chord progression chart

Simplifying Chord Progressions Used By Hit Songs in 2020

I am a fan of yesteryear’s hits. You may argue that beauty is in simplicity, but sometimes people are too lazy to learn new tricks in their songwriting skills that they end up sounding awful and bland.

Complex arrangements are beautiful too. Several elements affect how a song sounds.

I am not saying (in a way) that you can’t make a hit song with a simple arrangement.

Yes, you can, but, arguably, the best songs that stood the test of time are well arranged and have beautiful chord progressions.

Is There A Formula To Writing A Hit Song?

Songwriters and chord progressions

There is no absolute formula to writing a hit song. A beginner songwriter from a remote part of the globe can become an overnight sensation by writing a song.

In contrast, a seasoned songwriter may release a new single and won’t make it to the top of the charts.

There is no one rule or formula for writing a hit, but some common things that these hits have.

Hit Songs Connect With The Listeners

One of the apparent things that hits have in common is that they are relatable to their listeners. A song that resonates or speaks to its listeners as if it sings about the listener’s own life experience.

Everyone has that one sonata that can make them cry or remind them of something from their past or childhood.

Hit Songs Have Chord Progressions
That Listeners Are Familiar

I am a fan of intricate and beautiful arrangements, but I am also a fan of simple yet elegant chord progressions in songs.

When used properly, a simple or complex chord progression can elevate your song to heights you’ve never imagined.

So it is essential to learn how to use chord progressions to make your song sound better.

What Is A Chord Progression?

We define chord progression a the sequence of chords and how they are used within a song’s arrangement. You may also say that it is the order of chords that are used in a song. What comes first, and what is next.

We call a chord progression the chords you use and the order of these chords in your song.

Chord Progressions Are All Patterns

Yes, you read that right. All of today’s hit songs and yesterday’s hit songs have followed and used specific chord patterns that worked.

Songwriters and producers have used such patterns a thousand times, and for some unexplainable reason, people still like it – that’s why they work.

The ability to identify these patterns will be a very crucial skill to become a better songwriter.

How Does It Affect A Song?

chord pattern musician

It makes or breaks your song!

It is your job as a songwriter to make sure that your song sounds good or pleasing. The chords that you use for your project and how you put them together is instrumental to your composition’s success.

Here are some of the things that chord progression does to your song

How do we apply them to our song, and how do I make the right choices?

First, some basic music theory.

How To Write A Chord Progression?

I will walk you through the fundamentals of identifying them on a scale and how to use them in an actual song setting.

As someone who lives in the 21st century, you are continuously bombarded on the radio by different progressions embedded in every song you listen to.

So, all you have to do now is understand how you can use them for your songwriting gig.

The 7 Basic Chords Found In A Scale

Since we are discussing chords, I am assuming that you already have a fundamental understanding of the scales.

For our example, we will use the C major scale. In standard notation, it looks like the image above.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t read any music notation, we will simplify things for you. C major scale simply means the following notes.

 

The Formula To Remember The Chords In Any Major Scale

To avoid going too deep in music theory, I will make it easy for you to understand. I want you to remember the following sequence.

Major – minor – minor – Major – Major – minor – diminished

Regardless of whatever key you are in, as long as it’s a primary key, this sequence holds true as far as modern western music is concerned.

So applying it to our C Major Scale would yield the following sequence.

Family Chords

If you are writing a song on a major scale and want to know what chords are available on that scale, all you have to do is remember the sequence above.

Notice this.

You have 3 Major c, 3 minor chords, and 1 diminished chord in this formula.

Now, it’s up to you how you will use this set of chords for whatever song you are working on. The combination you use in your song makes all the difference.

Introducing the Roman Numerals Into Your Progression

Instead of writing C major, D minor (the full name), musicians developed a system of writing that makes things easier to remember – it also looks cleaner.

Using the roman numerals as a system of writing your chord progressions.

Roman Numerals

As you can observe from the image above, we’ve changed the Major – minor labels into Roman Numerals.

Note: A major chord will use an uppercase Roman numeral while a minor chord will use lowercase, and the diminished chord has a letter ‘0’ symbol on top.

Whatever key signature you are in, Roman numerals stay the same, and that’s one of the major reasons why it’s more convenient to use.

chord progression chart

Notice the image above; you only have a single line of Roman Numerals, which can be used across the entire scale system.

Popular Songs and Common Chord Progressions

A lot of songs today use one or two of the most common chord progressions you hear. As a starting point for all songwriters, we will discuss these common chord flows for you to use.

3 Chord Songs: I - IV - V - I

The first song I ever learned to play on a guitar only had 3 chords in it. It’s the song called “Leaving On A Jetplane.”

I remember playing it on the key of G and with the following sequence.

G – C – G – C – G – C – D

If you check our chord chart, the I – IV – V – I progression would look like this.

If you are working on a song, you can try this simple progression and work on your melody. It’s a good starting point and builds on it as you progress.

If you noticed, these are also all major triads, and no minor chords are involved.

Whatever key you are, the progression always returns to the first triad. Pretty simple!

Whether you play the guitar or a piano, this progression is pretty easy to play through your instrument.

So, when you are writing a song, decide what triad you want to start with then just apply this progression.

 

Billboard Chart Topper Progression: I - V - vi - IV

Billboard Chart Hits

If you are working on a song, you can try this simple progression and work on your melody. It’s a good starting point and builds on it as you progress.

If you noticed, these are also all major triads, and no minor chords are involved.

Whatever key you are, the progression always returns to the first triad. Pretty simple!

Whether you play the guitar or a piano, this progression is pretty easy to play through your instrument.

So, when you are writing a song, decide what triad you want to start with then just apply this progression.

 

A good variation of this chord progression is I – vi – IV – V. Try it and you’ll see that it works just as well.

The vi - V - IV - V Progression

Here’s another common chord progression you hear on the radio that starts on a minor key. We will discuss minor chords further on a different article. 

For now, just know that this chord sequence is also a good choice to build your songs on.

Chord Progression Generators

Do you want to think outside the box and try something new? It is a good thing that today’s technology offers a ton of assistance to aspiring songwriters.

