can move on.  Often times if you want to write an anthem, something catchy for everyone, you can turn to current events or your local newspaper for inspiration.  When you see something that strikes you as socially unjust, tada! you’ve found your topic.

Song writing – I have my feeling, how do I translate that to a topic?

This is interesting, because your feeling came from a particular situation, so the obvious place to find your topic would be from those involved in said situation, but if you want to get creative,I will share with you one of my secrets.  I tend to look at a moment in time between two people, and then take the feeling that comes from it and apply it to someone that I would normally never feel that way about.  So for example, let’s say two people are wildly in love in the park and kissing each other, and it makes me feel good.  What happens if we attach that feeling to an ex girlfriend that cheated on me?  What if the ex girlfriend is married?  What if the marriage isn’t working out and she comes back to me secretly?  Is it real?  Is she just using  me to fulfill her physical desires?  Can love work twice?  Is she really going to leave him?  Again, another wonderfully complex scenario by applying that feeling to someone that I would normally never feel that way about.  This is where we get those drippy and highly emotional lyrics from, and now you know the secret!

Song writing – Where do I get the beat?

The lyrics are important.  The voice of the artist is important.  The passion is important.  But the glue that holds it all together is the beat.  In film, television, and in the orchestra, we call this the composition.  In the music industry, we call it the instrumental, the track, and most commonly, the beat.  The beat is just as important to the process of song writing as every other aspect.  This requires a harmonious coming together of quite a list of different elements when writing a song, but when you get it right, it can be magical.  Getting beats comes from several sources, the obvious one is networking.  Go through your friends list on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere asking if anybody is a music producer or sound engineer.  Chances are, if you are already interested in this industry, you will have friends that are as well.  You would be amazed what one post on Facebook will turn up for you.  If that doesn’t work, you can always turn to low budget beat makers on Fiverr and Craigslist.  If you don’t like the results there and are willing to shell out between $30 and $300, you will find an amazing array of styles and varieties of producers over at Soundclick.  And to set you off on the right track, I will link you to one of my favorite Soundclick producers right here.  You can also always email me and I will produce a track for you, although my fee is a bit higher, as the people that I’ve described on the cheap end are more of what we would call beatmakers, they more or less just make beats, where as a producer really goes into the song writing process and produces the song catered to you and your needs.


Song writing – So what is the layout of a song?

Typically a song is broken down into six primary elements.  In order they are –

  • The introduction – This is typically just music that you will hear at the beginning of the song.  This is also the time and place for your initial “Hey girl” ad libs or whatever else you as the artist may feel fit to say.
  • The Verse – Depending on what style of song you are writing, the length of the verse is going to differ.  If you are a rapper, you are probably giving me 16 bars per verse, although these days, breaking that standard is a form of expression used by many. In the 60’s with beach music, it was popular to often have a “pre-verse” or rather, a mini verse to lead into the actual verse as well.  We do not see this too often in today’s music.
  • The Pre-Chorus/Build – The primary function of this very small piece of music is to connect the verse to the chorus.  Today, most songs don’t have them.
  • The Chorus/Hook – This is where you get people to buy your music.  This is the sing along part.  If people don’t know the lyrics to any other part of your song, even in EDM where there may not be lyrics, the chorus is the part that everybody knows.  It can be as complex as you’d like, but usually, it is defined by it’s simplicity and ease of repetition, as that is what is going to have everyone “hooked” and constantly forcing the song to be subliminally stuck in the minds of your listeners.
  • The Bridge – This is quite literally a bridge between the last chorus and one final chorus before heading into the tail end of the song.  Often times it can be quite similar or even make use of the pre-chorus from before.
  • The conclusion – This is the ending of the song.  Like the introduction, it is usually just music with some general ad libbing happening over it or not at the artist’s discretion.

Well, there you have it.  Those are the six primary factors that go into the layout of a song.  Song writing is an art form.  It is to be taken both lightly, and simultaneously, very seriously, as it can be done for fun and relaxation as a hobby, or it can be done as part of one of the biggest industries in the world.  Whatever you decide to do, in the end, follow your heart.  If song writing is something you would truly like to give a try to, then do it!  There is nothing to stop you from song writing other than yourself.  So get out of your own way, grab a pen and a pad, and get to it!

-Michael Simpson Jr