Ever wondered how to write a song? Want to write better lyrics but don't know how? Want to know what makes a good songwriter?
Well today I'm going to share with you some of my best songwriting tips, so you too can put together a professional sounding song, even as a beginner.
This guide will help you no matter what genre of music you make, and whether you want to write lyrics as a singer, rapper, or any other type of musician.
People have told me I should sell this as a course or a book, but I’ve decided to give it to you for free instead. 🙂
I suggest you save the link to this page so you can refer to it whenever you want. And if you enjoy this article, please share it via social networking sites as a thank you, and / or link to it from your own site.
Different Approaches On How To Write A Song
Ok, before we go into the technique of putting your lyrics together, we need to look at the different approaches we can take to song writing. There are two main ways you can go about doing this:
- Writing lyrics first then finding an instrumental to match it after, or
- Writing to a pre-made instrumental or beat.
Both methods have their pros and cons. For example, the first methods means you can write lyrics no matter where you are, which of course is a good thing.
All you need is somewhere to write the lyrics down (so you remember them later), and the motivation to create a great song. And if you have a smartphone, you can use a notepad app to write your lyrics on the move.
You can then match your lyrics to a beat later on, or simply sing or rap them acapella to your audience.
This method can be very handy, as many song writers get inspiration at the weirdest times. You could be sitting on a bus and get an idea for a song, or you could be half asleep and suddenly jolt awake as you think of an epic chorus.
Of course, in these instances it's not really practical to bring out your music player and start finding a backing track to write to.
When inspiration hits like this, it's often a better idea to simply write down your ideas on your phone or on a bit of paper, and finish it off later when you are in a better position to do so.
This is why many song writers walk around with their note pad to take down any lyric ideas that come to them.
The downside to this methods however can be finding the right backing track after. It can occasionally (Not always) take a while to find the perfect instrumental to fit with your lyrics, so bare this in mind if you decide to take this path.
The other option is to find a beat first, then write lyrics over it. If you want to develop the skill of writing lyrics to a song, you need to pay close attention to the melody or rhythm of the backing track in question.
If you have a beat or instrumental you want to write something to, you need to play it and listen to it for a while.
Get a good feel for the song, and allow inspiration for ideas to enter your mind. You should try to make the lyrics you're writing down connect with the way the instrumental makes you feel.
The more feelings and emotions you inject into your lyrics, the better the song will usually turn out.
Some musicians however, find it hard creating lyrics like this. If you're having troubles using this method, a good idea is to think of a subject for your song first, then write to the beat once you have a subject matter firmly in your mind.
This will then allow you to focus only on writing lyrics around this theme, and writing to the same speed and structure of the backing track.
You don't have to stick to just one of these two strategies, you can try both and see which one works best for you. I know people that use both methods at different times, so don't feel you have to just stick to one.
Songwriting Tips – Coming Up With A Subject For Your Lyrics
Coming up with a subject for your song is the first thing you should aim to do before you write a song. While it's more important when creating a hit love song over a freestyle rap, it's often a good idea to have your song following a rough subject matter which your listeners can relate to.
Many songs don't have a set subject matter, and can still do well if they're catchy and appeal to a specific target audience. That said, choosing a subject matter will make things a lot easier for you when it comes to writing song lyrics.
It'll also mean that your fans will be able to connect with your song on a deeper level, as they will be able to relate to what you're saying.
There are a few ways to come up with ideas for your song. Firstly, you can build on a line that you have already created.
You may have written down a line in a moment of inspiration, and you may find you can create a whole song around the theme of that line. This is often the easiest method, as you most likely have feelings about this subject if you've started writing about it.
A second method is to decide you want to write about a specific subject, and go on to create your lyrics from there. So for example, you may decide you want to write about something because it's an experience you've been through before.
Or you may see something you have an opinion on / think will make a good song, and write about it accordingly.
A final option is to get inspiration from a backing track. Sometimes when you listen to a beat, you will start to get ideas for what a song should be about.
Ideas will flow to your mind, and you can pick one of these and build out the song from there.
