How To Write Your First Song On Acoustic Guitar

When you sit down to write your first song, you start with a big idea, a few lyrics, a guitar chord and a goal that this will be your big hit. Soon enough, you realise it is not that easy. You end up with an incomplete song that you never finish.

It is time to break this pattern and write your first guitar acoustic guitar song that you will finish and maybe release.

In this lesson, you will learn how you can easily write your first song using an acoustic guitar. You will learn about song structure, chord progression, lyric writing, rhythm and other elements that you need to write your first acoustic song.

This is a complete beginner's step-by-step songwriting lesson. I will provide you with a songwriting system that you can use over and over to write songs. You also get to download a songwriting PDF workbook. So make sure you follow along and implement the learning.

Steps To Write Your First Song

Before We Begin — A Little Story

I read a book, Deep Work, by Cal Newport. In his book, Cal shared a story about a blacksmith Rick Furrer.

Cal Newport writes in his book, "Ric Furrer is a master craftsman whose work requires him to spend most of his day in a state of depth — even a small slip in concentration can ruin dozens of hours of effort. He also clearly finds great meaning in his profession. This connection between deep work and a good life is familiar and widely accepted when considering the world of craftsmen.

The same goes for creating music. Creating music is more of a craft that you need to hone with your effort, time, and practice. You will need to give time to music over anything else.

Creativity and art are a part of music, but music is more of a craft that demands you practice and put in the time. Once you get along the path and commit to music, you will start finding joy, meaning and fulfilment.

“Songwriting is kind of like a craft. It's not something that just comes in a dream. You've got to work at it.”

~ Sean Lennon

So before you begin learning to write your first acoustic song, understand that writing music is not all magic and dreamlike. It can be learnt and honed. Commit to music and put in the time. Rest, all will follow.

So let us now dive deep into the process of songwriting.

How It Goes

I know that there is a thousand way to write a song, but I am giving you one songwriting recipe that will help you stay productive and focused.

This approach is designed to keep you focused and avoid distractions while writing music. The goal is to keep it simple, beginner-friendly and finish your first acoustic guitar song.

I will provide you with a step-by-step songwriting framework. You can follow along and use it as a fill-in blanks' questionnaire to write your first song.

Throughout this lesson, you will follow set rules and instructions to write your first acoustic song.

I will also break down Happier By Ed Sheeran at each step so that you get a better understanding of songwriting. Other reference track examples will be discussed as well.

Most of these reference tracks are produced with a band or electronic music, but they play great as an acoustic guitar song as well.

Before you begin, I suggest you download and print out this PDF file for writing your first song. This will act as a framework for writing your first song.

I will also be using the lessons that I shared with you in the beginner guitar course. If you find anything that is confusing, make sure you check out the course and look for it.

Step 1  Decide A Time Signature, Tempo And A Key

Before you begin, you need to decide on a time signature, tempo and a key.

Time signature represents the number of beats per measure. Time Signature also indicates how long these beats last.

For your first song, 4/4 time signature works best. This is the most common time signature and is easy to work with. Most of the songs you listen are in 4/4 time.

You can use other time signatures like 6/8, but I suggest you start on a 4/4 time and work along.

Here are some hit songs and their time signature to help you get an idea.

Song

Artist/Band

Time Signature

Happier Ed Sheeran 4/4
Let Her Go Passenger 4/4
With Or Without You U2 4/4
You're Beautiful
James Blunt 4/4
Just The Way You Are Bruno Marz 4/4
Iktara Amit Trivedi 4/4

 

Decide A Tempo

Tempo is the speed at which a song or musical piece is played. Tempo is measured in Beats Per Minute.

The tempo of the song determines the feel of the song. If you pick up a high tempo, the song will be more energetic. If you pick up a slow tempo, the song will be more mellow and soothing.

For starters, a slow tempo works best. A slow tempo makes it easy to sing and do chord shifts. It also gives a soothing feel to the song.

So a tempo close to 75-95 BPM is a good starting point. Play along with any chords to a few different tempos using a drum beat or a metronome and pick the one that you feel most comfortable with.

Do not think much about tempo, it will come naturally when you play and sing the song.

If you are new to rhythm concepts like tempo and time signature, check out this article.

