Songwriting is a creative process, so although we’ve listed the main steps in a particular order – remember that “whatever works for you” is the way to go. Don’t belabour songwriting – if you’re stuck then take a break as you can’t fight through a creative block. However, keep a pen and paper (uh, your smartphone more likely) handy to jot down creative ideas as they come to you – it’s essential. Don’t let a create idea or concept escape your memory!

First, what is songwriting (per Wikipedia, at least!)

A songwriter is an individual who writes the lyrics, melodies and chord progressions for songs, typically for a popular music genre such as pop music or country music. A songwriter can also be called a composer, although the latter term tends to be mainly used for individuals from the classical music genre.

Choosing a Song Topic

When choosing a topic, the good news is the sky’s the limit. The bad news is the sky’s the limit! Keep in mind that you can be as specific or abstract as you want. It can relate to a specific topic, theme, feeling, or emotion.  The truth is, universal emotions resonate with the people more than some topic that is very vague – so don’t try hard to come up with something vague.  In fact, everyone relates to love strongly.

That doesn’t mean you have to write the preconceived “love song”. Love is a complex emotion involving anger, frustration, desperation, faith and yes, happiness to name just a few. Beyond love-emotion songs, the most impactful (yes, hit songs) involve some sort of social emotion or messaging. This is largely the universe of songwriting that resonates with listeners.

Once you’ve nailed down your topic, your lyric writing will explore and convey the meaning.

Work on Verse and Chorus

Verse and chorus refer to the structure of a song that is connected via a “bridge”. The verse and chorus are nearly always repeated several times in the song and the chorus often is featured as the “climax” of the song. Typically, this is the part that people remember and sing along too most, as it’s most memorable and often the greatest “hook”. Memorable, meaningful rhymes – or lack of – can contribute to a great chorus.

Did you notice that the instruments in the chorus of a song almost always play louder and the vocals pitch higher?

Focus on the Melody

We like the simple explanation of what a melody is per Guitar Noise:

Melody, along with harmony and rhythm, is one of the three essential elements of any song. In a nutshell, the melody of a song is the line of single notes (as opposed to chords) that you sing.

Think Happy Birthday to You…you can play the melody with one finger on a keyboard. This is really stripped down, but provides the basic hum along notes people remember. A melody is…simple!

Create Lyrics

Everyone writes lyrics different ways. Some write, refine, refine, refine, tear up, re-write, refine. You get it. You might write very quickly and then make very little in the way of edits. There’s not universal way to write.

Consider collaborative lyrics. Collaborations often mean two people sitting in a studio (or room, or at a bar table) but increasingly artists write in pieces and play “ping pong” with other songwriters line by line to build what essentially becomes the final lyrics of a song.

With your topic in hand and the emotions you know you want to convey, you’ll likely find “free writing” and then refining and making connections is a natural way to go. Don’t be surprised if at this point in the process you’ll refine your topic.


Refine, refine…but maybe don’t over-refine! Consider that the “topic” you started out with will NOT necessarily be (often won’t be, in fact) your song title. In fact, the song title will likely be the last thing you nail down as an outcome of the refining process.

The process of “tuning” all of the above – verse, chorus, melody, lyrics and so on – means getting the song to a place you feel a deep connection to. If you’ve achieved this, your song is already a hit. Perhaps not to the masses YET but it will likely never be if it is not a hit in your mind first. When you perform it do you feel it? Achieving this is critical before sharing it.

Share Your Song with a Focus Group

You love your song and have poured your heart, soul and significant time into it so it’s time to share it with people you know and trust – and people you don’t know! If you’re new to songwriting, you really want people that know you to take your efforts seriously. At the same time, don’t plead for approval but for honest objectivity.

Ideally, you can also ask someone to share it with others and ask for feedback. It goes without saying that you will want to pursue industry professionals for feedback and who knows, your discovery and big break!

Sharing it on Youtube and other platforms is a personal decision and publishing and distribution in general is an entirely different subject. 🙂

At Capstone Music, we not only teach music lessons we also have a passion for songwriting and have an in-school recording studio. If you’d like to explore your songwriting passion with us, we’d love to talk to you and find out how we can do it together!