Once again, all of these methods can be used by any one musician. You don't have to pick one method for how to write a song, you can use the various different techniques at different times.
Once you have a subject, let's look at the lyric writing. We don't want basic or childish lyrics, so this is something we'll need to practice on.
The Elements Of A Song Made Easy (With Video & Audio Examples)
Now, before we look at actually writing your lyrics, let’s briefly look at the elements of your song. It wouldn’t help you if I just said “write down what you feel in anyway and you’ll have your first song”.
In reality, while you would have some words written down, it wouldn’t necessarily be a song.
Part of what makes a song a song, is the way your words are put together. We’ll look at the order of which these elements should go later on, but for now, here are some of the key elements you may find in a song:
- A Verse.
- A Chorus.
- An Intro (also known as an ‘introduction’).
- An Outro.
- The Breakdown / A Bridge.
- A Pre-Chorus.
- The Drop.
Not all of the above elements will be used in every song you write. In fact, the verse is the only one you 100% need to use.
When writing your first song, I suggest you only write a verse and chorus, at least initially. This is so you don’t over complicate things, and worry about missing anything out.
In the interest of clarity though, let me explain what all of these elements are so you can use them when you get more comfortable with songwriting.
I also give video examples of each element so you can see them in practice, not just read the theory. We use Dappy’s song ‘No Regrets’ for these examples as it has most elements in there.
The only elements that song doesn’t have is a drop, so for that we use Shy Fx’s ‘Original Nuttah’ song.
What Is A Verse
In your average song, the verse is the single element which takes up most of the song’s time. This is the section that explains the story of your song in the most detail.
Depending on your style of song, you may have two, three, four or even more verses. The traditional pop song generally has around three versus, with two verses being the second most popular.
This is the only element which is a hundred percent essential to a song. There are some songs which don’t have any of the other elements and are made up purely of one long verse; this is mainly done on hip-hop ‘freestyle’ songs.
Video Examples Of A Verse
Here’s an example of a verse; note that the video will start playing from the correct place for all these examples.
Verse 1 is from 0:13 to 0:34:
Verse 2 is from 1:27 to 1.48:
Verse 3 is from 2:30 to 2:52*:
* Note that from 2:20 to 2:42, this could also be classed as a breakdown. More details below in the ‘What Is The Breakdown And A Bridge’ section.
Also, notice how the choruses are in between these verses. But we’ll talk about the other elements of this song below.
What Is A Chorus
While not every song has a chorus, the majority of them do. In fact, choruses are probably the most important element to a song because they’re often what makes people remember it.
A chorus is usually repeated multiple times during the song between the verses and other elements. It’s often catchy and sums up the core theme of your lyrics.
Video Examples Of A Chorus
Here’s an example of a chorus:
Chorus 1 is from 0:55 to 1:16:
Chorus 2 is from 1:59 to 2:20:
Chorus 3 is from 2:53 to 3:58:
This time the chorus is played three times, each in a different way.
Note: 3:35 to 3:58 can also be classed as an outro, with the chorus being sung on the outro. So they overlap.
What Is An Intro
An intro, a.k.a. introduction, is anything that is written for the beginning of the song. Sometimes this is someone talking, sometimes it’s them singing ‘ooo’s and ‘arr’s, or sometimes a musician will even sing or rap there.
The main thing is that it’s all done before the main part of the song, either chorus or verse, comes in.
Note: In some cases, people add their chorus in the intro, although this is not that common.
Video Example Of An Intro
Here’s an example of an intro:
From 0:00 to 0:13:
What Is An Outro
An outro is pretty much the same as an intro, but it’s done at the end of the song instead of the beginning. This helps wrap up the song and can give a conclusion to the listener.
Video Example Of An Outro
Here’s an example of an outro:
From 3:35 to 3:58:
Note: 2:53 to 3:58 can also be classed as chorus 3 as the chorus is sung on the outro.
What Is The Breakdown And A Bridge
A ‘breakdown’ or ‘bridge’ is a part of a song where things change up. Normally the backing track has less going on or the melody will change up, and your lyrics can be presented in a way to match this.
