This is article is based on my new book How to Write a Song (Even If You’ve Never Written One Before and You Think You Suck). You can also download a printable PDF summary of the article when you join The Song Foundry Community.

 

How do you write a song? It’s a good question.

And like a lot of good questions, there isn’t a single, simple answer. In fact there’s a pretty much infinite number of great ways to write a song.

Still, in this article I’m going to focus on one powerful and reliable way to write a song – and one that you can use even if you’re completely new to songwriting.

In fact, the ten-step process in this article is based on the process in my book How to Write a Song (Even If You’ve Never Written One Before and You Think You Suck). It’s a simple and reliable process that will help you write a song in virtually any genre time after time, whatever level of experience you’re at.

And best of all, all you need to continue is some basic experience on an instrument like piano or guitar, or with a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) like GarageBand, Ableton or Logic.

Oh, and if the title got were wondering – no, you don’t suck. Even if this is your first song. See, songwriting is hard. It takes time to get good. But the only way to get better is to write – to get plenty of practice.

So if in doubt, just remember that in songwriting – or any kind of writing – to suck less, write more. That’s the only way to improve.

That said, let’s dive in. Here’s How to Write a Song (Even If You’ve Never Written One Before and You Think You Suck).

 

How to Write a Song (Even If You've Never Written One Before and You Think You Suck)


Contents | How to Write a Song

Part 1: Find a Great Song Idea

Part 2: Choose a Lyrical Hook (Title)

Part 3: Write the Chorus Lyric

Part 4: Write the Chorus Chord Progression, Melody and Groove

Part 5: Write the Verse Chords and Groove

Part 6: Create a Verse Masterplan and Write the First Verse Lyric

Part 7: Write the Verse Melody and Create a Verse Build

Part 8: Write the Second Verse Lyric

Part 9: Add a Bridge

Part 10: Add an Intro and Outro

Outro: Congrats and What’s Next

 

Part 1: Find a Great Song Idea | How to Write a Song

When it comes to figuring out how to write a song, there’s one question that comes up over and over again – should you write the music or the lyrics first? And the answer is that nine times out of ten, the best place to start is with an idea. That way, whether you start working on the music or the lyrics first, you help make sure that every part of your song fits together as one piece.

So how do you do that? What makes a song idea great?

The first thing to remember is that songs tell stories. The best songs are about people, they’re about situations, and they’re about what people say to other people because of the situation they’re in.

In a song, those stories are usually ultra-simple – two people in love, two people breaking up, somebody warning someone about someone else. But the power of thinking about songs this way is that it gives you a concrete concept to build the rest of your song around.

To come up with a solid song idea, you’re going to want to answer these three fundamental questions:

  1. Who is singing the song?
  2. Who are they singing to?
  3. What are they trying to say?

So to find a good song idea, all you have to do is come up with a situation or story and use it to answer these three questions. That’s not as complicated as it sounds – your song might be a love song, sung from a guy to his girlfriend, and he’s trying to say ‘I’ve never met anyone as special as you’. Or your song might be sung by you to the world saying ‘war is bad, you guys’.

In fact, these are the two common song formats I recommend you stick with if you’re new to songwriting:

  1. A song sung from one person to another (a ‘direct address’ song), and
  2. A song sung from one person to anyone who’ll listen (a ‘to the world’ song).

These aren’t the only song formats, but they’re common, effective and beginner-friendly ones. So if in doubt, they’re always good to rely on.

So take some time to come up with a few different ideas you like – I recommend brainstorming at least five or six then picking out your favorite. You don’t want to rush this stage, because everything else you do in this process will come from your song’s big idea. You can write about anything you like, but if you’re totally stuck for good song ideas I have a handy list of 107 song ideas on the site you can use for inspiration.

Once you’ve settled on your song idea, make sure you write it down somewhere. On a notepad is good. In a note in your phone is also good. On a big piece of paper to put in front of you for the other nine steps is great.

