Looking for the best songwriting tips for beginners?
Wondering how to write a song for the first time?
Songwriting can be a lot of fun and can be a very rewarding skill to learn. It’s also very easy to get started with. While playing the guitar or another instrument can take a lot of time to get the basic techniques down, songwriting is comparatively easy to start.
If you know just a few chords on the guitar or piano or another instrument you have what you need to start writing songs. In fact, many professional songwriters never even learn how to play an instrument but simply stick to writing the lyrics instead.
Whatever your plans are, it’s important to know a few special songwriting tips to get started on the right foot. Below I’ll give you a few of my very best songwriting tips for beginners. You’ll want to keep these in mind when getting started with the craft.
1. Know the Most Common Song Structures
One of the first things you should do when you’re getting ready to start writing songs is to learn about a few of the most common song structures and how they work when it comes to songwriting.
A basic song will feature distinct sections including verses, pre-choruses, choruses, and bridges. These building blocks work to create a song structure and typically follow one another in predictable ways.
For example, one of the most common song structures goes like this:
- Verse 1
- Verse 2
Believe it or not, hundreds upon thousands of the most popular songs use this same structure and fit into this basic framework.
Using this type of structure gives your songwriting a place to go and can influence your song in positive ways. Trying to fit your initial idea into an already created framework or structure can be a big help and can allow your songwriting skills to advance a lot more quickly.
A song structure can help you make sure you’re saying what you want to say in the most digestible way. Similar to poetry forms, it will also influence how you go about saying what you want to say.
2. Start Looking Everywhere For Inspiration
It should come as no surprise that looking for inspiration is one of the most important skills to master if you want to write great songs. Unfortunately, many aspiring songwriters foolishly wait for inspiration to come to them, rather than seeking it out on their own.
Looking for inspiration can come to you like a bolt of lightning from time to time, simply while going about your day. However, you should be trying to train yourself to consciously look for it.
It’s a great idea to bring a notepad around with you all day or to be prepared to take notes in your phone at ay time.
Here are a few ways you may find inspiration:
- You overhear a conversation in the street and somebody uses an interesting phrase.
- Listening to a song on the radio, you hear a lyrical phrase that you decide you would like to expand on or alter in some way.
- You see a movie title that you think would make a good song (P.S. Nobody can copyright titles).
- You experience a funny situation during your daily routine and think it would make a good song.
- You reflect on a past relationship and decide to write a song based on your unsettled feelings towards the person.
There are a million ways to find inspiration. However, as long as you’re on the lookout and start thinking like a songwriter it will come from time to time.
3. Follow Your Impulses and Don’t Censor Yourself Too Soon
Inspiration doesn’t always happen on its own. When it doesn’t come, sometimes you just need to start writing words down anyway. When you sit down for a songwriting session and don’t already have inspiration in mind there are still ways to get your creative juices flowing. Getting into the practice of freewriting is a big help in getting that hidden “stuff” out of you.
When you sit down to write a song, remember that you shouldn’t “censor” yourself too much early on. It’s better to start writing and to get each line and section of a song out. Verses, choruses, bridges, and anything else you create for your song can be edited and re-edited as many times as you want.
I’ve taken some improv comedy classes in the past and I often think of what I learned when I’m writing songs. One of the biggest principles of improv comedy is that you shouldn’t say “No” to your scene partner but instead, you should say “Yes, and”. Don’t say no to yourself when you’re writing songs. Instead, keep letting the words come out, however random they may be, and just see where it takes you.
Also in improv, it’s important to follow your impulse and the same is true with songwriting. Go with your first instinct and write down the first line that comes to your mind.
When you feel like you’re having writer’s block sometimes it’s just that you’re shutting down every single one of your own ideas before you even try them.
4. Get It Down on Paper (Or Somewhere Else)
Some beginner songwriters make the mistake of believing that they’ll remember any musical ideas, lyrics, or inspirational snippets that they come up with. Unfortunately, just because you’ve come up with a unique melody in your head it doesn’t mean that it will be there for you to recall once you sit down in a few days to turn it into a song.
Don’t assume you’ll remember everything you come up with in your head. Instead, get your inspirational thoughts down in some way as soon as possible.
The medium you record your ideas on doesn’t matter as much as you may think. Some people swear that the only way to write a song is to do it by hand on a physical page in a notebook. Others write it all on their computer and type it out. Others simply record the idea as soon as they come up with it or speak the lyrics into a personal voice recorder.
Personally, I type most of my lyrics and musical ideas out on the computer. I have numerous basic text files that I use and I’ll scribble lines, complete songs, titles and other tidbits all in one place, one after another.
A typical song I’ve written will look like this in my text document. It will usually be just my lyrics with some chords above it. Below is an example of this.
Excerpt from “This Town is a Stranger”
Heading east across the bridge
I’m so far gone but I had an itch
To see these streets we used to know
But now I wonder where did they go
F#m A E
This town is a stranger to me
F#m A E
This town is a stranger
I typically write the chords above the lyrics and as long as I do that I’ll remember the melody very well without actually needing to record it or put it into musical notation.
Only you can decide what works best for you. The most important thing is that you have some kind of method in place to record your ideas. This will allow you to remember them and refer back to them later on.
5. Play It All the Way Through Multiple Times
Once you’ve written a new song I believe that the best thing you can do is to start playing through it all the way. Doing this you can give a much better idea of the overall idea and concept of the song. You’ll also see how it’s working as a complete, living, breathing thing.
Playing through it multiple times after it’s on paper will give you a chance to better solidify the melody, rhythm, chord progressions, and lyrics in your mind. You’ll also have the chance to tweak anything that is necessary.
The melody may need to be a bit more interesting in the chorus or you may decide that the bridge doesn’t provide a big enough contrast to the rest of the song. You may decide that a few lyrical lines don’t make sense. You may want to remove or add sections completely or move them around to different parts of the song.
Playing through your song, and ideally, memorizing it after writing it, can allow you to fully flesh out your song idea. Even more importantly, it will allow you the chance to start performing it in a complete way.
Getting Started With These Songwriting Tips
If you’re ready to learn how to write a song, the above songwriting tips for beginners should be enough to get you started. Try using these tips when you’re trying to create songs from scratch and you may just be surprised at what you’re capable of.
Finished your song and ready to start playing it live? Click here to learn about my top tips for successfully playing your songs at a local open mic night.