Making up songs


  • The first decision is what is your song about.
  • Secondly you need to decide the structure of your song. Normally this will be either:Verse1, Verse 2, Verse 3 etc. (where each verse has the same music), or: Chorus, Verse 1, Chorus, Verse 2, Chorus etc. (where the chorus and the verse use different material).
  • The final preparatory step is to decide what pattern the words and the tune follow. Here are three suggestions. The first is very simple but is the most used pattern of all.
    1. Line a, repeat line a, line b, repeat line a again
    2. Line a, line b, line c, repeat line a
    3. Line a, line b, line c, line d

Step 1: lyrics

Split this job into a series of small decisions:

  • What is each verse about?
  • What is each line about?
  • Fill in the exact words for each line

Step 2: the musical feel

You may want to reverse the order and do this step before step 1. Choose one of the following ways to work:

  • Make up a drum beat or a drone that you will sing over.
  • Make up a simple bass rhythm on a keyboard, xylophone or other pitched instrument.
  • Borrow a feel from a song you know. Blues songs and calypsos are especially good.
  • Use your own instrument, a keyboard or a computer to generate a basic rhythm and a simple chord sequence to go with it.
  • Use the style settings on a keyboard to select a feel song. Then make a simple chord sequence using the automatic chord settings. You could restrict this to 3 chords. Try E flat, A flat and B flat, or A, D and E. Keyboards will give you more information.

Once you have your main feel, you may want to vary things slightly from chorus to verse or even from one verse to the next. Small changes can make a big difference.

Step 3: the tune

This is the easiest bit of writing a song. Try repeating the lyrics over your background feel. Your tune will probably arrive. If not, try things out using a keyboard or a pitched percussion instrument. Failing that, say the words out loud and see how they go up and down. If your tune goes up and down in exactly the same way, it will be perfect.

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