Writing songs is a musical endeavor that can be rewarding, both on a creative and a financial level. Hearing a song you’ve penned handled by a skilled vocalist or band and played on the radio can not only bring any composer a sense of pride, but a healthy paycheck as well.
While a career as a songwriter can take some time to build, there are steps you can take every time you sit down to write that will work toward helping you achieve the goal.
Learn the Craft
It should go without saying, but an understanding of music theory, as well as the craft of writing a catchy song, is necessary. While a well written song may appear to be a product of magic or some secret muse, a lot of hard work and knowledge goes into the process.
Learn as much music theory as you can. This includes how to notate music, how chords are built, and the effect various scales and chord progressions have on the sound of a song. It isn’t necessary to know all of this before you attempt to write a song. The study of music and the theory behind is a lifelong process. Purchase a basic music theory book and take advantage of the many free resources on the Internet.
Listen to the Music
Any self-respecting composer listens to other composers. Listen to songs critically and ask yourself why they work. Where is the hook? The hook is usually a repeated musical or lyrical phrase the catches the listener’s attention and sticks in his mind. Listen to see if the song changes key, as many songs often do.
Many songwriters add a bridge that takes on a different tempo or melody from the verses or chorus. Pay attention to common, successful song structures, use them on your songs, and then experiment with your own.
Start with a simple structure that features two verses, a chorus, a verse, and a chorus. Don’t wait until you know everything about songwriting before you start writing. As you progress, you can try this structure with a bridge after the final verse, just before the ending chorus. The point is, writing songs is the only way to get better at writing songs.
Avoid cliche lyrics. It’s not always possible to avoid some of the most common phrases used in songwriting because those are phrases that people like to hear. Again, listening to a lot of music will allow you to hear what’s been done before. Tell stories in your songs. Use poetic language and devices.
Write simply. Use an acoustic guitar or simple piano chords when you compose the music to your song. If a song sounds good with a simple arrangement behind it, it’s going to sound even better when you take it to a band and add other instruments. If your song relies on studio effects to sound good, you need to start from scratch. The melody, chord progressions, and lyrics should determine the quality of the song. The rest is icing on the cake.
Market Your Work
Get local bands to perform your material. Grab a copy of the Songwriter’s Market and submit your songs. Make demos and get them in the hands of the people who have the power to get them recorded. While you market your songs, always focus on writing the next big hit.