WHY A SONG?
Here is an example of a compelling song:
- In 1993, Soul Asylum chose to deliver a message with the video for their hit song, when Runaway Train. The video showed photographs and names of missing children, and ended with a plea from Pirner: “If you’ve seen one these kids, or you are one of them, please call this number.” Alternative versions were edited for other countries and other children, and in the end, several families were reunited with their estranged kids. Although runaway children was not what Pirner had in mind when he wrote the song, he ultimately saw the opportunity to do some good:
“Whatever good came out of it I think is something we should be proud of. To me, I couldn’t believe you could actually transcend the music video and have it cross over into real life. It was a really cool experience to realize that – wow! – there is the potential for entertainment to have a positive effect on the real world. And that’s something that probably doesn’t happen enough.”
YOUR PURPOSE: Before starting your “Call To Action” song, make sure you have an understanding of your audience and purpose:
- WHO are you looking to educate and inform with your song?
- WHAT do you want your listeners to do/feel when they hear your song?
- WHY are this song and its message important to you?
YOUR FORMAT: Before you start writing you need to loosely define what you’ll be making. Asking yourself these key questions before you start will help to guide you early on.
- What are my songwriting tools? Traditionally, a piano or guitar is the songwriter’s weapon of choice. But a drum machine, a synth VST or a MIDI controller are all good places to start too. Start with what you know best. Ideas come out easier on what you’re comfortable with. Know your tools first, and write a song second.
- Will there be lyrics? If there will be lyrics in your song, start with writing a few ideas out. It doesn’t have to be in song structure (we’ll get to that later), but a few basic concepts will help get you started. A great tool for lyric ideas is a rhyme-dictionary. It might sound simple, but when you’re just starting out they’re great for finding inspiration. Write out your lyrics with the instrumentation in mind. Sitting by a piano or with a guitar can help you to understand your lyrics better.
- What is my song topic? A song should answer a question. Ask and answer it with the parts of your song. Put your questions and answers right in your lyrics, or make it the answer to a question you ask yourself. Remember, good songs need substance. That means emotion, mood, feeling, risk, and experimentation. Music is more engaging if your lyrics and sounds are genuine. If you don’t feel anything from your own music, how is anyone else suppose to feel something from it? So create something real.
YOUR PROCESS: When you’re ready to get started, the following steps can guide you through the process of creating an infographic:
- Make a Rough Draft: Knowing how to write a good song means finding a rough idea to build around. Take your instrument of choice, hit record and start sketching. You’ll be surprised how quickly a song idea will pop up.You don’t need to have a fully written song in your head before you start writing. Just make a small jam session, play it back and see what stands out.
- Find Your Song idea: Every song has a central topic. Starting with the main concept will make getting started a breeze. Go back to the sketches you recorded or wrote down. Find the parts of a song that spoke to you the most. Songs are usually born from random ideas that you build around.
- Parts of a song: Before you start building around your song idea you have to know the parts of a song. You don’t have to use all of them. And how you arrange them is up to you. But at the very least you need to know what they are:
- Verse: The verse is the part of a song that propels your song idea forwards. If you think of a song like a story, the verse is the passage that builds the suspense and action.
- Chorus: A chorus is a piece of a song that typically repeats a lyric, idea or passage in between each verse. It is sometimes called a refrain as well. A good chorus is memorable and catchy. It also states the main idea of your song.
- Bridge: In music, the bridge is the section of a song that contrasts the rest of the composition. The bridge is a great way to move away from your central song idea. Choose a melody and chord progression that contrasts your verse and chorus.
- The verse, chorus, and bridge are the main parts of your song. But there are a couple other parts you need to know before you start writing: The Key is the group of notes that your song is made up of. The Melody is a sequence of single notes that make up your lead line. The Hook is the part you end up humming in the shower. It’s the earworm that get’s stuck in your head.Good songwriting always has good hooks. You should craft each part with a hook in mind. Writing your first verse? there should be a hook there. Working on the chorus? There should be a hook there too.
- Pick Your Song Structure: There are obviously tons of ways to arrange a song. How you arrange yours is up to you. But there are common song structures that are good to work with if you’re just starting out. The most common song structures are:
- Finishing Your Song: So now you have your song idea in place, you know all the parts you need and you’ve picked a structure. At this point, there are infinite ways to reach the finish line. It’s the magic that makes songwriting so special: there’s no ‘best’ way to do it. The best songwriting process is your own process. Remember that it won’t always be easy. The only way to figure it out is to take time, sit down and build it.
Resources For Creating a Song
4 Dos and Don’ts When Writing Songs
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)
Songwriting Software & Apps