Song

Artist/Band

Tempo

Happier Ed Sheeran 89
Let Her Go Passenger 75
With Or Without You U2 112
You're Beautiful
James Blunt 82
Just The Way You Are Bruno Marz 109
Iktara Amit Trivedi 80

 

Decide A Key Of Song

The key of a piece is the group of pitches, or scale, that forms the basis of music composition.

The way to pick a song key for a song is to match it to your vocals. Pick any key that is most comfortable to your vocals. For me, the key of C/Am works well. I am comfortable singing in that key. I also find singing in the key of G easy.

If you have no idea how the key works, just think of a few songs that you can sing easily. Pick any 2-3 songs and sing them. Google the key to that song and use that key.

 

Song

Artist/Band

Key

Happier Ed Sheeran C Major
Let Her Go Passenger G Major
With Or Without You U2 G Major
You're Beautiful James Blunt C Minor
Just The Way You Are Bruno Marz F Major
Iktara Amit Trivedi C Major

 

Songwriting Exercise 1: Getting Started

Decide a Time Signature, Key and Tempo for your song. Download the PDF and take a printout and fill it down.

 

Songwriting Exercise 1 Image
To help you understand better, here is Happier By Ed Sheeran as an example for songwriting exercise 1.
Songwriting Exercise 1 - Happier Ed Sheeran Song Breakdown

 

Step 2: Chord Progression

The next step is to decide on a chord progression.

The chord progression is the succession of chords in a song.

You can also say chord progression is how chords are arranged in a musical composition.

Chords progressions are denoted by the Roman numeral. The Roman numeral denotes the corresponding chord interval of that particular key.

For example, if you are in the key of C Major, Chords in the key of C Major are:

Interval I ii iii IV V vi vii°
Primary Chords C Major D minor E minor F Major G Major A minor B diminished

 

Accordingly, If in a song someone plays the chords in the key of C major

C-F-G-Am-C

The chord progression becomes

I-IV-V-vi-I

A chord progression can consist of two chords, three chords or more. We will start with deciding just one chord progression that will be used to write our song chorus. Later, we will alter the same chord progression during different song parts like verse, intro etc.

The most widely used chord progression in Pop and Rock Songs is I-V-vi-IV and its rotations. A rotation is just rearranging the songs.

Your best bet is to stick with this chord progression for your first song and work with it. We will play around with these chord progression variations and complete the song.

So if you are writing a song in the Key of C Major with the chord progression for chorus I-V-vi-IV. The chords that you will use for the chorus of your song are: -

C-G-Am-F

If you are writing in the key of G Major with the chord progression for chorus I-V-vi-IV. The chords that you will use for the chorus of your song are: -

G-D-Em-C 

Later you will introduce variations, rotations to this chord progression as well. Do not wander a lot and waste time exploring chord progressions.

Our goal is to eliminate indecision and progress with your first song. For now, start with a fixed chord progression.

Here are the chord progression used in songs: -

Song

Artist/Band

Key

Chord Progression

Chorus Chords

Happier Ed Sheeran C Major vi-IV-I Am-F-C
Let Her Go Passenger G Major IV-I-V-vi C-G-D-Em
With Or Without You U2 D Major I-V-vi-IV D-A-Bm-G
You Are Beautiful James Blunt C Minor III-VII-i-VI E—Bb-Cm-Ab
Just The Way you Are Bruno Marz F Major I-vi-IV F-Dm-Bb
Iktara Amit Trivedi C Major V-vi-I G-Am-C

 

Some of these reference songs use a capo to play the song. Using a capo changes the key of the song. So please do not confuse the chords played with a key signature.

If you are confused with chord progressions and the theoretical concepts used above, I suggest starting with going over some music theory basics. Check out this article here.

Songwriting Exercise 2: Decide A Chord Progression

Decide on a chord progression for just the chorus. Rest chord progressions you will decide later.

Songwriting Exercise 2 - Chord Progression
Here is how the chord progression goes for the song happier by Ed Sheeran
Songwriting Exercise 2 Example - Chord Progression Happier

Step 3: Building The Theme — The Story

Now you already have a key, time signature, rough tempo and one chord progression that you will use in the chorus of your song.

A song consists of various parts like Chorus, Verse, Bridge, Intro, Outro etc.

To write down all the different parts and connect them to tell a story, you first need a theme or a story.

