If you know me, you know that I have a great love of music. I love listening to music, especially live music. I love singing, especially karaoke. I also love playing music. I played piano for nearly 20 years. I still know how to play some, but I need some serious practice to get back into real playing shape. In college, I picked up learning how to play the guitar and it is my instrument of choice right now. I will find songs I enjoy and learn how to play them on my acoustic guitar and then sing along. I even wrote a few songs several years ago.
People sometimes ask me, “how do you go about writing a song?” Well, I thought for today’s blog, I would take you through the little three-step process I go through when I am trying to write a song. Please understand that this is how I do it. There is more than one way to go about writing music. My way may not work for every person, but it works well for me. If you ever feel like writing a song, you can try my way and see if it works for you.
It’s very hard to write a song or create almost any kind of art without inspiration. The first thing you have to do is ask yourself what inspires you. For some, it might be someone you love. That has been the inspiration for so many songs that have been written throughout the years. For some, it might be some life circumstance you are going through right now. The death of a loved one, someone going off to war, going through a divorce. It might be something funny you saw someone else do. It might be something you read in the bible or your relationship with God. It might be another song that you heard on the radio.
Sometimes things you experience touch you in a certain way and stirs feelings deep inside your soul. Sometimes you just can’t get them out of your head. And there it was. Inspiration.
Once you find what inspires you, think about it a bit. Explore it in your mind. Think about how it makes you feel. Think about why it moves you like it does. Think about what makes it great or what makes it suck. Try to characterize it. Try to put it into words that you could express to others.
The next phase is experimentation. Use an instrument start playing some different chords. A keyboard or guitar usually works best for this. I personally prefer to use my acoustic guitar.
As you start playing different chords, there will be some certain chords that seem to resonate with you while you are focusing on your specific inspiration. You will begin grouping a few different chords into certain progressions. You will often find yourself singing along to these chords and trying to insert words about your inspiration into the chords you are playing.
At this point, anything goes. It’s impossible to sing a wrong note or play the wrong chord during this phase of the process. You must be completely unfiltered here. Remove any inhibitions you might have and just go for it.
Almost all great songs sound horrible when they are in these infancy stage so don’t get discouraged if what you are producing does not sound very pleasing at all. It is also important that you don’t rush through this stage. You want to experiment with a whole bunch of different chords because you may discover a sequence that comes later with experimentation that would have never been realized if you had rushed through and tried to end your song.
Finally, you are ready for your last stage of the process. As you have gone through your process of experimenting with chords and words and singing, there will be a handful of lines and melodies that will begin to rise to the top. Usually these are the ones that you begin to repeat over and over. At this point, you need to start organizing these thoughts and melodies. Some of the lines and chords will begin to sound like a chorus. They will be repeated 2 to 4 times throughout your song depending. Other lines and chords will seem more subtle and supporting. they will feel more verse-like. You may also have a line or series of chords that would fit as a bridge and could lead into the chorus. Begin moving words and melodies around like a puzzle until they seem to fit together and say and sound like what was really going on in your head and your heart.
There is no specific order to things. Some people will come up with words first and then later try to write a melody to go with those words. Sometimes you will create a melody and then go back and try to write words to fit that melody later. Sometimes you create the melody and the words at the same time. There is no right or wrong way. It is just about finding what works best for you and doing it that way. I have written songs using all three ways and I don’t seem to fit one specific pattern.
So there you have it. A very dependent three-step songwriting process for people who have never written a song before. If you have ever written a song before, please share with us what process you tend to go through when writing the song. If you have never tried to write a song before, but ever thought it would be cool to do so, try following this process and see what come out. You might really be surprised at what you can do when you feel inspired. Happy writing!