How to Write Songs

First things first: Writing music is art. Just like pitching. Those two must be added to your definition of art. Thank you.

You need tools. First, paper and pencil/eraser. What’s that you say? You want to use the computer or phone since you’re already on it? Fine. It isn’t as satisfying, but if you insist, you can use it. Next, an instrument is very, very useful. If you continue to insist on the computer or phone, Garageband is great if you’d rather use technology instead of a guitar or piano or harmonica or whatever you play.

You now have your paper and instrument in front of you. Now what? Write? No. You need another tool. A book, to be exact. A thesaurus, or, if you have one, a rhyming dictionary. These are your friends. Do not avoid them.

Now, you’re ready to write. Rhymes aren’t necessary, but gives your song that extra artistic touch that it needs. Find a topic. Maybe something that happened to you. Look in Psalms. Write about that moldy piece of cheese in your fridge if you must. There is no normal pattern to songs. Figure something out. I’m sorry, you’re on your own here. I’m not going to give you your work on a platter. Give a man a fish…

Add music next. Guitars are great for this. A couple patterns you hear in songs ALL THE TIME are these: Base, Seven, minor Four, Five. Trust me, you’ve heard this. Example: G, D, Em, C. Look up Casting Crowns Voice Of Truth, and listen to the chorus. There’s that one. Another pattern is the minor Four, Five, Base, Seven. These seem to be slower/more emotional songs. Or make something up. For instance, you could try Five, Base, minor Four, Seven. Or minor Four, Base, Five, Seven. Monkey with it. Figure out what works. Try throwing a random chord in the bridge to make it interesting. Or mess people up while singing. Or both.

If you really want to make this song POP, try adding a lick at the beginning, in the guitar solo, whatever. Keep it within your base scale. Other than that, you’re on you own. This is the part I’m bad at.

Here’s my example:

Running Away (key of E):

Lick: E, Eb, B, A.

Chord progression: E, B, C#m, A (base, seven, minor four, five).

I don’t know what you’re going through
But you should know that God wants you
To lean on him in the troubled times
And let him help to clear your mind.

Bridge progression: B, C#m F# (random chord!) A
Trials come and you feel lost
So come to the one who suffered the cross

That’s all the lyrics I’m giving you. I’m not giving away my work for you to copy. Again, if you give a man a fish…

I’ve now written 12+ songs. 7 are up on Totally unrelated: the rest of those Running Away lyrics are there.

Hope this helps. If you get a brain cramp, just leave it alone for a while. Maybe 10 minutes. Maybe an hour. Maybe a day. Maybe five years. At some point, though, you’ll have that lightbulb moment and find that rhyme for “Quixotic.”

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