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What is songwriting?

It may seem like a silly question but let's start at the beginning, what actually is Songwriting? It’s a creative process in which the product is a piece of music, typically with lyrics. An instrumental would technically be classed as a composition considering it doesn’t have any lyrics and a song is specifically designed to have lyrics embedded within it.

What are the important parts of songwriting?

Songwriting can be split into 3 main parts, Melody, Lyrics and Structure. Obviously there is a lot more that goes into to it like rhythm, Instrumentation, Texture, Timbre etc... but these are the main 3 and the only parts of a song that you can copyright. The melody is the main tune that plays throughout the song. Riffs played on an instrument also fall under this umbrella. The lyrics are what conveys to the listener the story and the overall message. Finally we have song structure which can cause many discrepancies among band members and fellow songwriters. Structure is the way the song is built, where and how it starts and how long and when it finishes. If a songwriter goes to an instrumentalist and asks them to solo through a specific section of the piece of music, the instrumentalist does not take songwriting credits as his part would not exist without the song. I could go into a lot more detail about this but I’m sure that can be covered at a later date. Back to structure!

A typical song structure for popular music would be Intro, Verse, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Verse, Pre-chorus, Chorus, Breakdown/Bridge/Middle 8, Double Chorus, Outro.

For classical music it was common practice to use Sonata Form. These were comprised of three main sections, exposition, development and recapitulation. The exposition section is split into two subjects which are then transformed in the development section typically through several modulations. The exposition material is then repeated but slightly shorter in the recapitulation section. I won’t go into fine detail but I encourage you to do your own research on it as the way structure has developed over the years is quite interesting.

What are the benefits to songwriting?

The thing about songwriting is that it’s so subjective. What I mean by that is everyone has their own taste, their own opinions on how it should be done and their own view on what makes a great song. Because of this, it then becomes personal which makes it very hard to judge “which song is better.” What makes songwriting so beautiful is that you can say whatever you like and no one can tell you any different because it’s just a song. It’s almost like your own personal therapist, you can write exactly how you’re feeling without fear of being judged.

How does songwriting help your mental health?

This brings me on to my next point, how does songwriting and music help with mental health? It’s such a relevant topic today it would be a crime not to talk about it. Music releases dopamine which is the feel-good chemical in your brain. In a way, it is similar to an addiction but one of those 'good addictions'. When you’re writing a song and you finish a verse or a chorus, the feeling is nothing less than elation. It’s a mixture of satisfaction from completion but also from knowing that everything you would want to say to someone has been written down and therefore, you no longer have to say it. It’s a way of getting your message out there and when you have 50 people, 100 people, 100,000 people singing those lyrics back to you, it unites people in a way that no other platform can.

How to write a song

What I’ve learnt over time is that Songwriting can’t actually be taught. It’s so subjective that your idea of a good song can often be very different to someone else's. If you try to fake writing a type of song that you’re not particularly into, then a lot of the times it comes out wooden or forced. There are however, ways in which you can train yourself into becoming a songwriter or even a better songwriter.

  1. 1. The first step would be to learn an instrument! This will give you the foundation and from there you can start to build. You can skip this one if it’s just the writing part you’re interested in but it does help!
  3. 2. Step 2 would be to learn music theory as this gives you an understanding of how and what you're constructing, how harmony and rhythm works together and where the melody should fit.
  5. 3. Step 3 is to practise those skills over and over again which should really go without saying!
  7. 4. Step 4 is to find a chord pattern you like and think of a story line. If you want, you can plan out your structure at this point which will differ depending on which genre you choose.
  9. 5. Finally, step 5 is where you’ve just got to sit down and start writing. Most of the time the first song isn’t what you heard in your head, but overtime you’ll start understanding what works where and with what, then maybe you’ll find other people who feel the same way about your music as you do.
  11. There is no wrong way to write a song and that is the power and beauty of music!