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Part 2: Choose a Lyrical Hook (Title) | How to Write a Song

Next in your journey through time, space and how to write a song, you’re going to decide on your song’s lyrical hook.

In songwriting, the word ‘hook’ can describe pretty much any catchy or memorable part of a song. But a lyrical hook is something specific – a word or phrase that neatly captures what your song is about, and a word or phrase you’re going to use really prominent in your song’s chorus.

Your song’s lyrical hook is usually also its title – you’ve probably noticed how most songs repeat their title in their lyric a lot – but sometimes a song has a title that’s different from its lyrical hook, so we’ll use the phrase ‘lyrical hook’ here to be clear.

To come up with a good lyrical hook, you basically want to brainstorm a few words and/or phrases that encapsulates what your song says, from the perspective of the person singing it.

That last part is really important. There aren’t many love songs that say ‘Imagine being overwhelmed with amorous desire’, because nobody speaks like that. Instead, a good lyrical hook for a love song might be ‘I like the way you dance’ or ‘Your pretty eyes’ or ‘Damn, girl’ – because they’re all natural, human ways you might express or circle round the idea ‘I love you’.

As a general rule, a lyrical hook can be anything from a single word to a full sentence of maybe seven or eight words. And like with your song idea, it’s worth brainstorming a few different lyrical hook ideas because sometimes it takes four or five tries before you start coming up with your best ones.

So go ahead. Get thinking. Trying and get yourself inside the mind of the person singing your song, and figure out how they might express what your song is about.

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Part 3: Write the Chorus Lyric | How to Write a Song

Now that you’ve got a song idea and a lyrical hook, you can start work on your song’s lyric.

Again, there’s no law that says that when you try to write a song you have to start with your lyric, but that’s where we’re going to start in this process. (And if you were wondering, this how to write a song process is based around writing a verse-chorus structure – because that’s the most common and versatile song structure.)

Chorus lyrics come in different sizes, but for simplicity’s sake, I recommend you stick with the most common length – eight lines.

Next, your job is to write a chorus that does at least these three things:

  1. States the central idea of your song really directly
  2. Includes the lyrical hook in a prominent way
  3. Incorporates your lyrical hook in a way that feels natural, not forced

In other words, in your chorus lyric you want to try to state your song’s main idea as directly as you can, while you make sure you repeat your lyrical hook a handful of times. (A lot of chorus lyrics basically just repeat the song’s main message over and over, only in different ways, using the lyrical hook somehow.)

To start, I recommend you try placing your lyrical hook – pencilling it in – in at least two spots in your chorus lyric. There are lots of ways to do this, but here are three of the best spots for planting your lyrical hook:

  • Lines 1 and 5
  • Lines 4 and 8
  • Lines 1, 3 and 7 (1, 3 and 8 can work well also)

If your lyrical hook is a complete sentence or phrase – like ‘I like the way you dance’ – then that’ll fill the whole line. And if your hook is something shorter – like ‘Damn, girl’ – then you’ll probably need to fit it into a longer line that makes that word or short phrase make sense. So you might write a line like ‘You got me saying “Damn, girl”‘ or ‘Damn, girl, you really stole my heart’.

Then, from there you’re going to want to build a complete lyric around those lyrical hook repetitions you pencilled in. This, honestly, is a trial-and-error process. There’s no quick fix for it – only trying out a ton of different things that either extend the hook word or phrase or lead into it in a natural way.

At the same time, if you want to include some rhymes in your chorus – and it’s usually a good idea to do that – I recommend you stick to a really simple rhyme scheme. One of the simplest and best is a rhyme scheme notated as XAXAXBXB – where the ‘X’ lines don’t rhyme with anything and the ‘A’ and ‘B’ lines rhyme with each other. So the final words of lines 2 and 4 will rhyme, and the final words of lines 6 and 8 will rhyme, but with a different rhyme sound to the one you used in lines 2 and 4.

