Songwriting 101

Hi there, my name is Kevin Froleiks and I am the co-writer and composer of Great Frontier: A Poorly Researched Musical About Lewis And Clark. I have also written several songs for various sketch comedy projects, as well as many theme songs for podcasts, which you can check out on my SoundCloud profile.

You might be thinking to yourself, “I have a song to sing, but I don’t know how!”

I hear you. Believe me, I hear you.

That’s why I am offering this free songwriting tutorial today.

By the end of this article, you will have all the tools you need to write the perfect song.

Let’s get started!

Step 1) Forget everything you know about songwriting. It’s not about music theory, it’s about reaching out and touching the audience with your lyrics. How do we do this, you may be asking? Simple. Think about a memory. It can be happy, or it can be sad. It can be a specific story, or it can be a broader idea. Now listen to a song like, I don’t know, Sweet Home Alabama or something, and you’ll have your blueprint for the rest of the songwriting process.

Step 2) When writing a song, it’s important to figure out your “hook”. A hook is the musical phrase that anchors the rest of the song. It’s the part of the song that people will be humming all day. For example, Sweet Home Alabama discusses race relations, civil rights, and the politics of America in the 1960’s and 70's, but all people remember is that awesome chorus in the background singing “Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhh! Alabama!” over and over because it’s wicked sweet.

Step 3) Now that you have your hook, it’s time to figure out your chorus. This is the part of the song that will be repeated several times. It’s gotta pop! When people hear it they need to want to crank their speakers for the whole world to hear. This is the focal point of your song, a chance for you to really hammer home the point you want to make. Once you have this figured out, just know that Sweet Home Alabama will always be better than anything you write.

Step 4) Every song must have a few verses, so let’s dig into those. Think of the verses as the body paragraphs of a five paragraph essay. They reinforce and develop upon the thesis statement you make during the chorus, and if you’re not about to write Sweet Home Alabama then you’re wasting my time.

Step 5) The bridge is a very important part of the song. Most popular songs are structured as verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus. The bridge adds a moment of tension, a departure from the norm the audience has come to accept, only to be resolved by the familar feel of the final verse and chorus. More importantly, the bridge can help the audience distract themselves from the fact that they are not listening to Sweet Home Alabama right now and you are seriously wasting my time.

Step 6) When in doubt, remember this: All songs are either Sweet Home Alabama or they can go to hell.

And that’s it! Congratulations! You wrote a song, and that song is Sweet Home Alabama! If you somehow managed to not write Sweet Home Alabama by the end of this article, please know that you will never make it in this business.

Kevin Froleiks is a New York based comedian. Follow him on twitter or check out his website to find out where he’s performing next. His comedy album, Jokes I Don’t Really Do Anymore, is available for free on his website as well. You can also check out his podcast, We Wrote A Musical, on iTunes.