How to Write a Song - 10 Songwriting Tips for Beginners

Whether you are brand new to songwriting, or have some experience, these ten tips will help you improve as a songwriter. If you don't have an instrument, you can get started writing songs on your iPhone or iPad using the free MusiQuest app.

Songwriting Tip 1: Just write

Don’t just wait for around inspiration. Songwriting skill is like a muscle—it needs exercise to get stronger. Set deadlines for yourself to build habits—our co-founder Zack writes a new song every week, and they usually start from two- or three-word phrases he hears or from just messing around at the piano.

Songwriting Tip 2: Listen critically

Break down the songs you like. What are they about? What are their melodies like? What instruments do they use and what role does each instrument play? If you can figure out how to play a song you love by ear, you can figure out what’s great about it, and use it to inspire your own songs.

Songwriting Tip 3: Follow the words

Make melodies that flow the way you’d speak them. When we speak, there are natural strong and weak syllables, and natural changes in pitch. If you copy those shapes with your melody, it’ll be easier to understand what you’re saying.

Songwriting Tip 4: Keep it simple

If you can’t remember your melody, nobody else will remember it either. Memorable melodies usually use only a few different notes. Try using the five note pentatonic scale to make simple melodies. That’s the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th notes in a major scale.

If theory’s not your thing, you can sketch melodies in MusiQuest and we’ll narrow them down to the pentatonic scale for you.

Songwriting Tip 5: Don't be boring

Songs that use too many notes on the beat get boring. Put some notes on beats and some notes in between beats on offbeats. Software like MusiQuest can help you visually see which notes are on the beat and which are off the beat.

Songwriting Tip 6: Repeat yourself

Good songwriters repeat themselves all the time. Once you have an idea you like, especially a rhythm you like, take it as far as you can. Try moving your idea up or down to different notes to make a sequence.

Songwriting Tip 7: Surprise Us

Repeating yourself actually makes it a lot easier to surprise people. When you repeat something, you set up an expectation. Then, when you break that expectation it surprises your listener. 

Songwriting Tip 8: Experiment

Don’t be afraid to play around with your song. Try speeding your song way up or slowing it way down and see what happens, change the feel, or try different instruments.

Songwriting Tip 9: Build

Most songs start out softer and lower and gradually get louder and higher as they go on. This is a great way to keep us interested and build anticipation.

Songwriting Tip 10: Take a break

If you feel stuck when working on a song, don't be afraid to walk away and come back to it later. You'll have a completely fresh perspective when you listen to it a day or a week later. Let it breathe.

What do you want to know about how to be a better songwriter? Leave a comment below and we'll answer your questions.

Get started writing your own songs on your iPad or iPhone that sound great in minutes with MusiQuest.