How to write songs

Songwriting is a skillset that takes time to develop. How to write songs? I think it’s one of the most difficult jobs in the music industry. You have to write melodies, words, and be vulnerable all at the same time. Like any skillset it takes a lot of practice. Over the years I’ve tried out a lot of creative exercises that can help develop songwriting skillsets. These are a few of my favorites.

Object song writing

This one is more of a precursor to songwriting but it’s very helpful all the same. Basically the idea is to write in a journal everyday but to write in very descriptive details. You can try and imagine a picture and paint that image through words. Use all of your 5 senses to describe a simple scene. This exercise will make it easy for you to use vivid description when it’s time for you to actually write a song. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. It also might spark ideas for songs. It’s important to be consistent with this exercise. Since it’s a practice you want to set aside time to do it a little bit everyday. I found this exercise in a book called “Writing Better Lyrics” by Pat Pattison. I highly recommend it for any aspiring songwriters.

Writing a new song over an old one

This is a great exercise if you’re in a creative rut. Pick a song that you like and re-write the lyrics to the same melody. Then, re-write the melody with the the lyrics you wrote. In the end you have a completely new song. The reason this exercise is great is because melody and lyrics have cadences that can be hard for new songwriters to create. It will teach you how other songwriters use those cadences. Also, great songwriters change the amount of syllables from section to section. If you follow this process your song will already have this aspect. This is a great way to learn and the more you do it the more you can absorb.

Trading lyrics with another songwriter

If you have another friend who likes writing songs this is an interesting experiment. You and your friend each write lyrics to a song with no melody and then swap your ideas. Then take each other’s lyrics and put it to a melody and harmony of your own. This will teach you more about melody and how you can manipulate it with only lyrics.

Start in a new way

A lot of songwriters have methods that help them create songs. However, if you’re struggling to come up with new ideas sometimes it’s better to try a new process altogether. If you always start with melody, try harmony or lyrics first. If you always start with lyrics, try melody or harmony first. You get the idea. Also, you can try starting with a concept or a track. The main point is to search for sparks of inspiration in different places. This is also great because each method requires different skills and the more you try different methods the more skills you will develop.

Writing a song from a title

For this exercise you’re going to start with a short title that you find intriguing. If you want to make this even more interesting you can use a title from a book (you can’t copyright a book title). Search through Amazon, Audible, or your local Barnes & Noble and find a book title that sparks something. Once you find a compelling title you can start to create a song around that concept. This is helpful because, sometimes, finding the concept is the hardest part of writing a song

Wrapping it up

Songwriting can be difficult and we all get writer’s block from time to time. These methods help stimulate ideas and develop skillsets that are necessary for great songwriters.