If you’re passionate about songs, crafting lyrics, and the power of well-written lyrics, then no doubt you’ve wondered about songwriting. There’s a reason why so many beginner songwriters enrol in a degree in songwriting or even get a bachelor’s degree in songwriting—the creative process can be overwhelming!
As a beginner, it might feel very intimating to take the plunge and begin creating your songs. Before you dive right in, here are eight tips for songwriting beginners that will help in the songwriting process and allow you to capture what you want to say.
1. Improve your music skills
Many people believe incorrectly that songwriting is something we are born with, a natural talent per se, and you don’t need to know the finer points of music in order to create. After all, if you’re just writing the words, you might think you don’t need to know how music works.
But the truth is that you do need a basic understanding of music and music theory in order to write songs. Studying music theory, chord theory, scales, and other critical musical features give you a better understanding of music and songwriting.
By understanding the little nuances and characteristics of music, you’ll be able to write a more coherent and well-rounded piece of music. You’ll be able to understand timing, rhythm, beats, and even music loops that dictate your songwriting.
Brushing up on your skills on the piano or guitar will enable you to improvise, play around with different idealism, and even record a demo of what you want the music to sound like.
2. Study song structures
Songwriting is similar to writing an essay in that there is a very particular formula or structure that can be followed.
Songs usually have an introduction, a verse, a bridge, a chorus, and a middle eight, often consisting of a slightly different verse or vocal line or a music break. Although some songs will deviate from the structure or follow a completely different rhythm altogether, they all still adhere to one golden rule: grab the listener’s attention in the beginning.
Following this basic structure as a beginner songwriter will allow you to focus entirely on the other parts of a song rather than trying to create a satisfying framework from scratch.
3. Improve your writing
A core skill of songwriting? Writing!
Improving your writing is a brilliant way to improve your songwriting and improve your ability to write lyrics. You don’t have to enrol in a writing course to become a good wordsmith; it’s as simple as practising writing whenever you can.
If you’re someone who struggles to write creatively, keep a document open on your phone’s Notes app and jot down simple ideas and sentences as they come to you. Don’t be afraid to have a songwriting inspiration document filled with unfinished sentences, lousy poetry, typos, or other song lyrics that inspire you.
4. Expand your vocabulary
Books, poems, short stories, and even children’s books have distinct patterns and characteristics. Reading helps build up your vocabulary, improves your understanding of metaphors, similes, and analogies, and gives you an understanding of rhythm within the text.
You’ll pick up a trick or two about writing without even realising it by immersing yourself in literature. Don’t forget to add them to your songwriting inspiration document!
5. Play around with rhymes and assonance
Who doesn’t love a song with rhyming lyrics?
Most if not all songs have words that rhyme. Some songs will follow the “ABAB” pattern where 1st and 3rd lines will rhyme, and 2nd and 4th will also rhyme. Other songs may rhyme the ending of every line, while others may just have a few scattered throughout the song.
There are an infinite number of rhyme combinations and variations that you can use. Try playing around with rhyming sentences, and don’t be afraid to Google ideas if you get stuck.
Another fun songwriting trick is to explore assonances. Assonance refers to words that have similar sounds being placed close together.
Assonance is much more subtle than rhyming and may take some practice, but when done correctly it can evoke powerful lyrics with a strong rhythm. A famous example of assonance at play is in the movie “My Fair Lady,” with the sentence: the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain. Notice the repetition of the long “a” sound?
6. Create a narrative
What do you want to say with your song? Are you looking to tell a love story, a story of joy, or perhaps one of sadness and loneliness? All songs tell a story, and this story is what connects with the listener.
Consider your favourite song and why you connect with the story. Whether it’s a happy, cheerful party song that reminds you of summer days, or if it’s an emotional tune about a long-lost love or feeling misunderstood, you relate to the story being told, which is why you connect with that song.
Even the hugely popular children’s song “Baby Shark” tells a story of a family of sharks that children can connect with (albeit with a catchy tune!).
Keep your narrative simple at first, and use the chorus to summarise the song’s message with the details in the verses. Remember that you can also tell a story through melody alone, so don’t be afraid to let the music speak for you.
7. Don’t be afraid to let go of your ideas
This is tricky, but it’s necessary for the creative process: learn to let go of any ideas that just won’t work.
Many songwriters place massive pressure on themselves to make something fit. Whether it’s a specific line in a song, a beat, or even an entire story, you need to resist the urge to keep it in a piece when it just doesn’t work.
You’ll waste time, get frustrated, and maybe even create a song that you’re not happy with. Rather than scraping something, place it back in your ideas folder as you might be able to use it again in the future.
8. Collaborate wherever you can
Creativity is a collaborative process, and while it may feel like songwriting is an exclusively intimate process, some of your best ideas can come from working with someone else. Enrolling in a degree in songwriting and surrounding yourself with other like-minded creatives will do wonders. Whether they can help you untangle a creative mess or give you feedback on a project, it all leads to you being a better songwriter.
Are you looking to create the next great hit? Are you searching for an inspirational space where song ideas come to life? Perhaps you have an idea for a killer riff but no clue what to do. Completing a bachelor’s degree in songwriting or enrolling in a degree in songwriting might be your first step toward songwriting success.