A Singer’s Guide to Songwriting: How to Start Writing Your Own Original Material

A Singer's Guide to Songwriting: How to Start Writing Your Own Original Material | SongFancy, songwriting tips and inspiration for the contemporary lady singer songwriter

This one’s for all my singers in the SongFancy sphere who have been quietly reading along, wondering how the heck to get started writing their own songs.

Perhaps you love singing cover songs on YouTube, but now you want to branch out with your own music. Or maybe you’ve been keeping a “diary” of poems that you thing would make great songs, but don’t know how to add music to them. Maybe you don’t know where to start!

Hi, love. Welcome to the family! Time to get loud with your own songwriting. I’m so excited to hear what you come up with. Are you ready to dive in? Let’s go!

First things first: Start keeping a journal

Taylor Swift did then when she first started writing with Liz Rose way back in the day. Keeping a journal is a great place to start gathering up your thoughts, which then become the raw material for new songs.

A journal is a great place to process the events of your day. What happened? How did it make you feel? Because what happens in your life has happened in someone else’s life. Use your journal to collect your life’s stories that you can later turn into songs.

A Singer's Guide to Songwriting: How to Start Writing Your Own Original Material | SongFancy, songwriting tips and inspiration for the contemporary lady singer songwriter

Start a hook book

A hook book is a great way to start turning ideas into titles. What’s a hook book? First, let’s define what a hook is: A hook is the “punchline” of a song, if you will. It’s that one line that wraps everything up in a nice little bow. It usually appears at the end or beginning of a chorus. Most of the time, it’s also the song’s title. A good example is “The Middle” – the song’s title is The Middle. We also hear the hook “why don’t you just meet me in the middle” at the top of the chorus and again at the end of the chorus. The song’s overall concept is about meeting someone halfway in a relationship to make it work. That’s why The Middle makes for such a great hook!

So a hook book is a collection of hooks. Think of it like a list of titles, that are conceptually strong. Brainstorm hooks based on the pages of your journal. If you see that you’ve told a story about something in your day that can be wrapped in with a single phrase, that’s a hook. Make note of them in your hook book.

A hook book can be a separate notebook, a list app on your phone, or just the back half of your daily journal.

A Singer's Guide to Songwriting: How to Start Writing Your Own Original Material | SongFancy, songwriting tips and inspiration for the contemporary lady singer songwriter

Learn the basics of song craft

This step is important, and you should know that it will take the longest. Luckily though, it’s the most fun.

Order books on songwriting. Pat Pattison is one of the best songwriting teachers out there. I highly recommend checking out Writing Better Lyrics. You can also grab some of my favorite books from this post.

Keep reading posts from SongFancy, too. Here are some great posts to check out as you learn the basic craft of songwriting:

A Singer's Guide to Songwriting: How to Start Writing Your Own Original Material | SongFancy, songwriting tips and inspiration for the contemporary lady singer songwriter

Pay attention to the music you love

Start paying close attention to the songs that you love. I mean really dissect them. What sections are in it? How many times does the chorus repeat? What’s the rhyme scheme? How long is each part? How does it feel moving from one verse to the next? What is it about?

As you pay attention to the music you love, you’ll learn SO much. Take all that good research and apply it to your own songs.

Be honest, but learn how to tell stories

As a songwriter, you’re most likely going to be compelled to write songs about your own life experiences, and also write completely fictional stories. These may seem like completely different artistic statements, but girl: Both are necessary.

Learn how to write both of these songs with grace and skill. Learn how to express yourself authentically and get vulnerable. Learn also how to tell a good damn story.

Above all else, I encourage you to always write. Don’t ever let anyone’s criticism or judgement keep you from writing what you want to write.

A Singer's Guide to Songwriting: How to Start Writing Your Own Original Material | SongFancy, songwriting tips and inspiration for the contemporary lady singer songwriter

Make it a habit and set goals

Want to write crazy amounts of songs? Make writing something a daily habit. Something means a song, a verse, an idea, a collection of hooks, even a page of freewriting in your journal. Just write something every single day.

Pat Pattison encourages writers to write for 10 minutes first thing in the morning; If you want to really kick your songwriting into overdrive, take up his unique exercise of daily object writing:

  1. Wake up. First thing, grab your notebook from your nightstand.
  2. Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes.
  3. Spend 10 minutes free writing on a single word. Write from all 7 senses: Sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell, body (pulse, pains, breathing), and kinesthetic (dizzyness, warmth, motion). Write down everything that comes to mind, even if it makes little sense.
  4. When the timer sounds, put the pencil down.

Set a goal for your songwriting so that you always know where you are along the way. It’s hard to stay encouraged with ourselves in any creative endeavor unless we set goals that we can see ourselves crushing. I have a goal setting strategy you can follow (and a free download) in this post.

A Singer's Guide to Songwriting: How to Start Writing Your Own Original Material | SongFancy, songwriting tips and inspiration for the contemporary lady singer songwriter

Most importantly: keep it fun

Songwriting should be enjoyable, or at the minimum, necessary! Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s difficult. You may find that writing honestly becomes cathartic. It takes a lot of energy to write songs. And if you share them, you’ll be met with criticism (because EVERYONE and their mother has an opinion on what you should be writing. Eye roll.)

Do whatever you need to keep songwriting enjoyable for you.

Join a speed-songwriting challenge

If you’ve never written a song before, I want to invite you to come participate in my 5 in 5 Song Challenge. We write 5 songs in 5 days to songwriting prompts. It’s a heckuva a lot of fun, and you’re bound to fall in love with songwriting!

Listen to our favorite tunes of the moment on our

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Join the 5 in 5 Song Challenge | Presented by SongFancy

Get in on the last 5/5 of 2019!

You have a ton of songs inside of you. You just need to let them out. Come join the 5 in 5 Song Challenge and unleash your inner prolific-songwriting-goddess.

Beat perfectionism, crush self-doubt, and kick your inner critic OUT of the writing room with this challenge!

Come write with us, it's free and an absolute blast! :) Sign up below:

Sarah Spencer

Sarah Spencer is an award winning singer/songwriter based in Nashville, TN.

Born in the Sunshine State, Sarah Spencer writes vibrant, shining americana/pop music. She works in Nashville TN as a singer/songwriter, as well as a UX designer for a marketing firm.

Follow Sarah on Spotify to get her latest releases.

You can jump on her email list at SarahSpencer.com or purchase her debut EP, "Freshman Year" on iTunes.