How to Write Songs

In this lesson you'll learn how to write songs with simple exercises. Learn more about the different parts that make up a song and then compose your own!

How to Write Songs for Beginners

There are many ways to compose music. Nothing is right or wrong as long as it sounds good and works for you.

Here we will look at ways how to write a song by studying the different parts that are commonly used in popular melody writing.

Lyrics or Melody First?

When writing a song, the music is equally important with the lyrics. We will not cover lyrics here, but in the end there is a link to a good site if you need ideas and inspiration on how to write song lyrics.

Should you start with the lyrics, or the melody? This is entirely up to you. Sometimes you have great lyrics that you want to compose music to, and sometimes you have a fantastic melody that is begging for lyrics. Sometimes both lyrics and music “appear” in your mind at the same time.

This time we will work only with the music.

Learn How to Write Songs from the Best

Man playing guitar on beach

When you first start composing songs, a good exercise is to learn from the masters. Pick your favorite songs and/or song writers. Listen again and again and analyze the song.

Pick out the melody by ear and see how it is constructed. Learn the chords and harmonies used and find all the small parts that make up the whole in the form of the piece.

Probably you will find that the musical material itself is very little, but by being combined in different ways and sung with different lyrics as well as orchestrated in various ways, great songs sound like much, much more!

How to Write Songs: Parts

The most common parts of a song are:

Intro

Not all songs have an introduction, but most do. It is a great way for the singer to know what note to start from!

Some pieces have more elaborated intros, and some have only a chord, like in Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” (Fadd9/D): (0:00-0:05)

Verse

The first part of the song is called the Verse. This is where the “story” is told. (Think "Dashing through the snow" in Jingle Bells.) Sometimes the melody is less “catchy” than in the chorus, but sometimes it’s the other way around. 

Chorus

The chorus is sometimes called refrain. Supposedly this is where the catchy part of the song is, the part you remember easily and often sing along to. ("Jingle Bells, jingle bells"...etc.) However, this does not have to be the case at all.

The chorus usually highlights what the song is all about, it summarizes what the verse was about.

Bridge

After the chorus the song usually returns to the verse. The bridge is the part that links them together. Again, like the intro, it can be as simple as a chord (like in Beatles “Norwegian Wood”), or a whole standalone part like in "Every Breath You Take" by Police: (1:22-2:14):

Break

Another part of a song sometimes used is a break. A break may mean different things in different styles of music. It can mean the music stops for a while, but the drums (or other instruments) continue. It may mean that the singing stops and an instrument plays the melody instead.

Coda or "Outro"

Some songs also have an end part, or coda. It can be a part of or a fragment of the song repeating and fading out, or something entirely different. In "Every Breath You Take" above, the Coda (starts at 3:00) continues for over a minute with "I'll be watching you" repeatedly and a fade out in the end.

How to Write a Song: Form

One of the most popular forms used writing a song today is:

(Intro) Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Bridge / Chorus (Coda)

This formula makes sure that the chorus repeats often enough so that it is remembered. It “hits” us enough times to become a “hit” so to speak!

But as I mentioned above, I suggest that you first listen to and analyze your favorite songs and see how they are built. See what you like, figure out why, and use a similar format in your own compositions at first. (Later you need to develop your own unique style of course!)

So, the few parts you may need to compose are only:

  • Intro
  • Verse
  • Chorus
  • Bridge
  • Coda

But, actually only the verse and chorus are the most important. Intro and Coda can be the same or only slightly varied, and the bridge could be as little as a chord or a huge solo. Your call. Have fun!


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