Whether you’re looking to get started on a new song, or you’ve never written one before, the following guide will teach you how to write a song in 7 simple steps. Let’s get into it!
1. Create A Title For Your Song
This title doesn’t necessarily need to be final. You can always change it later.
But the title is very useful during the songwriting process because it tells you what the song is going to be about.
If you start without a topic focus, it’s like handing a painter a blank canvas and telling them to “paint anything!” They’re going to have to think about it. But if you ask them to paint the scenery in front of them, they can get right to work.
Songwriting is the same way. Limitations can help you work more efficiently.
Another important detail you will want to remember for later – your title is usually your hook. For example, did you know that Rihanna repeats the word “Umbrella” 15 times in her song, “Umbrella?”
It’s true, and a lot of top 40 songs follow this formula. They want their song to be remembered, and they know repetition works!
2. Brainstorm Lyric Ideas
At this point, you don’t need to have all the answers. It’s not a free for all, since you already have your title and focus for the song, but whatever comes to mind in terms of ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and especially personal experiences connected to your topic should all be jotted down.
You can also use our song idea generator if you struggle to think of any.
Avoid censoring yourself. The thing artists do too often is put their experiences through a filter, making judgments about what they can and cannot say. This is not good for the songwriting process, and it can put a ceiling on how good your song turns out.
The good news? What you write down now doesn’t even need to look like lyrics yet. You can always find your rhymes and rhythmic flow later. So, write freely.
The key is to get everything out of your head and onto paper. What do you know about this subject? What do you believe about it? What have you experienced?
3. Organize Your Song Lyrics
Now that you have everything down on paper, you’re ready to organize your lyrics in a meaningful way. But this doesn’t mean your song needs to read like an ordered list.
Notice how a lot of songs move from general in the first verse to more specific in the second and third verses? Or how the second verse builds on the story from the first verse, and the third verse comes with a twist, punchline, or cliffhanger?
This is called song structure.
Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” is the perfect example. The first and second verse sees the narrator enjoying time with his “brown eyed girl,” but in the third verse, we find him reflecting on the experience years later. And the chorus ties everything together.
Understand that your lyrics don’t need to be on a timeline or in any logical order, though. You can find plenty of songs that don’t follow a straight line.
Take soulDecision’s “Faded” as an example. The lyric, “Couldn’t we do what we did last night again” comes before the lyric, “Thinking about making my move tonight.” Funny – aren’t those out of order?!
Well, we can make up our own mind what the lyrics mean. And that’s honestly the best thing about songwriting. You can leave your songs open to interpretation. Your audience can attach their own meanings to your music.
And some of the greatest songs of all time, like Led Zeppelin’s legendary “Stairway to Heaven,” are open to listener interpretation.
4. Edit Your Song Writing
The secret to great songwriting is editing. And yet this is often left completely out of the equation!
There are many songwriters, even skilled ones, when asked to edit, give you a blank stare and say, “Editing? What do you mean? The lyrics are already written.”
That’s often the difference between an amateur and a pro. A pro can edit!
Here are some questions you can ask to help you write better songs:
- If your song is based on personal experience or real events, how could you dramatize them to make them even more exciting?
- How could you replace “boring” or “uninteresting” words with more powerful ones (e.g., “fight” can turn into “battle” or “war,” “annoying” becomes “unbearable,” “important” becomes “critical,” etc.)?
- What could you do to make the song more emotionally relatable (sometimes general works better than specific)?
5. Come Up With A Melody For Your Song
At this point, you may already have an idea for your song’s melody. But if not, you can start whistling or humming your ideas.
It’s okay if it’s not perfect. That’s not the point. The point is to experiment to get a sense of what you like.
Oftentimes, the lyrics beg for certain melodies. They make you want to sing in a certain way. So, say your lyrics out loud and see what comes out.
6. Find Your Rhythm
As with adding a melody to your song, it’s possible you’ve already found a rhythm that works, or at least have some ideas how it should go.
Again, the lyrics tend to lead the way. They will tell you what kind of rhythm might work.
That said, don’t be afraid to experiment. Sometimes weird and unusual ideas can work, and you don’t want to write them off before you’ve tried them.
7. Record Your Song
Since you’ve probably been working by yourself up to this point, recording yourself accomplishes a couple of things:
First, it gives you a chance to hear the song. It’s one thing to perform it. Quite another to be a listener of it. Once you’ve listened to it, you might come up with changes you want to make.
Second, it prepares you for the next stage of working together with others to make your song a reality. If you know a guitarist, piano player, or producer, you could ask to work with them. If you have a teacher, you could work on the song with them.
If there’s no one you can work with, there are still tools like Hookpad that make it easy for you to sketch out common chord progressions. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
But your next step will probably be to share you song with others, maybe even release it long-term, so recording your ideas and finding a collaborator is an important next step!
How To Write A Song, Final Thoughts
So that's how to write a song. Want to do more and put your song out there? While it's beyond the scope of this guide, you could:
- Upload your music to Spotify and other digital streaming or download platforms.
- Use an app to get Spotify stats, see what's working, and make future songs to give people what they want based on your findings.
- Rinse and repeat.
As you can see, there's so much you can do with your songs after you write them. Let us know what you do with your song in the comments.