Songwriting is an art form, and like any other art form or creative endeavor, there are no hard and fast rules for knowing how to write a song successfully. However, some standard practices and techniques can help you take the first step toward writing your own songs.
Whether you’re just starting or an experienced songwriter looking to refine your songwriting craft, you’ll find something here that can help. We’ll discuss song structure, lyric writing, melodies, and more. Let’s dive in and answer some common questions about songwriting.
Is Songwriting a Talent or a Skill?
To borrow a phrase from author Geoffrey Colvin, “talent is overrated.”
The notion that a person is “just born with it” or is a “natural talent” is almost always untrue. In some cases, that pernicious mindset can be offensive to those that have worked tirelessly to hone their craft.
Songwriting is not a talent but a skill developed through consistent hard work. This is good news! It means that anyone can become a songwriter if they are so inclined.
How Do You Develop Skills as a Songwriter?
Developing skills as a songwriter requires both creativity and hard work. Learning the basics of songwriting requires understanding basic music theory, the fundamentals of lyric writing, and a knowledge of chord progressions.
Additionally, it is crucial to develop an understanding of musical styles, structures, and forms. It is also helpful to read and listen to the work of other songwriters, both classic and contemporary, to gain insight into the craft.
Songwriters should also look for opportunities to collaborate with other musicians and producers, as this can be a key factor in refining skills and learning new techniques.
Lastly, songwriters should never be afraid to experiment and explore, as this can often lead to unique and exciting new ideas. Combining these elements allows songwriters to continuously refine their skills and ultimately create unique and memorable music.
There are no hard and fast rules for learning how to write a song, but the process involves two simple actions:
1. Start Writing Songs Now
Don’t wait. If you feel you are 75% prepared to write a song, it’s time to get moving. Don’t worry if the song is not fully baked—the writing process involves constant rewriting.
2. Make Songwriting a Habit
Like any other worthwhile behavior, you want it to become habitual. Spend 30 minutes every day writing. There will be good and bad days, but forming a songwriting habit will make all the difference.
What is Song Structure?
A song structure refers to how parts of a song, such as verses, choruses, and bridges, are arranged and connected to create a unified piece of music. A song’s structure can influence its sound and the listener’s experience.
It’s important to reiterate that there is no right or wrong way to write a song. Many well-defined song structures have been used repeatedly throughout musical history with great success. It’s essential to explore these structures to gain a solid understanding of them, as they will better inform your creative efforts.
Think of a song structure as a kind of template or framework that you can use to write a song. You are probably already familiar with a few of the most common song structures, like the 32-bar ABAA or the 12-bar blues song structure.
Are There Rules to Writing a Song?
Well, kind of.
The rules you apply to your song structure are highly contextual, meaning they are informed by your objective or by the type of song you are attempting to write.
For example, if you want to write a 12-bar blues, you’ll need to make sure it has 12 bars and moves to the IV chord on measure five.
Another example may be writing a short melody for a commercial or ad. If that ad is 60 seconds long, one of your “rules” is that the song must be a minute long. So, in other words, there are no rules, but there are standardized conventions. Think about your purpose for writing the song, what you are trying to accomplish or communicate, and the rules will reveal themselves.
How Will I Know if My Song is Good?
Whether a song is “good” or not is highly subjective and is generally not a great barometer. If just one person believes your song is good, then it is good—that’s logic, plain and simple.
A better way to measure your song is whether or not it serves its intended purpose. Does it communicate your intended feelings? Is it an authentic and unique musical expression? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, your song is worthwhile.
Of course, creating a great work of art is challenging without the minimum required tools and knowledge. You can’t paint a vibrant, colorful painting only with gray paint and a barely functioning paintbrush. I highly doubt you could recreate Michelangelo’s “David” with a paperclip.
Developing a working knowledge of harmony, rhythm, and melodic contour are just some of the tools of that trade that are requisite for songcraft.
Do You Need Help Learning the Basics of Songwriting?
Writing a song can be a challenging but rewarding experience. You can learn songwriting basics and develop your style and ideas with some practice and dedication. All it takes is the confidence to start, and you can start writing songs that can last a lifetime.
To begin putting together your songwriting tool kit, get in touch with Green Hills Guitar Studio today. Remember—if you are 75% ready to begin your journey, it’s time to get started!