Songwriting 101: 4 Essential Elements Of Songwriting

Songwriting

Introduction

Songs can be elusive when you’re trying to write one. However, if you’re like me, you probably come up with ideas all the time in the car or shower or while you’re sitting down for dinner at a restaurant. To capture the fickle song idea at her best, a good thing to do is record a quick sample on your phone or device using the voice recorder app or whatever recording program you use. Always write down the line that you come up immediately so you don’t forget. Once you have come up with this part of the composition, use it as foundation to build upon. There are several elements of songwriting, but in this post, I will focus on the following:

  1. Coming Up With Lyrics
  2. Song Structure
  3. Choosing Ensembles
  4. Arrangement

Use the flow chart below to get a quick overview.

rollzanddiceflowchart

1. Coming Up With Lyrics

If you have already written down or recorded your inspired idea that you thought of while sitting down for dinner at Olive Garden, then you find yourself here. You have an idea. A chorus line. A word? Or maybe you have nothing but a blank piece of paper. Either way,  you can come up with the rest of the song by thinking about the following:

  • Are you telling a story?
  • Are you expressing yourself?

I’m Telling A Story

If it helps, separate your writing into events. Here is one way to think of possible song sections while presenting a story:

  1. Verse: This happens.
  2. Pre-Chorus: Causing this to happen.
  3. Chorus: As a result, this happens.
  4. Bridge: However, this happens.

Example: Rollz McGuyver found an unscratched lottery ticket CAUSING him to drive to the store to see if he won. AS A RESULT, he won $10. HOWEVER, when he got back to his car, he had a parking ticket for $10.

Obviously, you want to expand on the story and phrase the words to the rhythm and melody of your song, but having a general idea helps. You can adjust the formula any way to make it work for a song. Maybe one verse contains it all or maybe half is in the verses and half in the bridge. Whatever combination works for the song is best.

I’m Expressing Myself

If you are expressing yourself, you can ask the following questions and answer them in the form of verse, chorus, pre-chorus, and bridge. Here’s how:

  • Verse – How are you feeling? How are you handling it?
    • “I am so excited…”
  • Pre-Chorus – What do you need?
    • “I just need…”
  • Chorus – What’s going on? How are you going to respond?
    • “It’s time for me to…”
  • Bridge – What have you learned and taken from the experience as a result?
    • “Now I see…”

If you want get tricky and combine the two, tell a story by presenting emotions or perspectives of characters within the story. Mix and match perspectives and use metaphors.

It’s good to write 12-16 bars of verse, 4 bars of chorus, and 4 of bridge. You can break it up later into verse 1, verse 2, verse 3, etc… Check out the Songwriting Template PDF, print a copy, and see if it works for you!

Click here to join our email list and we’ll send you the Songwriting Template which includes guides for lyric writing and song arranging!

2. Song Structure

The structure of the song can vary depending on many things: chord flow, story line, instruments, etc… but you can put together the story any way it works. Think of how each part is supposed to flow togeth er using the examples below as a guide.

Song Structure

3. Choosing Ensembles

The same goes for choosing ensembles and instrumentation. Just pick what works best for the song. Look at the screenshot below to see some example ensembles.

Choosing Ensembles and Instrumentation

4. Arrangement

A song isn’t only structured, but is also arranged. What this means is while the first verse of a song might consist of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals; the second verse might only consist of acoustic guitar and vocals. This can change from section to section.

Referring to the Song Structure and Ensemble examples from the screenshots above, arrange your song as follows: Say we want to use Example Structure 2 in combination with Ensemble Example 1, your song could look like this:

  • ChorusRhythm: Drums, Bass, Guitar, Synth | Lead: Vocals
  • VerseRhythm: Drums, Bass | Lead: Vocals
  • Pre ChorusRhythm: Drums, Bass, Guitar | Lead: Lead Synth
  • Verse 2Rhythm: Drums, Guitar | Lead: Vocals
  • BridgeRhythm: Drums, Bass, Guitar, Synth | Lead: Lead Guitar
  • ChorusRhythm: Drums, Bass, Guitar, Synth | Lead: Vocals
  • OutroRhythm: Guitar | Lead: Vocals

It’s all up to you! Take a look at the Songwriting Template as a guide to help you set up your own arrangement!

Click here to join our email list and we’ll send you the Songwriting Template which includes guides for lyric writing and song arranging!

 

Conclusion 

These tools are useful if you are just learning or if you are in a writers block. Sometimes, totally ditching structure all together works too, but sticking to the elements of songwriting mentioned here can be a great way to get it done! Try some of the techniques mentioned in this post and see if they work for you! What are some techniques you use to help your songwriting process? Let us know by commenting below!

Want more on songwriting? Listen to Rollz and Dice talk about songwriting in podcast episode 010 R&D – Songwriting.

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