Song Writing Advice

Every now and then I try to sit down and write a song.

The way it starts out is, I have a great idea for a beginning line, but when I try to build on it, it somehow fizzles away into nothing, and I wind up putting it into a file folder where it then never sees the light of day again.

I would appreciate some input from you songwriters as to how to avoid burnout and how to create a bridge/chorus. Some links would be wonderful, but most of all I’d like to read how y’all construct a tune.

Also, I play a little guitar/bass, but I don’t pretend to be able to write the music to support the drivel that sputters outta my head.

Try paying close attention to lyricists you admire. While I’m not advocating ripping their style off wholesale, you might find your own voice a little easier by recognizing traits that you like from theirs.

Also, one of the tricks I always liked was when you’ve got one verse written and you can’t write the second, make your first verse the second verse and try to write one to go before it rather than after.

Another thing I’ve done in the past is to take all the random lines I’ve written and not been able to build on and try to put them all into one song, changing a word here and there as appropriate. Sometimes it works, but more often it makes you think of new lines that are better. Good luck!

I hate to say it, but probably the best advice is “try harder.” I.e. don’t put it in that folder; instead work on it longer. Or force yourself to take it back out of the folder the next day and spend more time on it.

The thing is, once you have a complete song, and you play it with friends or for friends or just for yourself for a while, it’s shortcomings will become more apparent and you can make it better or or at least improve on the next one. But the first step is completing that first song.

copy song structures from music you love. It’s not ripping them off, its a learning tool.

also, try writing the chorus first, hell, many songs have started with the chorus. It help sets the vibe for the whole piece.

Yeah, doing rewrites is a great way to get the idea.

I almost always start with a melody. Dah0di-dah dah dit…

The words fall into place when I’ve established the rhythm and melody.

Thanks so much, Y’all! I dug out all those lines and will try to re-work them.

I once had the pleasure and privilege of meeting the legendary country singer Dottie West, and I asked her the same question I asked y’all.

Her answer: “You gotta live the words, Bill. Then you get the song.”

She was such a classy lady. I pitched her a song of mine I wrote once called “The Last Great American Love Song (by the last great American Fool)”.

She didn’t like it.

“You shouldn’t have written it, and I’m not gonna sing it.”

But she let me write my name on her wall before I left her house.

I miss her .


I say the more abstract the better. Don’t confess your life story (yes, I’m talking to you, Alanis Morrisette), and don’t give everything away. The most compelling song lyrics I know are those that throw a few perfectly poignent gems in amongst largely image- and emotion-based phrases. YMMV, of course.

And on a more pragmatic note, it’s easier to find words to rhyme or fit the meter when you aren’t adhering to a strict, tell-it-like-it-happened story.