Songwriting intro PG 1.
When it comes to writing your own original song’s, the hardest & the easiest part sometimes, is just starting it.
It is easy to stare at your writing pad waiting for those first words [lyrics] to appear, but before you know it, one hour has passed by and you’ve written nothing. That usually doesn’t give you a good feeling about song writing.
Great, so you have practiced! You start with guitar. You have learned to play a few of your favorite cover songs & you have a good basic understandable knowledge of chords & song structure.
In this tutorial, I am going to show you some simple method's to lyric writing and coming up with a piece of music, then arranging the two together to create a simple but an effective song. Let's get started.
The basics of songwriting
- Lyrics [words]
- Music [chords]
These are the main two components that make a song. To break it down even further we’ll look at both of these two components and see what it is that make them so important in creating a song.
First we’ll look at the lyrics
[This is not a hard and fast rule]
Lyrics for a song will usually start with a verse. It could be two lines or four, sometimes-using couplets. To explain what a couplet is.
Couplets are a COUPLE of lines that often belong together and sometimes share the same sort of idea and can rhyme.
E.g. for a two line verse using two couplets
“I went to the beach one day / and the sun shone on my face. [Line 1,Couplet 1]
I stared at the ocean breeze / as the waves came crashing in. [Line 2,Couplet 2] Darryl Steele.
You can continue on and write another two lines if you feel the need to express what it is you want to say, or from here, you can start on the chorus of your song lyrics.
Usually the chorus again, can be two lines or four consisting of a stronger emotion towards the topic you are writing about. Part of the lyric will usually repeat itself during the chorus to make it more memorable.
E.g. A chorus for the above two line lyric.
"Am I all lost at sea? There’s a better place to be”.
Am I all lost at sea? How do I find my way home?" Darryl Steele.
This is a simple two-line verse and two-line chorus. As you can see the chorus has a repeated line in it, that I underlined, and a rhyme in the first line.
Once you have written your first verse and chorus, you can continue to write another two or three verses until you feel you have been able to say what it is you want to relay in your song.
Remember, you don’t have to write another chorus. It’s already done. That is the part of the song that gets repeated after each verse, as a hook in the song to attract your listeners. From this point, you only now need to focus on the extra verses.
Now, we’ll look at the music
If you have written your word’s first, you can normally pick up the feeling and emotion from what you have written. Understanding what you are saying in your song, is a guide to how you want your music to sound.
What are the lyrics saying
“I went to the beach one day / and the sun shone on my face.
I stared at the ocean breeze / as the waves came crashing in
Am I all lost at sea? There's a better place to be?
Am I all lost at sea? How do I find my way home?” Darryl Steele.
We can now start to get a feel for what kind of music we want, by what type of lyrics that's been written, and what the message is.
We’ll start with the verse, having strong beach content in it, which usually means a bright sunny day. You could easily start this song in a major key. E.g. G Major. [Major keys have a bright feel to them].
In the chorus there seems like confusion about the person who seems to stare aimlessly into the ocean breezes, looking for something that he/she can’t find. Taking that impression of the lyric. You could change your next chord for the chorus to a minor chord to fit in with the sadness of the person.
Generally speaking "minor chord's" are more associated with a Melancholy feel [sadness] about them. With that being said, I tried the F minor and it sounded horrible to me, so I'll play the F Major instead, just to keep it simple.
What do we play on the guitar?
I'm using a basic, down rolling strum on the guitar of G Major to get myself started. [You can choose to start on another chord if you like. There's no right or wrong here].
For this example we will strum two bars of G Major with a chord change to C Major for another two bars. That's repeated once. This will be our intro.
To start singing the verse with the guitar, continue to play your G Major chord with your change to C Major. This is where you will start to sing the words of the first verse. The G and C Major chords are played twice to complete the verse. You will finish the verse in C Major.
Now we change to our chorus.
For this song, as mentioned earlier we will play an F Major chord, changing to a G Major chord. Using the same strumming as in the intro and the verse.
Sing the chorus, while strumming on the F Major chord and changing to the G Major chord, do this twice. You will finish the chorus in G Major strumming for 2 bars.
You can repeat the first verse & chorus if you like for the exercise.
Below is an example of a rolling down strum.
Time to recap the song so far.
how to start a song, pg 2.
Time to recap the song so far.
Using a rolling strumming action in the key of G Major.
C Major: x 2
“I went to the beach one day / and the sun it shone upon my face.
I stared at the ocean breeze / as the waves came crashing in.
Am I all lost at sea? How do I find my way back home?
Am I all lost at sea? Is there a better place for me to be”? Darryl Steele.
Before reading any further, just remember that the idea's I put into the demo song above are purely subjective. When writing your own original song, means you can change what you like to suit your taste.
When playing this song. I felt I needed to add some extra words in the first line of verse one, which I underlined in bold. This allowed better delivery of the lyric.
In the chorus, I rearranged the first line in the chorus with the second line and then added one word per line. Highlighted in Bold.
I also felt that gave me a better finish, for the delivery of the chorus. I also started singing the chorus just before changing to the F Maj chord. I highlighted were the chord changes are, in yellow.
