View Full Version : Basic songwriting process

10-02-2010, 04:21 PM
I am teaching my 5th and 6th grade music classes guitar. (would rather be doing uke, but guitar is what we have available) i would like to help them each create a simple two or three chord song. I have never really written a song so I want to learn myself before I teach it. how can you best describe your own personal songwriting process?

10-05-2010, 08:01 AM
I'll try and explain my own, even though it's different for everyone and probably confusing to teach. I either come up with the chord progression first or the lyrics first. I focus in on an emotion or event or person or topic that I want to write about. I write it all down. I like to write and write and write and not really think about what I'm writing. I once heard someone say that if you judge your writing, you'd never write at all. I normally write in some kind of rhyme (if that's the type of music you're going for). After I'm done writing I sort through the lyrics I like. I play around with different chord progressions. I normally pick three or four chords I like, find a pattern I enjoy, and start putting lyrics to it. I hope that helped a little!

Oh, something I like to keep in mind is to be open to what you're writing. You may be trying to write a happy song about flowers, but you could start writing about something more deep and emotional. Don't be upset if the song turns out differently than how you planned. I don't think any of my songs have ever turned out how I wanted them to. It's just the joys and little surprised of song writing.

10-06-2010, 03:23 AM
There really isn't a standard way to write a song. Everyone approaches it very differently, so it's hard to nail down the most appropriate method. That said, there are a couple of techniques that you can use as you begin to learn.

Words first:
As it says, with this method you write the words first before you right a melody and a chord progression (or harmony). Many people like this technique because you can literally write half of the song out before even touching an instrument. For technique, this method is particularly effective.

Music first:
I remember this as the method that uncle Jesse and uncle Joey used on "Full House". Basically, you start at the "bottom" with a rhythm; then move on to a chord progression; then to a melody and harmony, then you write words. This can be very effective if you have a musical background already. A benefit of this method is you can use common chord progressions to create the body of the song and then fill it with the melody and words. However, the biggest issue is that your songs will tend to start all sounding the same (like 4 chord songs).

A good first step regardless of which technique you use is to name the song. It may sound like putting the cart before the horse, but think about it this way: You are writing the song to convey an emotion or tell a story, right? Well, wouldn't a simple two or three word name help you stay on track to the song being written?


10-06-2010, 05:29 AM

The melody and the words pop into my head, I write them down. Then I wonder what the heck is going on with the song (what is the point of this song?) and I try to elaborate on it. Rarely do multiple verses pop right in. This is when I figure out if it was a chorus or a verse that popped up first. Before/during writing more verses I usually use the melody to make a few chord progressions.

Then I try and cut out a lot of the extra junk (increase the impact) and rearrange things to make more sense story wise so that the song develops the theme as it goes on. Then I try and add a bridge or something to break up the monotony of the song.

Then I decide I don't like it and I throw it out.

For me, the words drive the music, I have trouble writing lyrics to chords/melodies.

11-01-2010, 06:54 AM
As others have mentioned I sometimes start with a melody over a chord progression or I'll start with some lyrics. It seems like I've noticed myself starting a lot more lately with a melody with a lyrical idea. I've found that there is no real right way. Writing good melodies that people want to sing and remember are important to me so often I learn towards trying to fit lyrical content into what's happening with the melody.

Free writing can help. Telling a story is another good idea whether it is personal or imagined. A lot of really great songs are written from just a couple chords, so if you gave your students a chord progression and told them to come up with a verse and chorus around an idea, I think that'd be a great way for them to get there feet wet. It's more about expressing what an individual person wants to express... the "rules" can be helpful guidelines, but that's about it.