After several decades writing songs, I have my own system I try to follow when I sit down to write a new song. I have finally learned, after thousands of times when a song never got finished, to follow this system or I know I’ll be wasting my time.
I know one of the first things I’m going to have to do is start brainstorming for a good song title. You have to get started with a good title, because if you don’t have a good title you don’t have a song. You need to find a memorable song title, whether it is a rock song title, a country song title or whatever style song you want to write. Song titles can make the writing of the song so much easier. How do you decide on a title for your song? Let’s think about it.
When I get an inspiration, an idea for a new song, there are several questions I ask myself. First, I ask myself if there is enough of a story in the idea to make a complete song, or is it just an idea that should be part of another song. If the answer to the first question is yes, I then ask myself if there is enough of an audience for this song when it is completed. Knowing your audience will help you decide on a title for your song. How to write a song title, that’s the question at hand.
Some songs, even if they are well written, have only a small audience they would appeal to, so a music publisher would not be interested in signing it. There wouldn’t be enough people who would want to buy the CD and after all, to music business professionals, money is the bottom line and the main motivator. It doesn’t matter how good of a songwriter and lyricist you are, some things are out of your control. However, some of these “small audience” songs might end up as an “album cut”, meaning a song that is on the CD but isn’t marketed a as a hit song, but the best rule for a new writing is to always swing for the fence, try to make all your songs hit material.
Let’s assume your idea is a good one and there is a huge potential audience for it. The next step is to write a summery of your story. From this summary you are going to write the lyrics and the eventually the melody and music for your new song. Let’s use that great universal subject for our song, love. Our song idea will be I’m going to marry you. Obviously, this idea would appeal to millions of people since most people, if they are single, do they want to get married. Our summary would tell a story that has to do with getting married. This story is probably about a man, maybe a woman, who has chosen who they want to marry. The intended may or may not know about his/her desire. That’s where your creativity comes in. Write your summary of the story that you will then turn into song lyrics.
After you answer the question, “What is the title of my song going to be”, your next job is to think about hooks (See my article about hooks). Here you need to decide what the central point of your song is and create song hooks around this thought.
Once you have your hooks, begin turning your summary into song lyrics. The best way to start this process is to try and write the chorus. The chorus is the “nut” is the central part of your song, the main point, and is a hook in itself. The best choruses are 4-6 line phrases that tell the main part of the story.
Once you have your chorus, start writing your first verse. The first verse should be lines that lead the listener to the chorus. In this case it should begin talking about the 2 characters involved in the story and how they are going to get to the point of getting married. Again, this is where your creativity comes in as there is always more than one way you can take the listener, and remember, people listening love surprises.
At this point you’ve got your chorus, which will be repeated several times and your first verse. Next write the second verse. The object of the second verse is to move the story along towards the conclusion you have planned. Keep in mind that every word you write needs to be related to your central idea. Don’t get side tracked talking about oranges if your song is about apples.
If you think you want or need a bridge, write a 1-4 line section that takes the story In a new direction while staying related to the main theme. The bridge almost always changes melody, rhythm and feel.
From here a song usually goes either to an instrumental section or to the final chorus. O occasionally the writer will include a last verse, but seldom is there time for it. Remember, most songs have 2 ½ – 3 ½ minutes to tell the story.
Watch for my other articles that go into more detail about these song sections. Keep this in your notes to refer to when you begin a new song.
God bless and keep writing.
Copyright © 2011 Russ Media Group Music All rights reserved
Reprinted with permission from Russ Media Group Music