That gave me extra time to sing the chorus lyric with more power before I change to the G Major chord. I had a few words to sing in the chorus so placement is crucial in getting your delivery right.
Always be prepared to change anything in your songs, if you are not happy with it or you find something rolls off the tongue better with a different lyric, or an extra couple of words.
A basic song structure setup.
- Lead break [played over the same music verse/chorus]
That is a basic setup of how to put together a simple song.
Writing your lyrics.
To start writing your lyrics, the easiest step to take is to write the words you hear in your mind. It doesn’t matter if you don’t use any of that material, the important part is to make a start.
You will see from your words and any sentences you write, your story starts to take shape in bits and pieces. The tip here is to keep writing until you run out of things to write, or you've just had enough.
If you have been successful and you have written down some lyrics that you are happy with, then reward yourself with a break.
If you get stuck and you can’t find those magic words to start off with, then have a break anyway. Go and lay down somewhere peaceful and just let your mind go. Don’t force yourself to have your song written in one afternoon, it can take day’s weeks, months, or years [sometimes] to have a song completely written lyrically, let a lone finishing the music as well.
I guess the answer to “how long does it take to write a song?” is ”how long is a piece of string”.
A helpful hint!
If you work on one piece of the song at a time, [that might be a song title, a first word for a verse or apiece of music] you then allow yourself every chance of completing your song.
Breaking the song down into small manageable pieces will give you achievable goals, so don’t give up.
Be prepared to take small steps ALWAYS.
Keep a notepad and pen near by, so when that one line comes through and it sounds good. Then write it down, straight away.
It is very easy to forget a great lyric if you don’t write it down. That also includes any guitar riff [music ideas] you come up with as well.
When you have your lyrics written and you have worked out what music you are going to play, but it seems a bit hard to play and sing at the same time, then record your music onto your PC, ipad or anything that will record sound. That will free you up to sing your words to your guitar playing, without struggling to do both at the same time. [You can practice doing both later when you have your song sorted out.]
Joining words to music.
This part of the song is a trial and error time. It will come down to the feel of your playing and how you can fit your words to your music.
You may not even use the words that you have written yet. Sometimes they may not fit or sound right.
Then, extra lyrics may be required to find something more suitable, or some new music.
Before you start to panic about doing a rewrite though, try visually skimming over your words using every word in your lyrics to find a strong opening word or line for your verse.
Once you find something that you like, continue until you reach the end of the verse, doing a bit at a time and making sure you're happy with how it sounds and how it feels to you.
These are very critical stages in your song, so be honest with yourself and take your time. Use this method for the rest of your song.
[Just a note] You don't always have to start joining your words to your music with a verse. Some words might stand out as a great chorus, so that can also be your starting point. Allow yourself and the song "so to speak," to write itself.
Now you've got your words and music together, get yourself into the habit of recording any of your rough demos or even small pieces of music that worked.
You can come back tomorrow and pick up from where you left off.
It is amazing to hear them 20 years later after completely forgetting about them.
Also, two hours ago, after I started writing this article. I was playing the song in this article and I didn’t record it, and now I have forgotten how I originally played it.
I thought it was pretty good, but I guess I'll never know. Anyway, this is version two.
Always remember, your songs, are your songs and you can write and play them any way you like.
So have fun and good writing! Cheers.
In the demo below, I play.
I repeated the first verse for the second verse, as I was having my own writer's block or maybe just being lazy. Anyway, I hope you like it.
Please feel free to write to me about this article, and if there is anything I can do, to help you with your songwriting.
Song's that change the world, could be yours.
Cheer's Darryl Steele.
how to start a song, pg 3
If you really want to just put pen to paper, then try these ideas.
First, write down these questions and then look out the window
- What do you see in the sky? Then, write your answer.
- Describe, if you see anyone or anything. Write down your answer [what there wearing, etc.]
- Describe your outside surroundings. Write down what you see. [Cars, bush or any birds, etc.]
- What is your favorite holiday destination? Write down your answer.
After that, go online and look up some lyrics by established artist and see what they write and what they write about, you might be surprised by there lyric content.
Also, listen to one of your favorite songs and write down there lyrics to the best that you can understand what they're saying. It's good practice to listen intently to the lyrics and get yourself inside the song, from a musicians point of view.
These questions and ideas are simple exercises to get pen on paper, and to get the writing process up and running.
You might use the answers you came up with one day in a song that requires those words you wrote, so don't throw them away. You never know!
As a writer you need to always grab those magic words when you hear them and write them down, either from yourself or someone else.
Inspiration can come and go in an instance; you might be able to write a whole song from it, or maybe half a song, or maybe just a few lines or words, but the secret to songwriting is perseverance.
It's a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, but without the pieces, which you have to make it up yourself and put it together.
If you are still struggling to match your words to your music, then try repeating a small section of your music.
Repeat a couple of bars of the verse using your PC or ipad. E.g. The opening G Major chord.
Don't worry about the chorus, or any chord changes at the moment, just focus on the opening line or word, whilst listening to your repeated guitar playing.
You need to feel for the connection of your lyric to the music. Take your time and stay relaxed.