For every musician, writing songs is an extension of the personality. Being a talented musician or singer and not writing your own songs is like being a painter who only paints pictures of other people's artwork. Before you set out to learn how to write songs, you need to decide how to approach the task.
Maybe you have great lyrics and no music; perhaps you have great music and no lyrics. Either way, you do not need to be a professional musician to write a good song. Here are a few tips to get you started composing your own music.
Use Your Strong Points
First, decide whether you would rather start with a melody and chord progress and put lyrics to it, or if you would like to start with lyrics and build a musical arrangement around them. This all depends upon what your strong points are; there is no definitive method which every musician follows. As a guitar player, I find it easier to begin with an instrumental arrangement. This lays the foundation for the mood of the song and provides inspiration for my lyrics. But you may be a poet, and find it easier to get inspiration for a melody by starting with lyrics.
Lyrics are the heart and soul of a song. They form a connection between your music and the listener, because our minds think in terms of words and pictures. What do you think of when you read these words; "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh what a relief it is!" Or, "5-8-8-2-3-hundred, Empire!" Unless you've been living in a cave out in the desert for the last few decades, you would recognize these famous commercial jingles, and just seeing the words would make your mind read them in melody because the words have been forever imprinted in our minds . The music gives the lyrics emotional energy and cements them into our minds. This is why using a melody to remember something is such an effective method. The Empire Carpet company will never have to worry about people forgetting their phone number.
Your goal is to make your lyrics memorable so people will strain their ear to hear what you are saying and hopefully sing along with eventually. Many musicians purposely make their lyrics abstract and open to interpretation so that people will ponder the meaning and listen more closely. Abstract lyrics are used to paint mental images rather than convey a concrete thought. They provoke the listener to think about them and play upon the emotions. Listeners can make these types of songs "their own," because they can have different meanings for different people. They can cause you to reflect on the past, or speculate about the future. Learning how to write songs like these is easy because there is much more room for creativity.
If you write the lyrics first, you can determine how you want the music to sound. Do you want it to be a rock song, a ballad or a slow meaningful song? Usually, the lyrics will have a huge part in how the song will sound. In that manner of speaking, the lyrics are your most important thing.
Starting With a Melody or Chord Progression
Many musicians come up with music first and look for lyrics to match the tone. If you want to learn how to write songs, you will need a basic understanding of music. Arrangement is cruel and so a little theory helps a great deal. Changes in dynamics, timing and many other elements of the song make it interesting to listen to. With a little knowledge of theory, or help from a musician, you can manipulate the theme and mood of a song with simple twists and usage of chord types, sharp or flattered notes, or timing changes.
Writing the music involves the cadence of the lyrics, the placement of the chorus and where the bridge goes. All these things are important parts of the song and need to be done right. Otherwise, your song will be mediocre at best, possibly boring to hear. Write the music that fits the words just right. After a few tries, you will see what I mean.
Putting it together
Learning how to write songs is about taking the lyrics and the music and melding them together perfectly. You may find that you need to adjust the lyrics a bit to fit the cadence. This can be done easily and you can say the same thing using different words. The cadence is a recurring rhythmical series, and it is often the "hook" of the song. It normally follows a rhyme scheme or, at the very least, a syllabic canter. Your lyrics do NOT have to rhyme in any given manner, but they do need to follow a scheme.