How to Write a Song and Produce Music: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Write a Song and Produce Music: A Step-by-Step Guide

Music Production

Let's explore the basics of music production and songwriting. We’ll talk about what goes into making a good song and how to produce it in a way that sounds professional.


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Have you ever wanted to learn how to write a song and produce your own music?

You've always been fascinated by the process but didn't know where to start?

It's not as hard as you think.

Producing your own songs and music can be a lot of work, but it can also be rewarding and deeply satisfying. It can provide an outlet for creativity in a digital age where so much of what we do is spent looking at screens rather than interacting with people or nature.

This article will explore the basics of music production and songwriting. We'll talk about what goes into making a good song and how to produce it in a way that sounds professional.

By the end of this article, you will have all the knowledge required to take musical ideas and turn them into a whole song.

You'll learn to start your creative process with raw material, work around a song's theme, and write memorable melodies.

So, if you're ready to learn, let's get started!

What is music production and what does it involve?

Music production is creating a piece of music, from start to finish.

It involves everything from writing the initial composition to arranging the instruments and recording the track. In many cases, music producers will also handle the mixing and mastering the final recording.

The role of a music producer is to oversee the entire production process and ensure that the final product meets the artist's vision — many producers are the artists themselves, the ones writing popular songs, and the best example is Kanye West.

Music producers often work closely with engineers and other technicians to ensure the highest quality of the recordings. Technology has recently played an increasingly important role in music production, with many producers using digital audio workstations and other software to create their tracks. However, at its core, music production is still about creating something beautiful out of nothing.

Let's first start with a question that is often asked.

🤨 What is the difference between music production and songwriting?

Songwriting is the process of writing music and song lyrics. Music has two main parts: melody and harmony. Melody is made up of notes, and harmony is composed of chords. After you create the music, you have to arrange it to sound good.

On the other hand, producing music involves sampling, recording, arranging, mixing, and mastering. The process can be divided into two parts: pre-production and post-production. Pre-production is when you record a song that is already fully arranged. Post-production is when you mix all of the different tracks together and then master the song.

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Today, music producers can write a song and produce it from the comfort of home.

In a home studio setting, you'll devote your time to composing, recording, and mixing music using a variety of electronic and acoustic instruments and then combining all the recorded elements into a digital audio workstation (DAW).

Isn't that awesome!

💾 What are the most common DAWs in 2022?

  1. Ableton Live
  2. FL Studio
  3. Logic Pro X
  4. Cubase
  5. Pro Tools

There are no right or wrong answers here; it's a question of preference, budget and desire to learn. A great article from Music Radar outlines the Best DAWs of 2022 based on price, type of production, and more.

🏠 How can I start producing music from home?

Thanks to technological advances, producing high-quality music from a home studio is now possible without spending a fortune on equipment.

The first step is to choose the right production software, as mentioned above.

Several options are available for a DAW, so it's essential to research and find the one that best suits your needs.

Once you've installed the software, it's time to start creating. The songwriting process can involve a lot of trial and error, but that's part of the fun.

🪜 So, what's the first step in producing music?

First, you'll need to come up with an idea for a song or piece of music. An idea can be something as simple as a melody stuck in your head, a general theme you want to communicate through your music, or you simply want to remake one of your favourite songs.

You want to capture that general idea and start working by either writing lyrics, coming up with chord progressions, or playing it through instruments and sounds.

The key here is to start small, experiment and see what sounds good based on your initial idea.

Once the basic idea is written, the next step in the songwriting process is building up the track by layering different sounds and instruments on top of each other.

Then, it's time to arrange the basic structure of the song. This process will give you direction and allow you to finish your song without writer's block.

Once the arrangement is complete, you'll need to mix and master the final mix.

We'll get into mixing and mastering in future posts.

As you can see, good songwriting and production seem like a lot of work initially, but it gets easy and becomes a lot of fun.

Step-by-step guide: How to write songs for beginners

Creating your own song can be daunting, especially if you've never done it before. However, anyone can do it with a little creativity and perseverance.

So, where do you start with the songwriting process?

First, take some time to listen to music and get an idea of what you like.

What genres do you enjoy? What emotions do you want to evoke with your music? How do you want people to feel when they hear your song?

Once you have a rough idea of what you want to say, it's time to put your thoughts into notes.

You don't need to be a trained musician to write music — anyone can do it.

