Songwriting can seem like a daunting task. Even if you don’t intend to write a Top 40 hit, you still have to write meaningful lyrics and a memorable melody to match. Don’t worry as every songwriter starts somewhere, myself included. So I thought I would share some of my best tips for first timers...
First of all anybody can write a song. Just like how anybody can play an instrument, with enough time and practice. The main bulk of songwriting comes from simply being creative. You have to come up with an idea or message that you want to convey, and from there you can write your song. You can draw from personal experience or make something up entirely. Alternatively you can mix and match, fictionalising personal experience like I do occasionally. The important part once you have gotten your idea is deciding where you want to go with it. The best songs build meaning as they progress. Look at Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’. The first verse and pre-chorus note that while her previous love has moved on, she can’t help coming back and seeing them with the hope of getting back together. The chorus then shows that despite this, the singer is willing to let go and wish the best for the new couple. It’s a story that’s relatable and has a clear progression that pulls you in. This is what you should want to achieve. If you have a clear idea and know where you want to go with it, you can’t go wrong.
Every songwriter approaches the actual writing differently; music first, lyrics first or both simultaneously. In reality it doesn’t really matter, but I suggest you find the style that’s most comfortable for you. Try out the different approaches, you might find that more than one suits you. It is all about being comfortable, because my next tip is don’t over think it. Don’t try and compare yourself to the latest number one. The people who wrote that have years of experience. Just write what you feel fits. Write from the heart. That’s another way to build meaning in the song. If the lyrics are honest, the listener feels it. Obviously try and make it cohesive, but for the first couple times, just be yourself. If you begin to over think it, the writing will become automatically harder as you struggle to reach the perception you’ve built up in your head.
Once you have written your first few songs then you can begin to look more into the lyrics and music. Try experimenting with rhyme, rhythm, line length, chords and structure. If you want to create something really interesting musically, you should learn basic music theory. It will help widen your choice of chords and therefore create more diverse songs. Lyrically, start reading songwriting books. I do this myself because there is always more to learn. Even if the author teaches you nothing you don’t already know, they might have a different method that’s worthwhile learning about. Manufacturers are constantly picking up new techniques, and this is what reading songwriting books will do for you. I personally recommend Pat Pattinson’s ‘Writing Better Lyrics’. It’s full of great techniques that you can take on and even apply to songs you have already written.
My final tip is never stop writing. Think about setting aside some time each week to write a song. The only way you can truly improve is with practice. If you don’t enjoy songwriting then its fair game, but if you do and you want to further yourself you must carry on. Even if you aren’t in the mood, do it anyway. You don’t know what will come out of it. Sure, there will be songs that are better than others, but you can always go back and improve the ones that aren’t as good. Even if a song is irredeemable, it’s still a lesson learned.
I hope these tips have helped or inspired you to take up songwriting. I love it, which is why I want to pursue a career in it! Let me know how your songwriting has been going. If you sign up to my mailing list you can leave a comment or write to me directly via my contact page.