Stop thinking about writing songs, and start writing songs.
You really want to be a famous star, don't you? You daydream about being on stage and hearing the roar of the crowd right? Good! Your only problem is, you're dreaming your life away. If you want to write a really good song, you're going to have to work for it. Start today. Commit to writing a certain number of songs per week, the way successful authors commit to writing a thousand words a day.
Listen actively to a lot of different types of music.
Good writers read several genres of books. Good songwriters listen to genres of songs. As you listen, think about what you like about a song. Are the lyrics unique? Do the song's chord changes perfectly capture a mood? Do you like the transition from one part of the song to another?
You don't have to have a degree in music theory to write a good song, but you should have an understanding of how songs are built. This includes a basic understanding of harmony, melody, and rhythm. Harmony, having to do with chord arrangements having harmonic qualities that blend with both the rhythmic feel and the melody of the song. A beginner would want to look into basic major and minor keys and chords which pertain to the given key they are working in. The I, IV and V chords of any key can be thought of as a meat and potatoes way of writing a song as these three chords will accompany any melody that stays within the given key. There are infinite ways to structure a song, but there's a common sequence found in most of them. As you listen to songs, try to identify the different parts.
Be ready when inspiration comes calling.
Unfortunately, inspiration usually doesn't strike at the most convenient times, so it's important that you be able to remember each new song that pops into your head, no matter where you are. Make sure your phone is always with you so that you can quickly record anything that comes to your mind--melodies can be extremely difficult to capture on paper unless you have a strong music background.
Start with writing lyrics.
Think about something that really touched you or changed your life. That special someone. A bully? A bad breakup. Think about it and describe it. How did that feel? Did it hurt? Does (s)he make you think about him/her all the time? Just start by thinking about personal experiences!
Figure out what you've got.
Once in a while, inspiration will hit you like a full force gale, and suddenly you have a full song out of nowhere. Most of the time, however, just a small piece of a potential song will come to you, leaving you to do the hard, but fun work of fleshing it out. You should have a feel for what part of the song you've come up with.
- If it's super catchy (either a lyrical phrase or a snippet of music), and you can envision it being a repeated theme in the song, you've got the refrain—the climax or summary of your musical story—and you need to write verses to explain how you know in detail.
- If what you've come up with, seems more narrative lyrically or subtler musically — a part of a story rather than the main idea — you've probably got a verse, and you'll need to write the rest of the story (more verses) and, usually, a chorus.
Set the mood.
Make sure your music fits the story. If it is sad, then you may want your melody to evoke sadness (by slowing it down or adding some minor chords, for example) or you might want to add a twist and combine sad lyrics to upbeat music in order to create a sense of tension and ambiguity.
Make your words sing.
Lyrics can appeal to emotions, and they should also appeal to the ear. There are a few different ways to do this. Words should fit with a rhythm you are creating in the song, and the way these words sound play an important part as well. Some words sound smoother than others (for example, "cool breeze" sounds smoother than "frigid wind.") Use the texture and character of words to add to the feeling of a song. Another useful tool for the song writer is rhyme. There are a variety of ways you can rhyme lines in a song to help tie the lyrics together. Learn about these and other tools of poetry, and try putting them to work for you.
- You can rhyme at the end of every line or every other line, or your rhymes can come more sporadically. You can also rhyme within lines for a more subtle effect. There are also other poetic devices you can use, such as alliteration ("They paved paradise, put up a parking lot"). The "p" sound is repeated. And, assonance ("...honesty, promise me I'm never gonna find you faking"). The repeated "ah" sound in "honesty", "promise" and "gonna"). However, do not burden yourself with rhyme! You can get away with making a phrase stand out by avoiding conventional means of fitting it into a song, and many successful songs do not rhyme at all.
Strike a balance between repetition and variety.
Repetition is what makes a song catchy; repeated choruses, for example, stick in our heads even when the rest of a song does not. It is easy to ask people to join you in a refrain, which is why it is usually called a chorus. That’s why so many people know just a few lines of so many songs. While there are good songs that are so simple that they have no chorus and have the same line length, the same rhyme schemes, and the same chord progressions repeated throughout them, most people get bored with that. The most common way to add variety is to insert a bridge into your song.
Look for the hook.
The hook is that elusive part of a great song that captures your very soul and makes you want to listen to that song over and over. Hooks are frequently found in the chorus and often become the title of the song. Sadly, there is no recipe for hooks, but you'll know when you have one. Better yet, your friends will tell you, because it is the part of a song they can not seem to get out of their head.
Smooth the rough edges.
If the pieces do not fit together, try building a transition. Put all the sections of your song in the same key. If your song suddenly changes in tempo (speed) between the two parts, try gradually changing the speed as you enter and exit the section that does not fit with the rest of the song. Try adding a short instrumental interlude that will carry you from one part to the next. While it is possible that two parts should not be in the same song, it could be that you started one part with the wrong meter or wrong kind of beat.
Play or sing your song for people and get their opinions. You’ll probably get a better idea of what they really think after you’ve written a few songs: friends and family may tell you that your first song is great even if it’s awful, but as they hear more of your songs, they’ll probably give you hints like, "It’s good, but I liked that first one you wrote" or "Wow, that’s the best song you’ve written. That’s a really good song." Be prepared for a critic in the family that will accept nothing less than to hear it post-produced with all the bells and whistles that a band in a studio can offer.
Once you've finished your first song, don't stop.
Keep writing and practicing, and you'll find yourself getting better and better. You may need to write a lot of songs before you hit on one you really like, and even after that, you may need to write a lot more before you get another good one. Work hard and have fun doing it!