Start with a few simple melodies and chord progressions, and see where your creativity takes you.

Don't worry if you don't know how to read music— there are plenty of online resources that can help you get started.

The most important thing is enjoying the process and letting your creativity flow. Who knows where your musical journey will take you?

🎼 Step 1: Start by writing a set of chords

Before you begin writing, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when you add chords together.

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Disclaimer: you do not need a music theory degree or musical background to start creating your first song.

To start chords, you need to understand the concept of keys. Keys are any of the white and black notes on a keyboard, and there are only seven natural notes (white keys: A-B-C-D-E-F-G) and five sharps or flats (black key) that repeat up and down (octaves).

You need to decide what key you want to write in. This decision will determine the order of the notes in your chords.

Once you've decided on a key, you must familiarize yourself with the major and minor scales. These will be the foundation for the writing process of your chords. To create a chord, you simply take any two or three notes from the scale and play them together. For example, writing in the key of C, you could create a C chord by playing the notes C-E-G together. Try to aim for four-chord progressions, as many songs use a similar structure.

As you become more comfortable with chord theory, you'll be able to experiment with different combinations of notes to create unique sounding chords while staying true to the central theme of your song.

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Here's a hint: don't try to reinvent the wheel if you're just getting started.

To write songs more quickly, listen to your favourite songs and check out Hook Theory to figure out that song's chords and chord progression. Then, you can use the same chord progression to start writing your own songs. You can experiment with new chords as you get better at writing songs.

There's no one right way to start writing a set of chords. It all depends on what you're hoping to achieve. If you're aiming for a certain mood or feel, start by thinking about the type of sound you want to create. Do you want something mellow and soothing or something upbeat and energizing?

Use a piano or guitar to help you find the right sound. Try playing around with different chord progressions until you find something that feels right. Once you have a general idea, begin experimenting with different combinations of notes.

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Remember, there's no wrong way to do it - so don't be afraid to experiment!

🏗️ Step 2: Think about the song structure

The structure of a song is the skeletal framework that gives the track its shape and makes it easy to remember and sing.

Many popular songs follow a recognizable pattern, such as verse-chorus-break-verse-chorus, but there are endless possibilities for structuring and writing songs.

As a songwriter, you'll need to decide what form your song will take and how you'll transition between sections.

One way to start is by sketching out the main ideas, emotions, or images you want to convey in the song. Then, think about arranging these elements into a cohesive whole. There are no hard and fast rules, so don't be afraid to experiment.

The most important thing is that the structure of your song supports the overall message or feeling you're trying to convey and the genre of music you are making.

Remember that a strong song form is essential for a track to succeed (in the music industry). However, no music producer out there only creates hit songs, so don't overthink the structure and don't put yourself under that unnecessary pressure. Keep in mind that a "listenable" song requires at least a basic framework. That's all there is to it.

So make sure you have at least three of the four essential components of a song structure covered: the verse, the chorus, and the bridge.

The verse is where the story is told.

The chorus is where the melody is catchy and memorable.

The bridge is where the song changes tempo or direction, providing interest and variety.

A great song structure will keep listeners engaged and coming back for more. So when you write a song, think about how each section can contribute to the overall story you're trying to tell. Writing melodies should be memorable and easy to sing along to, so hooks are essential. And don't forget the power of a good old-fashioned sing-along— sometimes all a song needs is a catchy chorus that everyone can join in on.

As you can see, there's a lot that goes into songwriting. But don't let that intimidate you! Just start with a few basic elements and build from there. Experiment with different chord progressions, melodies, and structures until you find something that feels right. And most importantly, have fun!

🎸 Step 3: Write a verse with only instruments

When most people think of writing a verse, they think of using words. However, it is also possible to write a verse using only instruments.

This technique can greatly add musicality to your writing without worrying about finding the right words.

To write a verse with only instruments, start by adding your initial chords and layer the melody on top of those chords.

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CYS Instrumental Verse No Vocals
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Once you are happy with the melody, you can subtract or keep the chords and add other embellishments to create interest and variation. As you're starting, use a simple melody that repeats throughout the verse. Later on, you can move towards something more complex.

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CYS Instrumental Verse with Vocals
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You then need to choose the instruments that you want to use. A few examples here: you may want to use a combination of percussion, strings, and brass, or you may want to focus on one particular type of instrument.

You can also experiment with different rhythms to add more dynamics to your composition.

