Writing Your First Song: Part Four of Our Free Songwriting Course

Part Four Free Songwriting Course

As the final part of our free four-part songwriting course, we finally get down to writing our first song. While you could use parts one to three of this course as stand-alone resources, this lesson will draw heavily on the theory that we covered in the first three lessons.

Before working through this lesson, we recommend that you first read:

It Still Takes Practice

Many new songwriters get despondent and give up writing because they think that they can’t write a song. There is a misconception that either you’re a natural-born songwriter, or that you’re doomed to play covers for the rest of your life.

The truth is that with practice, anyone can become a decent songwriter. Will your music make it to #1 on the charts? It’s impossible to say. We’re pretty sure that when “Baby Shark” was first recorded, no one thought it would become as popular as it did.

Think about songwriting like climbing a mountain. You can watch a few YouTube videos and read a book or two on the subject, but that doesn’t mean you can climb Everest. You still need to train and get your fitness to a level where you can take on the challenge.

Common Elements in a Song

Music is an artistic expression, and as such, every songwriter needs to find their own voice, and decide the structure and layout of their songs. But, having said that, there are some common elements found in most songs that get radio play.

The Verse: A usually tells the main story of the song and keeps the action or thoughts moving forward. Just like paragraphs in a poem, you can determine how many verses your story needs.

The Chorus: The chorus is usually a section that repeats and contains the primary musical and lyrical motifs of the song.

Intro: Few songs start with lyrics or the main theme of the song. An intro can set the tone for the song and eases the listener into the song. You can either write a stand-alone intro, or you can use one or two repeats of the verse or the chorus as your intro.

Bridge and Solo: We are not going to cover how to write a bridge or a solo in this lesson. To write a bridge, you should first have a solid understanding of basic songwriting.

In the future, we will write a new series on how to write a solo, since there is too much music theory to cover in one lesson.

Write Your Song

Decide on the Tonality

For this lesson, take some time and think about what kind of song you want to write. First, think about the genre, then think about the emotion. Examples of this are Happy Rock, or Angry Jazz, or Melancholic Blues.

Now, pick a key. If you’re a singer and want to sing over what you write, you should already know what range your voice sits in. If you don’t know this, we suggest talking to a music teacher. If you are not a singer, we suggest that you start in the key of G, since it’s an easy key in which to write.

Now that you’ve got a good idea of what the song should represent, go to the lesson on the modes. Each of the modes has a different tonality. See if one of them matches the mood you thought of – if there is no exact match, find one as close as possible.

Let’s assume that you’ve decided to write a Melancholic Blues song in the Key of G.

DON'T MISS OUT! GET MORE LIKE IT SENT TO YOUR INBOX
with our weekly email newsletter.

Melancholic Blues Song in the Key of G

Take a look at the G-major scale: G | A | B | C | D | E | F# | G

Since we want a melancholic song, we want to play in the Dorian mode. So our next step is to write out the A Dorian scale:

A | B | C | D | E | F# | G | A
I | II| III| IV | V | VI | VII | VIII

Now that we’ve got the scale, let’s look at the chords we can use:

Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F#dim, G

Now that we’ve got the basics written out, we can move onto writing the song.

Putting it all Together

In the harmonic progression lesson we looked at some common three-chord progressions. Scroll down to the Blues Variants section.

Verse

For our verse, we’re going to use a standard 12-bar blues progression, but remember that I is now Am, since we’re going for that melancholic feel:

I – I – I – I
IV – IV – I – I
V – IV – I – I

Am – Am – Am – Am
D – D – Am – Am
Em – D – Am – Am

Chorus

For the chorus, we’re going to use lines of four bars each. We’re going to use option 3, then option 2. In the verse we used the standard chords, but to add some flavour to the chorus lets use some seventh chords.

We are going to use the chorus as the intro for the song.

I – IV – V – I
I – I – IV – V

Am7 – D – Em7 – Am
Am – Am7 – D – Em7

Finishing it Off

Now let’s put everything into a basic structure.

Intro
Verse x 2
Chorus x 2
Verse
Chorus x 2
Verse
Chorus x 3 – fade out from the chorus

Making it Interesting

The example above is nothing more than a simple illustration. We have a song, that according to music theory is accurate, but it isn’t very interesting.

To make the song more interesting, take a basic structure like the one above, and start substituting chords. In the lesson on cadences, we looked at the rules of classical progression. Using those rules, let’s make a few substitutions.

Instead of playing I four times, we’re going to move from I to III, then move from III to V, then finish the line with an Interrupted cadence and move from V to II.

We are going to leave the rest of the verse as it is.

New Verse

Am – C – Em – Bm
D – D – Am – Am
Em – D – Am – Am

Chorus

The chorus we are going to leave mostly the same, but instead of repeating it twice, we are going to use a perfect cadence in the last line.

I – IV – V – I
I – I – IV – V
I – IV – V – I
I – I – V– I

Am7 – D – Em7 – Am
Am – Am7 – D – Em7
Am7 – D – Em7 – Am
Am – Am7 – Em – Am

In Conclusion

If you’ve worked through all the lessons in this series, you should now have the basic building blocks to start writing songs. The more you write and explore, the better and more interesting your music will become.

Make writing songs a habit. Try to write a new song every day for a month. Try out different keys, and try a few different progression rules and cadences to see what they sound like and how they change the feel of the song.

Like this article?

DON'T MISS OUT! GET MORE LIKE IT SENT TO YOUR INBOX
with our weekly email newsletter.

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

You may also like