How to write a song

How to write a song is a question I get asked a lot and understandably so. The whole concept of songwriting sometimes feels like a bit of black magic. The fact is there is no one way. There are as many ways to write a song as there are songwriters in this world. But let me try to demystify some of the processes and to give you the tools to get started on your journey to become a songwriter.

“For a songwriter, you don’t really go to songwriting school; you learn by listening to tunes. And you try to understand them and take them apart and see what they’re made of, and wonder if you can make one, too.”
Tom Waits (Check HERE for more songwriting Quotes)

Structure

Let’s start with construction. Songs follow structure, where they have different parts. Typical parts are verse, chorus, middle eight or a bridge, pre-chorus, intro, outro and an instrumental part. Many of these parts are repeated in the song, to create familiarity. We want the listener to remember the melody.

Here are some of the most used structures used in popular music today:

1. verse – chorus – verse – chorus – bridge – chorus – end
This would be the most popular song structure by far.

2. verse – chorus – verse – chorus – music – chorus – end
This would be still very common structure. Usually, the music part follows the verse chords.

3. verse – lift/pre-chorus – chorus – bridge – lift/pre-chorus or chorus
Want to follow the song structure that has had the most no. One hits? This would be it.

4. (a) beginning – (b) now – (c) what if? – (d) down the road
Musically the structure is AAA. This is a great structure for the story, and often instead of the chorus, there is either repetitive last or first line. A good example of this format is 12 bar blues.

5. chorus – verse – chorus – music – bridge – chorus – end
This would be a popular structure in dance music.

Homework

Pick ten of your favorite songs, and Learn to separate different parts and write down the structure of each song. This will give you a better understanding of the basic building blocks of songs.

And that wraps up the first part of our series of blog posts on How to write a song. In part 2, we will look at the process of writing lyrics.

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