And when you’re done, you should end up with something like this Whitney Houston knockoff lyric from the book version of How to Write a Song (Even If You’ve Never Written One Before and You Think You Suck):

I wanna dance with somebody
’Cos dancing’s what I love to do.
I wanna dance with somebody,
I wanna dance the whole night through.
This week had me feeling down
But now I’m feeling fine.
Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody
’Cos it’s my time to shine.

As you’ll see, this version uses an XAXAXBXB rhyme scheme and places the lyrical hook – ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ – in lines 1, 3 and 7. (I also added a sneaky ‘Yeah’ in line 7 to keep things fresh.)

Don’t spend forever agonizing over the perfect chorus lyric – simple words and phrases work great. And if this is your first time trying to write a song, don’t worry if your first draft or two sounds awkward or weird, that’s normal. (There’s a reason this article is called How to Write a Song (Even If You’ve Never Written One Before and You Think You Suck) and not How to Write a Grammy Award-Winning Song on Your First Attempt Because That Definitely Sounds Like a Thing That’s a Realistic and Achievable Goal).

So try and come up with a lyric that works – that’s all it need to do for now. Then, when you’re ready to move on to the next part of how to write a song, let’s keep moving.

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Part 4: Find the Verse Groove and Chords | How to Write a Song

Now you’ve got your chorus’s lyric, it’s time to give it some music. There are three main parts to this step, and we’re going to tackle them in this order: writing your chorus chord progression, writing your chorus melody (or topline), and writing your chorus groove or accompaniment.

So let’s dive in.

Write Your Chorus Chord Progression

Your chorus’s chord progression – or harmonies – are the foundation of its music. So if in doubt, that’s often a good place to start writing.

Harmony in songwriting is a whole subject in itself, but truth be told, simple chord progressions are really common in songwriting and usually work great. So you don’t need to be a music theory expert to choose a good progression.

In fact, one of the best ways to come up with some chords for your song is to write a four-chord progression. These do pretty much what they say on the tin: they’re chord progressions that are four chords long, one chord per measure, that you can then repeat and repeat. And while all that repetition might sound boring or over-repetitive, in practice four-chord progressions are a really effective songwriting tool.

If you have a strong understanding of music theory, you can use whatever you know to choose a key and write your chorus chord progression. But otherwise, here’s the combination of chords – or chord palette – I recommend you stick with:

If you’re writing for a keyboard instrument or with a DAW: Write in C major. Focus on the chords C, G, F, Am and/or Dm.

If you’re writing for guitar: Write in G major. Focus on the chords G, D, C, Em and/or Am.

Download a printable chord palette summary here.

For starters, you’ll notice I’ve given you five chords when you only need four for your progression – so obviously you’re not going to use every chord. (You might even use the same chord twice in a progression.) I’ve also listed the chords in their rough order of importance in each key – most important to least important, left to right. So if you want to keep things easy on yourself, you’re welcome to stick with using just the first three chords in each key.

But whatever chord palette you choose, all you have to do is try out some four-chord combinations – try playing them – until you find one that sounds good to you, and voilà, that’s your chord progression.

Like with lyric lines, there are lots of different lengths a chorus’s music can be. But I recommend you stick with the most common length – at least for now – of 16 measures. (Especially if you wrote an 8-line chorus lyric – two measures of music for each lyric line is a good rule of thumb in songwriting.)

So, if you’ve got a four-chord progression, one chord per measure, and you want to repeat that so it fills 16 measures, you guessed it – you’re going to have to repeat your chord progression four times to fill your chorus, like this:

| C       | F       | Am     | G       |

| C       | F       | Am     | G       |

| C       | F       | Am     | G       |

| C       | F       | Am     | G       |

Then just like that, that’s your chorus chord progression sorted.

