How a Songwriter Turns Raw Materials Into Music


Like a potter has clay and a painter has tubes of paint, Songwriters have words, images and fresh ideas. Some artists start with the title and a concept of what the song is about, while others play around with chord progressions, melody and a rhythmic feel or tempo to shape the raw materials into a song. There is no right or wrong way to do it; the process is more about allowing inspiration to hit you at random moments, and being prepared with a notebook or your phone’s microphone to capture any sounds that may inspire a lyric or melody idea.

When you have a general idea of what the song is about, you can start answering some of the questions that listeners might have for it. For example, if the lyrics of a song are about ‘The Heartbreak Hotel,’ questions like ‘Who is it?’ and ‘What kind of trouble is it?’ will need to be answered.

Next, a Songwriter will usually need to decide what kind of mood the song should have. This could influence a lot of other decisions, such as whether the song should be spirited and upbeat or melancholy and emotional. The songwriter will also need to pick a key to help express the mood of the song, and use scales in that key to develop a melody. Once the melody is complete, a Songwriter will need to think about how the different sections of the song should be organized.