Songwriting: One Musician’s Recipe for Success


by Brooke Layman


So you want to write a song?

Welcome to the wonderful world of songwriting. Now where do you begin? It may seem simple on paper but it’s not necessarily the easiest feat ever attempted. If you are struggling to find the right steps, I have compiled a list of 4 ingredients that have helped me to write some incredible music throughout the years. Not every songwriter may agree, but perhaps these notes will help guide you along the way.

1. Inspiration

If you are like most human beings your brain flips from subject to subject throughout the day. Sometimes you find yourself wondering about random facts like where does laundry detergent come from or how do they make those tiny screws that hold your glasses together. Sometimes you find yourself remembering an exotic getaway you took years ago and wishing you were there instead of wherever it is you are right now. If this sounds like you then you have already found the inspiration for your next song.

Not every song has to be profound and not every lyric has to rhyme. Inspiration can come from so many different directions but if you start within yourself you won’t run out of ideas. I remember the first song I wrote was about different flavors of ice cream. Granted I was only 13 at the time, at least it was a full song with verses and a chorus, and to this day old friends of mine still ask me to play it. The point is, a song was created, someone listened to it and they remembered it. That really is what songwriting is all about, isn’t it?

2. Determination

Once you have your inspiration things might get a little more complicated. Now you have to figure out what the song is going to sound like. Is it a slow song? Is it melodic? Does it need rhythm or heavy beats? Will it charge forward like a waltz or seduce like a tango? My suggestion is to try a few different formats before you even begin writing your song. Think about the message or theme, the thesis statement if you will, and consider how it would come to you if it were made out of music.

Now pull out your recording equipment. Start fast and power through your first draft. Record yourself and play it back. Keep the parts that stick and discard those that feel unimportant or unsure of themselves. Write everything down. And voila, you have written a song!

3. Perspiration

A song is like a seed being planted in the spring. You have to nourish it. You can’t expect it to be a full grown prize winning rose bush as soon as you have sewn it. Play your song daily and nurture it. You will find that things will change. The original chorus may eventually become the bridge and you may change the style or rhythm of the melody as the song progresses. All of these things are important and are a part of the songwriting process.

Once you think you’ve got everything the way you want it, you may decide to perform your song in front of others. Expect criticism. Everyone has an opinion and as soon as you explain that this is a new song others will want to have their part of the songwriting process and will not hesitate to throw around their two cents. Take comments in stride but consider them. You never know what ideas might take hold and help you to construct your final piece of work.

4. Addiction

When all is said and done, your song will always be your song. You will take pride in the final project and you will be proud to showcase it to the world (or at least your friends and family). If you haven’t been through this process yet, be prepared to feel ultimate satisfaction. I will warn you though; as soon as you are done you will want to start all over again. Songwriting is an addiction but worth every crumpled up piece of notebook paper and broken in half pencil that comes with it.

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