In addition, don't be afraid to experiment with different instrumentation. A well-crafted instrumental verse can be just as moving and compelling as using words.

🎙️ Step 4: Structure a melody for chorus and verse

When you're writing a song, it's important to consider the structure of the melody. Typical songs will have a chorus and verse, and each section will have its variation of melody.

The chorus melody is usually the most catchy part of the song, so it's essential to make sure that the melody is memorable and easy to sing along to.

The verse melody should be more lyrical (or instrumental), telling a story or conveying a message. The melody should support the lyrics and help convey the song's emotion.

When planning the structure of your melodies, it's helpful to think about which parts of the song will be most memorable and make sure those parts stand out.

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Note: create a melody that will be easy for people to sing along with.

One way to do this is to write a verse and chorus melody with a similar body. This will make it easier for people to remember the melody and sing along with the song.

You can also use the technique of call and response, where you repeat part of the melody after each line. This can help people to learn the melody more quickly.

Another thing to keep in mind is the length of the notes. Longer notes are usually easier to sing than shorter ones, so you may want to make the notes in the chorus slightly longer than those in verse.

By following these songwriting tips, you can create a catchy melody that people will remember long after hearing the song, just like all the memorable songs you sing along to.

🛤️ Step 5: Finish the entire song arrangement first

Most people think they need to get the song "sounding good" before they can start thinking about the arrangement.

That's wrong and will hurt you as a songwriter/producer in the future.

It's critical to finish the entire arrangement first. Even a rough version of the arrangement with the macro section is better than focusing on a single section.

Without finishing the arrangement, you don't have direction, and you will block. You cannot continue writing because you're focusing on the wrong things.

When starting, one simple trick is to use a reference track (one of your favourite songs) and reproduce the exact song structure. Then, break down the reference track by its macro section (intro-buildup-chorus-break-buildup-chorus2-outro) using a pen and paper or inside your DAW using midi clips.

Structure your song and build your arrangement to best support the verse/chorus and story you're trying to tell.

The best way to finish an entire song arrangement is to start with the basic melody and chord progression.

Then write the verse and chorus.

And lastly, outline your buildup and breaks.

Once the basic elements are in place, you can add more instrumentation and vocals. But it's important to resist the temptation to add too much too soon. Adding too many details can clutter the arrangement and make it sound muddy.

Instead, focus on creating a clear and concise arrangement that supports the song's melody and progression. With a little patience and attention to detail, you'll be able to craft a polished and professional-sounding song arrangement to take your music to the next level.

🥣 Step 6: Add bridges (buildups) and breaks as required

A musical bridge is a section of a song that helps to transition from one section to another, usually by increasing the level of intensity.

There are several ways to add a musical bridge to a song. One common technique is adding extra instruments or sound layers, gradually building up to the next section.

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Remember: your goal is to create a sense of forward momentum or transition between two distinct song sections.

In contrast, a break is a short section of music that interrupts the song's flow and helps create a sense of climax or tension. Breaks are often used in conjunction with bridges delivered by drum fill or a change in tempo to create a sense of anticipation before moving into the next section.

Adding bridges and breaks will create a more dynamic and exciting song that keeps your listeners engaged.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when adding bridges and breaks to a song:

  1. Make sure the bridge or break fits the song's overall tone and feel. If it doesn't, it will stick out like a sore thumb and disrupt the song's flow.
  2. Keep the length of the bridge or break in proportion to the rest of the song. If it's too short, it won't have enough impact; if it's too long, it will start to feel repetitive.
  3. Pay attention to the dynamics of the bridge or break. A good way to add interest is to start softly and build up to a more intense section.

By following these songwriting tips, you can add bridges and breaks to your own songs to enhance the overall arrangement and helps to keep listeners engaged.

👂 Step 7: Fine-tune and mix your tracks

Once you have the arrangement roughed out, it's time to go through and add all the final touches that will really bring the song to life.

  • Make sure that the transitions between sections are smooth and logical. You don't want the listener to be jarred by a sudden change in tempo or feel.
  • Add any embellishments or fills that will help to create interest and variety.
  • Add any lyrical or vocal harmonies that you feel would enhance the song's overall effect.

Adding these final touches will ensure that your song is polished and ready for listeners to enjoy.

Now that you've recorded all your tracks, it's time to mix them together.

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Mixing = Balance

It's important to get a good balance between the different tracks.