There are sites on the internet today that generates a combination of chord progressions for you to try on your project.

Here are a few of them.

Auto Chords

Mixed In Key

Music Theory Practice

Fachords

Apple Chord Progression Generator

Your Songs And Your Choice Of Chord Choices

At the end of the day, it is you who will decide what chords to use and how you will use them within your song.

The goal of this article is to help you understand the possibilities that are at your disposal. The more you use these tips, the better you get at your songwriting.

Try out these tips on chord progressions and check how they affect the sound of your song.

best song structure

Best Song Structure Techniques For The 21st Century Songwriter

Basic Structure of A Song

A song structure is a framework that dictates the flow of your song and the elements that are in it. In other words, it is the skeleton that your entire song is built on.

It is a combination of different parts or sections that makes the entire whole of your song.

Song structure also affects the sequence of your music and how music is arranged. By song structure, we refer to today’s song form – the ones we always hear on the radio.

To understand and remember these sections better, we can allocate a specific letter for each section.

Different Sections of a Song Structure

You can divide a song into sections. Examples of these sections are:

Intro

– whenever we listen to a song, we begin with the first familiar part, which is the Intro. When a song is played on the radio, we can quickly identify the title of the song just by hearing the Intro.

The Intro is the part where a songwriter sets the mood of the music and captures the listener’s attention.

Here are ways where you can set the mood of a song using your Intro.

Here’s an example of an intro that sounds happy from the song “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton.

This one is an example of an intor which is a bit sad by John Leged – “All of Me”

Most intros are short, but it doesn’t mean it can’t belong. When you are writing a song for radio, it is recommended to keep an intro short due to limited air time.

If you are publishing your album or an online streaming platform, it’s up to you to make it long or short. Generally, you don’t want to keep your listener’s board by such a long intro.

Here’s a list of songs with long intros.

As or an example of a song with a short intro, here’s a song from Westlife’s “Swear It Again.”

Some songs are not using any intro. Although this is not common practice, it’s also an effective way to write the structure of a song.

Here’s a song from the famous band Journey entitled “Anyway You Want It.” This song doesn’t have an intro.

An intro also set’s the tempo, rhythm, and even the melody of a song. Also, the Intro of a song sets the key of the music for the singer to sing.

Verse

The verse of a song is where you can do most of the following:

  1. Telling a story or develop your plot.
  2. Get your listeners to imagine things
  3. Choose to use one or multiple verses
  4. Split the story using verses

Telling a story

The verse of a song is the perfect area of the entire song structure to write a story. Here you can start telling your listeners the reason why your chorus is saying a certain thing.

For example, your chorus is singing how broken your heart is and how hard it is to move on, then the verse will explain the details that happened that led to heartbreak.

Interestingly, you can also do that the opposite way. You can tell the world how in love you are with your chorus, but people will understand that your verses contain the reasons why you are so in love.

Get your listeners to imagine things

I’ve said that in the verse, you will find the story of your song that leads to your chorus. To be more specific, you can develop your plot in the verse.

Much like in the film, you can write scenes in your verses. This will help your listeners make use of their imagination.

Make Contrast Between Verses

Your verses don’t have to agree with each other. You can write butterflies and rainbows in your first verse and then talk about rain and darkness in the second verse.

Making use of contrast is very useful because it creates interest and removes the monotony of your song.

Use One Or More Verses

You can choose to write just one verse for your entire song and go back to it again for your second.

You can also choose to have multiple verses; it’s actually up to you and your creativity on how many verses you would like your song to have.

Split The Story Using Verses

Proper usage of the verse of a song is to split your story using your verses. Make them like episodes where the first verse tells your audience something; then, the continuity flows through the second verse.

You can decide to create a third verse or continue the story with your bridge and other parts of the song.

The main takeaway here is that you can split or give your listeners small bits of the story within your song using your verses.

Pre-Chorus

This is not a necessary part of a song. You can choose to use a pre-chorus to skip this part. It will be dependent upon your artistic taste.

A pre-chorus is like a snippet of what’s to come at the chorus of your song. Think of it as a trailer, a small portion of your incoming chorus.

Your pre-chorus doesn’t have to sound like your chorus. The emotion and the vibe it sets should connect towards your chorus.

Should you decide to use a pre-chorus, the following tips can help you create an effective pre-chorus.

Introduce new chords and harmonies

When writing your pre-chorus, it would be wise to deviate from the verse in terms of the melodic structure and the harmonies or the chords you are using.

If you don’t add interest by doing these small changes, your pre-chorus won’t be that effective, and your song would sound flat.

Introducing a bit of a change will cause your listeners to be anxious and excited about what’s to come, which is the chorus. These little changes can add life and interest in your song structure.

Introduce a different rhythmic pattern or a drum line

Chords and harmonies aren’t the only things you can add in your pre-chorus to introduce change and interest. You can add a different rhythmic pattern in your drumline or any instruments of your music.

The goal of writing a pre-chorus is to create a sense of anticipation, a build-up towards your chorus. If you can manage to do this very thing, your chorus will have the desired effect once the listeners get into it.

Chorus

This is the heart of your song! Everything you’ve been building up since the Intro of your song culminates into this critical section in the entire song structure.

Oftentimes, people would take the lyrics of a song and use it as a title. It’s the part of the song that people remember the most.

It’s the catchiest part.

Here are some tips to make your chorus effective

Make It Grand

All the build from Intro to your Pre-Chorus leads to an expectation that the chorus is fantastic. One way to do this is to make your chorus grand!

How do I make my chorus grand?

Grand is a descriptive but subjective term. It’s up to you what sounds grand, but one thing you can do is to bring all available tracks or instruments together in your chorus.

To make it grand, you need to have the majority of your musical elements working together in this section of your song structure.

The electric guitar can come in, the drums are pumping, and everything is doing their part. Just remember not to go overboard, or you’ll be making it noisy instead of grandiose.

Make One of your Choruses Anti Climactic

This may raise many eyebrows, but it is a possible choice for your chorus. When I say make it anticlimactic, I do not mean to make it boring or downright depressing.