Write the Chorus Melody

Now you’ve got the foundation of a chord progression, it’s a good time to add a vocal melody, or topline, over the top. And while I wish I could tell you there was some secret trick to writing an instantly good melody with basically no effort, there isn’t. Instead, the only way to write a song’s melodies is to get your hands dirty and try a bunch of stuff until you have something you like.

So that’s where you should start.

If it helps, try to figure out your chorus melody’s rhythm only first – create a rhythmic spoken version, without any pitches. This can really help you ‘map’ your chorus lyric onto the chord progression you just wrote. If you stuck to the 16-measure length I suggested, remember you’re aiming to fit each line of your chorus lyric to two measures of music.

Other than that, try and give your melody plenty of repetition – that’s what makes a melody catchy and memorable. So for starters, every time your lyrical hook comes up, you probably want to give it the same or a similar melody.

And finally, the way you fit a melody to a chord progression is that your melody is going to focus on one or more of the notes in the chord that’s currently active – so if your chorus’s first measure is a C chord, that means you’re probably going to want to focus your melody on either a C, E or G for that measure.

This is something you can do intellectually if you have the musical expertise, but it’s also something you can do instinctively, by ear, if you don’t – your ear will automatically gravitate to one of the notes in each chord if you let it.

And that, in a nutshell, is about it. So dive in and start playing around. The best way to write melodies is to play your chord progression and improvise a sung melody on top – even if you’re not really a singer. Melody writing can be hard, but it’s important to trust your instincts – they’re probably better than you think – and keep trying different ideas until you have something that works.

Write the Chorus Groove

Finally, you’re going to want to create the instrumental parts to your chorus. In songwriting, that really comes down to writing grooves – short accompaniment ideas that you can repeat and repeat over a changing chord sequence.

Most grooves are based on simple chord repetitions or figuration – sometimes called arpeggios or broken chords.

So one simple groove could be this:

And another could be this:

Of course, if you have the experience, you can create something more intricate and ambitious. But with grooves, more complicated isn’t always better.

In fact, the most important thing with grooves is always that you come up with a groove that fits the vibe or mood of your song. If you’re writing a gentle love song, you’re going to want a soft, gentle groove. If you’re writing an angry breakup song, you’re going to want an angrier, more dramatic groove. I call this songwriting’s Holy Trinity – the idea that you want the main three parts of your song (its idea, lyrical hook/title and main grooves) to work together towards the same overall effect.

So again, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Try brainstorming a few different groove styles that could work for this song. You can use whatever instruments or kit you have available – my examples were on piano, but you could easily create the same effect on a guitar, in a DAW or with any other instrument. Then, from the handful of ideas you came up with, try to pick the one you think suits your song’s mood or vibe best.

And again, simple is good. Most grooves are only one or two measures long – so focus on coming up with short ideas that capture the mood of the song you’re trying to create.

Then, once you’ve got a groove idea you’re happy with, all that’s left to do is to repeat it – or at least the feel of it – over your chord progression to create a complete chorus accompaniment:

You’ll notice in this example I didn’t repeat the idea exactly each time – I use a slightly different chord inversion, or spacing – on each chord, and that’s fine. As long as you keep the feel or vibe of your groove constant, you’ll create the uniform sound you’re looking for.

And that’s it. That’s the three elements of your chorus written. If you need to, take a moment to put them all together into a single project file, score or a rough recording. And then let’s keep going.

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Part 5: Find the Chorus Groove, Chords and Melody

Nice work. Now you’ve cracked the chorus, that’s actually a decent chunk of your song written – since you’re going to be repeating it a lot throughout your song.

In fact, just to clarify, in this verse-chorus song, the six main song sections you’re going to write look like this:

Verse 1 – Chorus 1 – Verse 2 – Chorus 2 – Bridge – Chorus 3

So now let’s turn to the verses. Like with your choruses, I recommend you aim to write 8 lyric lines and 16 measures of music.

