How To Write A Song
Specific Purpose: To demonstrate how to write a song.
I. How many of you listen to music? How many of you have thought about what goes into writing a song? The lyrics and music could have been written by one person, or as a collaboration, with two, three, four, or five or more songwriters; it could have been inspired by a true story, or completely made up by the writer; the music could even be sampled from another song with new lyrics on top; it could be about the singer, about someone else, or the world as a whole. There are many ways in which a song can be written, but I am going to try to demystify the process of songwriting by showing you what I do. All it takes to write a song is to have a bit of musical knowledge, do some creative writing and recording, and refine it until you have a song. And I guess that means it does involve some actual work. Hey, I am trying to demystify it. If a song ever does come to you in a vision, then be sure to write it down and let me know how you did it! Until then, this will have to do. This is how I write a song, and I hope it works for you.
Transition: Let's begin with some preparation.
II. Listen and pay attention to songs that you like and music that you don't like; it will build your understanding of what a song is and improve your ability to write a song.
A. Listen to the lyrics: the themes, metaphors, and ideas communicated by a song.
1. If you like the song, ask yourself, "What makes these lyrics so good?"
2. If you don't like the song, ask yourself, "How would I change these lyrics to make it better?"
3. Write down your thoughts and ideas.
B. Listen to the music: the rhythm, the chords, and especially the melody.
1. If you like the song, ask yourself, "What makes the music so good?"
2. If you don't like the song, ask yourself, "How would I change the music to make it better?"
3. Write down your thoughts and ideas.
Transition: Now, let's learn how write a song.
III. There are a few steps involved in the process of writing a song.
A. First, find a place to write in solitude, a pencil and paper, and a tape recorder.
1. I like to use my office, but a good place could be in a bedroom, by a rock formation in the forest, or even in the bathroom - or maybe not in the bathroom, if you live with other people.
2. A number-two pencil and lined notebook paper are recommended.
3. Any means of recording and saving your voice is fine, whether it's a tape recorder, your computer, or your answering machine - or maybe not.
B. Assuming that you have derived sufficient inspiration from listening to lyrics and have an idea for a song, write a word that embodies that idea at the top of a page.
1. For example, I wanted to write a song based on Kelsey Smith, a girl from Kansas who in June 2007 was abducted outside of a Target store, so at the top of a page, I wrote, "Missing Girl."
C. Give yourself ninety seconds to write as fast as you can as many words that you associate with that keyword.
1. In my example, I wrote whatever came to mind, such as "frightening," "spotlights," "all alone," "somebody shivers," beg and pray," "hands and knees," "please," and ""come back home."
D. Circle the list of words that you have written, as they will be a toolkit for constructing the lyrics of your song.
1. In my example, using these words helped me to write lyrical lines that related to what I originally wanted to write about: the missing girl, Kelsey Smith.
E. Assuming that you have derived sufficient inspiration from listening to music and have an idea for a style of music, begin writing lines based on your musical ideas.
1. In my example, because I had been listening to a song by Wilco, "Spiders," and was inspired by the rhythm, chords, and melody, I started stringing words together that fit both the lyrics and the music "in my head," such as, "spotlights sigh when something is shown/somebody shivers when you're not at home."
F. As you keep writing, more ideas will come to mind and, before you know it, you will have a song.
1. In my example, I initially wrote the song in about 30 minutes.
G. Record your lyric and music ideas by singing them into your recording device.
1. In my example, I recorded my ideas by both reciting a lyric with no melody and humming melodies with no lyrics.
H. You may come back to the song and decide to rewrite and re-record in order to improve on it, and that's not only okay, that's recommended!
1. In my example, I came back to the song after a day or two and revised a few lines, such as changing "spotlight" to "searchlight," and changed the melody around, as well.
Transition: That's how I recommend to write a song.
IV. Today, I tried to demystify the songwriting process by showing you what I have learned. All it took was taking time to listen to music, getting an idea for a song, finding a discreet place to write it, writing a word that represents your song idea at the top of a page, writing some other words really fast below it, and using those words to write and record a song. After I wrote the song, I found out that the girl, Kelsey Smith, had been found murdered. I thought that maybe I should change the song, but changed my mind. It works almost like a time-capsule of that time. I hope that you now understand that the ability to write a song can be something great to have as part of your life. It just takes knowing how to do it, but the most important part is doing it. Thank you for your time.