People are always expecting that we write songs leading to a chorus. All those build-ups create anticipation for your listeners, luring them to the thought that the chorus will be a blast.

Once you’ve set this expectation, you can choose to disappoint your listeners artistically. To disappoint may not be the right term, but twisting your audience can induce mixed emotions. When you do it the right way, people will remember you.

This is a risk, though, and use it with care.

The Difference Between A Refrain and A Chorus

Before I proceed with the other sections of our energetic structure, I need to make a distinction between a refrain and a chorus.

To make things simple, just remember the following:

  • Refrains can be part of your chorus but not the other way around
  • Refrains are a few lines of words repeated over and over to make a point, but a chorus is an entire section with more words to complete that section.
  • Refrains are more of the lyrics part of your song and what you have to say while the chorus involves everything you want to be heard altogether. That includes the music, the melody, and every possible element you see fit.

Bridge

Typically, you only want to do this once in the entire song structure, and it usually happens between the second and third chorus. 

The bridge changes the pace of a song, and it stands out in many ways. The bridge is like an entirely different material within the same song. It’s different in terms of music and lyrics.

The main point of writing a bridge is to knock your listeners to the reality that there is still more to the song. Once they have been so caught up in the format of your verses and choruses, the bridge is an effective section to give them a dose of surprise.

Here are some things you can do with your bridge to make it more useful and exciting.

Introduce a different melodic structure

If you have a good song, most probably, your listeners are already enjoying the verses and choruses. The bridge is a very effective section to introduce something different as far as your melody is concerned.

Remember, your verses are somehow related in terms of their melody, you just change a few lines a little bit to add contrast, but the entirety of the verses are tied.

The same goes for your choruses; they sound the same!

Now, the bridge is a perfect section to add a new melodic line, something that the listeners are not expecting. When done right, your listeners will love this portion.

Make a new musical arrangement and a different key signature

The goal of the bridge is to introduce something new within the song, what better way to do it than to juggle the entire musical arrangement?

Introduce a new key signature. Writing a foreign key from where the song initially started can be very captivating for your audience.

I strongly suggest to hype things up and bring your listeners to a new dimension using the bridge.

Instrumental or Adlib

I guess this part is a bit redundant because both the Intro and the outro are also instrumentals or only music without the vocals.

This is more a lay man’s term and not necessarily an official term found in a dictionary for songwriting. Yet, thousands of songs were produced with this section of the song structure.

This section is pretty straight forward; it introduces a segment where an instrumentalist can highlight their skills while adding flavor to the song.

It’s a pretty common thing to do back in the days, but for our current 21st-century music, this portion has been largely left out, although there are still a few producers who are taking advantage of this part.

Ultimately, it’s you who will be the one to decide if you include this section or not. 

Coda

The coda is the part of your song or music that brings the entire structure towards an end. Pretty straight forward.

After all the journey, your listeners went through; the coda is the section where you want them to realize we are coming to an end.

Now, this is also a bit subjective because, in music, a coda is a section where we can jump to if we have the term “dal segno al coda,” which means jump to coda when you get to the segno.

Get this. Not all songs have a coda. Some songs simply end with a final chorus and then an outro.

This part of the song structure is much like the instrumental part. A song can exist with and without this section.

Outro

This is the final part of our entire song structure. It tells the listener that the song is coming to an end. There are a lot of ways to create an excellent, effective outro.

Here are some of the ways you can make your outro interesting.”

  • Do the opposite of your Intro. If your Intro is a bit fast, you can slow things down with your outro.
  • Use your Intro as your outro. This may not be exciting, but it’s also an option.
  • Use the theme of the chorus to create an outro
  • Slowly fade while using the chorus as your outro.
  • Make a different melodic structure for your outro to keep things interesting.

    image by Squirrel Trench Audio.

The ABABCB Song Structure

We can call

A as the verse

B for the chorus

and C for the bridge.

For the other sections, you can allocate other letters if you want, but for the sake of this discussion let us focus first on the first 3 sections mentioned.

Today’s songs you hear on the radio have a typical structure that they follow. It’s something we are very familiar with even though we hear a song for the first time.

Famous examples of ABABCB song structure include:

  • “High and Dry” by Radiohead (1995)
  • “What’s Love Got To Do With It” by Tina Turner (1984)
  • “Hot N Cold” by Katy Perry (2008)

We know when the chorus is coming, or a final change key is about to come in. We know it because we are used to hearing the same structure or a closely related structure of a particular song from another song.

Common Song Structures

Ever wondered why the majority of pop songs that were written follow the same structure? This is because it works and has been entirely successful for decades across different genres.

It’s a structure that we are all familiar with and have come to enjoy listening to.

AABA (32 Bar Form)

This form is a prevalent American songwriting form during the first half of the twentieth century. Some names worthy of mentioning that were champions of this form were Bing Crosby and Cole Porter.

This form is made up of the following:

  • An A section that is 2 eight-bar long
  • B section that is an eight-bar long and usually contrasting in harmony from the first section
  • Final eight-bar A section which is almost the same as the previous A-sections.

An example of this form is 

  • “All I Have to Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers (1958)

Verse-Chorus Form

Currently, the most popular song structure that is used in pop songs, rock, and almost any other genre available today.

Unlike the 32-bar form, the chorus is a crucial part of and what people remember the most when they listen to this form.

It’s the exact form you hear in most songs produced and played on the radio today.

Conclusion and More Resources

The goal of knowing all of these is to equip you with the knowledge of how to create a song that is pleasing to hear.

A song that has a sense of direction and fulfillment. Hence, we structure them properly.

I also wrote an article on how to write better lyrics. Head over there and become a better songwriter now.

effective ways on how to write song lyrics

4 Effective Ways On How To Write Song Lyrics

Not everyone will agree, but for me, songwriting is all about getting the message across. It’s your content that matters the most while your music is there to lift it.

The question is, how can you write better lyrics? Are there more effective ways on how to write song lyrics?

Well, you are in luck because I’ve laid out a couple of tips on how to write lyrics better.

1. Pick a topic or a theme.

Songwriting is much like poetry. You can even say that songwriting is poetry set to music.

