A Guide to Songwriting
Many artists compose lyrical music when trying to share a message with the world, whether it be moral, religious, or otherwise, spreading positivity or promoting an idea they believe.
We know these people as songwriters, composers, or lyricists. They write lyrics and create melodies for songs in multiple genres before recording them.
Some artists, especially those starting fresh, find it challenging to compose lyrical music and often face creative block or writer’s block. They don’t know where to begin or what to do, and a series of questions bombarding their minds doesn’t help.
Now, if you’re a struggling songwriter, you might have questions along the following lines:
How do I start writing a song?
Is there a specific length/formula for songwriting?
How do I get my songwriting ideas flowing again if I’m stuck?
What should I compose first, the lyrics or the melody?
How do I write the melody and chords for my song?
To guide you through these frequently asked questions, I have one of my closest friends, Ashley Moreel, to give you the answers you want.
Ashley is a second-year college student majoring in Acting for Camera and Voice. Along with an interest in acting and film, Ashley has a passion for singing and often practices singing for her courses and during her free time. She has composed multiple songs and excellent soundtracks, and she can play instruments like the piano.
I asked my friend to provide us with an insight into the world of songwriting through those five frequently-asked questions, and here is what she has to say:
(1) How do I start writing a song?
When it comes to songwriting, I use and follow a song structure to help with the lyrics. The structure is: verse, chorus, and bridge. It’s important to know this structure when you’re writing a song because it helps you outline your ideas. Typically, there are two verses; one at the beginning of the song, and the second is after the chorus. The chorus is easy for anyone who wants to write a song since it usually repeats three times. You can add a pre-chorus as some writers do that in their songs, making the listeners want to hear more. You can start out writing your song with an ‘intro,’ which would help set up the son’g tempo and rhythmic feel.
(2) Is there a specific length/formula for songwriting?
When writing songs, each part has a certain length. Generally, a song’s length is roughly between 2-3 minutes. When talking about the verses, chorus, and bridge, they should be a certain length. For example, a verse can be between 6-8 lines and are usually of 16 bars. A chorus is about 4 lines and long-lasting for 8 bars. The bridge is about 4-8 lines and is 4 or 8 bars. I prefer to colour coordinate to organize my lyrics and not get confused when writing my songs.
(3) How do I get my songwriting ideas flowing again if I’m stuck?
Writer’s block or creative block is common among artists when it comes to coming up with a new tune. A few things you can do to help blocked ideas flow again is by finding your inspiration, whether it be spending a few minutes listening to your favourite soundtracks or going for a walk to collect your thoughts. You can also ask your friends or family for advice can also help generate new ideas. Playing around with different instruments, sounds, tune, and rhythm is also useful; it’s almost like freewriting. Usually, a certain melody we previously heard replays in our minds over and over again, so recalling such sounds, whether they’re common noises can help your ideas flow too.
(4) What should I compose first, the lyrics or the melody?
It doesn’t matter what you compose first. There will be times where you’ll have a tune stuck in your head that you need to get out to develop a melody by playing around with different sounds. Other times, you’ll generate the lyrics first if you’re feeling inspired or you know exactly what you want to say. You can choose to do either one first, or even switch back and forth between the lyrics and melody by working on each for a few minutes, or when you’re stuck on one of them and you move onto the other.
(5) How do I write the melody and chords for my song?
You can first try to brainstorm some ideas and write them down. Think of what kind of tone you want to go for, and associate an emotion with that. You can draw inspiration from personal experiences or from something you saw while walking down the street. Try to play around with different sounds and see what fits. The same goes with melody; try humming various notes and jot it down, and see if you get ideas for lyrics. You can consider altering the notes, sound, lyrics, etc on your own accord. You should also ensure that you structure your songs with the concept of verse, chorus, second verse, chorus, bridge, and chorus. The most important thing is to have fun when you’re writing songs, and don’t force anything on yourself.