To build a theme to your song try and answer the following questions:
  1. Who?
    The Character of your song. Is it about you? A character you read about in a book? A dog you loved? A male prostitute? A boy lost in the woods? The character can be anything or anyone. It could be just one character or several dozens.
  2. What?
    What is the character doing/going through in the song? You write from the perspective of a character or a viewers perspective answering the what.
  3. Where?
    Where is all this taking place? it could be a real scene from the characters life or it could be something completely made up like inside the earth or between two planets.
  4. When?
    When is all this taking place? Is it morning or evening? Sunny or snowy? Is it in the past present or future?
  5. Why?
    Another important aspect is the why. Why is all of the above happening? This aspect relates the most to the listeners.
  6. How?
    How describes the scene and helps paint the picture better.

Once you answer the above questions, you have a theme. The theme will help you write the chorus and verse of your song. The theme will also ensure that different parts of the song are connected and flows.

Songwriting Exercise 3 - Building Theme Of The Song

Now you know what needs to be done to come up with a theme that will work for your song. Here is an exercise to build your song theme.

Try to answer questions in a single sentence or as briefly as you can. You will use these answers later to build a story and a song.

 

Songwriting Exercise 3 -Theme Building

Here is the theme breakdown of the song Happier By Ed Sheeran.

 

Songwriting Exercise 3 Example - Theme Breakdown Of Song Happier By Ed Sheeran

 

Step 4: Story Building - The Chorus

Now is the time to write down the chorus/hook of your song and set a tone.

Start with writing down the chorus as it is the most memorable part of a song and your whole song will revolve around the chorus. From the chorus build up verses and other parts of the song. The chorus of the song can also serve as the title of your song. If you wish to learn about song parts, check out this video.

As of now, you are not writing lyrics. You are just writing a story climax. You will use all the details from your theme building exercise to write the climax of the story or the chorus of the song and set the tone.

Why Story Writing?

This is your first song, if you start with writing lyrics straight up, you will end up with a few lines and be lost.

If you write in a story format, you can later filter out the good parts and make lyrics out of it. This according to me is simplifying the lyric writing process.

What To Write In The Chorus?

Chorus is all about answers and resolution to the questions asked in verses.

Writing answers first is difficult but the theme sheet will act as a guide. Pick out the What, Why, Sections and write the answers in depth.

Once you write the chorus you will already have the right question to ask. The questions will work as verses.

Remember, as of now we are concerned only with the chorus.

The best way to start writing lyrics is with Object Writing And Destination Writing.

Object Writing And Destination Writing.

Object Writing and Destination Writing are two different songwriting techniques

I learnt about Object writing from the book Writing Better Lyrics and about destination writing from the book Popular Lyric Writing: 10 Steps To Effective Storytelling.

I highly recommend everyone to read and implement the teachings in these books. These books are amazing reads for songwriters and you will find yourself coming back to these books over and over.

Object writing is timed sense-bound writing. You pick an object – a real object, like a paper clip, a coffee cup, a Corvette — and treat it as a diving board to launch you inward to the vaults of your seven senses.

Seven senses used in Object Writing are:

  1. Sight
  2. Hearing
  3. Smell
  4. Taste
  5. Touch
  6. Organic
  7. Kinesthetic

I am sure you are aware of the first 5 senses. Let us discuss the other two:

Organic Sense is your awareness of inner bodily functions like heartbeat, pulse, muscle tension, breathing etc.

Kinesthetic Sense is your sense of relation to the world around you. A good example of kinesthetic sense is when you get seasick, get vertigo or drunk, the world around you blurs/spins.

Destination writing is sense-bound free writing directed at a place, a person or a time instead of an object.

You can dig deep and learn a lot more in-depth about Object writing in the book Writing Better Lyrics. Destination writing is discussed in detail in the book Popular Lyric Writing: 10 Steps To Effective Storytelling.

The key to both destination writing and object writing is involving the senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, sound, and also movement. When those senses are involved, the writing springs to life.

Songwriting Exercise 4 - Writing Short Story For Chorus

Using the object writing and destination writing principles, come up with a short story of your chorus based on the theme of your song.

Chorus is all about the answers. Answer to the What and Why from the theme building sheet in-depth. Write keeping in mind the character / who the song is about. Your answer to what and why in the theme sheet will act as the object you are writing about.