People are triggered or inspired to write lyrics through different means — some out of anger, others out of love. 

Whatever the subject matter that you choose, it all boils down to one apparent reason – you need to talk about a central theme.

It’s easier to write content around a particular subject rather than writing aimlessly without knowing what you are writing about.

Use KEYWORDS to trigger ideas.

Most inexperienced songwriters would do something like this – get a pen and paper and start writing.

Naaahhh… I doubt that will work smoothly for most people. Let me show you a trick so good, it’s one of my effective ways on how to write song lyrics.

Although there are gifted lyricists, the vast majority of songwriters don’t have that gift of writing in an instance. They usually take time. If you are still reading this article, then most probably, you are one the vast majority I am talking about.

Now, enough sidetracking.

Keywords are super useful tricks to jumpstart your lyrics. How do you go about using them?

Simple.

First, we presume you have already chosen a topic to write about.

Here’s an example to elaborate on my point.

Topic: Rainy Days

Keywords:

  • cold
  • coffee
  • blanket
  • wet

As you can see, I wrote five (5) random keywords that I think are connected with my topic about rainy days. Now, the next thing I need to do is to connect these keywords and fill in some words in between until I get my lyrics going.

For example:

On a COLD Tuesday night and a COFFEE in my hand

Under a BLANKET of WET memories alone I stand

Haha, I just made things up, and it doesn’t seem right, but I managed to fill in some words in between the keywords I wrote. Now, I have written myself some weird lyrics which I can fine-tune as the writing progress.

How about another example?

Topic: Cheating Girlfriend

Keywords:

  • hate
  • anger
  • beauty
  • danger

Now, let’s see what sort of things I can conjure out of this list of words about a cheating girlfriend.

Her BEAUTY entices every man that looks at her.

The words from her lips only spell DANGER

An angel I once thought I’d never HATE

Has triggered only ANGER as of late.

Well, I think you are getting the point of how to use KEYWORDS to your advantage if you want to write lyrics for your songs.

Before we continue, you might want to check these 17 Guaranteed Tips To Make Better Songs.

2. Ask, What’s Your Point of View?

When a singer sings your song, the singer establishes a relationship with the audience. It means the singer expresses the idea of the song.

So, where can you find ideas? They are everywhere. You need to know what you are going to say to your audience or listeners or how you are going to say it.

Remember, when writing your lyrics, you are expressing your point of view to your audience.

1. The Third Person Point Of View 

effective ways on how to write song lyrics – the first person point of view

This writing in a way where the singer is the storyteller. It’s like watching a movie where everyone is not involved, and the singer is the storyteller.

Here’s an example.  

He told her the words “I love you,” but she couldn’t say it back.

The singer is asking the listener to observe He and Her from afar. It’s like watching a guy saying “I love you” to a girl and got rejected.

It’s taking a look at things from a distant view.

2. The First Person Point of View

This point of view of writing is very intimate and up close. We start zooming in the camera and get much more in the story.

Example: I have given her everything, even the stars, and the moon, but she won’t love me back.

Notice how the singer becomes the person involved in the story, and the audience now gets a more intimate view of everything.

The singer now is telling the audience something about himself. 

3. The Second Person Point of View

Now, another exciting way of writing a song is to set the lyrics from the second-person point of view. 

The singer becomes the middle man of the story. 

Example: You have given her everything and yet could not love you back.

The singer becomes some advisor for the audience who have experienced something similar to our example.

3. Using Mind Maps To Visualize Your Lyrics

effective ways on how to write song lyrics – mind map

Sometimes, visualizing things can enhance the songwriting experience. It’s pretty much like using keywords but a lot more visual.

Mind maps act as a visual presentation of how you will go about writing your lyrics.

You put your main topic at the center of your map and start writing keywords around it. Use lines to connect your keywords to your main subject.

A mind map is like drawing the sun. You use a circle and inside the circle resides your main topic. Around the circle are all the keyword ideas you wrote that revolve around the central theme.

Here is a link to a free mind map generator site that you can definitely use for your songwriting.

4. Experience Is The Best Teacher

They say, “You cannot give what you do not have.” That is true about songwriting, especially constructing your lyrics. At the end of all these effective ways on how to write song lyrics, experience sums it all.

Yes, you may write about something from an outsider’s point of view, but you are a more productive writer when you write it from the inside.

Meaning, it’s easier to write something you have experienced.

For example, let’s say you want to write on the topic of fishing.

You have never gone fishing before, so you sit down in front of a computer and google everything about fishing.

It just won’t work.

If you want to write a song about fishing, you must have gone fishing at least.

You can’t write a heartbreak song if you haven’t experienced it at all. It would be very shallow!

If you want to write about something, then experience it yourself!

Conclusion on effective ways on how to write song lyrics.

There are no rules in songwriting, especially in creating the lyrics. The things I have written here are only guides or tools which an artist can use at his or her disposal.

I want to provide a much smoother transition for those who want to improve their songwriting skills.

Everyone has to start somewhere, but if I can help you make the journey more comfortable, then I have accomplished my goal of writing this article.

guaranteed songwriting tips

17 Guaranteed Songwriting Tips To Make Better Songs

Guaranteed Songwriting Tips and Techniques

This is a compilation of songwriting tips and tricks that will surely give a good head start for anyone new in songwriting. For those who are already writing songs for some time now, you may find the following concepts to be a reminder or a breath of fresh air into your collection of tips and tricks.

In connection to these guaranteed songwriting tips, you also need to know what effective songwriting habits you must have to be a better songwriter. Go read the link if you want to know more about it.

Perfect Rhyme Is Not Always Easy To Sing

To start our series of songwriting tips for this article, we will begin with our words or lyrics. Lyric writing and poetry have only one significant difference. Lyrics are meant to be sung. Sometimes, when we write a word, we find it perfectly rhyming and fitting into the structure, but it is challenging to sing

A lyric that is hard to sing is more likely bad to listen to either. 

Although the average listener can’t tell what is wrong with your words, it’s there.

So to solve or avoid such problems, choose words that will communicate your message, and easy to sing at the same time.

