How To Write Your First Song Step-By-Step
The following guide is designed to help you write your first song as a singer/songwriter or as part of a band. Luckily, it's not as complicated as you'd think.
From the off, it’s worth acknowledging that your first song probably won’t set the world on fire. However, you need to write your first terrible, embarrassing song (or 5) in order to fully learn the songwriting process.
If you persevere with writing your own music, not only will your songs begin to sound better and better, you will also begin to discover your own unique sound. Then, you'll be able to find your own way of doing things, adapting the below methods to suit you or your band.
That being said, when it comes to how to compose a song, there are 3 key important steps that you probably won’t deviate from, even if you become the best songwriter in the world — every song requires ideas, structure and arrangement. And these 3 steps form the basis of the below guide on how to write a song for beginners.
So, whether you're looking to write your very first song or brush up on some rusty techniques, the guide below should help you get to work (or back to work) in your your local rehearsal studios.
What Are The Important Steps To Writing A Song?
The process of writing a song can be broken down into three main parts — conceptualising the idea, structuring the lyrics and melody and arranging the elements.
From the high-level conceptualisation to the nuts and bolts of writing chord progressions and melodies, there are no shortcuts when it comes to writing music. So, let’s get into how to tackle each part of the creative process, one-by-one.
Step 1 — How To Come Up With Song Ideas
The first step to writing a song is to come up with an idea. This can be as simple as a melody line or chord progression, or it can be much more involved. For example, you might have an idea for a story that you want to tell through music. Or you might want to write about something that happened in your life. Either way, the best way to start is by getting your inspiration for music down on paper (or in your phone).
Start by thinking about what kind of music you want to write. Take into account what genre you’re going for. Are you going for a country song? A rock ballad? A rap? Once you've decided what kind of style you're going for, think about what kind of lyrics will fit in that style.
Get some inspiration from other artists. If there's someone whose music you like and admire, listen closely and try to figure out why it appeals to you. What kind of lyrics are they using? What kind of sounds do they use? What kind of moods do they put across? Try copying those elements in your own songwriting efforts.
Don't be afraid to experiment. If something doesn't work right away, don't give up on it — keep trying until it does work (or until something better comes along). The more practice time you put into songwriting, the better your results will be.
Step 2 — How To Structure A Song
Once you have an idea of what your song is going to sound like and what it’s going to be about, the next step is to figure out the structure of your song. This means deciding what kind of verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern you want (if any), and whether it should be in 4/4 time or something else (like 3/4).
The title, intro, verse, chorus and bridge are the five main sections of a traditional song structure and each section has its own job to do. Below, we take a closer look at what each element does, where it comes in the structure your song and why it’s important:
What is the title in a song?
The title is the part of the song that everyone knows, because it's what you hear when you hear a song on the radio or TV. It should be short and snappy, so that people can remember it easily. Again, look to your favourite tracks for song title inspiration.
What is the intro in a song?
The intro is the first part of the song, which usually sets the tone for the rest of the song.
What is the verse in a song?
The verse is the main body of your song, and where most of your lyrics should be placed.
The verse normally goes over several lines (or verses) before returning back to the chorus again. The melody will typically go up and down during the verse of your song as well, making it sound more interesting than a single note melody line would have done.
What is the chorus in a song?
The chorus is a short section at the end of each verse or sometimes repeated several times throughout a song. It's usually a catchy phrase that sticks in your head after hearing it just once or twice.
What is the bridge in a song?
The bridge is a section that comes between verses and choruses, where there is no set melody (or lyrics). This section allows you to change gears musically without changing key or tempo.
Step 3 — Arranging The Song
Arranging a song is the next step in the songwriting process after you have come up with the idea you want to explore, written your lyrics and decided on a solid structure.
The arrangement of a song is the way it sounds, and the way that you'll want to play it. The arrangement can be as simple or complex as required depending on the number of instruments or effects that you want to use.
It's important to get the arrangement of your song right for your setup. It's going to differ vastly depending on whether you're playing with a band or by yourself.
If you're not sure how to arrange a song, it's a good idea to begin by listening to other songs in the same genre as yours and see how they do it.
For example, if you're writing a pop song, listen to lots of other pop songs (and not just ones by artists you like). Analyse how they work as pieces of music — how many sections does each have? How long are they? What instruments do they use? At what points do different instruments or voices come in? How does their structure work? What effects were used? How would you describe them in one sentence? This is an important step because knowing what works in your genre will help you write better songs yourself.
What Makes A Good Song?
As discussed above, all good songs start with original creative ideas, a solid structure and a satisfying arrangement. That being said, it’s your own creative flair and hard work that will make your song great.
Once you get to the stage where your new composition is technically sound, it becomes a matter of taste. And when it becomes a matter of taste, how good your track is depends on who is listening to it. Therefore, it is no longer within your control.
Some people might tell you that the best songs all have a catchy tune that you want to listen to again and again. On the other hand (this might seem simple or obvious), a good song can also be described as something that is enjoyable to listen to. However, what makes a good song is different for everyone. Some people would say that the lyrics are the most important part of a song, while others may think that the beat is what makes a song effective.
Regardless of which opinion you have about what makes a good song, there are certain elements that should be included in every song in order for it to be considered technically good by listeners who understand how to produce music.
Once you've written and rehearsed your first song, the next step is to record it and share it, firstly for feedback and then to attract fans and build a following for your music.
Once you've gotten your new song to a stage in rehearsal where you feel as though it is as good as it can be, you can use Pirate to professionally record it in cities across the UK, US and Germany.
Pirate's recording studios are affordable, open 24/7 and bookable by the hour — perfect for beginners and pro musicians.
Once you've got your recording, all that's left to do is find your fanbase and get your music to them. However, that's a lesson for another day, once you've mastered songwriting. For now, focus on ideas, structure and arrangement, and the rest will come naturally.