11 Effective Tips to Write a Song

A musician’s advice on how to write and record your own song

Brandon Stegall
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The first thing to remember when writing music is that there’s no one right way to write a song; it’s a creative journey, and no one’s path will look exactly the same. That said, there are some guidelines that will help you on your journey. This article will walk you through 11 key techniques to writing and recording your first song.

1) Accept the process (aka mentally prepare)

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and unless you’re incredibly lucky (or impatient), your song probably won’t be completed in a day either. You may find yourself sitting in silence for hours searching for ideas, and you may go months or even longer feeling like you’ve gotten nowhere. Know that this does not make you a failure, it’s just a part of the process.

2) Be willing to take breaks

Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for taking breaks. Oftentimes your best ideas will come to you while taking a break from the song writing process. Just know when to draw the line between breaks and procrastination.

3) Don’t get stuck on one idea

Just because you’ve come up with an idea you like, don’t feel compelled to force the rest of your song into that format. This doesn’t mean you should give up on your idea, only that you should be open to many ideas as part of the creative process.

4) Find inspiration

Listening to different music can be very helpful in finding ideas for your own song.

5) Experiment

Sometimes just playing chords and rhythms in no particular order can strike new ideas for your song.

6) Discuss

Have a dialogue and share ideas with other talented musicians.

7) Learn music theory

Sometimes musicians view music theory as a rule book that takes away from creative expression, but in reality it’s just another tool you can use to help bring your ideas to life. Music theory provides you with fundamental building blocks that can improve your composition skills and overall musicianship.

8) Transcribe

Unless you’re playing as a solo artist and are confident you’ll never forget a single note, you’ll typically want to have your song written down for each instrument involved. Naturally, this implies you should be comfortable with music notation (which is encouraged regardless), but if you need help you could collaborate with a music transcriber instead.

9) Use the right tools for the job

Music composition and recording software has a lot to offer nowadays over traditional pen & paper. With the right software, you can listen back to any part of your song as you’re creating it, and even experiment listening to it with different instrument accompaniments.

10) Record

Once you’ve completed your song, you’re going to record it. You could perform each part yourself, or hand out parts to other musicians and have them record over your track.

11) Stand by your work

No song on the planet is universally liked by everyone, so don’t allow yourself to feel down the first time you receive criticism. Openly accept feedback that helps improve your ideas, and stand by the creative decisions you believe strongly in.

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