Your Main Message Should Be In Your Chorus

songwriting tips - your chorus is your main message
guaranteed songwritingtips to make better songs

Your chorus should contain the central message of your song. It is called the chorus because many people are singing it. Hence, it is something people would want to sing and easy to understand.

Your chorus should be singable by many or easy to remember.

Do not get too busy thinking and writing the verses that you miss delivering the main point in your chorus.

Some songs even start with their choruses. They want to hit home the message right away.

Consistent Imagery

A metaphor is to use something to represent or symbolize a message or an object. The heart represents love, a snake will symbolize a traitor, and the mailbox represents an incoming message.

Keep your imagery consistent. Never stray from that metaphor or else you run the risk of losing focus and interest with your lyrics.

The song jar of hearts is all about sadness and a person breaking other people’s hearts. It would be very unfit to include apples, or cute puppies in the imagery

You are building a world of imagery around a single metaphor, in this case, the jar of hearts.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

guaranteed songwriting tips - imagery
Guaranteed Songwriting Tips – Imagery

To write a song is ideally like telling a story, and in every story, it’s the details that capture your audience’s attention. Details that you sprinkle in your verses, in the chorus, and all across the entire song.

These details can take the form of an image or a picture. The expression "A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words" is definitely right for songwriting.

You throw an image to tell something to your audience, and your listener begins to use their imagination. This helps your listener engage more in-depth into your song.

Jim Croce in his classic “Time In A Bottle” tells us in his lyrics that if only he could put time in a bottle, he’d be doing something else he’d never done before.

You can’t literally put time in a bottle, but by painting a picture of time as something you put in a bottle, he brings the listener in a different aspect of looking at time in his song.

The last line of your chorus is a big opportunity 

The last line of your chorus is a perfect opportunity to write the hook of your song. Most of the time, the arrangement of the music always leads to or highlights the end of a chorus. A songwriting tip to remember here is that choruses have endings that contain hooks.

Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” shows this method to be very accurate. The music of the chorus leads to a build-up of the last line of the chorus, which is the title itself – it’s my life.

The end of your chorus is a very noticeable spot, and learning to take advantage of this knowledge will give you a boost in engaging your listeners.

The first line of the chorus is equally noticeable too and is a perfect spot to place the hook of your song. These lines, when used properly, is very satisfying for the listeners. 

Your First Line Can Also Be Your Last Line

When you find yourself thinking of how to end your song, a good option would be to end it with how you began.

Try using your first line as the last line of your music. This may not work every time, but when it does, it works as something to remind the audience what the song was all about.

It brings the message of the song full circle as you end with the same words you started with. This approach serves as a reminder to your audience how the song began.

Sometimes, nonsense makes sense at all

Sometimes, nonsense words are the most sensible thing we could do with our song.

Remember the song Mmmbop by The Hansons?

You are bombarded by nonsense words of mmbop dubi dap bop du woap…

I honestly don’t understand a word they were singing, but it works for me. A lot of listeners likes to listen to the song.

Guaranteed Songwriting Tips – nonsense words makes sense

Another example of a song using nonsense words is Uptown Funk. The opening lines go like Dot, dot do dop dot do dop…

These words make your songs memorable. So memorable that people would follow along to the tune regardless of the gibberish we sometimes put into the lyrics. It’s one of those guaranteed songwriting tips and techniques you should remember.

As a songwriter, we need not forget that we can make use of simple to nonsense words to deliver our point. 

Yes, it may take a moment for your listener to digest what you wrote, but it is totally fine as long as it works. 

Keep Your Rhyming Interesting and Don’t Overdo It.

For ages and time immemorial, rhyming has always been a very crucial device that songwriters use over and over again. It’s designed to make your lyrics sound more exciting and easy to memorize.

Taking advantage of rhymes help you get inside your listeners mind much more natural, and the words stay longer.

You may want to consider adding variations to your rhyme but not doing it too much that becomes cheesy for your listener.

Keep the format or your rhyme scheme in similar sections. You may want to use an AABB format for the first verse, and do the same with your second verse.

It’s totally up to you on how you will use rhymes to captivate your listener’s attention.

Try switching lines, verses, or parts of a song.

When we are still constructing our song, we really don’t know what works yet. We keep writing stuff that flows from our minds hoping we could make sense of things later.

There will be moments when we realize that switching our verses, a few single lines, choruses or whatever parts of your song may actually help it get more traction.

We can either switch the verses or the chorus and bridges.

Simplify Your Song Structure

guaranteed songwriting tips - structure
guaranteed songwriting tips – structure

The structure of your song can ease listener experience and help them understand better what your song is all about.

When you have too much going on in your song, your listeners may tend to lose interest or have a difficult time following your song’s intent.

If you already have a verse, pre-chorus, and chorus, you may consider not adding a bridge and a coda anymore.

I’m not saying that it is wrong, but sometimes, simplicity can do the trick for you.

Although things will still follow a songwriter’s preference, it will sometimes help to realize that having too much detail or enormous structures can lead to uninteresting results.

Find Symmetry In Your Structure

It’s easier for your listener to follow along if you have symmetry in your song. Symmetry is beauty in itself.

Your verse one should be similar to verse two. I’m not saying the verses should contain the same words, but they must have the same structure. The same number of lines and the rhyme scheme.

You choruses also must have the same number of length. It is possible to have different lyrical content in your choruses but keep it in a way that it is symmetrical with the other choruses you have in your song.

If you dive deep into music theory and song form, you may find that there are several ways how to write and structure a song. For a start, just remember that symmetry is good. 

Learn What Your Strengths Are In Songwriting

We all have our biases, and we can’t deny it. If you are a guitarist, you tend to think of songwriting from the perspective of a guitar player. That may mean, you would like to do more of your guitar music than that of your song lyrics.

That may not be true all the time, but definitely whatever we are used to will eventually sip through our music.

Learn what your strengths are in songwriting and find co writers whose skill sets complement yours.

The more you make music and songs with other people, the more you will realize where you are good at, and it’s an advantage.

Knowing the areas where you are weak simply means you have an opportunity to improve on it. That is only possible if you work with other people.