As you probably know, in a verse-chorus song, the verses usually have the same music but a fresh lyric each time. We’ll think about writing your verse lyrics next, but for now let’s start with the part of your verses that stays the same – it’s music.

Write the Verse Chord Progression

Writing a verse chord progression works in pretty much the same way as writing a chorus chord progression. While it’s true there are plenty of songs that use the same four-chord progression all the way through, my personal recommendation is to write fresh chords for the verses.

To do that, you’ll want to take up the same chord palette you used earlier, and use those chords to find a new four-chord progression you like the sound of.

If you’re writing for a keyboard instrument or with a DAW: Write in C major. Focus on the chords C, G, F, Am and/or Dm.

If you’re writing for guitar: Write in G major. Focus on the chords G, D, C, Em and/or Am.

Download a printable chord palette summary here.

And once you’ve done that, like before you’re going to repeat that chord progression four times to fill 16 measures. And that’s your verse chord progression done.

Write the Verse Groove

We’ll think about writing your verse melody in a later on once you’ve settled on a first verse lyric, but now is a great time to come up with a verse groove.

Again, this process is essentially the same as creating a chorus groove, only with a few extra subtleties.

First, it’s a good idea to keep your verse groove really simple and low key. As we’ll talk about later, one of the jobs of a verse is to grow in intensity and energy into your chorus – that’s one way you make sure your chorus really hits. And that means if you start your verse with too much energy, you’re going to have a hard time taking it anywhere.

So if you’re writing on piano or guitar, think about writing some kind of low-key chordal grooves – nothing too loud or busy rhythmically. In a DAW, it’s really common for verse grooves to be maybe just some held chords and a really simple drum track – maybe just some hi-hat and off-beat clicks.

Second, while it’s a good idea to make sure your verse groove is different from your chorus groove, you don’t want to make it too different – you want both of your grooves to feel like they belong to the same song.

One really neat way to do that is to take some element of your chorus groove and transform it into something else in your verse – so if your chorus groove has a really distinctive rhythm or a specific chord shape, you could use one or both of them in your verse groove.

That might sound like cheating, but it’s a really great way of making sure your song’s grooves feel like they belong together. (And it can often make the writing process much easier because it gives you a specific idea to start writing with.)

Then, once you’ve settled on a verse groove idea, you’ll want to expand it out to fill your entire verse section. This process works exactly the same as before – you want to take the essence of your groove idea and repeat it as your chords change. And like before, you don’t have to repeat it exactly every single measure – it’s enough just to keep the same vibe or feeling.

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Part 6: Create a Verse Masterplan and Write the First Verse Lyric

Next you’re going to go back to your song’s lyric and start tacking its first verse.

If your chorus lyric’s job is to state the big idea of your song in the clearest and most direct way, the job of the verse lyrics is to set the scene of your song, and give us plenty of details about who and what the song is about.

But before you start writing even a single word of your first verse lyric, there’s some important preparation to get out of the way first.

Create a Verse Masterplan

In songwriting there’s something known as ‘second verse curse’ – the situation where your first verse lyric comes out pretty easily, but you have no idea how to follow it up in your second. And if you’ve written more than, say, three songs, you’ll probably have experienced this first-hand.

But there’s good news – there’s a really simple solution. It’s something called a verse masterplan – a grand plan or outline for what you’re going to talk about in each of your two verses. It’s a way of giving yourself a specific starting point to begin each verse lyric from, as well as helping you make sure your verses stay on topic and help expand your song’s main idea.

To create your own verse masterplan, you just want to think of two related but different subtopics or focal points for each of your verses.

For example, in a love song, you could focus the first verse around a first date and the second verse around a second date. Or you could have the first verse focus on an ‘I’ perspective and the second verse on a ‘you’ perspective. Or you spend the first verse talking about the more superficial things you like about someone and the second verse talking about some deeper, more substantial things.

