The Playground

The Simply Music blog

Songwriting – Writing

Found in: Miscellany & Merriment

I was asked to write a three part series on how independent musicians get their music out to the world, starting with writing then moving on to recording and finishing with releasing your song and getting it out to the world. As with anything there are hundreds of ways to cook an egg but I hope to give ideas and suggestions to help give confidence to those who have not stepped into the kitchen, and for those who have started cooking, maybe a few handy hints that you may not have explored yet.

WRITING – It all starts with the song.

I personally believe that songwriting is the most exciting part of the whole process. It is also the most nerve wracking. You put a little bit, if not a whole lot, of yourself into your lyric; regardless of the subject matter or its relevance to your life, that four-minute tune has come from inside of you.

The best thing any aspiring songwriter can do is to equip themselves with skills and tools to write. By this I am not referring to a pen and paper or recorder, but rather learning about song structures and rhyme schemes and chord progressions and melody. It is kind of like learning a new language; for a while it seems clumsy and laborious but after a while it becomes second nature.

The exciting part about you all being Simply Music teachers and students is that through the method you already have knowledge and understanding of chord progressions, song structures and melody. For instance from Foundation 1 you are all familiar with 12 bar blues; of course there are variations on that BUT you all have that basic structure down pat. You also have the understanding of I, IV & V chords, and as they say in country music, it’s three chords and the truth!!

Because all Simply Music students have at least a basic understanding of chord progressions and structures I am going to skim over this; in saying that I would suggest that if this is an area you want to develop, purchase some materials or ask your teacher to help you out with this.

If you Google “Chord progressions” or “Chord progressions for Songwriters” thousands of books and tips come up. One other thing I have found very useful is to listen to music and work out the chord progressions my favourite artists use. Also, doodle around, you may find fantastic combinations just by trial and error yourself.

Melody is tricky as there is a no right or wrong answer to how to write a great melody. Not only do you have to consider the relationship between Melody and Chords, but also Melody and Lyrics. Your melody first and foremost needs to fit the feel and style of your song. For example, if you are a folk singer is it appropriate to your style and lyric to have a minor-sounding Reggae tune?? Some may like the idea of that, but it is kind of like adding anchovies to your Caesar Salad; for me that sounds like a fantastic idea, but for others that might be a cause to run!

Be creative with your melody, and feel free to try different ideas with it. A favorite song of mine is “Down the Road Tonight” by Hayes Carll. This melody is so simple (pretty much one note through the whole song) and works on a 12 bar blues pattern. A song that is the opposite is “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush. In short, it all works; trust your instinct if it feels right.

Lyrics – here’s where I get excited! As a performer you get to tell or share something with your audience, and hopefully, if it’s a good song they can connect with that on their own level. I could go on and on about lyrics so for the moment I am going to point out what I believe to be the 3 most important things to consider when writing.

  1. Rhymes aren’t always perfect! Now and Cow, Cat and Mat, perfect rhymes can get predictable very quickly, especially if you use them all of the time. There are a lot of different types for example; near rhymes, consonance or oblique just to name a few. Consider using a rhyming dictionary or even free online rhyming tools like
  2. The first line. How often have you as a listener hear a new song and after the first line pressed skip on your player? This is generally because the line has not really grabbed your attention. For example if I heard the lyric “She was more like a beauty queen from a music scene” not already knowing the song I’d want to know more about this girl.
  3. Title. Imagine if RESPECT was titled “Find out what you mean to me”. Doesn’t have the same punch to it, does it!? Your title needs to be catchy and memorable as well as connecting your song together.

I have only skimmed the surface in this article as I didn’t want to take up the whole Playground! I have added a few great links to help your research and learn.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or would like to share information or even send me a song, I would absolutely love to hear from any or all of you.

Happy Songwriting

Gretta Dunn–guidetosongwriting