Are you always jotting down lyrics and random melodies in a tattered journal? Or wish that you could put your thoughts into song? Perhaps you have always been the background musician but are now ready to take the next step into songwriting. You might even listen to the radio and wonder if you could ever write a tune as popular as Taylor Swift or if it takes a little bit of rocket science and magic to create that hit song.

In Songwriter’s Secrets you are going to have the chance to pull back the curtain on songwriting and learn key tips and secrets from music professionals. It doesn’t matter if you don’t play an instrument or have only a basic understanding of music theory. I’ll show you how you can write a song, even without a Julliard background.

What is Songwriting?

Your average songwriter does more than scribble down a few rhymes and slap on a beat or harmony. Songwriting involves writing meaningful lyrics, developing a good melody, and arranging that lyric to a specific musical style, harmonic structure, and rhythm.

Some songwriters might specialize in one aspect like lyrics or arranging, and then work with a cowriter that balances out their own strengths and weaknesses. Not all songwriters are performers, and many of the Top 40 songs that we hear over and over on Spotify or Pandora are written by an experienced songwriter who then provides their song to top-level talent to record it.

Every jingle that you hear and children’s song that you remember had an original songwriter, even if they have been forgotten for generations. The same can be said for musicals, sacred music, and opera. Anytime a lyric is put to a melody, you can bet that a songwriter played a key role.

Andrew Lloyd Webber worked with lyricists Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe to create the musical Phantom of the Opera.

Why Songwriting?

Humans have been sharing their joys, sorrows, hopes, love, and dreams through song for thousands of years. In our “McFast” modern society, sometimes we forget how rich and cherished songwriting can be for anyone, regardless of their musical background.

When you write a new song you:

  • Express your emotions
  • Share your message with the world
  • Develop good musicianship skills
  • Gain a greater understanding of performance
  • Challenge your musical intellect
  • Have FUN!

Good song-writing chops can lead to career opportunities like writing jingles, creating hit tunes for your band, composing sacred music played by millions every Sunday, or writing educational songs for children. With instant feedback available via YouTube, you might even find out that you have a talent for writing quirky songs that make you a viral sensation.

Different Methods

But what if you don’t play an instrument? Or can’t sing in tune? What if you have never written a note down in your life or only learn by ear?

In this series we will address different ways of writing a melody. Every musician from amateur to expert uses a variety of methods to create a song. No one method works every time. Don’t feel like your level of musicianship will hamper your ability to write a song. Find the way that works for you, where you are at right now. You don’t need to wait another day to start writing great music. So pick up your favorite journal, an instrument, or your imagination and get ready.

What You Will Learn

Where to start? First, don’t get overwhelmed by all the separate aspects of writing a tune. In the articles ahead you will learn key musicianship skills that will help you:

  • Learn how to start writing a song
  • Discover musical inspiration
  • Write the right lyrics
  • Compose catchy melodies and hooks
  • Create rhythm with easy exercises
  • Develop interesting harmonies
  • Explore a variety of styles for your songs

Each article will discuss one aspect of the songwriting process, from inspiration to writing the melody, arranging, and harmonizing. You will learn how experts overcome writer’s block and what exercises they use to hone their rhyming and harmonizing skills.

As you move through this series, keep a binder or journal to write all of your thoughts, lyrics, and exercises in one handy spot. While a computer or smartphone can work just as well, many musicians find that writing with pencil and paper frees the mind from the confines of technology.
So, are you ready to begin your song-writing journey? What currently challenges you the most? What inspires you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author


Award-winning composer Sabrina Peña Young’s music has been heard throughout Asia, Europe, Australia, and the Americas at venues like Miramax’s Project Greenlight, Art Basil Miami, the NY International Independent Film Festival, the Beijing Conservatory, the Holland Animation Film Festival, and countless international festivals and has been performed by ensembles like the Florida Orchestra and Association for Dominican Classical Artists in NYC.

Best known for her “groundbreaking” animated opera Libertaria, Young’s expertise spans over a decade and a half of commercial and classical music from jazz to folk to film soundtracks and dance electronica.

Young studied vocal writing with Pulitzer-prize nominee Frederick Kaufman, jazz arranging with Guggenheim Fellow and Grammy Panelist Chuck Owen, and composition with notable composers Dr. Clare Shore, Dr. Kristine Burns, Paul Reller, and longtime Super Bowl music director Hilton Jones.

More than a composer and filmmaker, Young has been an avid music educator and advocate for contemporary music through the NYC based Vox Novus, giving a TED Talk on the arts and online collaboration at TEDxBuffalo in NY.

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