Be Open To Suggestion While Keeping Your Identity

Suggestions and opinions often times makes us feel uncomfortable when it goes against our own way of thinking.

Don’t close your doors to it. Take a perfect look at any opinion or suggestions given to you. There are things we may never have tried before, and it may seem awkward at first, but don’t turn it down.

Listening to new ideas can help you become a better songwriter. 

Try and write something you’ve never done before. Explore areas that you have never tried or approaches that you’ve never thought of doing before.

It can be surprising to something you have written which is totally different from what you usually write. It’s one of those guaranteed songwriting tips that won’t fail you.

Even though it can be a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, tell yourself to be open to new possibilities and always have a free line and an open ear to suggestions.

If People Can’t Sing It, Don’t Write It

guaranteed songwriting tips - singability
if people can’t sing it don’t write it – guaranteed songwriting tips

When you are composing the melody of a song, be sure to make it singable. Don’t set the bar too high that only a few singers can hit the notes of your song.

Remember, you want people to enjoy your song and be able to sing it. What good is a song if it's only written for a diva to perform and the vast majority of listeners can't appreciate it.

Also, don’t try to write a melody that even singers are having a hard time performing. You will have trouble producing a song which is too rangy. Don’t make it overly challenging. 

Another one of those guaranteed songwriting tips you should be remembering is this. If singers and listeners are having difficulty singing your melody, then you have a problem. It’s an indication of a bad melody.

This is definitely true if you are still seeking to gain traction and followers for your music. Make sure your songs aren’t placed too high for singers to perform it. One of those very important songwriting tips to have in your arsenal.

Bridges Offers A Different Angle Of Your Song

The main goal of writing a bridge is to give your song a different look and a different musical perspective. It helps you and your listeners step away for a moment – both in lyrics and in music.

You are still telling the story of your song while giving it a different touch or texture. The bridge sheds new light on your narrative.

You can try to change the tonal center of your music in the bridge to bring your audience into a different sound away from the original tonality of your song.

The bridge also acts as a preparation for the peak of your song, which is the final chorus. It helps create build that tension that ultimately resolves to your final chorus where everything is bursting into a finale.

Alternatively, you can choose to make your bridge an instrumental instead. It will give a different touch to your song. A break from the words and bring your audience to a little musical treat. This is one of those guaranteed songwriting tips you should try.

Don’t Follow Trends – They Will Fade

guaranteed songwriting tips - don't follow trends
guaranteed songwriting tips – don’t follow trends

A good addition to our collection of guaranteed songwriting tips that will have a lasting effect is to not chaste after trends. Write something that moves you. If you can’t learn to appreciate your own material, you can’t expect people to love it also.

If you are swayed to write what the latest trend is, chances are you're already too late. What may be trendy today will soon fade into oblivion tomorrow.

Songs that last often are not following the trend. They were written by songwriters who at the moment was deep into things that moved them. Hence, their songs moved their listeners.

Songs that last are songs that were written by heart, not by trend.

A Song Can Only Say So Much

Don’t try to write everything in one song. You only have roughly four (4) minutes more or less in today’s standard. Don’t write everything your mind speaks of.

Choose what works for you, but sometimes it's saying less that says a lot. 

You can’t possibly try to say everything unless you are writing an oratorio.

First of all, today’s listeners have very short attention spans. Unless you write a hit like Bohemian Rhapsody, try to keep it short and concise. Deliver the point as soon as you can, don’t try to say too much.

Follow The Structure Of Your Favorite Song.

This is not plagiarism. Our favorite songs are songs that have worked and have made their mark in the music industry. Why not learn from these songs? They are already guaranteed songwriting tips waiting to be picked and be used for creating songs.

Use these songs as a reference and a guide in how you will do your work. These songs have already been successful, and it’s a perfect blueprint for you to follow and understand what made it work.

Figure out how the songs where segment and try to write the same format. It's an excellent way to learn songwriting.

We all had someone to look up to and imitate before finding our own voice. It’s not a bad thing to take inspiration from already successful materials. 

If You Want To Publish For Radio Then Don’t Write Long Intros

In today’s market, having a long intro in your song doesn’t do very well. You have limited time to say things in your songs, let alone have time to do a long intro.

Back in the days where only the rich can afford to record songs in big studios, listening to songs with long intros were totally fine. You only have a handful of songs to remember, so people had time to listen to.

In today's very competitive market where everyone can just write and produce songs in their bedroom, you need to get to the point as soon as possible.

Get to the singing part and don’t waste precious time doing an intro, especially if you are publishing for radio.

You can do two versions of your song. A short version for radio edit and an extended version for your official release.

I hope you find these guaranteed songwriting tips and techniques useful, here are 10 more new ideas you can explore.

effective habits to improve your songwriting skills

13 Highly Effective Songwriting Habits To Improve Your Songwriting Skills

Habits To Improve Your Songwriting Skills

F

or someone to succeed in, he has to develop a set of good habits that will prepare him for success. A boxer prepares for a match by doing all the routines he needs to be in shape.

To win competitions, athletes need to develop good practice habits and consistently stick to the plan.

That should be the same attitude even for songwriters. The way we approach songwriting affects our output in ways most of us don’t even realize.

To be a better songwriter, you have to develop good practice habits. Here is a list of beneficial songwriting habits that will help you how to improve your songwriting skills.

habits to improve your songwriting skills - confidence.

Be Confident And Believe In Your Gift

An essential habit that one must cultivate in any given craft is confidence. Accept that you are a songwriter and don’t be shy about it.

Yes, you may not have your hits on the radio right now, and no one knows about your songwriting skills yet. This should not stop you from writing your own music.

Understand This

Believe in yourself! The moment you start creating songs, you are already a songwriter. 

It’s only a matter of time and good practice until you start writing something that people will love to listen to.

Every journey starts with that one simple step, and you have to decide to take that step.

Do you want to start making your own songs? Start writing!

Make Time To Write

Don’t wait until you have time to write – make time to write. Songwriting is already challenging, don’t make it even harder by trying to make uninterrupted time.

