How to Write a Song

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Whether you are a competent musician or not, actually sitting down to write a song is harder than it seems. Use these steps as your guide to writing your first song.

Things You'll Need

  • Musical instrument
  • Get inspired. This is hard to do consciously, but it's how every great song gets started. Start with a catchy or meaningful lyric that you can't get out of your head, a haunting emotion, or a melodic hook that you can't stop whistling. Get something pure and inspired to begin working with.

  • Play with your idea. If you play an instrument, try jamming around the melody or finding a chord progression that fits the lyric. If you have a beat or a groove in mind, have someone else play it over and over in the background while you riff over it. Explore the possibilities in a free-form fashion until you start to feel something that works.

  • Record your initial progress. Great ideas are fleeting, so when you have something that you can keep, even if it is just a couple seconds long, either write it down or get it on tape. You can even call your voicemail and record it. Don't let it slip away from you!

  • Expand upon what you have. Start developing your idea. If it is a chorus or a verse, think of an intro to lead into it. If it is a lyric or a thought, continue from that thought. Think about what was working during a jam or improvisation and try to recreate it.

  • Keep generating ideas. Go back to Step 1 and start thinking of lyrics on the same theme, riffs or melodies in the same key. Don't worry about where these new parts will fit yet.

  • Put it all together. Once you have all the essential parts of a song-a beat, a chord progression, a melody, lyrics (verses, refrain)-start putting them together.

  • Play it through. Play, sing or record all the parts in sequence. Take notice of rough parts or awkward transitions.

  • Put on the finishing touches. Smooth out any problem areas in the song, add vocal harmonies or extra flourishes.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are stumped on a song, try walking away from it and leaving it alone for a day or two. Come back with a fresh mind and try again later.
  • "Hooks" are what is referred to as the catchy part of a song. Think of some of your favorite songs and which parts get stuck in your head-that's a hook.
  • Got something that you think is a killer, original tune? Maybe you should bounce it off a friend and make sure it's not just a song that you are remembering subconsciously.
  • Constructive criticism is good, but keep in mind that people's musical tastes can vary. Don't get your feelings hurt by a blunt critic.

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