Songwriting is a craft that anyone can learn. Everyone starts out as a non-songwriter before they become one.
And if you’re just getting into it, here are five steps to writing your first (or 100th) song.
1) Listen to the masters
Ask any songwriter who the master songwriters are and you’ll hear names like Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell. Get familiar with these names and their music.
Actively listen to how they structure their songs, how the chorus is different from the verses, and what imagery they use in their lyrics.
The greats have a lot of experience and knowledge that we all can learn from.
2) Find a structure
How a song is structured is crucial to its strength. This would be figuring out the intro, verses, chorus, and bridge. If you’re just starting as a songwriting, your best bet is to start with two verses and a chorus.
The chorus is the most important part of the song; it holds the most memorable melody as well as the whole idea of the song. If your song has a manifesto, it’s going to be in the chorus. You should spend the most time writing a fantastic chorus.
The verses support the chorus — lyrically they hint at the chorus’ idea, and melodically they don’t overpower the chorus meldoy. Usually, the verses give us the “why” or “how” in the song.
Take, for example, Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love.”
The chorus is just one line, repeated twice: “She give me love, love, love, love, crazy love.”
And the verses support that idea of a person giving you crazy love. Verse one says:
I can hear her heartbeat for a thousand miles
And the heavens open every time she smiles
And when I come to her that’s where I belong
Yet I’m running to her like a river’s song
Also, notice how he rhymes “miles” and “smiles,” and “belong” and “song.” Rhyming makes the melody and lyrics stick in people’s heads.