Songwriting Advice


Songwriting is not an essential part of becoming a singer but well recommended for those who enjoy a challenge.  Anyone can write lyrics, wether they are suitable material for performance or commercially viable is irrelevant and there are plenty of open mic nights where you can try out your masterpiece!  Successful Self-Contained artists (Singer/Songwriters) like Carole King are still able to continue their singing careers when other performers ‘commercial life’ has been overtaken by the latest craze.

So what do you need to write a song?:-
Technical Training may not be a necessity but all songwriters who wish to write seriously should gain as much experience and knowledge as possible.  Courses in Music Theory, Harmony, Sight Singing, Rhythm, Understanding Poetry and playing an Instrument will all help you become a better Composer and Lyricist.

Pad of Paper for Notes & Writing Lyrics
Music Manuscript Books or Paper
Pencils & Erasers
MP3, Audio Cassette or Minidisc Recorder – keep this with you at all times & use it to hum, sing or play your ideas for later review.
Short Cassettes – for recording individual Completed songs
Long Cassettes – for leaving to run whilst creating
Portable File or Folders to keep work in progress portable
Reference Books – A Rhyming Dictionary, Dictionary, Thesaurus & Guinness Book of Hit Singles are essential
Instrument – Most songwriters play an instrument, piano, guitar, keyboard, organ etc.,
Pitch Pipe – If you do not play an instrument this aids in finding the songs pitch.

There are several publications providing music industry contact addresses like White Book which are worth buying as a reference resource or visit your local library.

Every songwriter has their own method, some ‘hear’ parts or the whole song in their minds, others use a hook or melody line to help envisage the words and many lyricists collaborate with composers and musicians to produce the finished article.  There are no ‘set rules’ on how you write songs but there are various tried and trusted methods of producing a viable song for performance and recording.

Concept:- Decide the type, style and a brief outline of what you want the song to say.

Title:- Which may or may not be used in the song but should give an indication of the Theme or Concept

Lyrics/Music:- Wether you prefer to start with the lyrics or the music, the lyrics should provide the listener with a picture of the theme or tale.  Once you have completed the first section repeat using different lyrics then examine your song to see if it requires a ‘Bridge’ (This is a section that differs from the verse). It can be a ‘Hook’ line, a ‘Chorus’ or an ‘Instrumental’ Break.

Now you have the basics of a song you need to think about the arrangement which can be in a variety of formats depending on the type of musical style.  Most songs have a beginning (Intro), middle (Song Verses plus Choruses) and an ending (Sharp stop, Fade Out).

Popular songs tend to work to a Format i.e., Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Instrumental Break, Verse, Chorus, Chorus, End, but each style of song has its own format and if you are considering writing for a variety of performers it is worth listening to a wide range of material to get a general idea of the format before proceeding.

For commercial purposes songs are expected to fit into 3 or 4 minutes although music beds, film & television themes, adverts etc., are written to the clients time specifications and some spectacular songs have managed to sneak in at longer lengths like ‘Telegraph Road’ by Dire Straits which is rarely broadcast in it’s entirety.  Time constraints are limited to airplay, competitions, showcases and television appearances but should also be taken into account when writing for submission to publishing and record companies.

Always Copyright your material before live performance or submitting your work to ANYONE.  Unsure about Royalties? Click Here for an explaination.

Need more advice and tips? Browse the Songwriting Articles written by successful songwriters, A & R and other professional music industry personnel or check out the Songwriting Books and songwriting competitions sections.

Songwriting Tools

Handy online tools to aid in song and lyric creation with sites providing tips and advice on songwriting are listed below. For those seeking to improve their songwriting/composing skills there are several short courses and workshops available.

It’s a small, very simple and free program that finds all the rhymes to a word in the dictionary and helps you write poems, song lyrics, etc. Current version can find words in english and spanish. Version 1.2 is DOS based. 768K Freeware Windows (all).

Rhyme for windows
An application for songwriters.  Type any word and click Rhyme – it will find rhyming words for you! Plenty more free, fun, educational and practical music software downloads at the site for musicians!

Lyricist v2.2
The ultimate songwriting tool provides online file copyright, chord charting and editing, chord wizard, programmable text styles, database storage, album categorization, spell checker, thesaurus, rhyming dictionary, file export, email and media file launch and multi document interface. This commercial software is available for PC & Mac and retails for $39.95 plus shipping.

Anagram Engine at
Enter a word or phrase and discover the anagram!
Online dictionaries, thesaurus, translator and free software that works with their sites.

Diction Domain
Provides extensive information about language diction for singing. Contains a database of links to websites, books and other resources for singers and singing teachers. Tons of language resources – a must visit site!

Rhyme Zone
Online Ryming Dictionary & Thesaurus

Rogets Thesaurus Online
Stuck for a word or meaning? Enter a word into the search engine and it will produce a list of words with similar meanings.

Rec Music Makers Songwriting Faqs
Provides tons of answers to questions for new songwriters. They also have a discussion group where you can discuss problems, meet new people and find collaborators.

Silver Cat Songwriting Checklist
The following items represent a comprehensive listing of song characteristics which apply to most country, pop/rock and adult type songs

Useful Links

The following sites are just a small selection available in our Songwriting Links which contains listings of songwriting organisations, websites, directories and resources dedicated to songwriters and the art of songwriting. All links open in a new window.

Bandit Newsletter
The UK newsletter for songwriters who want to get signed. Packed with regular job listings from major and independent labels worldwide. The site has also teamed up with Dec Cluskey (The Bachelors) to provide a Self-Publishing package for £100.

The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors are amalgamated with APC – The Association of Professional Composers and The Composers Guild of Great Britain. They sponsor songwriting workshops and hold regular songwriting showcases.

International Songwriters Association
has a regular magazine containing articles on songwriting with listings of Collaborators Available/Wanted plus provides a copyrighting service. There is also a free songwriting course sent by email!

Lyric Ideas for Songwriters
Find new and innovative lyric ideas for your songs. Check out the unique Song Theme Planner and take the lyric challenge. By bookmarking this site, you’ll have permanent access to an ever changing source of inspiration for your lyrics.

Muses Muse
is an excellent resource with Songwriting Articles, news, competitions, links, downloads and an active discussion forum, in fact everything a songwriter needs and more!

Recording Studio Listings
Find a UK recording studio with our listings.

Singing Teachers Directory
Listings are available for singing teachers, songwriting courses and workshops on songwriting in the Directory

TAXI: The Independent A&R Vehicle
Connecting unsigned artists, bands and songwriters with major record labels, publishers, and film & TV music supervisors.  Sign up for their free newsletter with the latest labels & producers requirements.  Read Taxi Articles on how to get on in the music business, what A&R REALLY look for and more at Electric Blues Club Music Articles.

U.S. Recording Studios Listings
Links and information on recording studios provided by TAXI.