In this break down, you can either talk, leave it free from any lyrics or voice, or sing your lyrics as normal. Whatever you decide to do, try and make it sound different from the rest of the song.
It’s usually slower and more mellow than the rest of the song, so when the song returns to it's usual pace, it has more of an impact on the listener.
The breakdown can be placed at any point after the first verse of the song, but often it’s placed before the final set of choruses so it leads up to a ‘big finish’.
A bridge is more typically a ‘lead in’ section; e.g it’ll lead in from a chorus to a verse.
Not all songs have these sections, but they can help make your song less repetitive and more exciting when done correctly.
Video Examples Of A Breakdown & A Bridge
Here’s an example of a bridge:
From 1:17 to 1:27:
Here’s an example of a breakdown:
From 2:20 to 2:42:
Note that from 2:30 to 2:52, this section could also be classed as ‘verse 3’.
What Is A Pre-Chorus
I personally really like pre-choruses. While they’re not used in most songs, when used right they can really help make your song stand out and catchy.
A pre-chorus is something that goes in front of most (if not all) choruses in a song. Like a chorus they are often catchy, but done in a different style to the main chorus for differentiation.
Video Examples Of A Pre-Chorus
Here’s an example of a pre-chorus:
Long pre-chorus from 0:34 to 0:55:
Short pre-chorus from 1:48 to 1:59:
What Is A Drop
A ‘drop’ is a term that is used in certain genres of music; usually dance related genres. It usually comes after the intro, where the intro is more mellow and leads up to the drop.
When the drop comes, it’s usually a lot busier than what came before. So if you’re writing lyrics, you’ll want to make your lyrics that come at the drop really hard hitting and more powerful than in the intro.
Video Example Of A Drop
Here’s an example of a drop:
At 1:17. But watch from 1:01 to hear how it ‘drops’ at 1:17.
Now we know all the elements of a great hit song, let’s get to the fun part and actually start writing it. 🙂
Note: We’re not going to write the song in the order it will be performed as you’ll see below. Instead we’ll write it in a way which will be easiest for you, then we’ll structure the song after so it flows better.
How To Write A Chorus For A Song (Creating The Hook)
If you are a beginner songwriter, the easiest way to start writing your own songs is to begin with a hook (also known as the chorus). If you're writing to a beat, you will want to listen to it for a while, and begin writing down everything that starts coming to your mind.
These will usually be a line or two of lyrics, or a set melody structure you can write to. Once you have brainstormed a few ideas onto paper, you will hopefully have a stand out idea you can base your chorus around.
If not, continue with this process until you do. You can get some ideas on being more creative with your songwriting here.
You may also find you have written more then one idea for a good chorus. If this happens, pick the one that is most suited for this song, then save the rest for other future songs you write.
That songwriting tip will mean that you are already ahead when it comes to creating a new piece, and will make the song writing process a lot easier the next time around.
Developing a good chorus is critical when it comes to making good songs, because the chorus is what connects each verse to one another. While it doesn't need to rhyme, it will need to be catchy, and instantly grab the attention of people that hear it.
While there are some exceptions to this rule, writing catchy choruses are often the way to go. And tools like Rhyme Zone can help with that.
Depending on your target audience, you may also want to make your song lyrics easy to remember. If you keep your chorus lyrics basic but easy to sing along to, this can help your song stay in people's mind.
This will mean more people will hear, as not only will it get played more, but people will be singing it so others will hear it like that too.
This tactic works especially well if you want your songs to appeal to kids, as they pick up on catchy song and lyrics very easily. They can also bug their parents till they go out and buy your song, which can only be a good thing. 😀
If you don't want to go for a fully catchy chorus but want people to sing along and support your song, another option is to look for current news that most people are debating about, and try to incorporate how you feel about the matter into your lyrics for the chorus.
Nine times out of ten, there are other people out there that feel the same way you do about the subject. This will give you an audience that will support your song simply because they can deeply relate to what you are talking about in it.
One key thing to remember, is to try and make your chorus flow smoothly with the melody of the instrumental. It doesn't matter how good the lyrics in your song are if they are off beat, so make sure you make your lyrics and song sound like they belong together.
