How to write songs is both an art and a skill. To get good at songwriting — you just need to start and keep working it. You’ll improve with time. Start with these tools, and you have the stage set for some great song writing.
Here are some very handy books that can be a real asset. You may find at times that you work well without needing to refer to them at all. Sometimes you will find your nose buried deep in the book. They are good to have. Here’s a list of suggestions:
* A rhyming dictionary * A thesaurus * A spelling dictionary * A book on song structure
A recording device of some kind
There are some pretty inexpensive units on the market today. Whether you have the ability to write out your songs or not, a recording device is a good tool to have.
It doesn’t need demo recording quality. Go for simplicity. Look for something that’s easy to use, fast to record. Overdubbing is an asset, but watch out for lots of features and options, it almost always makes the instrument more complicated to use.
Manuscript paper or tab paper
If you have the ability to write you music down, have a good supply of appropriate paper. You need a way to write down your song. If you can read and write music, that’s a definite asset.
I suggest a manuscript paper that is slightly larger than in standard books. I like to write in pencil and I find the larger size works well, particularly if you adopt Steve Adam’s Tab.
Steve’s Adams Tab
Steve Adams was a local teacher, whom I consulted from time to time. He was a top notch player and left a hole when he passed away a few years ago. He had his own system of tablature, which I’ve adopted and highly recommend. Instead of using 6 lines, he used the normal manuscript paper and wrote in the spaces instead of on the lines.
There are four spaces. Use the space above the staff for your first string and the space below the staff for your sixth string. And, of course, bass works out just fine.
Not only do you not need to print special paper, which is handy, but it is actually easier to read the numbers when they are not written over top of a line! I use both the manuscript paper and tab, so I love it.
I thought Steve’s approach was so great, I use it and promote it.
A musical instrument
You will need an instrument to compose on — to work out your melodies and chord progressions. If you have some musical skill, that is certainly a plus.
A lot of musicians like keyboards because they’re flat and suit writing and the table. You can also fiddle with the melody with one hand and be writing with the other. Personally, because I’m a guitar player, I just think better with a guitar in my hand. And so I just have to pick it up and put it down a lot.
Personally I can’t see writing songs without any musical knowledge, whatsoever, but people do it. Playing by ear is not the same as no musical knowledge. Playing by ear is also a knowledge of structure and feel.
But whatever you want to do go for it. I wouldn’t want to discourage anybody from trying anything. Music knowledge is definitely an asset.
I have had people approach me, saying they have written a song, but need a schooled musician to write the melody out and the chords. Some will take on this job, I have always turned it down. Those songs are usually sketchy at best and require a lot of work.
If you are wanting to get skillful musicians to help you put your song together to record or present to someone, you are going to have to pay! Having the ability to play yourself is a definite asset. You don’t have to be the best player on the block either.
So there you have it, the tools needed to set the stage for writing songs. The next thing you need to address is collecting ideas. In the meantime, you could start reading that book on song structure. Remember songwriting is an art and a skill. You’ll get better and better with time.