You need not have any rhyme at present or any lyric writing approach. Think of it as writing a small story.

Just focus on writing using the senses and perspective we discussed earlier. Write in a story format, later pick out the best and use it in the song.

While writing the chorus, use at least two senses you learnt in Object Writing. The more senses you use, the better. Still do not overdo it.

Remember you are not writing a book. Keep it short and simple.

This is your first song. Go easy on yourself. This is just a rough draft, you will refine and polish it. So do not over analyse things.

Set a timer to 10 minutes and write answers to the What and Why. So get started.

Songwriting Exercise 4 - Story Building For Chorus

Here is how elements of what and why can be answered in the song Happier By Ed Sheeran.

 

Songwriting Exercise 4 Example - Story Building For Chorus Of Happier Ed Sheeran

 

Step 5: More Story Building - Writing Verse

Follow The Same Steps that you did in the chorus writing to write a short story from which you will filter out your song verse.

The verse is all about building the tension by asking the right question and giving out a few answers. The verse is a little tricky as compared to the chorus. Here you try to paint a picture while building up the song.

What To Write In The Verse?

Answer to Who, What, When, Where and How will help you build verses.

Now you are reverse-engineering the story. You know where it needs to go and end, now you are just mapping out a path to reach there.

Again you write a short story. The best part is you have the theme sheet to use. Try and paint a story with your words that connect all the elements and later resolve with your climax story or your chorus story.

Songwriting Exercise 5 - Writing Short Story For Verse

Using the object writing and destination writing principles, come up with a short story of your verse based on the theme of your song.

Answer to Who, What, When, Where and How will help you build verses.

Verses are like narratives. For building up verses, you will need to write at length. Verses are descriptional of people, places, time, situations.

Try and extract at least two verses from your verse short story. So the more elements you use to write the story, the better.

Again, you need not have any rhyme at present or any lyric writing approach. Think of it as writing a small story. Write in a story format, later pick out the best and use it in our chorus.

Just focus on writing using the senses and perspective we discussed earlier. Use your imagination and stay creative with the use of object writing.

You can start with a car and turn it into a submarine. You can be talking about humans and relate them to birds and make them fly. Whatever makes you happy, imagine and write.

While writing the verse, use at least three senses learnt in Object Writing. The more senses you use, the better. Try to overdo it for the verse story building.

Now go all crazy and let the juices flow to write the short story for verse.

Take a printout of the sheet. Set a timer to 15 minutes and write answers to the Who, What, When, Where and How.

You will need to answer the what once again but make sure you write in a way so that your answers are related to the answers from the chorus section.

Songwriting Exercise Songwriting 5 - Image Page 1
Songwriting Exercise Songwriting 5 - Image Page 2
Songwriting Exercise Songwriting 5 - Image Page 3

 

 

Step 6: Time For A Song Title

You have done a great job till now. Now you have enough information about your song theme that I am pretty sure you already have an idea of what the Title of The Song could be. Use it.

Go ahead and write down the title of your first song on top of every exercise sheet. It is a proud moment.

If you do not have a title yet, the words you use to resolve the story in your chorus/hook always work great. Try a quick brainstorm using the information that you already have.

What the song is about or the character names also do great as a song title. If you can sum up the why into two or three words, that also works great.

Songwriting Exercise 6: Brainstorm and Finalize A Song Title

Try a quick brainstorm using the information that you already have and come up with a song title. You can always come back to this step if you need to change your song title later.

 

Songwriting Exercise 6 - Song Title

 

Step 7: Writing Lyrics

Now is the time to filter and get some lyrics out of your short stories.

Start with some lyrics to write over the chorus chords chord progression. Before you can do that, you write down some lyrics.

Using the same object writing principles, try and filter our lyrics for your song.

The best approach for beginners to write lyrics is to follow the 4 By 4 Lyric Writing Approach.

4 By 4 Lyric Grouping Technique

4 By 4 or 4/4 lyric writing technique is simple. 4 by 4 lyric writing technique means you write 4 lines of Verse followed by 4 lines of Chorus. This is a very widely used lyric grouping technique and is used in most pop/rock/country songs.

There are other lyric grouping techniques but we will discuss them in some other lesson.

