There was an interesting post today on a message board that I go to. It was about a guy that just started a new band and he wanted to know if anyone could give him some songwriting tips.
First off, there isn't a wrong way to write songs. But after you've done it for a while, you'll find out that some ways to go about it are easier than others.
This is how I do it.
1. Music and Melody Come First
I never fit a melody to pre-existing lyrics. It’s forced and it doesn’t sound good to me. When you write the words before the melody, you’re trying to force the melody to fit your lyrics. The result is it doesn’t sound natural.
A lot of songwriters start with an idea. It's just easier for me to know what angle I'm coming from. Usually how it happens with me is the music comes first and the melody comes right after that.
Why do I write the melody first before my lyrics?
If I don't know how many notes are in the melody, how do I know how many syllables need to be in my lines? I don’t.
If there’s 8 notes in the first part of the melody and 6 notes in the second part , you’ll have to have 8 syllables in the first line and 6 in the second.
Let’s say you want to put 4 lines in each of your verses, You’ll have 8 syllables in the first and third lines and six in the second and fourth.
Here’s an example:
In the song "I want you to want me" the lead singer for Cheap Trick wrote a four line melody that had six notes in the first three lines and seven in the last line. He knew that there had to be six syllables in the first three lines and seven syllables in the fourth.
I Want You To Want Me
I want you to want me =six syllables
I need you to need me =six syllables
I’d love you to love me =six syllables
I’m begging’ you to beg me =seven syllables
2. Figure Out An Idea To Work From
Ideas are everywhere. You can write about what a friend of yours is going through. You can write about what you're going through.
I keep a journal just for this and make daily installments. I write down everything that I can think of that happened that day. And after a few months of that, I'll go through the journal harvest my ideas.
I treat my journal like the garden it is. Most every song I write comes directly from my journals.
3. Put the idea into one to two sentences
The best way to show you this is to give you an example. Keeping with "I Want You To Want Me", here’s the basic idea:
"I want you to want me as bad as I want you."
You only want one idea for each song. If you have any more, your song is going to last too long. And you're listeners won't be able to keep up.
Believe me, nobody but you will understand them. I know from very bad experience.
4. Write The Lyrics To Fit The Melody
Once you have the idea, you start to explain the idea in the verses with the number of syllables you have in the melody. The chorus is just the overall idea in a summed up fashion.
That’s how I write songs. Music and melody come first. The idea comes after that. Write the idea in a statement form. And then, write the lyrics to fit the melody.