How to Make a Song at Home: 10 Steps for Novice Songwriters
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How to Make a Song at Home: 10 Steps for Novice Songwriters

Author: Hugh McIntyre

Date: June 30, 2020

Reads: 322


Hugh McIntyre is an NYC based freelance music journalist. He mostly writes for Forbes, where he publishes several stories per day, on average. He has also written for Noisey, Billboard, MTV, Noisey, Mashable, Huffington Post, The Hollywood Reporter, Mic, Hypebot, Sonicbids, Fuse, Tunecore, Symphonic Distribution, and many more.
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How do you write a really good song?

Hard work. Looking into your heart and soul. Playing an instrument until your fingers hurt. Singing until your voice is cracking. And then doing everything over and over again. That is how to make a song. 

It may sound daunting, and it is if you want to do it right. Anybody can create a song at any time, but that doesn’t mean it will be something people want to actually listen to. Making a song is easy, but crafting one that will reach a large audience and people will want to continue to press play on for years is far more difficult. 

There are some steps you can follow to get you started on your songwriting journey, and while you may eventually create your own path, here are 10 steps that can be extremely helpful for budding talents who are scared and don’t know where to begin with songwriting.

Here’s how to make a song:

  1. Be honest about your skill level
  2. Play around on your instrument
  3. Find the tone of the song
  4. Begin fleshing it out
  5. Come up with a rough draft
  6. Give the song some breathing room
  7. Come back and get to work
  8. Come up with a second draft
  9. Recognize when you’re done
  10. Record your song

How Are Songs Made?

Each artist’s songwriting process will vary but for many artists, it goes like this. First, string together chords to create a melody, either for the verse or chorus. Next, choose a song structure. Don’t get too picky here: you can experiment with and change your song structure.

From here, write the melody for the parts of the song you haven’t figured out yet. Add in your lyrics. Restructure and rework as desired until you have a finished song!

Of course, that’s a simple answer to a question that may not be so simple, at heart. There are countless ways to write a song, and none of them are wrong.

When it comes to anything artistic, it doesn’t really matter how one gets to the end product, as long as it is great…although, having said this, there are steps newcomers to the songwriting craft can follow and plenty of helpful suggestions from those who have been there before.

So, as you read below, keep in mind you don’t need to follow these directions perfectly, and there are no rules when it comes to how to make a song. These are simply guidelines meant to help you get started if you don’t know where to begin!

Is Writing a Song Hard?

Once you’re in the flow, writing a song doesn’t have to be hard. Getting the first part of a song down is often the hardest part of songwriting. After you get that initial flash of inspiration, you’ll be in the flow and ready to go!

So how do you get started when you’re struggling? You may be someone who wants to create the music first and then write lyrics.

You might be the kind of person who only needs a melody or a chord to go off of.

Or perhaps you want to know what you’re going to sing before you find the right tunes to accompany your lyrics.

There are countless examples of artists working in every which way, and there are plenty of songs created with every method and from every starting point. So as you follow advice and kick off this musical journey, be flexible and discover whatever works best for you.

As is stated above, there is no “right” way to write a song. So while you start down this road, feel free to read more and watch YouTube tutorials, but also find what works best for you.

Slide Do You *Really Have What it Takes? Do You *Really
Have What it Takes?
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1. Be Honest About Your Skill Level

It may sound like a bit of a cop-out of an answer, but where you begin when writing a song actually depends on your skill level and what kind of music you want to create.

If you are a professionally trained piano player, you have an advantage when writing new tracks, as you understand composition, notes, melody, and so on. It isn’t necessarily easy, but you can come up with something faster than a beginner.

If you have never mastered an instrument, you’re going to need to play around with your chosen tool for a while, or perhaps even seek out someone to do that for you. This process is yet again very different for those who aren’t making the music themselves, but who may be in the market for buying beats or hiring Producers

Whatever your skill level, there is a way you can make a song. You just need to find what it is and work hard at it.

2. Play Around on Your Instrument

For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume a lot of the people reading are going to be making the music for their song themselves. If that’s the case, here’s what you need to do first: play around.

Pick up your instrument (or stand next to it or sit down in front of it) and just start. You may spend 10 minutes doing so before something catches your ear, or it could take much longer. There’s no right or wrong here, as long as you get somewhere eventually.

