So, the program here is all about the music industry and I am in the artist track, meaning I am learning how to write songs and then bring them to life in performances. It’s mildly terrifying. But also fun amid the difficulty. Turns out art rarely comes easily, so here is your once in a lifetime chance: I am going to take you through my process of writing a song.
Step One: Inspiration. Find something you want to write about. This could be just about anything, which is the hard part. Happy love songs, mad love songs, songs about dogs, songs about road trips, about how much you love cottage cheese, there are endless possibilities.
Step Two: Try not to get angry when nothing sounds quite right, keep trying until you find something you don’t hate quite as much as everything else.
Step Three: I suggest writing your chorus first, it helps you figure out where you want the song to go as a whole and often gives you a title. You’ll need a melodic and lyrical hook, something catchy that people will find themselves singing when they’re alone in the house on a Saturday night. Use more simple chords here, sticking to the 1, 4, and 5 chords like C, F, and G. It helps it sound familiar to the listener’s ear. It’s also easier to play on the guitar.
Step Four: Here is when I usually put it aside and forget how it goes when I want to work on it a day or two later, if you don’t want that to happen try recording it on your phone. Or, you could do what I do sometimes and just never go back to finish it.
Step Five: Once you have your chorus I suggest looking for some slightly different chords for your verses. Don’t go too crazy if you’re writing pop but maybe add some minor chords in there to make it interesting. Lyrically use the verses to playfully expound on the main idea you present in the chorus. Or don’t, I’m not the boss of you.
Step Six: This is when I usually realize I forgot to write a pre-chorus, so now you can look back at your chorus and write a shorter thing to lead into it. The pre will sort of lift from the verses into the chorus and remind the listener “hey the part I usually like to sing in the shower is coming up!”
Step Seven: Once you have verses, a pre-chorus, and chorus it’s time to mix it up a little! Here you have a choice, you can pitch the whole thing in the trash and start all over or you can write a bridge! The bridge is usually a left turn in the song so use this chance to use any funky chords you’ve been waiting to throw in. The bridge is also a left turn lyrically, so you can present the other side of whatever story you are trying to tell here.
Step Eight: You might think you’re done at this point, maybe leave it to sit in your brain and go back later. My friends, you’d be incorrect. You will come back later and you will either love the song and consider it done, or you will hate it and edit the poor thing until it is a nearly new song.
Step Nine: Cry a little because it’s not exactly what you wanted it to be. Edit it some more. Retune your guitar, because surely that’s the problem, right? Or maybe it needs to be raised a couple half steps, angrily get your capo out and attempt singing it in keys that sound all too similar yet worlds different.
Step Ten: Rejoice! You have potentially finished a song! Send it to your friends so they can all tell you how awesome it is! Remember to record it or practice it once in a while because if you don’t you will forget how it goes and have to write it all over again! Good luck!
Alright, so part of this is a joke, but honestly– songwriting is hard. It’s pouring your heart and soul into art and hoping that people will hear what you have to say. It’s editing each word mercilessly and angrily staring at the ceiling when your pitch reference starts to fail you. It’s crying when you can’t find the words and crying when you do. Songwriting is no walk in the park. However, in the end, when you’ve said what you wanted to say and sung your little heart out, music is worth it.