Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How To Write A Song

Graphic details the nomenclature of the musica...Image via Wikipedia

Methods of songwriting are surely as plentiful and varied as the leaves on the streets of Boston in the fall. Here's yet another -- several, in fact.

Step 1: pick an existing song. It could be Itsy Bitsy Spider or Bohemian Rhapsody; New York, New York or I Gotta Feeling -- it really doesn't matter. Whatever inspires you is fair game, regardless of genre, tempo, style, or age.

Step 2: write your own lyrics to that song. You can reimagine the message you see in the original version. You could take off on a tangent from some poignant line that pushes your buttons. Or, of course, you could throw the whole original out and start over. Your source will provide you with a rhythmic framework, like the sonnet form's iambic pentameter guided Shakespeare. You have that framework. Now cover it in fresh words.

Many songwriters stop right there. Some of the greatest songs ever written are little more than a fresh take on an old melody. That's okay. But you can go further, too.

Step 3, in that case, is the reverse of step 2. Now you have your lyrics. Then throw out the old melody and sing those words to a new tune. Or, if you're more of a lyricist than a musician anyway, this is where you hand your lyrics over to a melody writer, or submit your material to a lyrics writing contest, or what have you. Sure, you wrote those words to fit a specific cadence, rhythm, and melody. But that doesn't mean that you can't find an even better musical stage on which those words can shine. And, if you come up with both lyrics and melody, you don't have to worry about who owns the copyright to Itsy Bitsy Spider. It's your own song now.

If you decide to try this method out, I'd be very excited to hear -- or at least read -- what you came up with. Drop me a line at bylund AT, or use the comments box below.
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