The Fundamentals of Writing a Song

A question I am often asked is in regards to the process of creating a song. Friends of mine have shared with me that they have a melody, song lyric or idea in their head but they have no idea how to make it into a song.

I personally have two different methods I use to create.

My first method, voice memos. I have about 100-200 voice memos with melodies that have come to me while I’m in the car, out of the house or really just anywhere. I mean to be honest, creative moments come when they want so you have to improvise.

Once I am home or at the studio and able to get my hands on an instrument, I pull these memos out and I filter through until I find something I like. Then, I find the chords that fit. I usually use my guitar because I have an ear for finding notes on the guitar. However, I do have many friends that use piano chords to get started because piano is easiest for them. Its all preference. The instrument you play to find your chords doesn’t really matter because you can always change it, your chords though, will not. I also believe that any good song should be replicable on every instrument - this makes it easy to create once in the studio and also let's be honest people love things that are simple and playable.

Once I find the chord progression I figure out what part of the song my hook or melody will be. Most of the time it is the pre chorus or chorus because I usually only record voice memos of hooks or catchy melodies and these will usually always want to be your chorus, which is the part of the song that gets repeated.

Once I identify the chorus, I move on to the verse. Sometimes I will play the same chords or I might mix it up a bit.

After I have the chord progression of the verse and chorus written, I start writing the lyrics. When writing lyrics I always pay close attention to the feel of the song. How does it make me feel? If it makes me feel happy and excited I aim for more of a pop catchy tune, and if it makes me feel emotional or bittersweet I usually write a heartbreak or mushy gushy tune.

Now, I just jam a little until I find something that feels right. Music has a lot to do with feeling and it’s not always perfect.

My second method is a bit more structured and can even be arranged on a free program, Garageband. First, I create a beat. What’s great about Garageband/Logic is the virtual drummer. It gives you the simplicity of creating a beat yet the power of customization. I also recommend garageband because of its royalty free loops. You can create music, without even knowing the music scale. :p

Anyways, I will usually create the beat and then go off of basic song structure.

Intro - 4 bars

Verse - 8-16 bars

Chorus - 8 bars

Verse 2 - 4-8 bars (I usually do half of what the first verse was or the same, just depends on the song)

Chorus - 8 bars

Bridge - I like to make these as short as possible, personally I’m not a big fan of bridges unless they kick ass

Chorus - usually a double chorus will do the trick

End - fade it out, or end on a vocal tag line

Once you lay down the foundation of a song, you can always go back and tweak it. I’ve made metal songs into country songs, country songs into hip hop songs and horrible songs into good ones;) It’s all about being CREATIVE.

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