How to Make a Song

Here's a fun exercise! You will learn how to make a song using the format of another.

This is a beginners exercise in composition, you are simply “warming up” by getting used to writing music, so don’t expect anything to be perfect at once. 

We’ll use Beatles “Norwegian Wood” as a template for our exercise, as it is such a small and simple song, but still such a classic that almost everyone knows. 

Follow the steps below as you will first learn how the piece is made and then how to make a song yourself:

  1. Intro: Listen to the intro (0:00-0:20). It is the verse played twice, first by a guitar then a sitar.
  2. Verse: Now the verse (0:21-0:35). The melody that is repeated twice is made up of only three small phrases.
  3. Chorus: The chorus is even simpler (0:36-0:50). The chorus is also repeated twice, and is one longer phrase using a repeated notes pattern.
  4. Bridge: The bridge is only a dominant 7 chord. (0:50)
  5. Verse: The verse returns (same as before) (0:52-1:07)
  6. Break: And the break is just the sitar playing the same melody of the verse (1:08-1:24)
  7. Chorus: The chorus returns (1:25-1:39)
  8. Bridge (1:39-1:40)
  9. Verse: Verse again (1:40-1:56)
  10. Coda: Coda is simply the melody from the verse played once with instruments. (1:57-2:09)

So. Looking at the actual musical material, we see that this song has only two small melodic phrases, repeated with different lyrics and combined in a pattern that made the song a hit, and a classic! Here is a link to the lyrics and chords if you like.

How to Make a Song by Yourself

How to make a song

Now it’s your turn to learn how to make a song! You will make your own version of this piece by using the same form.

You only need to compose two tiny melodic phrases. One for the verse, and one for the chorus.

No lyrics are needed in this exercise.  Let's get started!

1. The Verse

Verse: Use as a model the first melodic phrase from the verse in "Norwegian Wood". It has three short parts. This is the Verse:

How to make a song: The verseThe verse from the melody of "Norwegian Wood" by Beatles.

As you can see, the three parts of the melody a), b) and c) share the same rhythm and a melody that moves mostly down. b) and c) have an interval of a third and a fifth skipping up.

Exercise

2. The Chorus

Chorus: This is the Chorus:

How to make a song: chorusThe chorus from the melody of "Norwegian Wood" by Beatles.

The chorus is simply a longer phrase moving in steps and repeated notes. After a skip of a fifth, the melody moves gradually downwards.

Exercise

Now re-write the phrase from the chorus. You can use anything that sounds good as long as it fits in the same length of the phrase. If you like you could even use the same rhythm. 

All Together Now

Finally, let’s combine these two parts, the verse and the chorus, and build your “own” song (sing on a syllable or whatever, since we are using no lyrics.)

Following the format of "Norwegian Wood", here is how you combine your parts in your score:

  1. Intro: The melody from your verse, but perhaps with another instrument or sound.
  2. Verse: sung twice.
  3. Chorus: sung twice.
  4. Bridge: one chord, or one note.
  5. Verse: sung twice.
  6. Break: the verse played twice by an instrument.
  7. Chorus: sung twice.
  8. Bridge: as before.
  9. Verse: sung twice.
  10. Coda: The verse once with instruments,  with a short ritardando at the end.

Print out (free) this exercise here (PDF) and blank manuscript paper here (PDF).

Write your music, and play and sing it!

How did it sound? Fun wasn't it!

Try it again with other sounds or melodies. Make sure to practice how to make a song with other songs as well. Let me know how it went in the comments below!


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