Start by setting the levels of each track so that they're roughly in balance with each other. Then, start listening to the track as a whole and make adjustments as needed. If one instrument is too loud or soft, adjust its level accordingly. Remember to solo each track from time to time so that you can really focus on how it sounds in the mix.

Next, start thinking about EQ (equalization). This is the process of shaping the sound of each instrument so that it sits nicely in the mix. For example, if you have two tracks fighting for the same frequency range, you can use EQ to adjust one of them so that they don't clash.

Finally, add any effects that you feel would enhance the song's overall sound. This could include reverb, delay, or other time-based effects. Be careful not to overdo it with the effects, as too much can start to sound cluttered and muddy.

By taking the time to mix your tracks carefully, you'll ensure that they all work together to create a cohesive whole.

🏁 Bonus: End with a strong finish

The last thing you want is for your song to fizzle out at the end.

A strong finish will leave your listeners feeling satisfied and make them want to hear the song again.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure a strong finish:

  1. Ensure that the last chorus is the song's most significant and most powerful moment. Add extra instruments or sound layers to drive home the melody and lyrics.
  2. Pay attention to the tempo of the last chorus. A faster tempo can create a feeling of urgency and excitement, while a slower tempo can create a sense of reflection and contemplation.
  3. Make the last note strong. This could mean holding it for an extra beat or two or adding a final chord that resonates with listeners. By taking the time to craft a strong finish, you'll ensure that your song leaves a lasting impression on your listeners.

What goes into making a good song?

That's a tricky question simply because a good song is based on personal preference.

So let's assume and say a "good" song would be picked up by a record label or a song that ends up playing on the radio or in a club.

Some might say it's all about the melody, while others say the hook (chorus) is key. And then some believe that great songwriting is all about the song lyrics.

The truth is, it's probably a combination of all three. But if you're just starting out in music production, it can be helpful to focus on one area at a time. This doesn't mean leaving your tracks incomplete - it simply means that you should develop your skills in each area individually.

Here are some general songwriting tips that can help you write better music:

🎹 Have a strong melody or chord progression

This is what listeners will latch onto and remember the most. The melody should be singable and memorable, and the chords should sound pleasing to the ear.

If you're unsure where to start, try coming up with a simple chord progression first. Then, add in a melody that compliments the chords. Remember to keep it simple at first — you can always add more complexity later on.

Then you need a hook.

A hook is a catchy phrase in a song that makes it appealing to the listener.

The chorus is the main hook in most songs. It is often a short riff, passage, or phrase.

Every song needs a hook — something that sticks in the listener's mind long after the song is over. The hook could be a catchy melody, a memorable lyric, or even a short phrase repeated throughout the song.

Remember that the best songs have very catchy and memorable hooks.

🏢 Well-defined structure

A good song should be easy to follow and not too repetitive. It should also have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

One way to achieve this is by using a verse-chorus-verse song structure. This means you'll have two or more verses that lead into a chorus repeated several times.

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The chorus is usually the most memorable part of the song, so make sure it's catchy.

The arrangement is how all the different parts of the song fit together. Each section should have a purpose and contribute to the song's overall sound.

As for instrumentation, less is usually more. You don't want to clutter your song with too many instruments or sounds.

Stick to your song's main idea.

🔊 Consistent sound selection and production quality

Sound selection is one of the most important aspects to consider when making music. To make your track stand out from the rest, you must use high-quality sounds.

Good samples ensure a good fit between your different key elements and fit into your overall song blueprint effectively, which will help give it more cohesion than if any odd noises were thrown together at random. This includes samples and instruments, so be sure they're well suited for each other and fit into the overall tone of whatever song we are making here.

You should also balance out all the different parts, so no one section stands too prominently over another- if one part becomes too loud or quiet, then everything will start feeling off balance which can ruin a good vibe quickly (and no one wants THAT).

It's also essential to have a good mix. This means all the song's different parts should be balanced, and none should be too loud or too quiet.

Finally, the production quality should be high enough for listeners to appreciate the song's different elements. This means having a clean mix with no clipping or distortion and all the tracks sounding balanced.

The last few seconds of your song are just as important as the first few. You want to make sure the listener is left with a positive impression.