So all you need to do now is extract 4 lines of verse from your story and 4 lines of the chorus. As you wrote extensively, you will be able to extract 4 lines for verse and chorus.

But at first, try and filter out exactly 4 lines for chorus and verse.

Use the tension building content for your verse and try to release that tension in the verse. There is no need to rhyme lyrics as of now. Just filter out and write for now.

Once you have these 8 lines if you still feel you can filter out more content, great. You can use them as Verse 2 and other parts of the song like pre-chorus.

Songwriting Exercise 7 - 4 By 4 Lyrics 

You need at least four lyric lines for verse and four lyrics lines for chorus. Check out how Happier by Ed Sheeran follows the 4 By 4 lyric grouping approach.

Songwriting Exercise 7 - Ed Sheeran Happier 4 by 4 lyric grouping

Also, check how the use of object writing and concepts of tension and release is used in the song Happier By Ed Sheeran.

Songwriting Exercise 7 Example - Ed Sheeran Happier Chorus Lyrics Breakdown

For the chorus, you will be repeating the same four lines. 4 Simple, short to the point lines of the chorus.

Make sure you use the resolution part of your story effectively in the chorus. If you feel anything is getting left out, you can use that as a Pre-Chorus but do not overdo chorus.

So take a printout and use the sheet below to do the 4/4 lyric exercise. Set a timer for 5 minutes and filter out the best four Lyric Lines from your chorus story.

Songwriting Exercise 7 - Writing Lyrics

Repeat the same for filtering out verses of your song. If you get more than 4, use them as verse 2, verse 3 etc.

If your lyrics do not rhyme at present, no worries. We will add rhyme in step 9.

Step 8: Adding Rhythm To Chorus

Once you have the draft lyrics figured out, It is time to sing them.

The first thing to do is sing the chorus over the chord progressions that you decided. if you decided on I-V-vi-IV progression, sing the chorus over that.

Play a whole note, that is play a down strum on each chord for four beats and move on to the next. Once you have the chords flowing, start singing over them. This is just to get a feel of the song is working with the chord progression or not.

You can always add more strums, make changes or complex strumming patterns later. Your strumming pattern should go with the stresses or rests in your lyrics.

Once you get a feel. Add a rhythm. To figure out a rhythm, and sing the lyrics on top of it. We start with 8 Bar loops.

8 Bar Loops

Eight Bar loops is one piece/section divided into eight sub-sections. When following the 8 bar approach, each section of our song will last for 8 bars or its multiple/factors. So your chorus can be as long as 8 bars, 16 bars, 24 bars etc. The same goes for other sections like verse, pre-chorus etc.

8 Bar loop happier Ed Sheeran Songwriting Study

 

Rhythm For Lyrics

In 4/4 Time signature or common meter, the first beat is the strongest, the third beat is medium, second and fourth beat is weak beats.

So when singing the lyrics, try to emphasise/stress the first and third beat.

The easiest way to start singing lyrics with rhythm for beginners is to follow the Duple meter while singing lyrics.

Duple meter for lyrics means that you divide each lyric line into groups of 2 and play 2 chords for each line.

Using a duple meter for lyrics and a four-chord progression in 4/4 time, you will end up with a two-bar loop. Simply said, you will sing two lyrics lines overall 4 chords and each chord is played for 2 beats.

You can also use a quadruple meter and triple meter for breaking down the chords. To learn more about rhythm meters check out this article.

In a quadruple meter, each lyric line gets 4 beats and one chord. This way if you are writing following 4 by 4 grouping you will end up with a loop of 4 Bar i.e 16 Quater Beats with a  four-chord progression.

Singing in triple meter is a bit complex and out of the scope of beginners lessons. If you are still interested in understanding it, I highly recommend getting the book Writing Better Lyrics. It is discussed in length in the book.

Creating Interest

Singing in linear fashion i.e. duplet meters and the quadruple meter will probably make your song feel boring. So what you need to do to add interest is alter things around.

Try and use rests and alter between starting points. You can also alter between quarter notes and eighth notes in between singing to give a sense of space and bring asymmetry in stresses.

Your first and third lines should be symmetrical and the second and fourth lines should be symmetrical. This creates a sense of completion and resolution.

You could also just make the second and fourth lines of your chorus a little shorter by cutting out some lyrics.

There are no fixed rules to this and possibilities are endless. Experiment and explore or just use any of the above two. They work great.

Songwriting Exercise 8: Adding Rhythm To Chorus

Use 8 Bar Loop and Duple or Quadruple Meter and add rhythm to your chorus.

Songwriting Exercise 8 : Chorus Rhythm
Songwriting Exercise 8 : Verse Rhythm

Ed Sheeran uses a quadruple meter and quarter notes to sing the lyrics in the chorus. In pre-chorus and verse, he uses a Duple Meter for Lyrics. 

Songwriting Exercise 8 - Ed Sheeran Happier Chorus lyric Writing Rhythm and Meter

 

He also alters the singing by altering the beat at which he starts singing.

In the verse, he starts singing at the second beat. In the pre-chorus, he starts singing at the first beat. In the chorus, he starts singing at the Third beat of the previous bar.

This alteration between strong and weak beats creates interest.

You can also combine meters like duple meter and quadruple meter to make things interesting in the song.

Experiment and explore. Now is where you spend time.

Using the stresses and lyric meter, you can come up with a rhythm pattern as well. I am sure you will end up with a rhythm that you like

If you wish to dig deep, read the book Writing Better Lyrics cover to cover.

Step 9: Add Rhyme To Lyrics

Now you have our lyrics laid out and have a rhythm for it. Next, add some rhyme to your song.

There are many different types of rhymes that poets/singers use in their work: internal rhymes, slant rhymes, eye rhymes, identical rhymes, and more.

One of the most common ways to write rhyming lyrics is to use a rhyme scheme composed of shared vowel sounds or consonants.

What Is A Rhyme Scheme?

A rhyme scheme is the pattern of sounds that repeats at the end of a line or stanza.

Rhyme schemes can change line by line, stanza by stanza, or can continue throughout a song or poem.

Rhyme scheme patterns are formatted in different ways. The patterns are encoded by letters of the alphabet. Lines designated with the same letter rhyme with each other.

For example, the rhyme scheme ABAB means the first and third lines of a stanza, or the “A”s, rhyme with each other, and the second line rhymes with the fourth line, or the “B”s rhyme together.

In a 4 by 4 grouping you can use rhyming as below: -

Rhyme Scheme Name Pattern
Mono-rhyme AAAA
Alternate rhyme ABAB
Coupled rhyme AA BB CC
Enclosed rhyme ABBA
Simple four-line rhyme ABCB
Interlaced Rhyme AABA

 

There are several other rhyming schemes but those are out of scope for this lesson.

You can use any of these rhyming schemes and put them in the 4 By 4 grouping of your chorus. You can also come up with your rhyming scheme.

The most commonly used rhyming scheme in pop, rock, country music is mono-rhyme, Alternate rhyme, enclosed rhyme and interlaced rhyme.

Songwriting Exercise 9 - Build A Rhyming Scheme

Try and come up with synonyms for words that you already have in your lyrics.

Use any rhyming scheme and replace the words from the list of synonyms that rhyme with what you already have. Start with line A or the first line and build it from there.

Songwriting Exercise 9 - Building A Rhyme Scheme page 1

Finalise your lyrics for chorus and verse with a rhyming scheme and replace synonyms. Make sure your lyrics become more interesting and singable over the rhythm.

Songwriting Exercise 9 - Building A Rhyme Scheme page 2

Here is how Ed Sheeran is using a rhyming scheme in the song Happier.

Songwriting Exercise 9 - Building A Rhyme Scheme page 1

Step 10: Adding Interest - Altering Chord Progression and Rhythm For Verse

Now you already have your chorus finished. You also have lyrics and rhythm for verse. Now is the time to alter things to add interest.

Following the same that we implemented for the chorus, try rebuilding the verse of the song.

To add interest to the song, alter the chord progression and rhythm for the verse.

You can use the same chord progression for verse and alter the rhythm and singing pattern. E.g. the same chord progression I-V-vi-Iv and rather than singing in a duple meter. Try singing in a quadruple meter. You can try different variations.

You can also rotate the verse chord progression while still singing using the duple meter.

Or you can omit some chords from the Chord Progression. Instead of using I-V-vi-IV try the verse in vi-VI-I. This will work great. You can come up with any chord progression of yours that you feel works well with the singing and does not break the flow.

