Hi! It’s Charluxx.
You want to write a song? Or maybe understand how a song is created?
Writing a song is easy. Allow me to explain...
When I started making music years ago, I had no idea what I was doing.
I had ideas about melodies and lyrics. I just did not know how to turn those ideas into songs.
So, I got a few songwriting books. All of the books I read explained at great lengths the AABA or ABAB forms, also known as thirty-two-bar form.
To give you a little bit of theory here and explain it better, a “bar” or “measure” is usually 4 beats. You’ve all heard somebody signing or shouting “1,2,3,4” before a song starts or in a song (a good example is The Beatles I Saw Here Standing There) Repeating 1,2,3,4 four times gives you a bar.
A typical 32 bar form song uses four sections of usually eight bars, so 4 x 8 = 32.
Two sections (A) followed by (B) the “bridge” also known as a middle-eight (because these eight bars are found close to the center of the song) and a return to the familiar (A) section to finish the song.
Each section (A) of which there are 3, can be either a verse or a chorus. The (B) section is used to contrast the verse and chorus.
To better understand this, listen to The Beatles A Day in the Life.
This song has no chorus so the melody for the 3 (A) sections is the same, and the bridge (B) has a completely different melody:
So, that’s what I learned in these books. The rigid structure. The analytical way a song is constructed.
I understood the method, the problem is that none of these books showed me how to apply it.
This is a very intellectual way of looking at something as visceral as music. And in my humble opinion it does not work.
Why? Because musician are artists. We think emotionally.
Yes, most musicians have an understanding of the “mathematical” side of music: notations, pitch, melody, harmony, chords, rhythm, etc. But music is something that you feel. These books were teaching a blind person to understand paintings.
So, a few hundred pages later, I was back to square one. I got the theory. I just couldn’t see the painting.
So... why did I start this article by saying that writing a song is not difficult?
Because it isn’t. Forget books. Writing a song is simple.
Let me show you how to do it.
First think of a melody. Hum something, it doesn’t need to be complicated, whatever comes to you naturally.
A simple way to find a melody is to think of a phrase, for example “I’m going downtown.” Sound it out and come up with something pleasing.
Apply that melody to a few more phrases and you have either a verse or a chorus.
How do you tell a verse from a chorus? The chorus is the “hook” of the song and it is usually found in the title of the song. A verse is something that lyrically leads you to the chorus.
Once you have your melody, think of a second melody. Either elaborate on your first melody or come up with another one altogether. Then find a third melody to be the bridge. Again, think of a phrase and how to sing it.
A good way to create a song is to tell a story. Find what you want to say and think of the words to tell the story. Songs use poetic language to describe things in colorful ways.
Here’s a good exercise to write a song: Write down 8 paragraphs of 4 lines each. The first two paragraphs could be the verse, the second two the chorus, the next two the bridge, the last two the chorus again. Then find a way to sing them by applying three different melodies (the verse, the chorus, the bridge.)
When you stop to think about it, all of us have a pretty extensive musical education: we listen to music. You just need to pay attention when you hear it.
Listen to your favorite songs and identify the verses, chorus and bridges, see how they are built. Write down V, C, and B (for Verse, Chorus, Bridge) to make sense of it. You’ll end up with something like VVCVBCVV or CVVCVVBCVVCVV or VCVCBVCVC or CVCBCVC. Every song is unique and the structures vary a lot. A song can be many things.
Of course when crafting a song you’ll need more: intros, transitions, pre-chorus, segues, instrumental solos, outros, etc. But that is just technique that you’ll learn and develop along the way to becoming a songwriter.
If you listen and analyze my songs, you’ll notice that my structures vary a lot from song to song. I’m not one to have a formula and repeat ad nauseam.
In the Daft Punk song Giorgio by Moroder, Giorgio Moroder says “Once you free your mind about a concept of harmony and of music being correct you can do whatever you want.”
That quote has helped me become the musician I am today. It allowed me the freedom to develop my music and find my “voice” knowing that it is uniquely me and that it isn’t a bad thing at all.
Hope this helps you!
Peace and Love,
p.s.: as always, leave your comments below... I'd love to get feedback!