Well, this is not an article to discuss about how the song “My Way” was written. I’ll talk about how to write songs in a way that maybe new to you because this is not how songwriting pros normally compose their songs. It is my way of composing songs that maybe useful to all aspiring song writers who didn’t have formal educational background in music but with a knack for it.
Writing a song is like writing a story. It has to have something in the lyrics that can make the listener relate to the story it tells and get your message across and make sure your listeners stay involved from beginning to end. An important attributes of a song is a good melody for it is the singable part of the song, then the message it tells, and the emotion too. Like what I have already said, my approach to writing songs is not the popular, common or traditional approach being use by many songwriting pros but it works. Maybe you can also try this approach if you are planning to write songs whether you want to compose to record them yourself as an artist or just for your limited community like a church.
For those who are just planning to write songs and are still looking for ways that will effectively work with them, these are the non-traditional steps I used to compose songs which might help you too.
1. I create the melody by humming. Some songwriters starts with the title, some with the lyrics but for me it’s easier to think of the title and the lyrics when I already have the melody. The funny thing is, I’m a song writer without a skill in any musical instrument so how did I create the melody of my songs? I create the melody by humming. Well, normally the melody comes to me most of the time in the silence of the night so each time a melody pops up in my mind I hum it and record it immediately before I lose the momentum. This may not be your case but if you have the desire to compose a song for recording, for the church or for your loved ones and you’re having difficulty in the melody structuring when using your musical instrument, then this approach may help you. Or you maybe like me who doesn’t know how to play any musical instrument but wanted to write a song, then don’t let that be a hindrance, you can hum a melody and record it. After you have recorded the melody listen to it repeatedly and if there are parts that need some revision and polishing, you can try humming another melody in harmony with the other part of the song for its overall knock, then record it again. Just use your active listening skills to identify the key characteristics of the tune you have created. Chorus melodies are usually in a higher note range than verses. When we get emotional our voices tend to rise. The chorus is the more emotional part of your song so it’s higher, while verses add information about the situation.
2. Consider the purpose of the song. Now that you have the melody, before you start writing its lyrics you have to consider what is the purpose of the song, what do you think your listeners might want to know. Are you composing a song for the church? Is it for the purpose of worship? If it’s a worship song you can think of God’s attributes, His awesome nature and grandeur and write down all adjectives that describes God and start from there. It maybe a song of gratitude to God for what He has done and for who He is. It maybe a song to express trust in God despite what you’re going through. If your song is purposely for your loved one, think of all the good things that your relationship has brought to your life and write every description you can jot down. Most important is how you can apply all the emotions you have experienced.
3. Make the title. You can have a title with phrase of one to six words that sums up the heart of your song’s message. It maybe one of the song lines where it tells the summary of the whole song. You can also use names as a title. Let’s say it’s a Christian song and the song is about the Savior, you can use Jesus’ name. If it’s a love song, you can put your loved one’s name in the title or how you call her with endearment. If it’s a song telling a story relevant to these days events, use the most important keyword in your song story.
4. Choose a song structure. Most song’s structure is: Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus. Many recent hits add a short section called a “pre-chorus” or “bridge” between the verse and chorus to build anticipation. In writing lyrics for the bridge just use two or three lyric lines that give the listener the best insight you can, or sum up what you hope will be the outcome. If it’s seems complicated to you to begin with, you can simply choose the popular structure which is just the verse and the chorus as a start but if you prefer to write more in depth composition you can also add the pre-chorus or bridge.
5. Write the lyrics. Based on your purpose and title you can now write your lyrics. From there, begin to build the phrases and sentences but be sure that it fits the melody. You can formulate questions that you can answer by the lyrics lines in your verses and highlight the songs message and purpose in your chorus lyrics. Try two or three lyric lines that give the listener the best insight you can, or sum up what you hope will be the outcome. Rhyme is also important in writing lyrics. Also, make sure to count out the syllables of each line. In general, you have to put the lines to remain similar in terms of syllables and a rhythmic parallelism in the lines. You may drop or add words or find synonyms for overused words. And lastly, remember that writing a song is like writing a story, it has to to tell something, it has to be with direction and conclusion.
6. Record your song. A guitar or keyboard and a vocal will be needed to record the emotional statement of your song. Practice both the instrumental and vocal parts until you are comfortable with every chord, every note, every word. One thing you have to make sure in this stage of writing song is how you can express the emotion in the song. Try singing it as if you are speaking it to someone. As for me, I normally record my compositions singing it in acapella and have it heard by the Music Team in our church, then the instrument players find the appropriate chords to fit the melody, afterwards the singers practice the song repeatedly until we are all familiarized with the melody and lyrics. And finally, it’s ready to be introduced and to be sang in our congregation.
So far, using these methods, I’ve already composed six songs; our church anniversary song which we sing every anniversary celebration, two offering songs, and three worship songs. A local Christian singer/recording artist once offered and showed interest to have my songs to be included in her planned recording album, maybe it will be heard on local radio stations in the future, if they will push through on the proposal and if the negotiation will be materialized.
I hope my humble unconventional method and experience can be an inspiration and encouragement to you who wanted to be a songwriter but are discourage due to your inability in some areas. Don’t stop pushing through your desire and dream to be a song writer no matter what the hindrance. If you think you have the knack to compose songs believe it and act on it. Let yourself create music. Music is soothing to the soul especially the good ones with good, in-depth, meaningful lyrics. It has therapeutic properties that can bring healing. Music is a gift from God, so have the guts to be an instrument to contribute to the music world and share that God-given gift to others.