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How to Write a Song A Beginner’s Guide to Song Writing

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Authored by Matt Saunders in Music 
Published on 02-19-2009

Let’s get one thing out in the open right away – writing is not easy. Writing poetry is difficult but arguably writing a song is even more of a challenge because you need to vocalise it with a tune. This article gives a few song writing tips and a few helpful lyric ideas.

So you’ve sat down and decided you want to write a kickass little number? What you need to think about is hooks. Hooks are the melody lines that your listeners will remember, and hopefully sing to themselves for days after hearing your song. To get started play out some chords on your guitar, or piano (or instrument of your choice!). Hum gently anything that comes to mind – anything you feel. Now play another chord and build up a small progression, humming a light tune for each chord. Importantly, you need to really open up at this stage and lose your inhibitions. Writing works best when it’s a natural process.

Sounds easy doesn’t it? But how do you know what you sound like? Record yourself. Play it back and you probably hate the sound of your own voice. But it’s okay, even musicians with the most sought after voices such as Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) started off hating their voices; the trick is to learn to love it. This takes time but once you truly reach inside and pull out whatever’s in there, you will begin to like it.

Now, once you have the basis of a tune down, it’s time to put pen to paper. To begin, say out loud the first thing that comes into your mind. Didn’t work? Okay, it won’t for everybody, but try this: write down 20 words on 20 different scraps of paper. Make some words adjectives, describing various feelings (they may conflict), and make some words synonymous (find good synonyms at Rhyme Zone). Now arrange them out on the floor, or the table, and try to string together a sentence. Please note that you will not go on to use this sentence in your song – it is a basis from which you can get ideas. Small ideas lead to big ideas.

Once you begin writing, keep in mind this golden rule: Lyrics should be descriptive enough for the listener to understand, but vague enough for them to apply their own experiences to. This means that the song makes sense, but in a way that the listener can relate to. Of course you could be completely biographical and talk about yourself but this probably couldn’t sustain a good song writing career – you need to connect with your audience in as many ways as possible.

So, let’s recap: Get down some chords and a tune. Write some random words and start putting together some lines. This will not instantly result in a song, but it will definitely get you on your way.

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