How do I write a song? (plus 4 do’s & don’ts for writing songs link via BMI.COM)

4 Do’s and Don’ts When writing a song…(Link from BMI.Com)

This is something I always get asked, and I say pretty much exactly the same thing as stated in the intro paragraph of the article (click on the link and you shall receive context..): “It depends, ” I’d always reply… Here’s my breakdown of how it goes for me:

When I know what I want to talk about in the song/Have lyrics initially:

In my experience, when I’ve wanted to get a certain point across or theme, I write out the lyrics exactly like I’d write out an argumentative essay: Intro, body (introducing the subject matter), {chorus: which is the overall message of the song} supportive body for the second verse, {Chorus again}, Bridge (like a lil addendum or an added idea that supports what I’ve said in the chorus ) and then just to remind the listener of the whole shindig: ending chorus…boom then add music…LOL…

Adding the music usually goes from finding the chords that complement/fit well with the way I’m singing the lyrics and then it’s possible to elaborate once ya have those “root” notes/chord changes of the song..

When I know what I want to talk about in the song/Have the music initially:

When I have the music laid out or group of riffs/ that I wanna turn into a song (aka. having the music before the lyrics) or my band and I will get together and form the music for what will ultimately become a song…. It’s pretty much similar to the process above…..cept we have the music so I find it much easier to fit words or vocal melodies that mesh well with the underlying music. (It’s like frosting on a cupcake…the cupcake was good but put some frosting on that beeeaoch…and that shit becomes taste-tastic). General rule: Write according to what best works for the song. I mean write out your lil essay format as described and then try the lyrics out by singing them out while you’re playing the music/hearing the music. You’ll get a feel for what works best…at least I do ususally, and if words need to be changed or a phrase can be reworked so that it gels with the corresponding part of the song, it’s no biggie. Cupcake analogy: You wouldn’t use hummus as the frosting on a chocolate cupcake and expect it to taste awesome, would you? (I dunno it’s very possible that it tastes fantastic to ya but I’ve tried it and it’s not great….it’s not even good/actually makes you feel not good) Def. try different frostings tho. 😉

Overall, regardless of what comes first (or if they kind of happen together during the writing process), I like to have a purpose or point to the songs that I set out to write (that I hope whoever listening to it will be able to identify/relate to)….otherwise why write em you know?

When I don’t know what I’d like to write about or say aka. stuff just comes outta me:

I’ve started to enjoy the whole “hands off” approach where for some odd reason, outta somewhere, a melody or idea will pop into my head and I’ll just  sound ’em out or like sing out the melody….and then like auto-pilot the words sorta just fill in themselves. It’s pretty freakin awesome, and honestly I probably seem like I’m just mumbling to some people/look crazy when I do this…..But it’s alot of fun, and usually it ends up pretty awesome. I also usually will hear the multiple parts of the song/different instrument parts (that if I had 15 arms I’d prob. be able to articulate the idea straight out so it makes sense to someone listening), or where the songs headed next….so I’ll just try to write out the parts (guitar one….then guitar two…bass line…etc…) and pladow:  the songs end up writing themselves. (These songs usually end up having a theme as well….)  FUN STUFF 😉

Hope this helps…..




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  1. Best Way to Write a New Song? | Jarmo Puolakanaho - 07/31/2013

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