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How to Write a Song

Let's learn how to write a song. We all have the ability to write a song. Often we have the creativity needed, but we just lack a little know how.

I'm going to teach you how to become a songwriter and take your unique self-expression and put it into a form that the radio, television, film and multimedia industries are looking for.

I graduated from the Berklee College of Music with a degree in Songwriting. I was signed to an indie record label. I have had numerous placements on television and I currently write for several music licensing companies. In addition, I have a Masters Degree in Education. You can feel confident that I know what I'm talking about.


Ok, back to the music. What's exciting is that all of these industries are looking for music that is new, fresh and different. However, there are formats, progressions and arrangements that the human ear is used to hearing and that's where we often need some training.

The six essential elements of a song are harmony (chord progression), melody, feel or style, lyric, arrangement and production. I have created a multi-part, step by step course on writing a song. I will take you through my process of how to write a song. Let's get started!

HOW TO WRITE A SONG - syllabus

PART 1 (Cadences and Chord Function) - Before we dive into chord progressions, it's important to understand why certain progressions work over and over again. Certain progressions stand the test of time no matter the style of music. There is a reason!

PART 2 (Chord Progressions 1) - I always begin with finding the right chord progression. We'll look at common progressions using I, IV and V that work for the commercial marketplace. It's where we need to begin when learning how to write a song.

PART 3 (Chord Progressions 2) - We'll look at popular guitar and piano chord progressions that use the other diatonic chords of ii, iii and vi.

PART 4 (Chord Progressions 3) - Here we will explore modal interchange, chord substitution, the neapolitan chord and advanced music theory.

PART 5 (Stairway To Heaven Chords Analysis) - Stairway to Heaven is comprised of both the A natural minor scale as well as the dorian mode. We'll look at what makes these progressions so unique through the chord substitutions and the modal interchange that takes place in this classic.

PART 6 (Hotel California Chords Analysis) - Hotel California is written in B natural minor, but borrows chords from B dorian minor and B harmonic minor.

PART 7 (Secondary Dominant Chords) - Secondary dominant chords are the V of the V. They are often used to modulate to a new key, but also help us understand the circle of fifths.

PART 8 (Feel/Style/Groove) - Deciding on the style, feel and groove can be where you add something fresh to the music. It's where you can choose from existing grooves, play something completely from your heart, or somewhere in between.

PART 9 (Arrangement) - The arrangement is how we fit the parts of a song together into a cohesive and easily digestible song structure which becomes much easier to sell.

PART 10 (Melody) - Melody is arguable the most important part of a song. We'll look at how to add contrast in different song sections both rhythmically and in terms of range.

PART 11 (Lyric Writing)
- For some people the lyrics can be the most difficult, for others it is the easiest. We'll talk about what an original but universal lyric is. The appendices below allow you to search for specific lyrics to analyze.

PART 12 (Lyric Writing Tools)
- Here we explore the tools great lyricists use. I have gathered a free rhyming dictionary, a thesaurus and an explanation of various poetic devices all in one place.

PART 13 (Songwriting Software) - Masterwriter is the ultimate songwriting tool! This is the best the web has to offer. I have used this software for years and have over 150 songs on television.

PART 14 (Free Music Production Software) - When I switched from hardware to software I began using Garageband and Audacity to create television ready instrumental tracks and cues.  Both packages are free.

PART 15 (Tips For Songwriting) - We'll take a look at quick tips for easy songwriting.  Whether it's chord progressions, groove, arranging, melody, lyric writing or software, these are tips for novice or experienced songwriters.

Appendix A (Free Audio Editing Software) - Here you can download some free music editing software. I will explain what it is, how to use it and why it's necessary for those of us that want to write for television and film.

Appendix B (Songwriting Competitions) - There are many lyric writing and songwriting contests such as The John Lennon Songwriting Contest and the American Idol Songwriting Contest to name a few.

Appendix C (Pop and Rock Lyrics) - It's important to analyze the successful songwriters that we love. Here we can search for pop and rock lyrics, words to songs and lyrics to older music, like Elvis Presley music lyrics.

Appendix D (Ethnic Lyrics) - We can search for Brazilian music lyrics, Mexican music song lyrics, Irish music lyrics and Spanish music lyrics.

Appendix E (Country Songs Lyrics) - We become better songwriters by studying the greats. Any country lyric in the world can be found here whether it's old or new.

Appendix F (Gospel Lyrics) - Here we can search and analyze bluegrass, southern or old time gospel song lyrics.

Appendix G (Christmas Carol Lyrics) - There is a vast array of classic Christmas song lyrics that exist in and out of the public domain.  Songwriters can make a very good living if they can write a timeless classic during the holiday season.  These songs will be sung every year FOREVER :0)

*I hope I have helped you learn how to write a song. We now need to look at the last puzzle piece which is production and how to record your music.

Continue to Part 1, Cadences and Chord Function

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