If you want additional help with writing choruses specifically, have a read of our guide on how to write a chorus.
Creating The Verses For Your Song
Once you have your song's hook, you now know what the subject of your song is going to be. So now all you have to do for the verses is make them stay consistent with the theme of the song.
In your first verse you want to grab your audiences attention quickly so they want to hear more. The first verse is where you need to inject the most emotions into your lyrics, as it's often one of the first things your listeners will hear.
A great way to get ideas for the first verse is to use the phrases you used in your chorus. This will of course mean that the subject matter stays the same, and will also sound more familiar and appealing to the listener.
In the 2nd verse you continue to build on everything you stated in the first verse. Make sure the 2nd verse is still going on with the same theme, so anyone that has connected with the song so far will continue to be absorbed with what you have to say.
The great thing about song writing is that you don't have to include a lot of details about everything you're saying in the song. It's possible to keep things relatively brief while still getting your message across to your audience.
After the first or second verse, you may want to include a ‘break down' section. This is a part of the song that is different from the rest, both in terms of the backing track and lyrical delivery.
It is usually slower and more mellow the the rest of the song, so when the song returns to it's usual pace, it has more of an effect for the listener.
In this break down, you can either talk, leave it free from any lyrics or voice, or sing your lyrics as normal. Whatever you decide to do, try and make it sound different from the rest of the song.
If you decide to include a 3rd verse in your song (this will depend on how long your song is already and whether or not you've anything else to say), this 3rd verse should once again keep the theme of the song going.
Don't go too far off topic, and start getting ready to end the song. When you are finishing the song, you should end it with a strong final message.
You can see more details on verse writing here.
Writing An Intro And Outro For Your Song
These are probably some of the easiest parts of the song to write: the introduction and the outro.
You want to write everything else first as these won’t take that long to do. Furthermore, once the rest of the song is written, it’s much easier to decide how to do the intro and outro.
To get an idea of what you should put here, go back and listen to some of your favorite songs. You’ll likely find that these sections are all done in different ways.
For example, some of the songs may not have anything in terms of writing in the intro or outro. They may just have the backing track and that’s all.
Others may have the performer talking about something that’s related to the song’s theme.
Some will have the performer making singing or rapping noises.
My main point is that you can do anything you want to, so you’re not really restricted about what you write about (if you decide to write anything).
When I make songs, I personally like to write them in full other than the intro and outro. Only when I get the instrumental I’ll be performing the song to, do I think about the beginning and end of the song.
At this point I’ll know how long the sections will need to be and what kind of emotions the backing track brings out in me. I find that this is the best way to get the best intro and outro for my songs.
One great thing about this section is it’s pretty easy to change. While changing a whole verse or chorus for example would be a bit more of a big task (though not impossible), if you want to change the way you finish the song for example it’s not long or hard to do.
So even if you’ve got an introduction there, if you wake up the next day and decide that something else would go better, it’s pretty easy to switch up.
Checking Over All The Lyrics You've Written
Once you are done writing your final verse, it's time to read the lyrics you just wrote, and make any necessary changes to the song to make it better.
Going back over your work will allow you to spot errors and make sure the overall concept of your song works together.
It's also a good idea to sleep a night or two on your draft copy of the song, as this will allow you to see things fresh and see if you can change your songs for the better in any way.
Structuring Your Song
While I won't go deep into that in this guide, we look at how to structure your song here.
Quickly though, here's some popular song structures:
- Intro > Verse 1 > Chorus > Verse 2 > Chorus > Verse 3 > Chorus > Chorus > Outro.
- Intro > Verse 1 > Chorus > Verse 2 > Chorus > Bridge / Breakdown > Chorus > Chorus > Outro.
How To Write A Song For Beginners Conclusion
And that's it. Writing songs isn't hard, but does require some practice and experience. The more you practice writing songs, the better you will naturally become.
You will find you start to write your lyrics a lot faster, and you will naturally become better at structuring your songs.
Now that you know what you need to do to start writing your own song lyrics, pick up a pen and start writing. Good luck. 🙂