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How does someone write a long song? It sounds like a silly question, but…how does one actually do it?

Is it just a complete free-for-all, with feelings and rhyming words and chords being thrown around randomly until something seems to stick, or is there more to it? Is there a process any Songwriter and musician can follow from start to finish to compose a track that will inspire feelings of love, devotion, or potentially heartbreak in others?

Yes and no. There are things everyone must do when they are writing a love song, but they don’t need to all be done in the correct order every single time, as penning a love song is not like assembling a new piece of furniture from Ikea (though it can be just as frustrating to some!)

I shared advice below about what must be done in order to compose a love song that matters and will genuinely affect people. If you’re just getting started, you can follow these steps as I have listed them, but feel free to alter the order and move them around as you see fit.

Here’s how to write a love song:

  • Live life and fall in love!
  • Jot down ideas everywhere
  • Find one idea and expand on it
  • Finish your first draft
  • Put it to music
  • Edit it all (and repeat)
  • Share it

Live Life and Fall in Love!

Okay, this one may seem a bit too obvious to include, but it has to be first! You can’t write a great love song without knowing what love is! Sure, anyone can string words together and set them to tunes, but the best tracks ever been recorded on this subject — and there are a lot of them — have been penned by those who are deeply in love, heartbroken, or somewhere in the middle.

Love songs are, essentially, all about extremes, and you need to live life in order to be able to speak about the subject in a piece of music that won’t just be catchy, but will strike people and resonate with them, staying in their minds and hearts for a long time after they first hear it.

Jot Down Ideas Everywhere

As a Songwriter, this is a practice you should already be used to, but I want to encourage you to do it even more. You simply can’t have enough bits and pieces from which to draw inspiration, and this is especially true when it comes to songs about love.

You can keep notes however you like — in your phone or on paper — but please make sure you have a space where you can quickly write anything (and everything) down at a moment’s notice.

If we’re talking specifically about how to write a love song, you might want to think about keeping some sort of a journal or diary, as you won’t want to forget a moment of what’s happened. This is a nice idea simply to hold onto memories, but it’s especially great for songwriting, as you’ll be able to pull inspiration from every detail.

If you don’t write it down, you may forget the color of the dress your girlfriend was wearing during a special evening, or perhaps you may not remember one specific thing your boyfriend said.

I suggest you start carving out a little time at the end of every day to not only organize small phrases and words and melodies that have come to you throughout the day but to try to find a way to hold onto all those things that make your love special and worth writing about.

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Find One Idea and Expand on It

You will soon find you have dozens, potentially even hundreds of ideas to pull from when it’s time to start taking one small tidbit and turning it into a verse, a chorus, or maybe a full song. That’s great, and the more you have, the better, but at some point, you need to focus.

Maybe your song is about a date you had. It could be about the first time you laid eyes on your future girlfriend. Or, you may even want to pen a tune about when the man you loved said it was over and walked out. You could even attempt to write an entire song on just how great someone looks in one suit or dress. The options are limitless but it can also be tough to narrow things down and get to work.

Choose one thing (just one at first, you can always go back to other ideas you’ve saved later) and think long and hard about what else you can say on this topic. If it’s a track focused on your first date, don’t just write about the time you spent at a restaurant, for example, but go beyond this. How did she look? How did you feel? What did you think about after? How long did you wait until you texted the other person?

There’s so much you can say on any one topic if you expand upon one juicy idea, which is what every song should be based upon.

Finish Your First Draft

Sometimes writing the first draft of a song takes 10 minutes, while other times, it can take weeks. There is no set time you reach when you know you’re done, and it can be tough to know when the first draft of a tune is “complete,” which is also a relative term…but at some point, you need to decide it’s at a good stopping point and move on, if only for a while.

Feel free to put your pen down and start work on other projects when you feel your song has properly conveyed one thing. It may be an emotion, it may be a thought, or you may decide you’ve told the full story of a specific moment in time. You may also think your first draft of a song is ready to stand on its own when you have filled out the proper framework, meaning it has a certain number of choruses, verses, and so on.

Remember, the piece can still need polishing here, but it should be in a good place. Let’s put it this way: if you had to show this to someone, would you be happy about what you have so far, or would you be unhappy about your progress? If you have to answer the latter, your first draft isn’t really done.

Put It to Music

Some musicians actually take this step first, but since I am focusing this article on how to write a love song, I’m assuming most of the people reading are Songwriters, and thus it’s probably the words that come first, not the music. Once you have the verses and choruses you’re pretty happy with (again, you’ll be editing these later), start looking for the music these will be backed and enhanced by.

You might already have this music ready, but your tune isn’t necessarily all set. You may want to tweak your composition if you’ve already made it, or you may have to start from scratch. If you had an acoustic guitar piece ready, you may decide that now you have the lyrics in front of you, it would sound much better with strings as well, or perhaps a piano to accompany.

If you don’t have the music, you need to start creating! This could involve you picking up your instrument of choice, or maybe searching online for a Producer or a beat you can readily buy. Some songs will feel like they need to stray from your usual sound, while most will probably demand you keep to the style you’ve become known for, or the one you want to be known for, at least.

Edit It All (and Repeat)

Okay, so you have your lyrics and your music. Is that it? Well, close…but it’s not quite done. In fact, you may be approaching the end of your journey, but this last step may take quite a long time as well. This is when you rewrite, rephrase, tweak, and then do it all again over and over and over.

You may find some words simply don’t fit right, or an entire line no longer feels correct in the tune. You may change the point of view entirely, or find the song is becoming about something else.

It’s tough to know how far to go with rewrites, and some people get stuck in this phase for a long time. I can’t tell you when to start or stop or when it’s perfect, and this is when true artists are made. Only they know how to write a love song and actually stop when it’s perfect.

At a certain point, you simply have to move on and choose to be done with your latest work, and that’s all there is to it.

Share It

This may be the scariest step, but if you don’t let anyone hear your love songs, you’ll never grow as an artist. You need to put your heart and soul out into the world and hear from friends, family, fans, and perhaps even the person you wrote the cut about. What do they think? Is it striking a chord in the way you hoped it would?

You can opt to post your song to streaming platforms immediately and promote it, but I suggest you take what you think is a completed masterpiece (or at least a very good song you’re proud of) and let some people whose opinions are important — friends and family, but perhaps also other musicians and those in the industry — and see what they feel before you unleash it.

You may find they believe it’s something truly special, which may dictate how much money you put into promoting it, or, after hearing what they have to say, you may decide it’s not as finished as you once thought.

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