Learn how to compose a song.
This lesson includes:
- a video to help you understand how to start writing a song
- audio clips from famous songs
- three activities to try at home
How do you start writing a piece of music? It's not easy to know where to begin. In this lesson we will focus on how to write a song.
In the film below you can see how Ben and Tara follow a few steps to develop their own song:
- They start by working on the chorus.
- They try out different chord progressions using the chords G, C, D.
- They experiment with the chords to find the right fit.
- They change the tempo to make it feel more lively.
- They improvise vocal melodies over the chords.
Try these ideas when you make your own music.
These are a few things you need to think about when you make a song:
- Melody to create the tune.
- Lyrics to create the story.
- Chords to add to the texture and create harmonies.
If the song is played along with other instruments it could also include:
- Bass line to drive the song forward.
- Drum beat to add rhythm.
Chorus - Most songs will have a chorus. This is repeated several times with the same lyrics and melody.
Verses – These happen before and after the chorus. There are usually new lyrics in each verse. A verse has a different melody to the chorus
Bridge - A section which is a bit different to the rest. It often appears before the final chorus.
Instrumental - Some songs have an instrumental section instead of a verse as a break from the vocals.
First steps - inspiration!
When you are looking for inspiration, you can draw on your own experience. Or the world around you can help such as:
- news articles
Here's some examples of where artists have found inspiration:
- Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite by The Beatles - inspired by a fairground poster.
- Night Ferry by Anna Clyne - inspired by a painting that Clyne made and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
- Peter And The Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev - a fairytale story that inspired Prokofiev to write a piece of the same name.
- Many Rivers To Cross by Jimmy Cliff - inspired by his own experience of travelling and trying to make it as a professional musician.
Develop your ideas
You can start with a very short idea for a tune. Once you have an idea you can develop it to make it more interesting. Try varying your tune. It could be varied by:
- altering the pitch
- taking out some of the notes
- playing the phrase at a higher or lower pitch
Call and response
If you have a short phrase in mind, repeat it and try and find an answering phrase.
Record your ideas on a phone or another device and listen back and think about how to change or improve them. You can also write your notes down on manuscript - whatever helps you remember your ideas.
Listen to three songs
One of the best ways of improving your songwriting skills is listening to great songs.
These songs by Elton John, Amy Winehouse and The Beach Boys have all been huge hits. Listen to these extracts and find out a bit about what made these songs so successful.
Listen to more
In the film above Ben and Tara are writing a song. They went on to create the song The Sound Of Us. Listen to how it sounds below.
Here are a few ideas to start writing a song:
The Beatles' song A Day In The Life was inspired by the Daily Mail newspaper (from 17 January 1967 to be precise!) Why not try using this method to create your own song?
- Find a newspaper.
- Read a few articles and note down interesting phrases.
- Recite the phrases to a steady pulse to get some rhythmic ideas. Use a drum pattern to help.
- Combine the phrases into verse-chorus forms.
- Add some chords on keyboard or guitar to the drum pattern and try out ideas for melodies.
Write a poem about a train journey with the help of Ten Pieces and poet Simon Mole.
Where will you go? Who will you go with? What will you see?
Follow the step-by-step tutorial and write your own lyrics. Take it further and see if you can set it to a tune to make a song.
Ask an adult to share your poem or song using the Ten Pieces Uploader for a chance to have it featured on the Ten Pieces website!
In this lesson you have learnt about writing songs.
Click on the links below for more help with your songwriting: