Which came first: the song or the songwriter? Some would say the song. Some would say the songwriter.
But to me, that screams one word. Complicated.
Here’s a secret for you… Songwriting isn’t complicated. Sure-- it requires basic music understanding and imagination, but add some patience and maybe a friend or two and you got yourself a song!
Here are 7 Simple Steps to writing a Simple Song:
Find something to write with.
I like to use good old-fashioned pen and paper. Maybe find a unique notebook and invest in a good pen. You know the kind.. the heavy ones with the black ink..
Sure, you can use an iPad or create a new note in your iPhone.. But there’s just something about writing it out. It flows from your brain...To your hand.. to the paper.
You can see it. You created it. You wrote it and made it happen.
Find a space that sparks creativity.
Maybe your bedroom is a place that sparks a lot of creativity. My room is only creative if it’s clean. And I write a lot of good songs when I’m alone. A park? Coffee shop? You decide.
Pick a theme.
Picking a theme is a great way to focus all of your attention on one thing.
Maybe I want to write about something that happened that day… or pull at “Taylor Swift” and write about something that broke your heart.
Just pick a theme. For the sake of this post, I choose sunshine.
Once you’ve picked your theme just begin to write everything that comes to your mind..
When I think of sunshine I think of……
yellow, warm, rays, high, sky, summer, grass, picnics, lakes, swimming, driving, coffee, tanning, sleeping in the sun, fun, roadtrips, vacations…
Compose some music
This is where your basic understand of music comes in. Usually I pick a key and pick three chords. And then pick a time signature. I pick C. And I pick 6/8
I know that in the key of C the chords are:
C (1) Dm (2-) Em (3-) F (4) G (5) Am (6-) Bdim (7dim)
C (1) Em (3-) and F (4)
Create a melody
The Major C scale is: C D E F G A B C (all the white keys)
Fiddle around with those and find a melody that you like.
Arrange your words.
I know that I wrote down
“yellow, warm, rays, high, sky, summer, grass, picnics, lakes, sand, swimming, driving, coffee, tanning, sleeping in the sun, fun, roadtrips, vacations, childhood memories…”
So I’ll pick and choose words from there and construct some sentences and form a story out of them…
The yellow days / And warm sunny rays
Have become a favorite of mine
Down by the lake/ On holiday (I know that holiday is another word for vacation)
Just soaking up the time (I thought this was a poetic way to say tanning)
Toes in the sand / iced coffee in hand
Not a worry on my mind
My hopes are high/ ‘neath this bue sky
Enjoying the sunshine…
(cutting words short is a songwriting cheat to keep your song in the right rhythmic flow)
(adding Ah’s or Ooo’s.. or Oh’s is a simple and fun way to bump up the catchy-ness of the song)
shelby smith is an alaskan native and studying music education at southwestern university. she teaches voice & guitar at destiny studio and coaches songwriters one-on-one and in the Songs & Stories workshops. she loves to help aspiring writers develop their unique gift and style. when she's not teaching, shelby loves to tell jokes, drink coffee and watch movies. especially groundhog day.