Every serious singer should definitely start making the effort to begin writing their own material soon. But unfortunately, many people when they decide to write their first song just sit down and start writing. I suspect that’s because writing songs looks, and is often portrayed to be easier than it actually is. It’s NOT easy, and chances are when you hear that it’s coming from someone who doesn’t do it very well.
Most people who decide to write a song will simply sit down and start writing. However, it is never a good idea to jump into anything new without doing some kind of research to learn more about how to do it. If you’re a regular reader here, you know that I’m a big advocate of learning more about how music “works”. Seeking to go beyond just singing your part as it was given to you, for example, and instead tying to understand why it is what it is. It makes your part make more sense to you, so you’re more likely to remember it.
In a similar way, when you decide to write your first song, you should assume there’s more to it than creating a few lines that rhyme. While there is no rigid format for writing songs, there is indeed a formula for writing a good one. This article isn’t meant to be a tutorial on song writing by far. Rather, it’s meant to encourage you to do some research about how good song writing is done before taking the plunge.
Where do you start? Song Structure.
This is the biggest mistake most people make when they start writing a song. They may be good at rhyming or putting their thoughts down. But good songs follow a certain kind of format. Here’s a basic example:
This is one of the most popular song structures. There are many. Here’s another one:
Song writing is a very creative, expressive thing, and you DON”T have to stick to a rigid format. You do, however, need to educate yourself about the rules of good songwriting so that when you decide to take liberties you do so in an intelligent way.
Every song has sections, as we mentioned in another article. These sections are given names like “verse”, “chorus”, “bridge”, etc. But to begin really understanding how to write good solid songs, you need to understand what the function of these sections are.
The VERSE, for example, tells your story. It gives the listener the details.
The Chorus gives the central idea of your song. It’s the “main message”. Your chorus should be the thing that the listener remembers. It’s often called the “hook” for that reason. So a good “hook” should “hook” the listener by being written in such a way that it sticks with you. Many people practice bad song writing choruses that are long, complex and always changing each time the song comes back to it.
The Bridge is that part of the song that is a departure from everything else. It often sounds different musically. Lyrically it’s kind of a “summary” of everything else you’ve said. It ties or “bridges” the other parts of the song together. Hezekiah Walker’s “Soul’d Out” is a great example of a great bridge that really summarizes the message and pulls the song together.
“My heart is fixed/my mind made up
No room no vacancy I’m all filled up
His spirit lives in me and that’s the reason I’m sold out “
There are many other such parts I won’t mention here. All have a very distinct way of helping you create and formulate your message and move it from one section to the next. It’s a good idea to become familiar with them all when you decide to take an interest in writing. When you’re writing a song knowing what the different parts of a song do and how they work together, you write much more intelligently.Your songs have a much better flow and are much easier to sing and to remember.
Remember there are no hard and fast “rules” in song writing. Many songs don’t have a bridge at all, for example. You can break all the rules of song writing and write a great song. But when you know what the rules are in the first place, you’ll break them more “intelligently” when you do decide to color outside the lines. Learning about song structure isn’t about limiting your creativity. It’s about giving you the tools to make better, more organized use of your creativity.
For example, let’s say you’re writing a song following basic song writing. Your verse gives the listener your story. Your chorus gives the listener the central message in a catchy, repetitive way. Your next verse tells more of your story but doesn’t simply repeat what you said in the verse before.
From there you may want to do the chorus again, but you want to say something different this time. When you really understand what the chorus is for, you’ll understand that if you want to say something different you may want to make it a verse or a bridge instead.
As I said earlier, this isn’t meant to be a full tutorial on how to write a song. My goal here is to spark enough interest in you to make you start some serious research into how to do it well. The point here is not to just sit down and start writing, but to do some research and learn the rules of good song writing. You’ll write much better songs when you have some guidelines to follow.
Now of course once you start writing songs you’re going to be writing them around your own limitations as a singer. Many singer/song writers unknowingly write most of their songs in a very limited range of only 2 or 3 keys. So unless you’re someone who doesn’t sing and you’re writing mostly for other people, you’ll want to make sure you have the vocal freedom and range to sing anything God inspires you to write. Investing in your ministry by taking vocal lessons is the best way to do that. Vocal Ministry Breakthrough is an easy, affordable self-paced home study course that will give you a good solid foundation of proper vocal technique. You can join Vocal Ministry Breakthrough here.