How to Write a Song in 10 Steps

How to Write a Song

Songwriting is one of my favourite hobbies! I love cozying up with a cup of tea, a notebook and a Bath & Body Works Candle and getting my creativity out. It has been 10 years now since I wrote my first song, so I pretty much have my technique down to a science. Incase you would like to write a song, but you’re not sure where to start, I thought I would share a 10 step process on How to Write a Song!

Keep in mind, there is no “right way” to write a song. This particular method shows you how to write a song LYRICS FIRST. Sometimes, I get the melody going first, or sometimes I write the music and lyrics simultaneously. All of these techniques work just fine. However, if you are just starting off, the following process is probably the most straight forward way to write a song.

So, get your pen & paper out, your comfy clothes on, and let’s get to work!

10 Steps- How To Write A Song

STEP ONE: Brainstorm song titles and topics

I collect potential song titles and subjects for songs on a daily basis. I often will hear a cool phrase, interesting word, or experience something I need to write about. Songs can be inspired anywhere by anything. Keep a notepad or your phone on hand at all times incase inspiration hits! If you are beginning this “how to write a song” 10 step process without a list of ideas, spend 10 minutes online looking for inspiration.

STEP TWO: Choose a topic and expand on it

Once you have chosen your topic, make a mind-map of anything and everything about this subject. Write down words, lines, facts or fiction. For example, I thought writing a song about Chess would be cool, so I made a mind map of any terminology or play on words I could add to a song about Chess. For the final result, listen to my song Checkmate!

How to Write a Song
From the Checkmate music video, photographed by Grace Bennett

STEP THREE: Decide on the subject of the chorus

The chorus should be the main idea of your song because it is typically repeated 3 or more times. What is the over-arching message of your song? Each verse and bridge will lead to the chorus, so make sure it is catchy!

STEP FOUR: Plot out verses 1 and 2 (sometimes 3 or even 4)

The verses are what tells or advances the story in your song. Decide if you are telling the story from your point of view, someone else’s, or from the third person. If you are finding it hard to plot out ideas for your verses, look at some of your favourite songs for inspiration. Pay attention to length, rhyme scheme and point of view.

STEP FIVE: Decide on the subject matter of the bridge

The bridge can either be the turning point of the song, or it can sum up the song in one or two lines. Sometimes, the bridge is instrumental. It should lead the song toward your last one or two big choruses!

STEP SIX: Write your song!

Now that you have expanded your thoughts for the chorus, verses and bridge, go ahead and write your song out fully! Now that you have a road-map to follow, writing your song should be a lot easier. Keep in mind, some days writing can come to you with little effort and other times it might not flow as well. This is normal, don’t give up! Don’t forget to check out other well-written songs for inspiration.

STEP SEVEN: Name your song

I usually save naming my song for when I’ve completed the lyrics, no matter how obvious the name is while you are writing it. It is one of my favourite parts of the songwriting process! Here is a song that I wrote called “Hey Hitchhiker” !

How to Write a Song

STEP EIGHT: Choose your chord progression for the chorus

Now that you are finished the lyrics, grab your favourite instrument and try out a few chord progressions. Look up different progressions in the key of C – for example, or any key you want. Decide if you want your song to be in a major key or a minor key. Remember, you probably want the chorus to sound catchy!

STEP NINE: Adjust the chord-progression slightly for the verses & again for the bridge

Sometimes, the verse and chorus have the same chords. However, I find it is more pleasing to the ear if you make a few adjustments and change a few chords to make the verses sound different to the chorus. In the bridge, you can either alter the chords entirely (usually you will stay in the same key, though) or you can use the chords from either the verses or the chorus. Again, it is more interesting if each different section of the song has a slightly different chord progression. That being said, a lot of your favourite songs from the radio probably repeat the same 4 chords throughout the whole song. Like I said, there is no proper way on how to write a song, it’s totally up to you!

STEP TEN: Jam out- Find your melody

Do you play more than one instrument? This is the time to see whether you find your song sounds better on piano, guitar, a cappella, etc. If you are used to writing on a certain instrument, try another one to challenge yourself! If you don’t play any instruments- no problem. Sing your melody into your phone and find an instrumentalist to help you map out the chords. Once you like how your song is sounding, practice it a few times through and record it so you don’t forget how it goes. (Trust me, I’ve forgotten to do that step one too many times and learned the hard way).

This is how I set up my notebook when I’m about to write a song!

Remember, songs sometimes take time to write. They cannot always be completed in a day, you may need to revisit or re-write the song several times before you are happy with it. Songwriting is like any other art form, you must be patient and not force anything.

As with any other hobby, practice makes perfect. Songwriters often write 50 or more songs before they have a “hit”! Don’t let that stop you from trying. Another option is to try co-writing, where you write a song with one or more individuals.  Honestly, the possibilities of songwriting are endless.

I hope you enjoyed my 10 step process on How to Write a Song! If you need further inspiration, here are some “Live-Off-The-Floor” Recordings of a few of my original songs:

Nobody’s Victim

Allons-y On-y-va

Give It A Rest

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Related Post: Meet the Musician: Michelle Thibodeau


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