The Top 5 Steps To Writing A Song – MAKE IT Series

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The Top 5 Steps To Writing A Song

Kelly Saint Patrick

The Top 5 Steps To Writing A Song
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Grab a pen and paper and start writing about topics that you're passionate about.

By Kelly Saint Patrick
Singer-Songwriter
20 Years In Business
www.kellystpatrick.com
facebook.com/kellysaintpatrick
instagram.com/kellysaintpatrick

Introduction

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:

Commercial writing is where writers follow a very defined route when constructing a song. Writing stories that connect on a universal level, are super relatable and people listening can connect immediately and find themselves in those stories. These writers also have a specific emphasis on what is selling or trending at any given time in the market -and they lean heavily to that information. The Nashville market is often exactly this format. They have a specific formula for what they want in their songs and if you're looking to write a top hit, or pitch your song to a big artist, you're urged to follow that formula. That said, they have commercial songwriting down to a science and they know what works.

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.

If you want to try your hand at commercial style or just a different style altogether, there are countless song camps and events that happen all over the globe with incredibly talented people! They will absolutely help you to develop further into your craft. Definitely do it!

Top Tips

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:

 VERSE (1) >> CHORUS
>>
VERSE (2)
>>
BRIDGE
>>
CHORUS

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)
Now, you want to tell a story here, as clearly and simply as possible while still embodying all of the emotions, feelings, and belly of the song. This takes time for some people to grasp. If you're just starting out, you will get there. It does become easier to tackle the more you work on your craft.

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.
Verse 1
I remember when we met, how I felt, what you said I watched you set the scene and I fell right into it

It was easy, you had me
I forget a lot of how it all went wrong
I get selective with my memories
I still wanna make-believe - you're not gone And it's easy, you still have me
But...
Now, as you're reading these lines, can you feel what I am aiming to convey here? Are you grasping what this story is about? (Hopefully, you do)

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....

"It was easy, you had me" and then at the end..."and it's easy, you still have me"

Ugh...the pain! :)

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
Ok! The chorus is the 'Money-Maker' baby! I don't mean that to be taken just literally. The chorus is the strongest part of the song. A great chorus or 'hook' is the reason for big hits all over the Top-40 charts and mainstream radio, as well as countless other genres of music. So it's important to really focus on developing a powerful one.

Think of time where someone you knew just mentioned a song. Before you know it, you're singing the chorus over and over in your head and it becomes an earworm - until you die...or at least until you go to bed that night. :)

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:
Chorus:
This ain't no fairytale and I am no princess

I've had more than one lesson under this white dress So, don't make any promises that you won't be keeping 'Cause I'm not believing you're a prince
Baby, this isn't it
Is this story making more sense to you now? (I hope so)

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)
In the second verse, you have an opportunity to share a bit more of the experience with your audience. You want the listener to further understand how you arrived at the chorus. The what will connect further now with the why.

Here's an example from Fairytale:
Verse 2:
We both needed something
We wound up with nothing
We both took the hit
I boxed up whatever was left
Put it out on my front step
Now I'm finding it true, what everyone says In the end, it's never easy
Maybe it never can be 'Cause
So, this verse is telling you more of what happened and it's confirming the feeling of the chorus which this will lead back into here. You can see how I wrote the end of the second verse to lead back up to the chorus. This helps the song to flow...
+ Build A Bridge
We've arrived at the bridge! That part of a song that can take your story in a myriad of directions. Sometimes it's really big and full with a strong vocal – other times, can be just a delicate, but a still powerful pocket of words. It's a great place to play outside the lines a bit here. Either way, the bridge will likely bring a song to a climax. It can be a place for reflection overall. Tying any loose ends together in your story.

Here's an example from Fairytale.
Bridge:
I didn't plan on falling so hard I didn't plan on falling, falling I didn't plan on falling so hard I didn't plan on falling, falling No....
I went with a more mellow vibe here...subtle. You can definitely pick up on the reflection in this specific part of my story. It's simple, to the point.

And after that, it's back to the chorus one final time to close it out! That's it! A song is born!

      Summary

      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.