How to write a song
- Learn about the building blocks of a song.
- Find out how songs by Elton John, Amy Winehouse and the Beach Boys are put together.
- Start to write your own song.
Songs have been written in many different forms over the course of music history.
Often a song can reflect the emotions of the writer or the character it was composed for.
Songs can also be about a particular time and place and have a historical or political context too.
These are a few of the key components of a song:
- Melody and lyrics which give the song a tune and story.
- Chords or accompanying notes that will play underneath.
- Bass line to drive the song forward.
- Drum beat to add rhythm.
Listen to these examples of lyrics
Where do you start?
Here are some questions to get you started writing a song:
- What’s it about? - Will it be personal to you or something completely different?
- What are the lyrics? - Will you write your own or borrow someone else’s? Where will you find some that you can use?
- What’s the style? - What’s the genre? Pop, rap, folk, opera, rock?
- Who’s the singer? - If it’s for you, then make sure it’s not too high or too low for you to sing. If it’s for someone else, play to their strengths or have a go at writing with them.
- Do you need instruments? - Will you have instruments playing live or a backing track produced on a computer?
Most songs will have a chorus, which is repeated several times with the same lyrics.
In between there are verses – there are usually new lyrics in each verse and they have a different melody to the chorus.
Some songs have a bridge – a section which is a bit different to the rest. It often appears before the final chorus.
Some songs have an instrumental section or solo. The solo could be the same on each performance or it could be improvised.
Some musicians write lyrics first and use them to create the melody. Others come up with a tune first and then add words later.
If you're going to write your own lyrics, keep them simple and think about rhymes and syllables.
Improvising your lyrics over the top of a repeated chord progression can help you start to find a melody you like. If you haven’t got any words yet, just make sounds with your voice instead of words, like ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. These are called vocalisations and you can later try to make lyrics out of those sounds.
You might want to find a repeated chord progression to play over and over again to get your ideas flowing.
If you are stuck, try using the famous four-chords sequence, on which many popular songs are based.
What makes a song successful?
One thing that makes a song successful is how memorable and catchy it is.
Catchy tunes tend to have short repeated melodies, such as riffs.
They can be played in the bass line or by other instruments in a group.
Explore the score
In the film above, Tara and Ben are writing a song.
Download the sheet music to see how the final song looks as notation.
Listen to more
|lyrics||The words used in a song.|
|genre||A style or type of music.|
|structure||The overall number of different sections in a song or a piece of music.|
|melody||A sequence of notes that make a tune.|
|instrumental||A section in a song where an instrument or several instruments are featured, usually without singing.|
|outro||The end section of a song, often repeated and fading out.|
|bridge||A section of a song which is a bit different to the rest. It often appears before the final chorus.|
|riff||A short repeated and catchy musical idea. This can be a melody, bass line or a chord progression.|