The possibilities are literally endless – but what matters is that you have a firm game plan for your verses before you start writing them. So spend some time now brainstorming a few different options. You’re looking for topics or subjects that are related to your song’s main idea somehow, but feel different enough that you can give each verse lyric its own character and content.

Write Your First Verse Lyric

If there’s one thing to know about lyric writing – it can be tough. Sure, writing any part of a song can be tough. But while writing music mostly feels like a fun exploration of what sounds, melodies and chords you can put together, writing lyrics can often feel like you’re just staring at a blank page or screen trying to get the English language – or any other language – to say exactly what you want, while rhyming, making sure it scans and fits the right number of syllables.

So to make things easier, as well as the verse masterplan you just came up with, I recommend you create a lyric idea brainstorm for each of your verses. This won’t write the lyrics for you, but it will help you dig up the raw material you can craft into a final, polished lyric later.

And luckily, doing that is really simple: all you have to do is to think up a ton of individual words and phrases that are related to the theme of your song’s first verse.

So if your song is sung by a woman and the theme is ‘first date’, you might brainstorm words like ‘nervous’, ‘long dress’, ‘lipstick’, ‘restaurant’, ‘high heels’. You could then take some of those words you brainstormed and find words that rhyme and are somehow related to the song situation too: like ‘dress’, ‘mess’, ‘confess’ and ‘stress’ – which you could use to set the scene of what’s going on in your song.

These specifics are really important, because they’re a big part of what makes a lyric clear and captivating. Your goal is to come up with more words and phrases than you can possibly ever use – maybe fifty to a hundred words – because the more words you come up with in the brainstorming stage, the easier the actual writing is going to be.

Then, when it comes to crafting those words and phrases into a complete lyric, it’s another trial-and-error process.

Like before, I recommend you use an XAXAXBXB rhyme scheme – so you’re looking for another pair of rhymes to end lines 2 and 4, then 6 and 8.

It can also help to start writing with a strong opening and/or final line. You generally want the first verse of each lyric to sound dramatic or attention-grabbing somehow, while it’s a good idea to finish each verse lyric with a ‘pivot’ line that feels like it sets up or points to the chorus somehow (like ‘I really need you to know…’).

And from there, all you’ve got to do is keep trying, keep writing and keep rewriting if necessary. And sooner or later you’ll have a complete first verse lyric you’re proud of.

I’d be lying if I said I was calm
While I sat there waiting for you.
‘Dinner at eight, don’t be late…’
But then I’m waiting on you to come through.
When I first heard all about you,
I knew I had to know more,
Still, I sat there counting the minutes
Until you walked in the door…

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Part 7: Write the Verse Melody and Create a Verse Build

Great work – you’re racing along.

Write the Verse Melody

Now it’s time to turn to your verse’s melody. Again, the good news is that this process is pretty much identical to the process you used to write your chorus’s melody: you want to improvise some melodic lines over your chord progression until you have something that works.

And again, if it helps, you can sketch out your verse melody rhythmically first – try to figure out how its rhythm fits over your chords – before you try and add any notes.

Other than that, it’s worth bearing in mind that verse melodies tend to be looser and more conversational than chorus melodies. In your chorus, you want to make a bit of a statement – so chorus melodies are often kind of declamatory or showy. But in your humble verses you just want to help us feel at home and get to know your singer and song, so you can try to come up with something that feels more chatty, and more rhythmic than melodic, here.

Create a Verse Build

Then, once you’ve written your first verse lyric, there’s one extra element to think about in your verses’ music, a kind of songwriting secret sauce – creating a verse build.

Like we touched on before, a verse build is an increase in energy and intensity in your verses that helps make your choruses feel extra important. In short, in pretty much every great song ever, each verse and chorus works together as a pair with a mini rise and fall, starting at low intensity at the start of the verse, and feeling like it really lands somewhere in each chorus.

One really simple way to do that is just to add a gradual crescendo – an increase in volume – in the second half of your verses. By increasing the dynamics – or volume – of the groove, that’ll help the end of your verse feel like it’s building into the chorus.

