Q & A: Songwriting for Beginners

Q. Dear Tip Jar, I have been playing the piano for 4 years. I am in the seventh grade. Everyone says that I have the ear for piano, but I can’t seem to write music! What should I do? – Darlene in Dearborn

A. Darlene, Here’s a radical thought: I think everyone ‘writes’ music. Without even trying, young children often hum these little singsong things to themselves while at play. Older people do almost the same thing, but most aren’t conscious of it. And even if they are, they don’t remember the melodies, partly because they don’t bother to try. They don’t think of themselves as songwriters!

So if you want to be a songwriter, start thinking of yourself as a songwriter. That’s step one.

OK, these little children’s things aren’t technically songs. But they are melodies or fragments of melodies. Melody is one of the most important elements of a song. It’s the part we remember most. So allow yourself to do this: when a little melody pops into your head, recognize that you may have just started a song and try to remember it. Use a tape recorder, digital voice recorder, phone voice mail, whatever helps you preserve it. Let’s call that step two. You’re thinking like a songwriter already.

Let’s break down a song into four components. There’s melody, harmony (chords), rhythm and words (lyrics). Melody is a very key component. Many songwriters don’t do words and so they partner with a lyricist. Some songwriters write a melody and words, but co-write with someone who is good at harmony. My point is, you don’t have to do it all.

And a good way to get better is to co-write with a more experienced writer for awhile. You’ll learn different things from different co-writers. I won’t get into lyric writing here. I couldn’t do it justice in a few short sentences. Books have been written on it.

[Many people are confused by the term harmony. It has two meanings. People think of vocal harmony, what backup singers do. The ‘lead’ singer sings the melody and all the other singers are singing harmonies. While that’s true, it’s only part of the story. Harmony is all the other notes going on, accompanying the melody, and that includes not just the singers, but all the instruments. It might be easier to think about if your song is just for one voice and piano. The voice is the melody, sometimes the right hand is also playing the melody and everything else is considered harmony. Often people use the terms chords and harmony interchangeably.]

Of course, I’m over-simplifying. At first, finding an appropriate ‘left hand’ to go with your right hand can be very hit or miss, just trial and error and there’s nothing wrong with that.

If you are a words person, you may want to write the words first or the words and melody more or less together. If you are not a words person, you might want to start with the melody. There is no one right way to write a song. So I’m only suggesting things to get you started.

Thinking again of people in general (non-songwriters) who unconsciously ‘write’ little melody fragments in their heads and sing or hum them. What many people lack that would help them remember and develop these melodic fragments is some musical knowledge and skills on an instrument. If you’ve been taking piano lessons, you probably have both.

So why isn’t everyone who hums a melody fragment a songwriter? Mostly it’s because they’re not interested in being a songwriter, in my opinion. If you want something badly, you’re willing to go to great lengths to get it. And to be a good songwriter, you have to work hard, have patience, determination and all that stuff.

It’s not hard to think of a melody, but it sometimes takes many rewrites of the melody, harmony and lyrics to really polish it, to transform it from a raw idea, full of potential, into an actual, serviceable song. And all that rewriting can be daunting and difficult and boring and tedious, etc.

If you really want to become a songwriter, you’ll push yourself despite those obstacles. You’ve already pushed yourself to learn to play the piano, so you are totally on the right track. You don’t have to play an instrument to write songs, but it’s a big asset.

At some point you could take the melodies you’re singing in your head and play them on the piano. Most people could not do this, either because they don’t play an instrument or they play, but don’t have an ear for it. They only can follow the notes on the page.

I won’t go into rhythm here, because I think you will hear and feel that naturally. I suggest you concentrate on melody first, then chords. Unless you’re a words person and then you can start with either words or melody, and then think of chords last. The chords thing is something that your piano lessons will help with, especially if your instructor is teaching music theory as you go along.

I hope this has given you something to think about. Start out with small goals and build up slowly. This is like taking baby steps. Think of each song you write as practice. They can be extremely short. Each song you write will make it easier to write the next one.

If you start doing this, you will be teaching yourself how to write songs. And, like other types of learning, it takes practice.


Tags: ,

16 Responses to “Q & A: Songwriting for Beginners”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    i m a singer and soOng writer soO any1 can talk 2 me oOn my num plz cal me and tel hoW can i will be a singer this is my contect num +92 300 4545189

  2. ahmad Says:

    i m a singer plz contect +92 3004545189

  3. which witch Says:

    Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this blog. It’s simple, yet effective.
    A lot of times it’s very hard to get that “perfect balance” between usability and visual appeal. I must say you have done a fantastic job with this. Also, the blog loads very quick for me on Firefox. Exceptional Blog!

  4. gefhrt Says:

    Hi there, yup this piece of writing is genuinely nice and I have learned
    lot of things from it regarding blogging. thanks.

  5. Pearl Says:

    May I simply say what a comfort to find an individual who actually knows what they’re talking about on the internet. You certainly understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people need to check this out and understand this side of the story. I can’t believe you’re not more popular given that you certainly possess the gift.

  6. http://blog.dobre-tabletki-odchudzanie.pl/ Says:

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this brilliant blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your
    RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to brand new updates and will share this blog
    with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

  7. prywatne oferty Says:

    I’ve been surfing online more than 4 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty
    worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be a lot
    more useful than ever before. More: prywatne oferty

  8. Bennie Says:

    I’ll immediately clutch your rss feed as I can’t in finding your e-mail subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please allow me recognise so that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

  9. sex Says:

    Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your content
    seem to be running off the screen in Ie. I’m not sure if this is a format
    issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let
    you know. The design and style look great though!
    Hope you get the issue fixed soon. Many thanks

  10. prywatne oferty towarzyskie Says:

    Istotnie doskonałemu i ten tajemniczy sms, że przyjemniej jest zarezerwowany tylko
    dla mężczyzn. Wybranym miejscu nie oznacza końca.
    ile kosztowała bluzka, paliwo do głowy gigantycznym stresie.

    Sprawdź więcej: prywatne oferty towarzyskie

  11. Ronnie Says:

    Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was super long)
    so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly
    enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring
    blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have
    any points for inexperienced blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  12. buttontea.com Says:

    It’s going to be finish of mine day, but
    before finish I am reading this great piece of writing to increase my experience.

  13. coupe faim agar agar Says:

    Hi my loved one! I wish to say that this post is amazing, great written and come with approximately all significant infos.

    I would like to see extra posts like this .

  14. Jan Kowalski Says:

    Witaj, interesujący wpis. Dawno nie pisałem tak ciekawego pisarstwa.

  15. blog fotografia Says:

    Hello, fajny wpis. Jakiś czas nie czytałem tak interesującego dzieła

  16. Banner Says:


    Q & A: Songwriting for Beginners | Songwriter’s Tip Jar

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: