So you’ve gotten your first guitar, learned the basic notes and chords, and mastered a few songs. What’s next?
How about writing a song of your own?
Writing a song on your own might seem intimidating, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. Your first song doesn’t have to be perfect – it doesn’t have to have GRAMMY-winning production or lyrics that will echo through generations. It just has to be yours. A song can be about anything or anyone, and songwriting is a great way to express yourself.
Here are some tips to get started on your own songwriting journey:
Pick simple chords
Lots of the biggest songs only use three chords! If you know just a handful of chords, you can arrange them in a progression that sounds good to you and create a melody over them. Try using a capo to easily transpose your chords to a higher key if it better fits your voice or the melody you’re creating.
Choose a subject for your song
What do you want your song to be about? What mood should it encapsulate – joyful? Angry? Bitter? Hopeful? How do you want your song to make listeners feel?
Write a list of visual imagery and ideas that fit the theme of the song. It can be helpful to start with a title and work from there, even if the title changes by the time the song is finished.
Write from your experience – or someone else’s
No one knows your life better than you, and songs written from personal experience tend to be particularly genuine. However, you don’t need to limit yourself to your own memories – what would a song sound like from the perspective of your best friend? Your second grade teacher? Your mailman? You can write from the perspective of a fictional character, or two different people – there are no rules!
Choose a song structure
The most common song structure is verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus. For a beginner, it can be helpful to use this structure as an outline when composing your song, but you can use any structure you like – or no structure at all. Try listening to a few of your favorite songs and figure out what the song structure is for inspiration.
Your verses and choruses don’t need to rhyme, but there’s a reason that so many of the most beloved songs throughout history do – and why writers from Shakespeare to Dr. Seuss used it in their work. Rhymes are helpful when it comes to remembering phrases – probably why you know. The human brain is also wired to recognize patterns, and hearing patterns in the form of rhyme in a song satisfies that urge. Don’t feel like you need to rhyme at all times though. You can use slant rhyme or “near rhyme” – words that sound similar but don’t time, like “rhyme” and “fine”.
You can also use internal rhyme, where words within the same phrase rhyme (or near rhyme). Take these lyrics from Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” as example:
“A singer in a smoky room, the smell of wine and cheap perfume
Working hard to get my fill, everybody wants a thrill
Some will win, some will lose, some were born to sing the blues”.
Record your song
Once you have your song written, record it! All you need for a rough recording is the voice recorder on your cell phone. Experiment recording yourself singing and playing from different angles until you have a sound that’s okay. When you’re ready to graduate to a more professional at-home recording experience, check out this course to learn how to set up your home studio.