Still, there are a handful of more fun and more advanced ways of creating that kind of build effect in your verses. Here are a few of the best ones:

  • Making the grooves slightly busier rhythmically (giving them more rhythmic notes)
  • Writing thicker or fuller chords (more harmonic notes)
  • Adding extra tracks or layers in a DAW (like a held strings tracks or extra guitar parts)
  • Writing a busier and more intense percussion track

To see what I mean – or if you want some more inspiration and ideas – the best thing to do is to go listen to some of your favorite songs to figure out how they manage their own verse builds. If you look around you’ll find plenty of examples of these techniques – as well as others – in action.

But whatever you do, just make sure you’re happy with the way your song’s verse grooves grow – even just a bit – to get your audience excited for your chorus.

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Part 8: Write the Second Verse Lyric

Alrighty. Now it’s time to cash in on that verse masterplan you came up with in Part 6 – it’s time to focus on your second verse lyric.

The process is pretty much identical to the process you used in your first verse lyric, only this time you have a slightly different subtopic or theme to start with. So like before, I recommend you take that theme and spend some time brainstorming key words, phrases and rhymes that are related to that idea. Like before, you want to fill at least a full page with words and ideas you could use – with something like fifty to a hundred in total.

Then, like before, you’re going to want to craft those raw ideas into a finished lyric.

Coming up with a verse masterplan should make figuring out what to talk about no harder than it was in your first verse lyric, but with your second verse there two extra things to bear in mind.

The first is that, as a rule, you want your second verse lyric to use exactly the same rhyme scheme and more-or-less exactly the same syllable patterns in each line.

The exact syllable patterns you use is a bit negotiable – you often find songwriters adding or taking away a syllable or two and adjusting their verse melody accordingly. But since you want your first and second verse to match melodically, it’s not ideal if your first and second verse lyrics have completely different syllable patterns.

And the second thing to think about is that you can sometimes use this idea – structural repetition or matching between your verses – to your advantage.

So for example, sometimes it makes sense to write ‘parallel’ or related lyric lines in the same spot. So if your first verse’s first line is ‘I couldn’t believe my luck’, you could start your second verse with something parallel like ‘I didn’t believe it was true’ or ‘I wasn’t afraid to know’ – or something else with a similar sentence structure or shape.

Doing that can make the writing process easier, and it can help your audience understand the structure of your song, so those opportunities are worth looking out for.

Other than that, like before lyric writing is a trial and error process. So take some time to try different things out and see what sounds good to you. If you get stuck, you can always take some time away – sometimes coming back to a lyric after a break makes it much easier to finish.

And once you’ve done that, you’re nearly there. There’s only one major section and two smaller sections to think about to complete your verse-chorus structure song.

We’ll take some time at the end of this process to put your entire song together into a single file, score or recording. But if you want to spend a moment now putting everything you’ve written so far together into one place, that’s definitely a good idea.

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Part 9: Add a Bridge

Next, the only major song section to think about adding is a bridge.

If you include a bridge, you’ll want to put it in the classic spot right after the second chorus:

Verse 1 – Chorus 1 – Verse 2 – Chorus 2 – Bridge – Chorus 3

You can think of that as the moment that alternating between verses and choruses might get boring or predictable – so instead of going to a third verse, the song takes us somewhere unexpected and new.

And that’s the key to writing a good bridge – to give us something new, to go somewhere the song hasn’t gone already.

That means a good bridge lyric gives a new perspective – it could jump forward or back in time, it could talk about your song’s big idea from a new perspective, it could make a more philosophical or general comment on what your song is about.

Another good option is to create a ‘breakdown’ bridge, where the lyric stops giving us much new information and the song just does something fun or interesting. (A good example of that is Shawn Mendes’s ‘Stitches’, where the bridge just starts repeating phrases like ‘Needle and the thread, gonna get you out of my head’.)