You can do a few things to make sure your song ends strong:

  1. Add extra instrumentation or sound effects to make the ending more impactful.
  2. Repeat the chorus one last time or have a powerful riff.
  3. End on a strong note with the lead sound - give the end a tail

Whatever you do, make sure the ending is memorable and leaves the listener wanting more, and by taking the time to craft a strong finish, you'll ensure that your song leaves a lasting impression.

🎤 Great vocal melodies or lyrics

Most songs have good lyrics and vocal/chorus melodies. Great songs have incredibly catchy melodies and lyrics.

When writing melodies, you want to ensure that your lyrical ideas catch the ear and flow with the music. Most people can quickly tell if a vocal melody is catchy or not. A good vocal melody will be stuck in your head for days.

Lyrics that are meaningful and have something to say will connect with the listener on a personal level. The words have an emotional tone that should flow with the music and not sound forced.

There's no one formula for writing a hit song, but there are certainly some ingredients that can't be left out. Of course, a strong melody is essential, but the song lyrics are also crucial. After all, what's the point of singing a beautiful melody if the words don't mean anything? Too much wordiness can muddy the message and make it difficult for the listener to understand.

Sometimes less is more.

Remember that a good melody will make even the most mundane lyrics sound interesting. So, when writing lyrics, focus on making the vocal line catchy and memorable. The meaning will come through loud and clear.

One of the best ways to write meaningful lyrics is to tell a story. Whether a personal experience or a fictional tale, a good song tells listeners something they can relate to. The best stories are usually universal; they deal with themes and emotions we can all empathize with. Love, loss, hope, fear, joy, and anger are all topics that make for great songs.

Wrap up

Now that you know the basics of songwriting and music production, you're ready to create your own songs. Remember to start with a simple idea and build from there. And don't be afraid to experiment– the best way to learn is by doing.

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Everyone has the potential to be creative, but few will be successful because of consistency and discipline.

You must also be mindful of the 8 worst habits plaguing beginner songwriters and producers.

  1. Evaluating too soon and too often
  2. Not separating creation from the transformation process
  3. Lack of focus
  4. Being a perfectionist
  5. Doing too many things at once
  6. Working under pressure
  7. Overthinking things
  8. Procrastination

Takeaway notes

  • If you have a computer, you can start writing music today
  • Start with chords; keep it simple
  • Write a catchy riff for your hook
  • Finish the song structure and arrangement first
  • Write with instruments before recording vocals
  • Add your bridges and builds last
  • Fine-tune your mix

Lastly, the quantity of finished projects is much better than the quality when you're starting out. If you don't learn how to finish your music, you will never be able to develop quality music that people will listen to.

With a bit of practice, you'll be writing and producing hits in no time.

Thanks for reading 👋

FAQ

Is there a right way to write music?

There is no single right way to write music, as any musician knows. Some composers start with a melody or chord progression in mind, while others begin with an idea for the overall form or structure of the piece. Each composer's process is unique and personal. Therefore, there is no one right way to write music. Instead, each composer needs to find the best method for them. However, all composers should keep certain things in mind, such as the need for clarity and coherence. This means that a well-written piece of music will be easy to follow and understand, regardless of its style or genre.

How do I write my own song in minutes?

Everyone has a story to tell, and there is no better way to share your unique perspective than through song. Start by brainstorming some potential topics. Once you have a general idea, begin creating a melody. This can be done on an instrument or simply by humming a tune in your head. Once you have a melody that you like, start adding lyrics. The lyrics don’t need to be perfect, just get your ideas down on paper. After you have the basic framework of your song, start refining it. Experiment with different melodies and lyrics until you are happy with something. Then, start practicing! The more you play or sing your song, the better it will sound.

Can everyone write a song?

Anyone can write a song. All you need is a bit of creativity and a willingness to experiment. There's no need for formal training or expensive equipment; all you need is a voice and something to bang on. Of course, not everyone will be able to write a hit song that tops the charts. But everyone has the potential to create something that is meaningful to them. Songwriting is about finding your own voice and telling your story. So whether you're just starting out or you've been writing songs for years, remember that anyone can do it!

How do beginners write songs for free?

There are some free software programs that can help you get started quickly. Noteflight and Hookpad are both good for writing sheet music, while Audacity is a popular program for recording and editing audio. Once you have written and recorded your song, you can distribute it online for free on websites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp. If you want to make money from your music, you can sign up for a site like CD Baby. This site will help you sell your songs on iTunes and Amazon. You don't need to spend a lot of money to start writing and sharing your music.