Award-worthy songwriting skills take time, patience, perseverance, and most importantly, understanding of songwriting elements. Even if you are writing music for an alternative audience, you will still need to learn the basics – especially how to make a track memorable and moving.
Truthfully, no one can lay out the formula that will transform you from a complete novice to a Grammy-worthy world-famous singer-songwriter. Coaches, pros, and masterclasses may play their part. Yet, there is no evading the hard work and endless experimentation that it takes to create a hit song while being creatively expressive and not selling your soul in the hope that you will go viral in the mainstream world.
The best way to compose a song will depend on what comes naturally to you, what instruments you are proficient with and what kind of music you are writing. With that in mind, here are some of the best ways to compose a song as a novice.
The Best Way to Compose a Song: 5 Tips & Techniques
- Start With a Melody
For artists looking to write catchy and hooky tracks, the best way is to start with an earworm of a melody. Remember, there are millions of songs that share the same chord progressions. You can always start with what you know works then add nuance. Generally, the catchiest melodies move in stepwise motions and have a focal point, such as an anchoring high note.
- Diversify Your Chords
If you find that you lean on the same chords time and time again, try switching it up to broaden your composition horizons. Along with the major and minor key chords, try to experiment with augmented, diminished and dominant chords. You will find that this gives your sound a more complex and intricate feel.
- Structure Your Song Around a Riff
This approach is often the most favourable amongst alternative artists and already proficient instrumentalists. The riff doesn’t have to be a guitar riff, it can be a sax riff, piano riff, bass riff or synth riff. And it isn’t only alternative artists that can anchor their entire track around riffs. Take Jay-Z’s single, Dirt Off Your Shoulder, produced by Timbaland, as the perfect example.
- Mix Up the Traditional Song Structure
Once you know the rules of songwriting, you do not need to stick to them religiously. There is no harm in moving from the intro-verse-pre-chorus-chorus-bridge-solo-outro form. If your melodies or lyrics don’t flow into that traditional format, find a way to make them work with spontaneity – always leave room for discovery. Writing a song isn’t like heading out to the shops to buy milk, where we move from A to B and achieve the objective easily. Approach songwriting in a similar way to wandering around a new city. Explore the different avenues and anchor your songs with the landmarks you construct along the way.
- Go Beyond Basic with Your Lyrics
Does there need to be another song that rhymes home with alone? When it comes to the lyrics, rhyme isn’t everything; substance and meaning are. For the lyrics, start with a broad idea of what you want to base your song on; that may be an unrelenting emotion, the pigeon that you always see on the way to work or your favourite poison. Whatever it is, let the words flow from that original idea, get poetic, play with metaphors, pour in revelations. Not every lyric you write will be tattoo-worthy, but a good vocal hook can make or break a song.
Once you have polished your songwriting skills, submit your demo to our songwriter promotion blog. We will put you in front of our large international readership, which includes the kind of industry figures that you should be looking to impress.