Even those who have written thousands of songs could benefit from reviewing the basics of what a beginning writer does when writing their first song. Every now and then, someone joins SongTown who is just trying to learn how to write that first song – to turn their own feelings and experiences into music that other people can connect with. So, here are the basics I recommend if you want to write your first song, or your 5,000th.
Start with a concept or idea that means something to you.
If you don’t care about the idea, it’s unlikely that anyone else will either. It’s always best to write about something that makes you feel something.
The next step in learning to write your first song is turning your concept or idea into a song title.
If you are wanting to write about your first love, brainstorm aspects of that story that would be big enough to write a song about. Titles like this might work:
You are looking for a title that makes a listener want to hear the song. It also needs to be a title that represents the BIG idea or emotion that you are going to write about.
Map out your idea.
Write a one-sentence summary of what you want to say in each piece of the song. In my #1 song “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right”, our map was:
Verse 1 – Women are hard for men to understand
Chorus – I must be doing something right because I’m getting good feedback from you
Verse 2 – Show me how to love you better
The most simple and direct you make your summary sentences, the easier it will be to write the song. A book like Song Building can really help with this aspect and get you writing better quickly.
Choose a feel or groove to begin writing to.
Explore different feels until you find one that fits the message you are trying to convey with your song. A slow, minor feel will not usually work with a happy, fun idea or emotion. You want to find a melody and feel that fits perfectly with the lyric you are going to write. Remebr when you are learning how to write your first song, it’s a fun experiment. There is no right or wrong at this stage!
Begin to write your lyric.
Make sure that each line contributes to the idea that you laid out in your map. If you come up with a great line that doesn’t fit what you are trying to say, jot it down to use in another song. You want to stay as close to your intended message as you can in each section. That will help ensure that your listener is going to get from your song exactly what you intend.
6) Finish your song.
Check it to make sure you have stayed true to your intended message in each section of the song, that you kept the same voice throughout (if you started off talking to someone, don’t change and start talking about them), and that you have moved time in a clear way. Run it by a friend or family member and see if they can tell you the main idea of each section.
7) Celebrate having written a song!
Write on! MD
Marty Dodson is a multi-hit songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting.