Mood    Ideas    Organizing    Lyrics    Sections    Hooks     Poetic devices    Rhythm of the music    Melody    Chords

“Writing is your path home.  It's the obstacle course you run to get to yourself”     -Kenny Loggins

Songwriting is creative expression  
It's a way to share opinions, spark debate, look cool or save the world, etc. 

Songwriting isn't guitar playing
Some great guitar players never write songs.
You need inspiration, workflow and collaborators.  Anyone can write songs.


There's a lot of theory on this site.  That's good and bad.  

Thinking can block creativity  

Train your subconscious with these skills.   Empty your mind and improvise.   Then elaborate on what works.  
Music is about inspiration.  Use the theory to analyze after you play or write.  Use it to prepare before you play or write.

Build a frame

Use a DAW like FL studios or Ableton to create a short section
This provides a drum track, synth parts or samples you can play guitar or sing lyrics over.

Keep it simple

There's lots of time to make it complex.  Try to get to the essence.  Popular music is easy for the listener to understand. 
Jazz and melodic metal rock, but most people can't hear it or understand it.  

Record a simple riff or chord progression

If you use a DAW loop, record many variations.   Choose the best ones and expand on them.
Play the best ideas over and over until they feel right.    

Record 5 - 30 minutes worth of audio.   If you record more than that, it might be overwhelming.

If you really like the part, perfect it before moving on.  If you think the part will change, accept the flaws in the recording and move on to the next step.

Make sure you can play the part again. If you play complex stuff it's a good idea to video record your hands.
Speak and record any information related to the scale, key, pedal tone settings, tempo, etc.   This makes it easy to remember.

If you use music theory, write down the chord progression, tab the riff, or use the color coded sheet music.

Add a second part over top of it
A melody?   Bass part?  Samples?  Vocals?  Software synth?  Expand the drums?
Whatever.  Add as many parts as you want, but document each step so it can be recreated.

Listen to the best variations
Take a few days and listen to what you made.  This is the incubation period.  Some people can skip this step and keep on working.  This step helps me program my subconscious.  The music I'm making is very complex and I need this step.

Select the best parts

This becomes the rough draft for a song section.   Could it be a verse? a chorus? An instrumental?  An intro?  Is it almost a complete song?  You'll create your own personal workflow at this point.  You must decide.

Imagine other sections of the song  

Use advanced development techniques.  Write lyrics, rhythmic or melodic hooks, use different tones, samples, drum parts etc.  The possibilities are endless.

Analyze, improvise and repeat

Work on simple sounds 

You can play right now even if you just started playing guitar.   Simple techniques make nice sounds. 
See Beginners.

Popular music is easy to play 
Put your effort into
Layering parts,
Creating simple melodies
Finding tones that work together.

This is much easier than becoming a guitar master.  I tried that and went nowhere.  That will happen anyways, with time and proper effort.  

Writing songs will push you
It makes long hours of practice much easier.  It allows you to create and see progress.  It gives you a chance to perform on stage and that's a great feeling!

Sing to write music 

Singing helps guitar playing  See singing
It helps you write songs.   It helps you write melodies.   It makes you more desirable as a band member.

It summons music into your head
You can play guitar on autopilot and practice cliches all day.  Singing will stop that.  You'll hear the music in your head.  This skill is priceless. 

Sing everyday for a year
You'll be amazed.

Write a song a month

Practice your guitar routine each day and then improvise with a drum machine (record good ideas for the future).  
Then work on the song you were working on yesterday.   Spend a month on each song.  In a year, you'll have a CD worth of material.  

Songs keep you focused on progress
It's nice to create something and watch it grow.

You need:

A passion for music

The need to express yourself

The ability to work with others

Good ears



An organized procedure

It’s 80% inspiration
10% perspiration
10%  implementation

Be receptive to any ideas you have.  Song ideas are everywhere. See hook line strategies for inspiration.

Songwriting goals

Find the music in your soul

Connect with others

Create something

Rock out

Songwriting guidelines

Feel first, think second  
Clear your mind.  Feel the scale, tones and rhythm.  Go with the flow.  Play and sing the sounds you hear inside you.
Use your imagination.  Try to hear something first and then play it. 

Don’t copy trends
Express who you are and how you feel.  Other people will imitate you.    

Songs are made of chords, melody, rhythm and lyrics 
You can make a song by starting with any of them.  If you have a weakness, practice will make you better.

Collaborating makes any song better 
Find people and work with them.   People are the secret missing link.  It doesn't matter how good you are.  Read that again.   I was one of the best guitar players in the world and it didn't matter, because I didn't have a band, and I had trouble writing songs and remembering parts.   As a result, being able to improvise rock riffs and solos at 220 bpm didn't matter.  Having a unique style didn't matter.  I have recordings I can listen to, but that's all I have. 

People are the most important part. 
Start looking for them now.

The best workflow is listening, analyzing and singing

Listen to lots of music.   If you need a teacher, be sure they're good.  Let them push you into reading sheet music.  It's actually very important.  Have you ever heard of a writer that couldn't read a book?  Of coarse not.  Use the color sheet music.  It's a better system.    

The music is inside you

I hear amazing music in my dreams, and I'm jealous of the people playing it.  When I wake up, I realize the music is inside me.  I rarely hear it when I'm awake, but it's there.  The easiest way for me to hear music is when I'm jogging.  The pulse of my breath summons it into me.

Music theory is optional
Great songs are written by people with no theory training.  All you need is music inside your head.  Develop this by listening and singing.  It helps to know theory though.  It provides options that open doors and carry you over new musical horizons.  Knowledge of chord progressions and chords is the most important. 

If you have one possibility you know what to do  
If you have many choices, pick one.

Hum or sing the music in your head  
Record it on a pocket recorder. 

Carry a notebook and portable recorder

I've lost hundreds of great songs.  The best ones happen once and never come back.  Call home and sing the music on your answering machine.  Capture the moment of musical inspiration.  This is the most important element.

Write about what you know and feel 
Make it unique.  Your life is full of songs.  Your experiences are shared by millions of other people.
If people identify with you, your message will stay in their hearts, minds and CD players.

Use emotions  
Feel the emotion.  Return to the scene.  Imagine you're there.  Don’t try to cram every emotion into one song. 

What's on your mind?
If you're thinking about it, other people are too. 

85% of mega-hits are love songs  
100% of my favorite songs are not.

You have melodies inside you 

Practice singing for a year and you'll be able to improvise melodies.  Jamming makes this easier.  The other instruments suggest melodies and they just happen.  Make sure it’s an original melody so you don't get sued.

If you hear a melody in your head:  
Sing nonsense words (dummy lyrics) that have the right rhythm.  Record it.  Listen to it, you'll hear real words you can use.  

Words are the most important part of a song when it's finished.  They're the least important part when you begin. 
Most people avoid improvising vocals because they can't think of words. 

STOP THINKING.  Sing rhythmic tones.  Avoid all words, or slip in dummy lyrics as you go.

Sound and rhythm come first

Words can inspire sound and rhythm.
  Sound and rhythm can inspire words.

Play a guitar or piano to find ideas.     See piano
The better you get on your instrument, the more ideas you'll have.  Keep a recorder handy, if you don’t, you will have a good idea. 

Simple songs can be hits 
You need:  strong melody, arrangement, buildup, catchy rhythms, lyrics, etc.  Create a simple chord progression and improvise a simple melody over top.  Write simple lyrics, give it a hook line and build it up.  Write random simple songs and change things that don't work.  Develop the best ones.

Collaborating makes songs better
Find a band and jam the song.  The song will come together in a natural manner.  It will fix any structural problems.  It will enhance the build and flow. 

songwriting mood banner

See Playing with feeling

Major or minor chords affect the mood.  See Major - minor
If the mood's optimistic and upbeat, use a major key.  If it's sad and mournful, use minor.   Minor melodies can switch to major.  This often happens at the end of the song.   The Verse can be minor and the Chorus can be the relative major.     See Major and minor or music theory

Many things affect the mood:

The speed of the song (tempo). 

Phrase or rhythmic balancing     Acceleration or deceleration.

Rhythm  See rhythm.

Background instruments.




Using higher or lower notes in the chorus.

Changing keys.  

The musics mood should match the lyrics
They don't have to match.  Contrast can have a nice effect.  Write a phrase or title that represents the mood.

Create a simple chord progression 
Does the progression suggest a mood?

Improvise melodies over the chords  
Don't worry about words.  Sing dummy lyrics, or rhythmic tones.  Focus on your vocal tone.  Let the tone convey the feeling and mood.  If you have a title line, sing it with your dummy lyrics.

Imagine you're there   

What did it feel like to be the tank commander in Tienamin square, knowing that the brave young student would be executed and choosing to join him.  Do you feel different than you did ten seconds ago?

Images can inspire understanding, tears, empathy, love, etc.

Experiences are real.  Examine what they really mean and then pick up your instrument.


There are no bad ideas
Ideas need clarified, refined and made more unique, clever and real.

“If you're afraid to suck, you’ll never write a note.”     -Jeff Boyle 

If 99% of your music is average, 1% is good
The more music you write, the more of that 1% you'll get.  Free your mind and just do it.   Write and write some more.

Find a quiet place to write
Pick a topic you're passionate about

Hum a simple melody over simple chord changes
Humming a melody unlocks lyrical flow.  The song already exists, you're simply summoning it to you.  A song is a gift from the universe.    Words and music existed before you were born, and the same is true for the song you're writing.  It's not your song, it belongs to the universe.

Improvise on an instrument 
Keep it simple.  The goal is to provide an inspiring platform for the words to come out. 
Playing a simple 1 - 4 - 5 chord progression is perfectly valid.

Collaborate with others

Share the song


“Your best songs will come from true life experiences”      -Joe Isaacs

Write a sentence that explains your song
This is the blueprint for your song.  Stay true to the concept.   Use the idea throughout your song.

Concept ideas:
Love, hate, friendship, enemies, family, children, memories, conflict, winning, loss,
sports, ethics, luck,  
music and song, travel, faith, hope, spirituality, afterlife, past lives, states of mind, protest, praise, future, past, present,
fads, society, government, NWO, etc. 

Write about anything in life.  See hook line strategies 

Song titles and concepts are everywhere 
Listen to people's conversations.  Analyze their complaints and passions.
Watch their behaviors.  Watch the news, TV and movies.  Read magazines, books and quotes.
What matters in your life right now?  

Good inspiration makes good songs


Record the date, time and location
This helps you return to the moment of inspiration.

Give the song a title.   You can change it later.

Organize your recordings
Digital recordings go on a computer.   Tape gets documented and sorted.
Make a cd with your good recordings on it.  Listen to it for inspiration.
Classify your recordings by genre and style.  Song.  Mood.

Make practice CD's or tapes
Listen to chord progressions or melodies while you drive, walk or work.  Listen and imagine new ideas.  Sing  them into a recorder.


Get a 5 section notebook

1.  Random ideas,
Phrases, titles, concepts, observations rhymes and pieces of lyrics.

2.  Songs in progress 
verse, chorus, rhymes or reasons.  Reference your recordings.

3.  Dummy lyrics. 
These lyrics hold the rhythmic place of real lyrics.

3.  Finished lyrics

4.  Lists, songs in progresscontacts, etc.

5.  Doodling section to write until inspiration hits.

Alternative strategy:
Write lyrics on the right page.   Random phrases and ideas go on the left page. 

Put your name and phone number on the book in case you lose it. 
Offer a reward for its return.  

Notice everything that enters your mind  
If you think about it, other people are too.

Write down everything
Go over your list and see what stands out. 

Improvise on your instrument as you look at the words. 
Some words might inspire music with the same mood.

Take the best ideas and start writing a song


Title First                                  Concept First          

Verse                                        Pre-chorus                         Chorus                 Bridge
Rhythm of Words                    Sound of Words
Point of view

Lyrics  =  thoughts  +  rhyme rhythm
Lyrics connect you with other peoples emotions and desires.

Types of lyrics

Story                         People will listen to hear how it ends, especially the first time they hear it.
Love                          From celebration to suicide.  Positive concepts will have a higher listening rate.
Current events       The world is falling apart.  Please fix that right now.
Novelty humor       I was in a band that almost made it because the singer wrote really funny lyrics.
Gimmick                  Write about anything.  The Beach Boys didn’t surf.
Parody                      Make fun of something.
Inspirational            Change the world.  Write about God, heroes, parents, love, desire, spirituality, etc.
Frailty of man          Drugs, greed, hate, etc.  These songs have a low listener retention rate.
Search for meaning         Philosophy, deep thoughts, quantum physics, God, duality, etc.

See Hook strategies

Pop songs don't confuse the listener 
Keep your focus clear.  Pick a category and stick to the topic.

Rock songs can confuse the listener 

You can be cryptic and mysterious.  However, this has changed in the last 30 years. 
Now, pop rock songs are clear and they get to the point.

Make the concept easy to relate to
Start with a concept:     Love, desire, romance
Make it personal:          I'll hold you tight tonight

Contrasts in life have the most impact
What we say    vs.   how we feel. 
How you feel for her     vs      how she feels for you.  

Write with a collaborator.     
They'll inspire you and add to your song.   When a group of people improvise, it makes the song stronger.  It gives the song a natural, flowing quality.
See Jamming

A good lyric blends with the melody.  Sing the song as you write it.

Writing lyrics

What matters to you right now? 
A title might suggest a concept.
An idea or concept might suggest a title.
Any life experiences?
Any cause you believe in?
A storyline you’ve imagined or lived?
A catchy phrase?
A melody that suggests a lyric?

Read and write poetry 
Also read and write philosophy and study common psychological patterns.  What issues are making people sad or happy?

Start with a title
Find a unique way to use the title. 
Pick a subject that's meaningful.
If you haven't wrote music:
Write the melody as you write the lyrics.   Make the melody sound good without any music.

If you wrote the music:
Sing the lyrics over the music.
Improvise a melody.  
If any lyric feels wrong, sing dummy lyrics that feel right. 
Move the title lyric to a different place in the song.  Sing it.

Title locations: 
Put it at the start or end of a verse, or the start or end of a chorus.
Put it as many places as you can.   

In “Let it be”  by The Beatles, the title appeared 42 times.
Don’t force it.  A good title can be used sparingly

Start with a concept

What's the motivation for the song?  
Is this my experience or someone else's?  Why is this concept important to me?

Create a character
Get specific.  What's the character thinking?  What are they feeling?
What's their problem, love or situation?  Is it present, past or future tense?

Write a lyric hook line
Write several and pick the best.  Develop the lyrics. See hooklines

Create a musical hook
Improvise on your instrument.  Find a riff and tone that feels right. 

Verse lyrics

Use a catchy opening line
It has to grab the listener instantly.

The 1st verse explains the song 
Start with a general idea and get specific in later verses. 
Or move from specific to general.   Stick to the concept.

The 2nd verses reveals more information   
Each line should move the verse along.  Use descriptive words and visual images.  The verses set up the chorus.

Write the chorus after writing the 1st verse

It will suggest ideas for the next verse.   Try flipping the order of your verses.  The second verse might sound better first.

Pre-chorus lyrics

The pre-chorus sets up the chorus 
It makes a smooth transition between verse and chorus.  Use non-specific lyrics if the verse is specific.    or vice versa.
It's often 2 - 4 measures long, 4 is average. 

It can unbalance the song by adding extra measures
This creates tension that is resolved by the chorus. 

Chorus lyrics

The title line needs to sum up the verse
This is the lyric people remember and buy.  It can be a few words, a deep thought or a phrase.  It can be simple.
Chorus lyrics can change 
If you have several choruses lyrics, use them.   Keep the title in the same spot.  Don’t change the title too much.
If the title is long, use a simple melody.  If it’s short use an advanced melody.
If the verse melody is simple, make a good chorus melody, or vice versa. 

The chorus notes are the highest in the song

The chorus can be written first  

It’s the most important part of the song.  The title line often suggests chorus lyrics and melody.

Bridge lyrics

The bridge can:
Sum up the meaning of the song.  Expand on the meaning of the lyrics.   Provide something different, such as an instrumental, etc.

The Beatles: 
Paul or John often wrote the bridge for each others song.  This kept the songs fresh, and provided a lot of contrast.

It contrasts the verse and chorus.
If the verse is fast, slow down the bridge.  See deceleration.
If verse is slow, speed up the bridge.  See acceleration.

You can change the key signature.  You can reflect on the verse or look ahead to a plot twist.  The bridge often occurs after the second chorus.  Bridges are often 8 measures or less.   

They average two lyric lines.  

They provide fresh chord changes.

Rhythm of the words

The rhythm of the words is as important as the rhymes.  The biggest hits have great word rhythm.  The words need to flow smoothly without music.

If the words don’t flow, change them.
You want to be able to sing it fluidly.

Sing the lyrics over a drum track. 

You'll hear it if they stop flowing. 

You may have new ideas as you sing.  
Record them and work with them.

Word rhythm can be accelerated.
This adds excitement.  See rhythmic acceleration.

Words can be stretched over measures.  
This is a romantic effect.   Vowel sounds are easiest to extend.

Good rhythm is predictable and unpredictable.
It's a balance between what's expected, and what's not.
Rhythm makes the melody more interesting.

Change rhythm patterns to make a lyric fit in a different section.
But keep them similar.

Each music genre has different rules.
Country and pop use the same word rhythms across sections.  It's easier for the audience to sing along.

Rap changes the word rhythms because the music depends on it.   Rock songs change the word rhythm and maintain the song rhythm. 

Change the word rhythms, but keep the chords and song rhythm.  
That way the listener won't get lost.

Sounds of the words

Words shouldn't sound awkward.
Make it easy for the listener to sing along.  Use a thesaurus to suggest other words.  Use a rhyming dictionary to suggest rhymes.

Use lyrical and poetic devices.  See poetic devices    Or see hookline poetic devices

Write as if you're talking.

Ethical considerations
To baby or not to baby, yeah yeah yeah.

Lyric point of view

1st person is the most personal, and popular.  (I, we, my)
Change 1st person lyrics to 3rd person, and see what the effect is.

3rd person       (his, her, they're)
You can address tough topics that are difficult in first person.  

An advice song.
3rd person helps you avoid being preachy.

Present tense
It's here, now and immediate

Past tense

It's reflective, it looks back on a situation.  You can change viewpoints if you're careful.  This adds movement to a story and moves the song along


If the song is for someone else, be aware of that artists image.  If it makes them look bad, they won't sing it.

Formal vs. Informal
If you're using simple words, don’t start using big words, unless it's a gimmick.

Write songs that match your personality. 

Negative people don't write good positive songs.

Music style affects the lyrics.  
Country: no swearing, crude lyrics or words like lust, sex, etc. 
These rules are always changing.  You can do what you want, but if you want to go pro, follow the rules a little bit.

sections banner

Song forms

Section Arrangement        Other Structures

Song forms or formats make your songs sound professional.  Any of these rules can be broken.

Intro   I    

It's often a version of the chorus.  
It grabs the listener, and shows what's coming.  Pop intros are 12 seconds or less.

Verse   V

It tells the story, sets the mood and introduces patterns.
Each verse expands the story.  Each verse melody is the same, except for variations to make lyrics fit.

Pre-chorus   PC   or   Channel

It's an optional section before the chorus.
It provides fresh lyrics and chords.   It’s no more than 8 measures long.  It contains the same words each time around. 
If the song is propelled to the chorus without it, you don’t need it.

Chorus    C

This is the melody people remember.  
It sells the song.   It contains the highest notes.  It's different from the verse.   

It contains a musical phrase that's repeated through the song. 

The choruses are identical, so people can sing along. 

Bridge   BR   or   release   or   middle eight  

This optional section comes after the second chorus.  
It can contain lyrics or an instrumental.   It has different chords.   It provides contrast and interest. 

Coda   out   or   outro   or   tag     

It gives the song an ending

Section arrangement

 A  A  A    or    V  V  V

It has the same music, but different lyrics. 
Used by:  Gospel,  folk, and a few pop songs.  

Keep your melody interesting.  
You might need a musical section between verses to provide contrast.  You can use a fake chorus that doesn’t contain the songs hook.

"All along the watch tower"            Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix
"Born in the Usa"                            Bruce Springsteen
"Turn, turn, turn"                              Pete Seeger 

A  A  Br  A    or    V  V  Br  V

The title lyric is in the 1st or last line of each verse.
You can change the title in the following verses, but keep it close to the original. 

The bridge uses different chords and melody.
It might use a different lyrical tone, a change of viewpoint, a new slant, etc. 
The verses usually have different lyrics.   The verse sections are often 8 bars in length, or 16 bars for faster rock songs. 

The first two verses establish a pattern

The bridge provides tension. 
Resolution occurs when it returns to the verse. 

A  A  Br  A  Br  A    or    V  V  Br  V  Br  V

The final verse may repeat a previous verse. 
The Beatles often used this form. 
"Hey Jude"     
"Hard days night"   
"I want to hold your hand"   
"Long and winding road"

They also used:    A  A  Br  A  Br  A  Br  A              
Verse 4 is an instrumental, verses 2 3 5 are the same.   The bridges all have different words. 
The Beatles song forms are often advanced.

A B A B    or    V  C  V  C    or    Verse - Chorus

A good lyric line often starts the song.  Make it something people relate to.  

The chorus is always the same.  
Use the title in the 1st line of the chorus, the 1st and last, or the last.  The songs title is the chorus lyric hookline. 
The chorus conveys the main point of the song.  Make sure the verse and chorus are relevant to each other.

A  A  B  A  B    or    V  V  C  V  C

2 verses occur before the first chorus. 

A  B  C    or    V  Pc  C

Add this to any of the forms above.
A short Pre-chorus leads into the chorus. 

The pre-chorus is a mini bridge. 
It often uses the same words each time.  It has different chords than the verse or chorus.  The title line can go in the pre-chorus or chorus.  

Beatles song:     "Lucy in the sky with diamonds". 
A  PC with different words occurs before the first 2 choruses, No PC occurs before the last chorus.   

A  B  A  B  C    or    V  C  V  C  Br  V  C

Verse - chorus with a bridge.
The bridge is an interlude.  It has new chord changes, different themes and higher or lower notes.
“Everything you want”      Vertical Horizon
“Here comes the sun”      The Beatles   

A  B  C  A  B  C  D    or     V  Pc  C  V  Pc  C  Br    or    V  Pc  C

A pre-chorus before every chorus and a bridge (D) in the middle.
You can add another verse before the out chorus.  Make sure the song isn't too long with all the sections.

The last verse - chorus might bypass the Pc.
“Hold on loosely”       .38 special

Other structures 

Don’t be afraid to try new structures. 

“I can’t hold back”    by Survivor         V   Pc   V   Pc   C   Br   PC   V   C   PC            

“Drops of Jupiter”
by Train
                 V   C   Br   V   C   Br   V   C

  only title line     C no title          Br  long Instrumental                      C   different words   
  chant with new word rhythm   V    simple piano / vocals   C  combines other 2 choruses

Re-arrange sections to give your song a unique structure.  
Listen to The Beatles and Motown songwriters. 

Examine the best songs and understand them.  
Read the lyrics.   Notate sections as verse, chorus, bridge, etc.  
Where do the title lines appear?   Can you hear the rhythm of the song in the words?  Many times you can't.
What makes each section different?  

What's original in your favorite songs?

What makes it your favorite?

Contrast between sections keeps a song moving. 
Change the music or melody.

Change the words:
From past to present tense
From general to specific, 
Change the location, 
Let the listener know.

If any section doesn’t work, get rid of it.  
Use it in a different song.


Hooks get stuck in your head.
There are many kinds of hooks.

Sound effect

Most hit songs have multiple hooks. 

One often stands out.  

Too many hooks isn't good. 
Some lines should move the music.  
Others should focus the listeners attention.

Include each type of hook in a song. 

It keeps the listener interested.

Hooks work on some people better than others. 
Some people love hooks and some people hate them.
The people who hate hooks love jazz, or classical.  They have advanced ears.

Listen to hit songs
Identify different types of hooks.

Hook dysfunction

A hook is repeated too much.

A crappy hook.

Hooks should take hold without being annoying.  

Melodic hook                         

The most memorable part of the song

It should be hummable.
It should stick in the listeners head.   It’s the part of the song they look forward to hearing.  

Lyrical hook  

The most memorable.

The lyric title is often called the hook

This title tells people which cd to buy.  See Title Strategies

Your title has to be catchy, not profound.   
The songs message can enhance a simple title.  Simple words can become profound. 

Cliches can be re-invented. 

A title hook should summarize the song. 

Some people don't hear the words.  Place the title line carefully in your song.
The title might not be in the song.   Listen to “For what it’s worth”  by Buffalo Springfield.

Musical hook                

The 2nd most memorable hook.

It's part of the music.

Riff      Repeated notes that form a phrase.  The phrase is also repeated.
               It's a patterned line that cycles around on itself.  
               It often describes the music in a rock song.

Lick      A blues or jazz line.  It's more linear.

Figure  Any short, repeated phrase. 

Rhythmic hook

Rhythm can form the basis of a song, especially in rap and hip-hop.
Some songs play one chord, and get away with it because of good rhythm work.

“I want Candy”          Strangeloves  
“Bad to the Bone “   George Thorogood  
“Not Fade Away     Buddy Holly
"Wipe out"               Surfaris
"Stayin Alive"          The Beegees

Sound effect hook

Millions of sounds can be added to music.  Car crashes, phones, dogs, crowds, water, metal grinding, etc.

Buy sample packs sounds online.

Find and record sounds on your synthesizer.

Record crazy vocals and process them

Use a DAW to process the samples
I really like Gross beat in FL studiosHarmour in FL allows you to process samples as well.

Add them to live music with a trigger pad
Ableton is good for performances. 

These hooks can be in the background,  or they can be the main hook.
Find sounds that enhance the emotion of your song.

Change the speed of the sample to match the song.    

Reverse the sample and make backwards sounds.  
All the DAWs will do this easily.

The Beatles used many sounds, from circus sounds to orchestra.
Pink Floyd and White Zombie also used sounds very well.    

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Reading poetry helps you write lyrics.

Write anything.  
Stories, poems, book reports, etc.

Draw attention to things you want to focus on.
Don’t use too many poetic devices in one song.   

Repetition        Literary Devices         Rhyme         Rhyming Patterns         Stress


Songs often use repeating sounds.
Repeat words, phrases, verses or choruses.  Choruses usually repeat the same way
A section can be built using a single word   (often the title)

Words can repeat to fit the melody      (hey hey hey...   hey baby...    yeah...    etc.)

Literary devices

Alliteration          Repeat the same sound, usually consonants or non vowels.

Imagery                   Words that create images in your mind.

Personification     Treat a place, thing or idea like it’s human.  

Simile                       A comparison using the word like or as.

Metaphor                A comparison where one thing is called something else.

Assonance             A rhyme using the same vowel sounds and different consonants.  Example:  late, make

Consonance          A combination of pleasing sounds.
Anaphora               Words are repeated at the start of lines.  This is very common.

See title strategies

Imagine you're in the situation.

What do you see, feel, hear, smell, taste? 
Apply poetic devices to what you "experience". 

Use Consonance whenever possible.  

Pick words that sound the same. 


Rhyming is like putting a puzzle together. 

Types of rhyme:

Perfect rhyme    The same vowel and final consonant sounds.   (car, bar, star, far)

Near rhyme
         Slant or Imperfect Rhyme      (sooth, prove)        (love, hug) 

          1 rhyming syllable        (love, dove)       (understand, command)

Feminine rhyme
        2 rhyming syllables       (lovin, oven)       (improve her,  prime mover)

Triple rhyme
       3 syllables        (embraceable, irreplaceable)  

Open rhyme  
     Ends in a vowel sound, it can be extended as a melody note.       (fly, sky)      (hey, say)

Stopped rhyme
     Ends on a consonant, it can’t be extended.       (clock, rock)

Internal rhyme
       Occurs within the lyric.       (She told me she had sold out long ago.)

Make the rhyme first.    Get the rhyme first.

Rhymes suggest a storyline.

Read a thesaurus and rhyming dictionary.
Ten minutes a day is enough.

Create dummy lyrics using rhymes.
Place holder lyrics kill writers block.  They allow you to sing.  Stop worrying about the words.  Sing anything.  Any sound, any rhythm.   Sing the line and it will create itself.

Change pronunciation
to make a rhyme work.

Practice rhyming words

You can use less rhymes:  
Use more poetic devices. 

Rhyming patterns

Each letter represents a line of lyrics. 
Lines with the same letters are rhymes. 

a b a b a b a b         very common

a a b b              

a a b a         b adds variety, tension and moves the lyric, returning to a relieves the tension

a a a a         “American Pie”    Don McLean

a b c b     “House of the Rising Sun”   The animals

Make your own pattern,

a b a c d e d c         chorus  a b c b c       “Eye of the Tiger”
Near rhyme can fool the ear. 
Don’t throw out good lines if the rhyme isn’t perfect.

Never sacrifice meaning and emotion for a perfect rhyme. 
Look at rhyming patterns in your favorite songs.

E-Lyrics               Song Lyrics                 A-Z Lyrics

Internal rhyme

These rhymes occur within the line, instead of at the end.
The effect is rather subliminal.  It sounds professional.  These can also occur in following lines.


Accented or stressed syllable.   
The voice rises in a phrase.

Unaccented or unstressed

The voice lowers in a phrase. 

MAry HAD a LITTle LAMB                              7 syllables, 4 accents
its FLEECE was WHITE as SNOW                 6 syllables,  3 accents
and EVEryWHERE that MAry WENT        1+ 7 syllables, 4 accents
the LAMB was SURE to GO                           6 syllables,  3 accents

Lines 2 and 4 match.
Lines 1 and 3 match.

Line 3 starts on an unaccented syllable
This doesn’t affect the flow of the words.

Songs can also use equally stressed syllables

Common measure

There are 4 accents in the first and third line. 
There are 3 accents in the 3rd and 4th lines

aMAzing  GRACE, how SWEET the SOUND           4
that SAVED a WRETCH like ME                              3
i  ONCE was LOST but NOW  i’m FOUND               4
was BLIND but NOW i SEE.                                     3

Map your lyrics using accents.  
Map dummy lyrics the same way.

Accents can emphasize key words.

Vary the length of the syllables.

Fast lyrics can be countered with slow lyrics.  This adds contrast

rhythm of the musicspacer

See the rhythm section.

Rhythm influences the mood of your song and lyrics.

Common time    

This means 4 beats in a measure (or bar) and 8 measures in a section.

In four = 4/4 time 

The strong beats are 1 and 3.    
The offbeats or back beats are 2 and 4  

In two  =  2/4 time

In three = 3/4 time  
The offbeat is 2       

In 6/8   The offbeat is 2 or 4

In 4/4 time:
The bass drum often plays beats 1 and 3        (Not a rule)
The snare often plays beats 2 and 4      

Write a song based on a rhythm figure.
Rhythm is a main starting point.  (along with notes, lyrics, chords or melody).

Strong lyric accents are often placed on strong beats in each measure.    
See  Poetic devices   (stress)

Write lyrics with a drum machine playing.

Sing the lyric ideas to the rhythm.  
Focus on rhythm:   notes and tone can be adjusted later.
Get a drum machine with lots of rhythms.
Or use software.  You can program an exact rhythm.

Listen to different styles of music.

Listen to music from other cultures.
Check out rhythm acts like Blue Man Group and Stomp.

Try to create different styles.

Shuffle:      “Pride and Joy”   Stevie Ray Vaughn.     
                  This is called Swing.  
                  1/8th notes are treated as triplets.
Rock:         Make a heavy rhythm, fast or slow.
Pop:           Make a catchy rhythm.

Add 16th notes.
This makes any beat more interesting..

Write dummy lyrics to the rhythm.  

Feel the rhythm, focus on it. 
Move your body to the rhythm, shake your head, dance.
Find a phrase that fits the rhythm.

A phrase might suggest a rhythm.


Syncopation is accenting a weak part of the beat.  See poetic stress for accent info.

Shift a word to a weak beat. 
Don't put all the strong accents on strong beats.
It can make your music sound stiff.

Anticipate the strong beat.
Put the strong accent on a weak beat.
Extend it into the strong beat.

Keep singing on the offbeat.
Cut across the beat instead of landing on it.

Alternate rhythmically:
         2 measures land on the beat, 2 measures land off the beat

         2 beats on, 2 beats off

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Melody Styles               Melody by Section

“Melody is the thread that ties a song together.  If done poorly, every seam will be apparent and it will not hold
together for long.”       -David Pomeranz

Melody is a pleasant series of notes.
  See the melodies page
It carries the lyric.  It’s the tune the main instrument plays.

Melodies “come into your head”

Guitar players also say this.

The secret is being in the zone.
See meditation or athletics or dancing
or jamming
Write simple melodies.   Analyze  them and see what makes them work,
, and listen to music.  Eventually, you'll hear melodies all day long.

Improvise on an instrument while you sing.
Melodies are simple.   They're easier than chords, riffs, licks or solos.
Play and sing a scale.   See solfege ear training

Make the scale notes into a simple melody.   Make simple things sound good.

Write a random melody on sheet music.  Play it. 

This develops sight reading and singing. 
Change any notes that don't sound right.
Give it a rhythm.

Good melodies are often simple.  They have to be hummable.

Melody writing is technical and inspirational.

Technical:          Change the chords, try note combinations, rhythm variations.
Inspirational:      Improvise variations.

Analyze and develop the best variations.

If you know what you want, find the notes.  If you don't know, experiment.  
If you don't like the melody, don’t try to force it.   Wait and let your brain process it a few days.

Keep the Range manageable

2 octaves is difficult for anyone to sing.  A hit song is always able to be sung by an average person.
A masterpiece can use many octaves.

Record it all.

First takes are often the best.  

If you don't record them, you're missing out.
Any insignificant melody can inspire something later.

Buy sheet music for your favorite songs.  
I think country music has the best simple melody examples.

Sing the melody over the chords.  Keep it simple.  If you can't play the chord, just play the root note of the chord.
Sing the melody over the tonic (root note) of the key.  Keep playing the root chord.

Study how the melody interacts with the chords, and the root chord of the key signature..

The intervals between melody notes.  The range of the notes (high and low).  How does the melody changes between sections. How does major or minor emphasize the mood?

How do the bass notes interact with the melody?  The bass is in charge of the chord progression and harmony.
Are any of the bass notes inverted?  This makes the bassline smoother. 

Are minor chords replaced with inverted / chords?  Is the diminished 7 replaced with a minor chord?  etc.
Are any parralell modes or chords used?

Develop a sense of melody.

Listen to music and sing along with the singer.

Create melody's.

Record a chord progression.  Play it over and over.  Put it in an mp3 player.  Go on a walk and sing over it.
Record it if it's good.

A melody can come to you at any moment.  Melodies are all around you.  Listen for them.  
Let the emotions of the world inspire you. 

Singing gets melodies in your head
Sing and use the ear training exercises

Remember melodies.                    
Buy a portable recorder.   They cost 30 - 300$   A Zoom H4 is great.

Call home and use your answering machine.  Call a friends phone and sing it as a message.

Write sheet music.  

Sing it until it's stuck in your head.

Believe that you'll remember it.

Make melodies into songs.
Start simple.  It can get more advanced later.  Apply any principle.

Choose.  Options will hold you back if you can't decide on one.

Melody is measured against the root note of the key.  Play a single chord with a rhythm.  Sing a melody over it and record it.

Substitute chords.  You can change the melody to fit the new chords. Change the chords if it doesn't work.

Collaborate, one person can record song structures with chords.  The melody writer records variations over top of it.

In the car.   Make a CD of chord progression variations.

Play it, and sing melodies.  Record with a separate recorder.

Or, have one tape player playing and another recording. 

Tune in to the universe

Every instant someone is being born, dying, making love, etc.

Tune into positive or negative energy

Feel what they feel.   See what they see.

Move beyond your standard cliches.

Tune in and become one.  The universe is making music right now.   People are rocking out right now.
Listen close and you will hear it.

Meditate     See Meditation 
Remove the distractions of the world.  To hear the quiet music inside you, you have to be quiet.

Songwriters can change the mood of the listener.
The listener experiences the songwriters mood.

If the listener feels something it’s good.  If they get goose bumps on their skin, it’s great.

Use a complex melody
if the chord progression is simple.

Use a simple melody
 if the chord progression is complex.

The best melody focuses on the music.

Don't try to be memorable.  Try to be good.

Melody styles


Melodies are often simple and mono-tonal (one or two notes). 
To avoid monotony, change:
Inflection (tone)  
The chords behind the melody.  This gives each melody note a different effect. 
Rock can have strong melodies, it depends on the band and singer.                    
Some Rock songs use aggressive rap-like verse lyrics and melodic chorus lyrics.

Listen to the Beatles.  They are pop.  
Work on your vocal tone.
Find a sexy singer to sing your songs.
Listen to the top 50 hit songs. 

Melodies are very rare in rap songs. 
Any melody exists in short interlude segments.  
Rap is very attitude based.
It flows with word rhythms, instead of vocal tones.
Melody can be used effectively in the chorus.

Listen to hit country songs and sing along.
The patterns will get stuck in your head.  Many country songs are very similar.
It will be in a Major key.

Melody by section

Verse Melody

The verse melody sets up the chorus melody.  If it sucks, the listener will stop listening.

Keep it simple, but never boring.
Don't distract from the lyrics.  

Don’t steal attention from the chorus.

The chorus melody has to be better than the verse.

Use more images and poetic devices

Use less intervals in the melody.

Use intervals that reinforce the mood.

Use spaces between phrases
This lets the listener think, and allows the singer breathing time  

Pre-chorus Melody

The pre-chorus sets up the chorus. 
The pre-chorus often starts on different chords.  (vi minor or IV Major)   

The notes are often higher than the verse,
lower than the chorus.  
It often has a new word rhythm.

The pre-chorus gives a song more build.

It anticipates the chorus.   If the the pre-chorus sounds like the chorus, make the chorus sound better.

Chorus Melody

It has the highest notes, and the widest intervals between notes.  
You can try the opposite.

Make the chorus melody different from the verse.

Use acceleration or deceleration (speed control).
Key signature changes.
Major to minor changes.
Parallel mode changes.
Drum acceleration, instrument changes.

If the verse is stronger than the chorus, switch them.


A bridge provides contrast
The bridge melody depends on the rest of the song.

Change the:
The chords 
Accelerate or decelerate the rhythm or the phrases.  See MELODY pages     
Key                       Mode 
Tone                     Point of view
Re-use any chords from the verse or chorus,  
Use different chords, or chord substitutions. 

An instrumental bridge. 
It uses an instrument to restate the melody musically.  

It’s your last chance to say something lyrically, chordally or melodically.
If you have nothing left to say, you don’t need a bridge.  

This section is optional. 
If it works, the listener waits for it.  If it doesn’t, it’s extra baggage.

chord choices banner

Chords are the foundation of any song.

A chord describes patterns of notes that make standard sounds.
A chord is not 3 or more notes played at the same time. 
Horns play chords, and they play one note at a time.

The notes in the song form a chord.
These notes can be the vocal melody, rhythm or lead guitar, bass, even drums.

Sometimes you'll see a N.C, notation.  (non-chord)
This is a false statement.  Notes always form a relationship. 

Chords help us:
Simplify the harmony.
Analyze music.
Know which notes work best together. 
Show songs to other musicians.

The color of any chord is determined by:
The tonality:                Major or minor
The inversions:           Major is 1 3 5.      Inversions would be 5 1 3,  or  3 5 1.     Different notes are in the bass.
Extensions:                 Major 7, minor 7, Major 6th, minor 6th, 4th, 2nd, b5, b2, etc.

Music genres affect chords choices.
Rock songs use large chord jumps.    (Jump an octave)
Pop songs avoid them.                         (Move stepwise)
Country avoids diminished chords,     (1  b3  b5,  A tense chord) 
Jazz uses them.        
Play chords on a piano or guitar.  
Use the modal tuning to quickly play a guitar.
On a keyboard,   Play keys B or C.    Change keys with the transpose button.

Each key has seven notes, each note can build a chord.
Learn which chords are major and minor in a key.  Learn how they work together.
See theory or modes

Chords by style

See Chord Progressions


Blues use dominant 7th chords. 
Play 1-7   4-7   5-7   instead of 1 4 5  

This key uses non-scale notes from the parallel minor key.  It gives you that bluesy sound.

Play a blues scale over top of it.    Focus on phrasing and tone.

12 Bar Blues is the most common blues structure.  It has 12 measures.

Call and response  
Say something lyrically, and answer with the guitar.


Rock often uses power chords.   (1 - 5 intervals)
Drop D tuning allows power chords to be played with 1 finger.  See tunings, Drop D pattern
Chord progressions don’t have to be complex. 

Two chords can be very powerful.  They have room for a lot of melody.