Song Writing: How to be a songwriter!

song writing

Song Writing

One who writes the song is the songwriter. Simple, isn’t it? well, not so fast. You see, a song has two parts: the words and the melody. So, who’s the writer? the one who writes the words? or the one who composes the melody? In the western world, they have solved the problem by lumping both parts together and calling the person(s) who writes the words and one who writes the melody together as songwriter(s) and the entire process is called song writing. For a given song, both can the be done by one person or more people collaborating together, and everyone is credited as a songwriter.

In the Indian context, mostly due to film songs, there are two separate roles: one who writes the words is called a lyricist and the one who composes the tune is credited as a composer/music director.

In this blog, we will focus on the wordsmiths, not the melody masters.

What is song writing?

First off, a song is not a poem. Generally, poems have more flexibility in terms of content and how the content is presented. A poem can explore more abstract ideas, use complex words. use freer structures in terms of phrases etc. This is because a poem is usually read; the reader has more time to absorb the meaning; they can go back and forth to understand something more complex. Poems are also visual in the sense one can look at a whole paragraph together and get a sense of what it is trying to convey.

A song is different in many ways. The words have to be simpler (remember some has to sing them). It has to fall withing some sort of rhythmic structure – rhyming words and phrases is a common device used to ensure this. The words in a song come streaming to the listener, one after the other. The listener has to remember what was said before to understand what is being said next. Something simple is easier to remember than something more complex. For all these, and more, reasons songwriting is actually much more difficult than writing poems.

With that, let’s jump in.

What to Say in song writing:

As they say, content is king! But seriously, this is really the most important part of songwriting, knowing what to say. You’re not going to write a good song if you have no idea what it is going to be about, isn’t it?

Having said that, there are ways to generate ideas. For example, you can imagine a specific situation you want to describe; you could write about a person; you could write about a moving incident. Sometimes, you can even start with a great line that you came up with and try to build that into a story. A song also evolves on its own sometimes. You might have started out with some idea and while expressing the idea you found another idea that sounded more promising. Bottom line, ideas are important: the more song ideas you can generate, the better your chances of coming up with set of words that perfectly captures the idea. One idea, expressed well, can be the foundation of a great song!

How to say it:

This is the crux of the matter. Even a common idea – such as falling in love with someone – can be transformed into a lovely song when a good writer gets to work. Imagination is critical: what are the specific things you are going to describe. For example, take a love song: what kind of love is it? Where did it happen? Was it love at first sight, or slowly growing love? What does the future look like? The more you think about the specifics, the more it is likely to be realistic and appeal to people.

The other part is how to make it sound interesting? In song writing, having a good vocabulary is immensely helpful here. Try saying the same thing with different words, different phrases. Sometimes, a common word used in an unusual way can catch the attention. Sometimes, an unusual word will be the key. Playing with words will lead to interesting ways of saying something. It is said that one famous songwriter used to just throw interesting words together and tried different permutations and combinations to see if anything meaningful and interesting emerged out of it.

More to come. Please revisit to check for updates.

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1 Response

  1. Beautiful writeup. This article will certainly help wannabe song writers.

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