Don’t wait to have a huge amount of vacant time because you might find yourself pretty occupied with your daily activities.

Remember This Tip

Practicing less but often is way more effective than practicing for two hours once a week. This concept applies to songwriting too.

Start writing a little every day, believe me, it will all add up. It’s called songwriting endurance and consistency, which you’ll never have if you try writing less frequent.

Find A Place To Write

Find a place where you can start writing uninterrupted. It may be at the comfort of your home, along a riverbank, or some secret hideout where you can find solitude to focus on your songwriting.

An Important Point

It doesn't have to be a big space, even a small desk or chair in the corner of your living room can be a haven for your creativity.

Dedicate a space in your home or your favorite place and make sure your writing tools are available. That can be your guitar, laptop, or the classic pen and paper.

Avoid Inactivity To Be More Productive

Study shows that inactivity kills more people than obesity in Europe. Well, you don’t have to be obese or to be in Europe to find that this is true even for songwriting.

Inactivity kills your creativity for songwriting.

When we practice our mental muscles, we get good at whatever it is we’re doing – in this case, songwriting.

Ponder on this

Writing a title a day keeps your songwriting mind active. 

Doing so also gives you a list of titles you can refer to when you ran out of ideas. 

Also, writing a title a day is definitely more achievable than writing an entire song.

Write For Short Periods Daily (As Often As Possible)

It doesn’t have to be five minutes, it can be ten, six or many minutes you want to commit. The point is, set a realistic amount of time daily where you can engage in songwriting.

It’s not every day that inspiration will come to you naturally. There are days where motivation is nowhere to be found. If nothing happens after five minutes of trying to write, you have nothing to lose. At least you have worked your mental muscles.

There’s no point in making yourself miserable by trying to sit down for hours and not having anything worth writing.

habits to improve your songwriting skills - muscles

Condition your songwriting muscles.

There is a term in psychology that is important in having a sound songwriting mind – it’s called conditioning.

When we repeatedly do something, it then becomes a habit. Our muscles (especially our neurons) remember such repetitions, and we get better at it.

The Secret

The key to any kind of craft is repetition or conditioning. We condition ourselves by repeating proven methods that work.

The more songs you write, the more you become consistent and efficient. That is how you condition your songwriting muscles.

Don’t Try To Achieve Perfection Especially In Your First Draft

When you are in a writing session, try not to achieve perfection, especially on your first draft. It may be gratifying if that approach works, but more often than not, it doesn’t.

Understand This

Perfection is a dead-end, it's humanly impossible. Strive for excellence.

When starting out and writing your first draft, write everything that comes to mind, and don’t hit that backspace button yet.

You can always come back to what you have written and polish it. That way, you don’t interrupt the flow of your creativity by correcting every error you see in your first draft.

Remember, momentum is your friend. Don’t ruin it by trying to be perfect all the time.

Organize unfinished ideas

More often than not, we tend to finish songs in multiple sessions. Yes, there are times when inspiration strikes you so hard that it only takes us a few minutes to complete a song (so they say).

Worth Trying

Always keep your unfinished songs in an organized manner.

Doing so will help you return to whatever you’ve written much easier. 

You don’t want to come back to a bunch of scribbles, going up and down your notes trying to figure out where you left.

It’s incredible how a few days or weeks can give you a different perspective on an unfinished song. Try to make it easier to come back to it by organizing your unfinished ideas.

Being organized is a great addition of habits to improve your songwriting skills.

Record random and spontaneous song ideas.

A lot of our creative process tends to be spontaneous. You find yourself doing something very random, and suddenly a melody or lyrics come to mind.

Never Forget This

Don't let these random creative juices go to waste. Record them! 

Don’t make the mistake of not recording them because they are forgotten just as fast as they come to you.

Ten years ago, people would suggest having a recorder with you so you can record random ideas when you are writing a song. Today, you can just grab your phone and do just that.

You can always come back to these recorded ideas later, and make a masterpiece out of it.

Record a rough demo of your song

Just as you need to record spontaneous ideas and inspirations, you also need to capture a rough demo of your song. 

Once you’ve finished writing a song, forgetting how it goes is an easy thing to happen. You wouldn’t want something like that to happen after all the efforts you’ve done to finish a song.

Note To Self

Get the habit of recording your song after you've finished them. This way, it will help you remember how a song goes.

Your phone or laptop can do the job for you. Also, it would be easier for you to produce that song later if you decide to have it published.

work with other songwriters

Work with other songwriters

There are so many great benefits when working with other songwriters.

A Powerful Thought

Remember, having two or more brains working together is way more powerful than trying to finish a project on your own.

You will never know what possibilities await when you try to reach out and write with other songwriters. You learn new things, a new approach, and a lot of stuff which is not possible if you work alone.

You will also have the privilege to see things from the perspective of another artist. This will give you insights to ideas you’ve never thought of before.

Attend workshops and learn new materials

Learning is a lifelong process. As long as your breathing, learning never stops. It is definitely true in songwriting. When you think you’ve done it all, you’ll realize that you still have more to learn.

Remember This

Another benefit of learning new materials is that it gives new light or a fresh perspective on things you have already known before.

Attending workshops does precisely all of these things.

You learn new insights and reinvigorates your passion for songwriting.

What’s more amazing about workshops is that it introduces you to new groups of people.

Show people what you have done

It’s pretty pleasant and gratifying to have written a song or two. It’s also very fulfilling if we have learned and improved our craft over time.

Notice This

All of these are for nothing if you do not have an audience to consume your music. You need people to hear what you have done.

Hearing other people sing songs that you’ve written brings a new level of satisfaction to your songwriting career.

If you are someone who desires to get a record deal out of your creation, then you should have your songs published.

Find ways to advertise and have people listen to your songs. Doing so will slowly build your audience and followers who would like to hear more from your arsenal of original songs.

It won’t come easy. I promise you, publishing and letting people know about your songs will eventually lead you to more significant opportunities.

Consistency Is Key On How To Improve Your Songwriting Skills

These are all great habits to improve your songwriting skills. Now, all that’s left to do is to implement these songwriting tips into your workflow.

