How to write a song?
This section (about ten printed pages) is dedicated to writing a song. This approach has no pretensions: it just allows you to put forward some ideas and advice that will help you (perhaps not all) in the composition of your works. There are many opportunities or reasons that can explain why you want to write a song.
A song consists of a text and music (melody + harmony) in a structured whole. This study will cover several aspects:
- The elements of a song and their sequence
- Write the text (choice of words, rhymes…)
- Writing music (melody, harmony and rhythm)
This approach will answer (or at least partially answer) the following questions:
How is a song composed and structured?
what are the different parties and how are they related?
How are they organized over time?
What are the recommendations for writing a text?
Are there any words to avoid or to prefer?
Do we have to write the text or the music first?
Where and how to find inspiration?
How important are rhymes?
How to compose? How to start a composition? With which agreements and how to link them? Are there any typical chord progressions? How can one modulate from one range to another?….
Before I started, I found this interview with Jean-Jacques Goldman participating in the “Fréquenstar” show hosted by Laurent Boyer. It was just after the release of his latest album, “Songs for Feet”. These little confidences illustrate the above. Once again, there is no miracle recipe, just a few lines of work.
A song can be composed of several groups which are as follows:
The “intro” announces and precedes the song. It allows to place it in its context (choice of sounds, general atmosphere…) but must remain short. However, it must be successful and considered with great interest. Indeed, a bad intro can already bore the listener before the song even begins.
There are, of course, some several in a song and represents a sung part. They can represent an evolution in the song while by definition the chorus remains the same.
As its name suggests, it is a sung part that remains unchanged and is repeated throughout the song.
Musical part interspersed between the verses and the chorus. It can also bring something new such as an evolution (change of tempo or rhythm for example), a harmonic modulation (to have a verse sung in a higher key just after…)….
The instrumental solo
The solo is the expression of a very particular instrument (guitar, sax solo…) with a rhythmic base (drums / bass)
To simplify, we will assign a letter to each of these parts: for example the letter A for the verse, the letter B for the bridge, the letter C for the chorus…. With these letters, we will describe in 3 or 4 letters the structure of the song or a passage. For example, we often find the AABA form which can be represented by 32 bars, i.e. 8 bars repeated 4 times (2 times 8 bars for the theme, 1 bridge of 8 bars followed by the repetition of the theme on 8 bars).
The chorus can be summed up as a sentence repeated x times….. Finally, Les chansons sans refrain also exists.
Write the text or music?
To this question, there will never be a precise answer! We can build a melody from a text (a poem for example) or the other way around, i.e. write a music, a theme, a melody and find the words that fit. Most often, words and music are written at the same time and the melody sticks to the words and vice versa.
The following paragraphs will give you some advice on how to write the text and music.
Write the text
Here are some ideas to help you write a song lyrics:
It is better to define and know what you are going to talk about, the main idea of your message. Otherwise your song may be a little laborious to write…. It is better to choose a theme that many people know: this is surely the reason why the theme of love is most often used.
Inspiration is a phenomenon that cannot be controlled. It is obvious that the more you are aware of the subject you are dealing with, the greater your inspiration will be. However, don’t try to build your verses and chorus right away. This is all the more true as the music will evolve and so will the text. The main thing is to find the right words and for that, nothing beats a good “brain storming”, i.e. writing in a jumble mixes all the words and ideas that come to your mind on a sheet of paper. Then it will be necessary to organize, sort and arrange them.
Positioning yourself in front of a blank sheet of paper is certainly too difficult an approach. Instead, think about watching reports, analyzing the people around you, listening to them… A landscape, a character, a TV show: everything can be at the origin of a song (for example, the song “Juste Après” by JJ Goldman was written after a report on Africa was broadcast on TV…). As such, the same is true for comedians who take inspiration from everyday life to write their sketches. In short, a song is either a reflection of a situation, an attitude, a criticism…..
Always remember to have a notebook with you where you can write down any ideas that come to mind. Do not hesitate to describe it as much as possible (details, allusion, landmarks…).
How can we help each other?
To help you write a text, you can use one of the techniques listed below:
Sing or write anything. Don’t be afraid of ridicule! Even if it doesn’t make sense, at least you are making progress in your research and in the few sentences you will enunciate, some of them will have something interesting to keep (in their structures, vocabularies…). Do not complicate the turn of your text: try instead to make simple sentences because in variety, the goal is to understand and remember the text easily: this will be all the easier with simple turns of phrase.
Take a song you know well and write a very different text on this melody. The advantage of this solution is that it offers you a structure already well in place with a melody. Music will also help you find your words. Then you will have to build a new melody.
Rhyme is an important element in a song: it will help those who listen to it to remember it better. It is also one of the poetic aspects of a song lyrics. It is not mandatory and it is not necessarily “strict” in the poetic sense of the word either – they are oral and unwritten rhymes. The important thing is to hear the same sound, the “musicality” of words.