The Top 5 Steps To Writing A Song
Kelly Saint Patrick
Grab a pen and paper and start writing about topics that you're passionate about.
Hi! I'm Kelly Saint Patrick and I'm an accomplished Singer-Songwriter. I've been writing and singing since I was about ten years old. I moved to the NYC area when I was twenty-three to pursue my music career. I spent the next few years, guitar strapped to my back, playing the open-mic circuit all throughout New York City. I have since released three albums and have played on stages all over the globe. My music has been licensed in Film and TV projects, on the Grammy ballot eight times, and I was the Coca-Cola featured Red Carpet Artist at the American Music Awards.
Songwriting, for me, is something that was a part of me for as long as I can remember. The way I view the world and experience life has always translated in song form for me. It's just always been that way.
I'm really grateful for the journey that songwriting has taken me so far and I hope I am able to lend any advice to those interested.
Before We Begin... Commercial Or Personal?
I've always found the songwriting process to be very unique to each individual person. I've met, and have worked with, so many different types of artists and it's always interesting to see how others in the industry utilize their craft.
There are several different formulas that professionals in the industry use when songwriting. I'm going to discuss just two right here:
Personal songwriting is, obviously, songs with lyrics that are specific to 'your' feelings and emotions. This doesn't mean others cannot relate to your song, or that it can't be a hit - it's just written in a way that is, in my opinion, a bit more raw and connected with the actual writer. The emphasis here is on the story and this specific experience. I tend to write this way....always. While I think it is beneficial to strengthen and expand your skill set by doing commercial writing - or work within that style for a time, I just feel at home when I'm able to freely write as I wish, how I feel, and what I'm wanting to say.
Today I'm going to discuss the Top 5 Steps to Writing a Song:
1. Come Up With An Idea
First and foremost! What is your song about? On days when I'm in my studio writing for a new record, I like to feel my way around ideas. If it's a song about lost love, childhood, or maybe it's political? Grab a pen and paper and start writing some ideas down about topics that you're passionate about. This is the time to just keep going...it may be just words that come to you- or full sentences. I just use this time to jot down anything that comes to me about the topic.
- One thing that I always like to stress when talking with new writers is to be mindful of your word-play. Yes, it's always great to get a clever line in or a perfectly phrased double-entendre. But the line is thin on where it can become cheesy.
- Another tip is to not overthink too much lyric-wise. You don't want people reaching for a dictionary because you thought it would be cool to fit an eight-syllable word in a line of your song.
- Be clever, but be mindful. You are looking to reach others on a human level. We are all very basic at the core. You just need to remember that and aim for it.
- Also, I personally like to set my space up when I'm writing. A bit of a ritual. I make sure I have a place I can feel creative in, and happy. I light candles, incense, and turn my cell phone off. It just helps me to focus and stay in the flow.
Ok, back to the list!
2. Create A Structure
As I mentioned before, there are several styles of songwriting. But in this article, I'm going to stick with the basics of a standard-structured song. That structure is the following:
It helps to go ahead and set your paper (or word doc.) up with this as you begin writing. Organize!
+ Write Your First Verse (1)
The first verse is going to begin your story. It's important to be vivid but also just lean into the song. You don't want to tell the whole story upfront. You want to create a space where people are intrigued and want to invest in the next 2-3 minutes of your story.
The typical time of a standard song is 3-4 minutes...so captivate them!
For this article, I'm going to use an example from my song, Fairytale.
But you don't have all the details yet of why?? You just have the what. 'What' happened? Also, I am a big fan of tying things up and bringing lines and such back around....
Basically saying here that when you fall in love the rush of it all just grabs you and holds onto you so tightly...but often when it falls apart, one of the two is left still holding so tightly to that love.
+ Add A Chorus
That's the power of a great chorus and hook! This is strongly executed in advertising for TV and Radio commercials and ads. I would cite examples here but we would all be suffering from earworm drama the rest of the day.
That said, the chorus is going to embody the entire story and vibe.
Here's an example of the chorus for Fairytale:
It talks about the highs and lows of love – and this specific love as well. Also, where it leaves the writer feeling about love overall.
+ Write Your Second Verse (2)
Here's an example from Fairytale:
+ Build A Bridge
And after that, it's back to the chorus one final time to close it out! That's it! A song is born!
I hope my little Songwriting 101 has been helpful and that you've gained some insightful tips that will help you to write some amazing songs! I love talking with other writers, so please do reach out if you have any questions OR if you would like any advice on boot camps and song seminars.