Not every songwriter has the same approach to songwriting. Not all of the ideas mentioned above will work for you, but if it does, make sure you do it.

Finally, be consistent with your habits. Don’t do things right for a day and start forgetting it the day after. Consistency and perseverance will produce great results in your songwriting skills if you commit to any of the following tips.

Happy songwriting!

crucial skills needed to be a songwriter

5 Crucial Skills Needed To Be A Songwriter

Songs can send messages far more effective than written words. Time and time again, songs have captivated the listeners’ emotions. Songs were written to make us cry, laugh, and love. It’s those who write such songs that have mastered the skills to move people through music and words. There are 5 crucial skills needed to be a songwriter.

To write a song, you need to have a lyric and a melody. The words you use for your song are the lyrics, and the tune or the notes that go with the words is the melody.

To be a songwriter, you need to have a way of taking your thoughts, ideas, and passion and putting them all together in a song. 

5 Crucial skills needed to be a songwriter

Is this your first time to write songs? You’ve already written a few perhaps and would like to improve more on your songwriting skills.

Whatever skill level you are right now with your songwriting, you need to know what skills you’ll need to develop and learn.

Inspiration or spark of ideas

Just like poetry or any other form of art, we all need to start from an idea – an inspiration so to speak. First of the crucial skills needed to be a songwriter.

The urge to create and realizing that you have something to express – in this case, a song.

Inspirations can be artistic, political, emotional, even anger, or anything that moves you to write.

Someone compiled a list of songs inspired by classic books from book riot. It’s an example of where to get your inspiration which obviously, the list of popular songs did.

Another good example is the song “Vincent – Starry Starry Night” by Don Maclean. The song is inspired by an actual real-life story of a painter who goes by the name of Vincent Van Gogh.

Inspiration is very relative and personal. No one will stop if you want to write a song about cheesecakes or hamburgers; those songs are really useful for advertising.

If you want to write something that will connect with your audience, you need to be inspired by something that people can relate to.

Musical Ability & Lyrical Ability

In songwriting, the ability to play an instrument or by being able to sing is essential. You really don’t need to be an excellent pianist or guitarist to be able to write songs.

Although being able to play an instrument is a great advantage, it is not entirely necessary to have both to be able to write songs.

Musicality simply means a general understanding of what makes music work. For example, having a good sense of rhythm and making really engaging melodies or tune.

Songwriting doesn’t only exist for those who can play an instrument. It also requires the skill to write lyrics.

Lyrical ability is the gift of painting mental ideas, scenarios, and pictures with words. It is also the ability to articulate what you are feeling through writing.

It is also worth noticing that lyrical ability is understanding which words sound good when sung or the best rhymes put together. These are two additional crucial skills needed to be a songwriter.

Do I need to have both musical and lyrical ability?

Yes and No.

Yes, it is an excellent advantage if you are someone who can play an instrument pretty well and at the same time, write words to your music.

No, you don’t have to have both to be a songwriter. There are a lot of songwriters who specialize in one or the other.

That is where the beauty of collaboration shines most.

What Is Songwriting Collaboration?

Some people don’t have it all. In fact, most don’t. So to complement your songwriting skillset, you need to collaborate or work with other songwriters. It’s also part of the crucial skills needed to be a songwriter.

Some are exceptional at writing lyrics. Lyrics that are really moving and poetic for the listener.

While others are gifted with the ability to create excellent melodies and are outstanding instrument players.

A perfect example of a popular song produced by great people who collaborated is Uptown Funk. Yes, it’s easy to remember Bruno Mars, but in case you don’t know, these are the following names behind the words and music of uptown funk:

  • Jeffrey Bhasker
  • Devon Gallaspy
  • Phil Lawrence
  • Bruno Mars
  • Mark Ronson
  • Nicholas Williams

These people literally built the Uptown Funk and made it the hit we know of today.

By the way, I made an Acappella arrangement of Uptown Funk for Choir, and you can download it from this link.

Benefits of collaboration

The more you write with other people, the more you realize where your strength lies. 

You may find out that you are someone who is a gifted lyricist. Maybe you are a songwriter who can create moving melodies. Either way, you start to identify your strengths and capitalize on them.

Collaboration also offers you the chance to improve on areas where you aren’t that good at – yet.

Lyrics and Melody Aren’t Enough

never enough

It is vital to realize that having an inspiration to write lyrics and music is not enough.

You should learn the ins and outs of songwriting. Experience is the best teacher they say, and gaining on lots of it is crucial to improving your songwriting skills.

Songwriting is a craft. It is the skill to channel your ideas and inspirations together with the words and music into a song. The song that you write must be able to deliver or convey your message in the most effective way.

If you are all about inspiration and no craft, then most probably you won’t connect with your listeners. The same is true of the opposite.

Think of a potter or someone who weaves or any craftsman in any discipline. It all starts with taking the raw material they need to create their masterpieces.

A piece of wood is only a piece of wood, but to a craftsman, it can be made into a lovely table or chair or any piece of furniture with great value.

In a songwriter’s case or in your case, you turn ideas and inspiration into something beautiful that people will love – your song.

Understanding the Structure

crucial skills needed structure
Crucial Skills Needed To Be A Songwriter – Structure

Beauty is not chaos. Songwriting starts with the turmoil inside your head, having too many ideas and making sense out of it.

The human mind is wired to appreciate structure or form, more so with a beautiful composition.

Songwriting is also about structure. These are the verses, pre-choruses, choruses, and bridges to mention a few.

The structure of a song allows songwriters to control the pace and momentum of their song. You can also take advantage of a song’s architecture to bring your listeners to an emotion you want them to feel at the right moment.

Start Writing Now

It takes constant excellent practice to master something, in your case – songwriting.

The skills mentioned in this article are crucial to your journey as a songwriter. I hope by now, you already have a grasp of what you need to focus on with your songwriting.

Besides, there are no absolute ways or formula to write a perfect song – only useful guidelines.

Now, ask yourself, what skills mentioned above do you have or lack? What things are you good at and do you consider collaborating with other songwriters for that matter?

What do you think should be added in this list of crucial skills needed to be a songwriter?