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10 Steps to Writing a Great Song

by Count von Battenberg

Having listened to many songs over many years (part of the joy of being an old person), it matters not what the genre is, or what instruments make up the band; it comes down to a number of factors:

· It has to appeal to people (okay there are some obscure people who like obscure music);

· It has to have structure – light and shade, chord sequences, some melody, different sections (the proverbial middle eight/bridge, perhaps even changes in tempo);

· It should be memorable (or have memorable moments in it);

· It will need to be produced.

You can sign up to Gary Barlow’s online training on writing songs, and pay him money, or you can just give it a go.

Most research suggests there are 10 simple steps. You don’t necessarily need to do it in this order

1. Choose and Compose a Title of your Song.

This could come from the lyrics. Or it could be something you are trying to say through the song. A good way is also to brainstorm song titles as well. Some people open books at random places and select words. Brian Eno had a set of cards.

2. Write from Experience or feelings.

You can take a simple “moon, tune, spoon” approach to song-writing. You may wish to brainstorm possible lyrics. What do you want to say about your title and what do you think your listeners might want to know? These are the questions to want to ask yourself. You may write some sort of an experience or feelings.

Many songwriters keep a little book with them to write down thoughts, snippets, words, concepts, melodies.

3. Develop a Song Structure.

A popular structure is: Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Bridge / Chorus x 2. Look at the chord structures of your favourite songs. There’s no need to reinvent. A bridge makes the verse and chorus more memorable. Its important to train your ear by listening to other people.

4. Write a Temporary Chorus and Verse.

Start by developing temporary words. Very often songs live for a long period without the final verses. Look for imagery and action words to bring your answers to life. What emotion are you describing? What do you wish to say in your verse?

5. Construct or pick out the Melody in your Lyric.

Choose the lines you like best for your chorus and hook.

6. Chord Progression

Add chords to your Verses and Chorus and Melody. Try a simple, repeated chord pattern. Play with the melody and chords until you find something you like.

7. Rhyming.

Find pairs of phrases for your verses and chorus (not mandatory, but often works).

8. Connect it all together.

Connect the verses, chorus and melody. Add a bridge before you add your final chorus. Explore your concepts more and add connections.

9. Intro.

Think about whether you need an intro. People remember songs and get a warm feeling when they hear an intro they recognise. Worth not making the intro too long.

10. Putting it all together.

Worth getting production values from a 3rd party you trust. Sometimes suggestions from someone with a different ear, can take the song and transform it. Deconstruction can lead to a much better end product

These are some points to consider, but you could just go with the flow and ignore them.

Good luck!

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