Maybe there are two notes that sound great next to one another. Perhaps a chord comes to mind and spurs you on. The hardest part is beginning, but once you have, keep at it and write down or record everything so you don’t forget those special little bits!

3. Find the Tone of the Song

Some musicians prefer not to start with the music, but rather the lyrics.

That’s fine! It’s cool to do so, but don’t think it is necessarily easier…though it may come with some benefits to those who love the words more than the tunes.

If you’re going to launch with the lyrics, you have to consider what the song is really about at its core. What’s the tone?

If this is about love, is it happy? Sad? Sarcastic? Mad? Lonely? You can twist and turn the same idea toward many different emotions, and none of them are wrong…though they will dictate the other words, and then certainly the music.

4. Begin Fleshing It Out

Once you have something to go off of—be it a few lines of lyrics, a melody, or even the complete song in music or word form—see where your creativity can take you.

It’s great to have a small piece you feel is wonderful and perfect as it is, but you don’t yet have a complete song. Stretch out the idea musically and see where it goes, or explore the concept you’re writing about and dive deep into it.

Maybe there’s more you want to say or a completely different way of expressing it altogether?

Write down or speak aloud (or play) into a recorder anything you find remotely interesting, as you may want to revisit it. You never know what tiny spark will become a full-fledged track in no time.

5. Come Up With a Rough Draft

At the end of the first part of all this work, you should have a song which is essentially a rough draft. It’s complete in some ways, but in many others, you’re still just getting started.

The product you should have recorded at this point is what is often referred to as a demo, and while it’s very important, it may never see the light of day.

Your rough draft, or demo, should be a complete work, with music and lyrics (if you are including lyrics) at a point where you are, for the most part, happy with them.

You ought to feel very proud of having reached this milestone, and there are some occasions where the demo is barely changed before being released to the public, but if you’re a new musician just getting started, this probably won’t be your best plan of action.

6. Give the Song Some Breathing Room

Okay, so you have your demo that took you somewhere between an hour and a month to complete…now what? It’s not wise to jump right back in and continue working on the track, at least not for most artists, as some time apart from your project can actually be a good thing.

Put your newly crafted song away and either work on other tracks or do something completely different. 

Don’t forget about it, but leave it alone. You may feel it’s absolutely perfect after all your effort, but it will be interesting to see what some time apart could do to this feeling.

7. Come Back and Get to Work

There is no set period of time you should leave your new work alone for, but you do need to separate yourself from the tune you’ve crafted.

After somewhere between a few days and several weeks, return to the cut. Listen to it several times and think about it critically. Is this as good as you remember?

Are you conveying a feeling, answering a question, or properly encapsulating a mood or moment? Try your best to think, not as the person who poured so much time and effort into the composition, but as someone who is hearing it for the first time.

You may find you still love much about the song, in which case, you’ve really created something special. Maybe there are a few tweaks to be addressed, but for the most part, it’s what you want your art to sound like, and if so, that’s wonderful!

Many times, however, this will not be the case. You will find the song isn’t as fantastic as you remember it being at the end of your initial session.

Don’t be discouraged! It may be a bit disappointing, but this is how the process goes, and most well-known acts go through this time and time again.

Start jotting down what feels right and what doesn’t, and then you’ll have an idea of what you need to fix moving forward.

8. Come Up With a Second Draft

Jump right back into the editing and creating process, which you’re very familiar with by now. You may find you only want to edit the chorus or the verses or perhaps alter the music slightly, or maybe you have decided that while there are some lines or notes you love, this really isn’t very good at all.

Either way, you need to get to work on creating a second draft, or another demo. 

Follow the same steps mentioned above (in whatever order works best for you, which should become clearer and clearer as time progresses) and come up with another, perhaps very similar, song.

9. Recognize When You’re Done

At some point, you have to stop tinkering with and altering your song and decide it’s done.

You may find while you want to get to this point, it’s very hard to decide when it’s complete and perfect, or at least as perfect as it can be. There are always things you can do to improve a track, but if all you do is mess with the composition, the world will never hear it.

10. Record Your Song

Eventually, you’ll feel you’ve done everything you can to make the song a smash and you’ll go into a studio and record it, hire people to mix and master the cut, and share it with your audience.

Hopefully, they will agree the tune is stellar, and in no time, you’ll find yourself back at it, doing everything stated above once more.

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