There are lots of ways to approach the first genesis of a song and it can feel overwhelming when facing the blank page. As with any creative process there are as many ways to approach songwriting as there are roads to Rome or ways to San Jose. Here are 10 different ways to approach writing your song; 10 different starting methods to get your song off the ground
One of the most common methods to start a song is with the melody. A melody is a sequence of musical notes played or sung in a particular rhythm and pattern to create a musical phrase or idea. It is the main theme or tune of a piece of music that gives it its distinct character and emotional impact.
Melody is simple, if you find yourself humming a short tune, capture it as quickly as possible before you forget it. Write it down or better yet, record it on your phone or leave yourself a voice message. With even a small melody fragment you can build a song. Humans love repetition and feeling like they know where a song is going. The melodic phrase you captured can be repeated, inverted, extended, and otherwise creatively altered throughout the song to build much larger song sections.
This technique is used in many famous songs. A good example is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The melody is primarily composed of rising and falling patterns, creating a gentle and soothing feel. The melody starts with a rising pattern, ascending from a lower note to a higher note, before descending back down to the starting note. This pattern is repeated with a slight variation, creating the first melodic phrase of the song. This song shares another classic song writing technique. It uses the tune from a different song, the French melody "Ah! vous dirai-je, maman", published in 1761. This melody has been arranged/appropriated by several composers, including Mozart. There are only 7 notes in a musical key and inevitably there are times when melodies will be similar.
One of the time-tested methods of creating a ‘new’ song is to build a song off an older song. The folk music tradition does this extensively. Alternatively, you could take a melody from an older song and modify it, adding your own lyrics, rhythms, and harmonies to create something new and unique.
This can help you to create a new song that is musically distinct from the original while still incorporating elements that you find appealing. Once you have created a melody a set of chords can be created to harmonise with that melody and you have a song to share.
One example of a folk song that you could use as inspiration for writing your own song is "Oh Susanna". The song was written by Stephen Foster in 1848 and has become a popular standard in the folk music tradition. Remember that the goal is not to copy the original song but to use it as a starting point for your own creative exploration. By building off an older song, you can tap into a rich tradition of musical creativity and create something that is both original and connected to the past.
When starting out on your songwriting journey don’t worry about whether your song sounds like another more famous song. You have a long way to go before copyright will ever be a legal issue for you and your creative output. Remember that the most important thing is to just get creating. Don't be afraid to experiment and try new things. With time and practice, you'll develop your own unique style and voice as a songwriter. So go forth and make some music!