Constructing a song is much like building any other tangible structure. Say you want to build a boat. Maybe you don’t know anything about boats but we can still use this analogy! What do you absolutely NEED to have before beginning the project? Some of you probably said “A PLAN!” Yeah, ok, that’s true. But that’s not quite what we were going for.
We need a TOOL BOX! There are certain tools you need to have in order to complete the project. Same for writing a song. Way before sitting in front of a producer (or your voice teacher for that matter) and saying “I want to write a song” there are things you can do to get the brain juices flowing. Certain tools will help you get started.
Most likely, everyone carries a digital recorder around in their pocket via their Smart Phone. Back in the day it was a tape recorder. The tape recorder is a wonderful tool. When a wannabe singer first gets a recorder, they’ll often discover they’re doing nothing all day but singing and making up songs. Eventually, when you get a second tape recorder, you can start making up harmonies. It’s a somewhat complicated system of over dubbing the voice so we won’t get into that. Just know that the tape recorder can change your life. For songwriting purposes your digital recorder is a great way to document ideas when you may not have a notebook around.
Never go anywhere without a notebook. You’ll end up with stacks of them that accumulate over the years. Even in the digital age, you’ll find that you need to write it down on paper, scribble out the bad stuff and have it all in your hands. You should have your best songwriting buddy with you always, whether it be pen and paper or your cell phone.
Of course rhyming dictionaries are available online. You can use a physical rhyming dictionary as well as virtual rhyming tools. If you’re thinking “who needs a rhyming dictionary?” once you start using one you’ll discover very quickly that YOU do. It makes ideas flow much faster, easier and in new directions. When you know a word you need to rhyme with, say “book,” you’ll look in the rhyming dictionary for all the words that rhyme with “book,” write down any words that might be applicable in a list, then write a complete sentence that ends with each of those words. Now you’re thinking of things you never would have thought of. Instead of automatically going for the easy rhymes like “look” or “hook” now your seeing words like “forsook,” “mistook,” “overlook,” and “undertook.” Ah…then we get to the next tool.
Build your vocabulary. If you’re not a good reader, this may be difficult, but it’s important. Get your hands on a “building your vocabulary” book that contains a bunch of words and their meanings. Try to learn a new word every so often and then use that word in a song. Learning new words is not as hard as you may think, so keep adding to your vocabulary.
You don’t have to have a PhD in Music Theory to know how to write a pop song. The more you know, however, the better. Every songwriter should have some grasp of the modern musical scale structure. Every song has a tonal center and each note in the scale is related to that tonal center. What the…? What you need to be able to do is notate your melody somehow.
What if the melody comes to your mind and you have no digital recorder with you but you have your notebook? If you have some way of writing down your melody, you’ll remember it when you come back to it later. There are 3 ways you can notate your melody. Numbers, the tonal center being “1”. Solfege, “Do, Re, Mi”, the tonal center being “Do”. Note names, such as A, B, C, etc. With this one you’ll need a bit more music theory knowledge because you’ll actually need to know what key you’re in. If I’m in the key of C then “C” is my tonal center. Even though you may know music theory, you can still use the numbering system. It’s very easy and can certainly help aspiring writers remember a good tune when it comes to your mind.
Garage Band or some other free “entry level” recording software will get you started. This type of software usually comes with some drum loops, samples and other stuff. Enough to be dangerous. Even if what comes out isn’t hit song material, get in there and get to know how it all comes together. But if it is a hit song, it may be time to submit it to a record label like Toned Records, a company that can help distribute it to the masses.
These are very simple songwriting ideas, but they can help you can begin the creative process!