How I Write a Song

In this post, I am going to share how a song comes to life in my life. The methods always vary a little and I’m going to break it down as simple as I can, but for the most case, this is what I do, and it all starts with The Idea.

Step 1: THE IDEA There’s two kinds of ideas I get:

  1. Lyric idea
  2. Musical idea

For my lyrical ideas I know I’m going to forget it unless I write it down. This is where notebook or your phone come in handy. You may have your favorite app, I like to use Google Drive to take my notes. You can access them from anywhere and it auto-saves. For my Musical ideas I use a voice recorder on my phone. In my case, I use an app called Tape-a-Talk for Android (There is also a free version with less features). You can use whichever one you like, as long as you can back them up somehow. You might come up with a great idea that you can’t do anything with right now but you can use later on in another song. It is also important for a melody to be present.

Example of Lyrical Ideas
These were just ideas. Most of them didn’t even make it into the song.

  • They say I’m not normal. You might be right.
  • I watch them from my window.
  • We decide when we grow up.
  • I get lonely.
  • You decide to grow up, not just for you, for everybody. Even when it hurts.
  • How can we help?
  • All at once it all fell down, thought that I was strong

Example of Musical Ideas

Please forgive my amature guitar skills (at the time), but this is an actual idea I had that I turned into a song. Notice how I’m inserting “placeholder” words or mumbling? I find it easier to that rather than simply humming. I’ll admit, it can be embarrassing to let others hear this stuff before it’s polished, but I want to show people my method so it’s worth it.

This was just a small idea I had while driving. Since you can’t write while you’re driving it was the best time to use my voice recorder. This line became the “hook” of the song with the exception of the word “we”.

 

Step 2: PUTTING IDEAS TOGETHER

I’m assuming at this point, that there are both musical and lyrical ideas to put together. I always listen to my musical ideas a bunch of times to get the “feel” of what I want to words to be about. I skim through my notes and recording to find something I think would be the perfect fit for the music and I start there.

This was one of the first test runs I did with most of the final lyrics in place. You can start to see how a song goes from idea to reality now.

 

Step 3: RECORD IT

Sometimes it takes money, sometimes you know a friend who can help, others can record it in your basement like me. Since I play a few instruments, I recorded this at home using Cubase on my PC. I always love the final product. Like I said, I try to break it down in its most simplest form so don’t let this post fool you, it can take days, weeks or months to complete a song and get it right. Sometimes it just comes together easily. This is just my way of writing but I would love to hear how you guys do it. Please comment or share on Twitter or Facebook or your favorite social network!

Here is the final, “basement” recording version of that song, When You Grow.

 

  4 comments for “How I Write a Song

  1. George Boley
    March 25, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Thanks Charlie, I’m always interested in hearing how other songwriters, get it done. I find that walking the dog works forme. He does his thing, and I do mine. Lately, coming up with an idea that I want to write about is the hardest Part. I need something that inspires me. I loved your song.

    • March 25, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      Haha! And, thanks. I’m hoping to record that one soon for real, but there are a few others I’d like to record so I’m not sure yet.

  2. julianne white
    May 22, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Appreciate you sharing your processes of songwriting. It’s helpful 🙂

    Thank you,

    Julianne White

    • May 23, 2014 at 10:02 am

      You’re welcome. I’m also interested in how others write too. Would love to hear some other methods.

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