Want to start writing a song? Great! Don’t know where to start? There’s nothing to worry about. I was in the same situation when I wanted to start writing a song, about 2 years ago. Let me just quickly tell you how I started out and then we can move on to the main stuff. As a teenager, it was a vague dream of mine to write my own song and release it someday. It was vague because I thought it was really hard; but later when I started writing, it turned out to be easier than I thought. I actually started writing one-liners and short write-ups just to empty my thoughts and one day while returning to my hostel after dinner, an idea about a song struck my mind and luckily I recorded it on my phone. I knew that if I don’t start working on immediately, I would never start. So I started writing down as soon as I reached my hostel and wrote the chorus. I didn’t have to struggle much. Words just flowed and rhymes came in because I was used to writing short poems. But then, I just left it like that for months. After a few months, a special day was about to arrive and I wanted to write a song for that day. But as usual, I procrastinated and didn’t start until the last moment. Just 2 hours were left when I started writing and completed it within an hour. Technically it was a below-average song, but personally, it was special and being a complete beginner, it was actually good. So that’s all; let’s dive right into it; the only things you need to know when starting out as a songwriter; when writing your first song. 🙂
1. Preparing your mindset.
The first thing you need to prepare is being able to write (obviously). Not songs, but in general. Do free-writing. Just pick up a random topic. It can be anything; like maybe your pet, or a childhood memory, your day, anything in the world. Write using your senses – what’s the color (use metaphors and similes instead of just writing the description), how it smells, etc. Don’t just describe, show it. If someone reads your writing, they should be able to see whatever you are trying to show them.
Here’s a short example. I’m remembering my childhood and writing about it. Childhood was amazing, a fairy tale if I remember it today. When I remember childhood, the image of our backyard comes to my mind. It was a soothing place to spend my evenings. I don’t know why but it smelt like cookies to me. The backyard becoming a landscape with a purplish orangee overtone during the evenings. So serene.
Build a habit of writing daily and writing with senses. Keep your mind open to possibilities. Be a believer; believe the fact that everything is possible, unicorns exist, there is an alternate reality, time travel is possible, believe in fantasy. No seriously; believing in stuff means acknowledging it, which helps in broadening your imagination. Trust me, it works, I’ve tried and tested it. Broader and vivid imagination makes your writing beautiful. One more thing to keep in mind is that don’t ever hesitate in putting down your true feelings and emotions into the words. That’s what gives life to your song.
2. Capturing the ideas.
There can be two scenarios as a beginner. One, you already have an idea for a song that you want to write; or two, you just feel like you want to write a song but you don’t have any ideas. If you are the first one, well and good. If you’re the second one, nothing to worry. Let’s look into how you can generate some ideas for your song.
First of all, you need to prepare your mind to capture ideas. Everybody gets ideas, some just don’t realize. So be aware of whatever thoughts are running in your mind and frequently note down things which you think might be useful; things you find interesting. Note down all the ideas that you get; not only about songs but about any damn thing in the world. Ideas don’t discriminate you. You can get any kind of idea, anytime, and anywhere; so be ready and note them down. Doesn’t matter if it’s about space science and you don’t know shit about it; just note it down. That way, your mind starts getting used to it and you don’t subconsciously brush your ideas off.
As a beginner, don’t stress yourself too much in finding unique ideas. For now, you can stick to simple ones like how much you love your boyfriend/girlfriend. Or something specific, like an evening you spent with your loved one or a walk you took. Don’t worry if you still don’t have any ideas. Just head over to Pinterest and search for songwriting prompts and you’ll have plenty of them. Just pick one and get started. What we need to focus right now is the process and not the content. We just need to make sure that you finish what you started and then you’ll gradually be able to come up with more, better ideas, and improve your songwriting too. So for now, choose a topic and go ahead.
Once you’re done choosing the topic, start brainstorming. In case you don’t know what brainstorming is, it means noting down everything you can think of about a certain topic. List out words, phrases, sentences, whatever comes in mind. They don’t even need to be directly related to the topic. For e.g. your topic is Christmas and you list out the word ‘red’ which is related to it, another word to list out can be, ummmmmmmmm, ‘horizon’ maybe, because horizon appears red in the evening to me. Get it? Anything like that. List out. Once you think you have enough of them, start finding rhyming words for everything. All the rhyming words are just a google search away. List them down. Time for the next step.
4. The Structure
So by now, you should be having some words related to the topic, and words rhyming with them. What you’re gonna do now, is deciding a song structure. Song structure means what all parts your song will have and how they will be arranged. The most common song structure for a typical pop song is Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Bridge – Chorus. Or the same thing without a bridge. Just a google search and you will have the required information. Decide what structure you wanna use and then start making an outline. Your outline will have what you want to say in the first verse, the second verse, bridge (if you have it) and then what is the main theme (which becomes the chorus).
While making an outline, you don’t have to rhyme or follow a structure. Just describe what you want to say. Let’s say you are writing a song about a late night stroll, then your outline can be something like this.
Verse: It was late night and I was feeling uneasy and trapped inside the walls. So I decided to take a stroll outside. The moment I stepped out, it felt amazing. Chorus: How good it feels to be outside. To be free, like I have wings. I can fly and forget about everything.
Something like this. Expand the theme till you are satisfied with it.
Once you have created an outline, choose a rhyming scheme and start writing the verse. Line by line, rhyming wherever required. Use metaphors, as you did while free writing. Don’t describe, show it. Don’t worry if your rhymes are cliche or if your metaphors are lame. Or don’t worry if you don’t use any of them; just write what comes to your mind. Keep going until you finish the whole thing. If you’re stuck somewhere just take a break. It’s not necessary that you finish the song in a single day. Take your time. Just make sure that you write regularly and finish your first song. Don’t try to make it perfect. What’s important here is that you need to finish your first song. Doesn’t matter if it’s not good enough. You at least finished it, most of the beginners leave the first song unfinished and as a result create a habit of not finishing one song and moving on to a new idea. You can work simultaneously on two or more songs later on. Finishing your first song will give you the confidence that is required as a beginner; the confidence that you are capable of writing a whole song. And that’s all you need to get started.
You can take a reference song and use it’s structure, rhyme and chord progression as well.
5. The Melody
There are generally three ways of writing a song – compose a melody first and then write the lyrics, write the lyrics first and then compose the melody, or composing while you write. As a beginner, I would recommend writing the whole song first and then composing. However, if you’ve been playing an instrument for a while, are familiar with music theory such as chord formation, chord progressions, scales, keys, etc., and you are comfortable with it, you can try composing along with writing. If not here is a free e-book to get you started with enough music theory so that you can compose a melody for your song.
First, choose a key for your song. Then pick up a guitar or a keyboard and start playing a progression in that key. If you don’t play an instrument, you can find backing tracks for any key and scale on Youtube. Just search for them and when you find one, use it. So play for a while, feel the music, stop thinking about the lyrics for a few minutes and just hum along randomly. Once your mood is set, pick up the lyrics and try singing them like you hum. And keep recording while you sing. That’s all. You’ll be having a melody after a while. Don’t worry if it doesn’t sound too good, you can make changes later. All you need is to be done with your first song !!! And here starts your journey of songwriting, after completing your first song just enjoy the happiness that comes with it because by the time you complete your first song you will become capable of- capturing new ideas, developing your ideas, and completing what you start. And as you keep writing more songs, everything will keep improving. Make sure you keep freewriting daily. Cheers!
Hope you found this article useful. I’ve not explained things in detail, because I feel that lyrics will come from the heart, you don’t need step by step description, at least for the first song, and the main purpose here is completing your first song, not leaving it unfinished. So I’ll be sharing more things in detail in future posts. Till then, go ahead and write your first song. Thank you.