Songwriting for Beginners: how to start your journey in songwriting
A songwriting guide for beginners from a complete beginner
If, like me, you are a total newbie when it comes to creating music, whether that’s playing an instrument or writing songs, and want to learn, then you have come to the right place. Like the majority of people, I love listening to music. In fact, you will always find me with my headphones on. However, I have never put my hand to writing a song or creating a melody but it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. To help myself, and hopefully you too, I have searched Beyoncé’s internet high and low for some tips and tricks to get me started in songwriting.
“Songwriting is a very mysterious process. It feels like creating something from nothing. It’s something I don’t feel like I really control.”- Tracy Chapman
The most common theme I came across is that there are no real rules to songwriting. It's about finding out what works for you, and being open minded enough to keep experimenting.
So with that in mind, I've written a beginner's guide to writing your first song.
Find the right environment for you, somewhere that will allow you to be creative. Whether that’s outside or inside. Somewhere quiet or somewhere energetic. That could be the beach or even an amusement park. Different environments might inspire you in different ways.
Decide whether to start with the lyrics or melody first. When watching artists write, I have noticed that people who use playful melodies, with lots of harmonies typically start with finding pockets in the instrumental - creating melodies. But I’ve noticed people who enjoy story telling often start with the lyrics first. As with everything in songwriting, there’s no hard and fast rule.
Are you going to produce the song from scratch, or maybe find a pre made beat you like? If you have ever hashtagged music on your instagram you might have noticed producers sliding into your DMs offering you beats for sale. If a pre-made instrumental feels too restrictive to you, you may want to work with a producer, or if you play an instrument compose something to go alongside your lyrics.
The perfect structure. Songs usually take the listener on a journey or they tell a story to evoke emotions. A typical song structure might be: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight, chorus, which might be a great way to start. But perhaps you like to switch the song tempo up half way through the song, or change the vibe completely. Frank Ocean, or Justin Timberlake's "Love Stoned" might spring to mind, but I recommend listening to Tinashe "Know Better" for a great example.
Write it down straight away, and be sure to record the melody into a voice note on your phone at least. If you don't there's a chance you will forget it!
Don't get stuck on the first idea. Sleep on the song for a few days once you've written it, and revisit it later. You might have a whole new perspective on it.
Be open to collaboration. Sometimes another creative might have the lyrics or melody you were searching for. If you're a lyricist, someone else might have skills that are complimentary to yours, perhaps you could work with a guitarist for the perfect collab.
Develop the song. There are at least 60,000 songs released a day onto Spotify. Listeners have a more developed ear than ever before. As people who love music, we are so used to listening to amazing songs that now songs can’t be repetitive. Go listen a few hit songs and you'll hear that the hook (chorus) is different each time! Even if only slightly. Don't hold back.
Finishing touches. Do you want to throw in some harmonies, or a few ad libs? Or keep things simple?
If you're thinking of developing your hobby into a career, make sure to do some market research before investing too much money. Try out the song with a few trusted friends/family members before investing into a final mix and master. Or even putting money into a release. Pro tip from our founder - use a private SoundCloud link so you can see if people revisit the song. There's a chance people may not want to hurt your feelings and tell you if your song isn't quite a masterpiece yet. But numbers don't lie. If they keep coming back to it, maybe you have a hit on your hands.
“What makes a song last is real content from a mind that is thinking a little bit harder about certain things. A lot of artists don’t really think that hard.”- Billie Eilish
Know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Use what you’re good at and the rest will come.
You don’t have to be able to play an instrument to write songs. But it's definitely an advantage if you can.
Everybody is different. What may work for some people won’t work for others.
The best songs take you on a journey or tell a story.
You will have good days and bad days. Just keep pushing through and you’ll get there.
Use these tips and tricks and, who knows, you may be the next award-winning songwriter. Be patience with yourself, persevere and keep practising.
If you found these tips helpful, or have any more you can send my way, please tweet us @cactuscityuk