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Music has a way of touching your heart and soul like almost nothing else. Whether it’s studying without your favourite chill hop playlist or blasting country hits every time you’ve had a bad day, music plays a special role in most of our lives. It’s only natural to wonder about writing songs of your own but knowing where to start can be an overwhelming thought! Now that I’m finally living my dream of putting together my first EP, here are my top tips on how to delve into songwriting, no matter how much musical experience you have!

The Basics

Every song has three main parts: lyrics, a melody and chords. In plain English, those elements are the words that you sing, the notes you sing and the set of notes played by an instrument to accompany you. It’s as easy as 1-2-3! Get familiar with each of these elements on their own. Write some poetry, practice an instrument and try developing any melody line that gets stuck in your head. Getting to know them individually will make these elements so much stronger once you’re ready to combine them into a song. Most importantly, learn from the pros. Listen for these elements in all of your favourite songs, and see if you can figure out what about them resonates with you the most. Then, see how you can incorporate that idea into your own songwriting.

Start With What You Know

Are you a killer guitarist? Do you know how to mix metaphors like nobody else? The beauty of songwriting is that there is no one right way to start, so choose a way to write that aligns with your strengths. If you love writing, start with poetry. If you’re an avid musician, the chords, melody or rhythm might be your sweet spot. Get past the fear of starting by beginning in your comfort zone and expanding from there.

Find Your People

One of the most important parts of songwriting is support. Having someone you trust who you can bounce ideas off of is a huge asset for any creative project, especially one as personal as a song. Even better, you might form a partnership and start co-writing together! A creative partner can also help to fill the gaps in your own ability set. If you’re great at coming up with lyrics and a melody but can’t seem to find the right chords, connect with an instrumentalist who loves harmony. Creative partnerships can come together spontaneously, but if you find someone you really connect with, they can last a lifetime.

Share Your Story

When it comes down to it, songwriting is all about storytelling. Think about the last time you told a personal story to a friend and how it felt to connect that deeply. Then, try putting that story on paper. Choosing a starting point for a good song is all about finding a story worth telling, and often, those stories stem from the emotionally charged moments in our lives that we have already shared! This makes retelling the story in song form that much easier.

We’re All In This Together!

I’m a fourth-year music major, and the thought of actually writing a song still shook me to my core for years. So many other songwriters will have lived through the same fears and challenges that you’re experiencing, and if you feel intimidated to start, you are not alone! Songwriting is incredibly human and vulnerable, which is exactly what makes music so compelling. Luckily, because the emotions represented in songs are universal, everyone has the potential to write a meaningful song. It can be scary to put yourself out there and try writing, but it is so rewarding too!

Songwriting is an incredible way to express yourself, be creative and have fun, things we all could use more of in the middle of exam season. By getting comfortable with the fundamentals, reaching out for support and finding your story, you will be well on your way to creating your very own song!

Sarah Katherine

Wilfrid Laurier '21

Sarah is a 4th year Music Education student at Laurier University. She is passionate about wellness, education, singing, and writing, and hopes to make a difference in the world through the integration of her passions. 
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