Songwriting Exercise 10: Chord Progression and Rhythm For Verse

Alter the chord progression and rhythm for your verse and use a meter for your lyric like duple or Quadruple to add rhythm to your verse.

Songwriting Exercise 10 - Altering Verse Of The Song

Step 11: Song Structure

Once you have the verse and chorus finalised. It is time to put it all in a structure.

Try and sing a verse in one go. If it flows well you probably do not need more parts and you are good to finalise a song structure. If it does not transition easily, you might need connecting parts. So now is the time to build a song structure.

Song structure refers to how a song is organised, using a combination of different sections. Song structure can be any arrangement of any length. There can be different song structures like a verse-chorus-verse-chorus or maybe something like chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-outro.

To learn more about song structure and song parts, watch this video lesson.

Song Structure in Music

Here are some common song structures used in Pop, Rock and Country Music :

 Song structure Notation
Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus ABAB
Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Verse ABAB
Chorus-Chorus-Verse-Chorus AABA
Intro-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Outro ABCBCD
Intro-Verse-Prechorus-Chorus-Verse-Prechorus-Chorus-Outro ABCDBCDE
Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Verse-Chorus ABACBA

 

There are thousands of different song structures. You can come up with your own.

How To Decide A Song Structure

You already have Chorus and Verse laid out.

Your best bet is to stick with an ABAB, AABA or its variations. You can add an intro, outro to this structure and make it even more interesting.

If you stick with these song structures, you can have your songs mapped out like any of these:

Song Structure  Parts Arrangement Arrangement Length
ABCBCD Intro-Verse1-Chorus-Verse2-Chorus-Outro 4Bars-16Bars-8Bars-16Bars-8Bars-4Bars
ABAB Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Vers or Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus 8Bars-16Bars-8Bars-16Bars
AABA Chorus-Chorus-Verse-Chorus 16Bars-16-Bars-8Bars-16Bars

 

How Many More Song Parts Do You Need?

If you feel your song is not transitioning easily between chorus and verse, you can use other transitioning elements like pre-chorus, bridge, instrumental solo, melody lines to transit between the verse and bridge.

Adding more sections will make your song, even more, interesting but will also demand more effort. If you can easily switch from verse to chorus and vice versa, which I guess you will be if you followed the lessons, do not add more sections for now.

If you wish to add more sections, just adding an Intro and outro lick will do. Keep it simple.

Here is Ed Sheeran Happier song structure:

Songwriting Exercise 11 - Edsheeran Happier Song Structure

Songwriting Exercise 11: Building The Song Structure

Layout your songs exact song structure on paper. Write down the bars and number of repetitions of each section.

Exercise Songwriting 11 Song Structure

Step 12: Dynamics And Energy

The song you have written is a simple song on acoustic guitar with some lyrics. Nearly all songs at first are written this way. Great work.

Your song might be full of energy or it might be lacking energy.  Understanding energy is another aspect of songwriting.

The Chorus of your song generally has the most energy. If your song chorus is lacking energy, you can strum more, accent the notes and play with dynamics to increase the energy and volume in the chorus naturally.

Another way to increase energy in the chorus is by bringing down the energy in other sections of the song.

You can also transform this song into an electronic song or a rock song by rewriting it using different instruments. Some drums and bass, a piano loop, maybe some pads. The options are limitless.

More the number of instruments, the more the energy.

Step 13: Putting It All Together

You have your first song drafted and finished. Now you should spend time with this song. Play it over and over. Do the changes that it needs.  Live the song for a few days before judging it. Put more effort into your song and polish it the best way possible.

Sing it to a few people and get their feedback. Be vulnerable and proud of your work. This first song you will always remember, no matter what.

Above all, if you enjoyed songwriting. Learn more about it. Read books, articles and practice songwriting. Make songs and have fun.

Remember there is a lot to practice and learn. The more you listen to songs and study about songs, the better you will become at songwriting.

I hope this lesson helped you. I am so looking forward to what song you write and come up with. Share your songs in the comments sections below. Share your experience and stories. I love to hear from you.

If you have any feedback, do share it with me.

If you wish to learn guitar, check out the free beginner guitar course here.


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Udeeksh Sood on

Udeeksh is an Audio Engineer and Co-Founder of learnmusicproduction.in. He loves to produce music, research music gear, play guitar, go on treks and road trips.