At the same time, you want to the music of your bridge to take us somewhere new also. That usually means a new melody and chord progression, though you could recycle or adapt one of the grooves from some other part of your song. But you’ll have to play around with different options to figure out what sounds best for your song. (And as usual, if you’re looking for ideas, go listen to the bridges of tons of your favorite songs and that’ll help.)

If you wrote 8-line, 16-measure sections for the rest of your song, you can do the same here. Or, if you like, bridges are good places to break that pattern up a bit. Some bridges are shorter – say, 4 lines and 8 measures – but they can also be longer, or even a more irregular number of measures (10, 12 or 18, for example).

But before you dive in, you might want to think about whether your song needs a bridge at all. Lots of songs have them but plenty don’t.

Like I said, a good bridge takes your song – and your audience – somewhere different. And like its name suggests, a good bridge helps us to cross over to somewhere new – it makes us appreciate your final chorus in some new way. So if your song feels like it would benefit from that, then put a bridge in. If it seems OK without out it, then you might be better just repeating your final chorus once or twice and keeping your song’s structure simple.

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Part 10: Add an Intro and Outro

Finally, all that’s left to do is to figure out how you’re going to start and end your song.

There are tons of different ways of doing this, but if you’re new to songwriting, I’m going to suggest you stick to one of the simplest.

For your song’s intro – a short section that comes before the first verse – I recommend you just repeat the first four measures of your song’s verse groove an extra time before the first verse starts. To hear how this works, you can check out Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ and Ariana Grande’s ‘thank u, next’.

This is a really simple technique but it’s a really effective one – and it’s how maybe 80–90% of intros in pop songs are written.

For your song’s outro – or ending – there are two very common techniques.

The most common today is just to round off your song with brief ‘written’ outro. Sometimes that means adding a measure or two. Sometimes it just means adapting the end of your chorus so it finishes on a held note and/or chord – or finishes with a musical gesture that sounds final. You might have to try out a few different versions of this idea to figure out what works best for each particular song, but if you want to see how this works in practice, you can check out Rudimental’s ‘These Days’ or Train’s ‘Hey, Soul Sister’.

Another way to finish a song – though it’s less common in pop music right now – is to create what’s called a repeat and fade. That’s where you repeat the final chorus an extra time and have it fade out. Obviously, that option works best for recorded or produced music – you can’t really fade to zero live – but it’s one option. (Check out Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ for a classic example.)

And that’s basically it. That’s the end of this process.

Before you wrap up, it’s worth making sure you have a complete, official version of your song. At the very least, you’ll want a complete lyric sheet – but you could also add chord symbols to your lyric sheet, or even create a lead sheet or score if you know how. (If you want to know more about how to lay out all of these, check out this article.)

If you don’t read music, that’s fine too. Just make sure you have some kind of record or recording of everything you made – whether that’s a live recording, a score or a project file in your DAW. And then, at long last, that’s this process – and your song –done.

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Outro: Congrats and What's Next

And that’s a wrap – congratulations!

Whether it took you a day or a month to complete, a finished song is a big deal. So take a bow. Pat yourself on the back. Treat yourself to a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage.

So what now?

Well, you could just repeat the process again with a different song idea. Or you could work through the process again with someone else to see how that affects your process.

You could also come back to the song you’ve just finished in a few days time to see if there’s any tweaks or rewrites you want to make.

If you want to know more about songwriting, you could check out one of the other free articles and videos on the site. And if you’re interested in working through this process in more depth, you’ll definitely enjoy the full book version of How to Write a Song (Even If You’ve Never Written One Before and You Think You Suck).

Either way, what’s important is that you keep going. As you know, the way you become a better songwriter is to keep writing. Challenge yourself to something new. Or try mixing up this process by starting a song somewhere new.

But whatever’s next for you, happy writing. We can’t wait to see what you come up with.

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Header imaged adapted from a photo by Dark Rider on Unsplash.

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